by Steve SadinRound 9: Feature MatchMartin Juza vs. Juan Zacharski
by Brian David-MarshallRound 8: Feature MatchRaimundo Meza vs. Melissa DeTora
by Steve SadinRound 7: Feature MatchBen Stark vs. David Ochoa
by Steve SadinSaturday, 2:00 p.m.:Controlling Your Destiny with Ben Stark
by Brian David-MarshallSaturday, 12:30 p.m.:As Plains as the Nose on Your Face
by Brian David-MarshallSaturday, 12:00 p.m.: Quick QuestionWhat is the best card in your sideboard?
by Steve SadinSaturday, 11:45 a.m.: Quick QuestionWhich Rare Would You Most Want to Open in Innistrad Sealed?
by Brian David-MarshallRound 5: Feature MatchDavid Kaliski vs. Pedro Pereira
by Steve SadinRound 4: Feature MatchPaulo Vitor Damo da Rosa vs. Diego Ostrovich
by Brian David-MarshallSaturday, 11:00 a.m.:Playing and Drawing with Jesper Ejsing
by Steve SadinSaturday, 10:30 a.m.: Feature MatchCatching up with the PotY Hopefuls
by Brian David-MarshallRound 3: Feature MatchCarlos Romao vs. Wilfredo Caldas
by Brian David-MarshallPlay or Draw in Innistrad Sealed :
by Brian David-MarshallSaturday, 10:00 a.m.:Local Flavor
by Event Coverage StaffInfo: Fact Sheet
Fellow reporter Steven Sadin and I spent most of yesterday wandering around the absolutely stunning city of Santiago taking in the weather, enjoying the local scenery, and seeking out a lomito sandwich that had been championed by Anthony Bourdain on his television show No Reservations. Bourdain has not failed me in the past and as recently as Grand Prix Kansas City his food bucket list led me to the best ribs I have ever had in my life.
When we arrived we dined at a Chilean restaurant with the local distributors and tournament organizers where we had a chance to sample a Chilean shellfish called loqua which is baked in a dish with cheese and breading. A fine meal but Steve and I were eager to forage for ourselves.
In the morning we mapped out the route to La Fuente Alamena -- the restaurant in question -- and memorized the Spanish phrases that would most expediently get the sandwich of beef, pork, avocado, mayonnaise, and sauerkraut into our watering mouths. We set off on our mission feeling confident and excited...
...and eventually confused as we continued walking well past where our directions indicated with no sign of the restaurant. We walked back to the hotel -- where we had left our internet connection -- and recalculated the route. We asked the woman at the front desk and something must have gotten lost in the translation because she sent us in the opposite direction that we needed to go. Eventually we just hopped in a cab and gave the address to the cabbie who shrugged and took us back to the general vicinity of where we had trekked earlier in the day.
As we followed the address numbers it became apparent that we were going to be hungry when we wandered over to the tournament site to "do some research" on the Innistrad Limited format. There was no restaurant where it was supposed to be and the area was almost entirely high-end residential with none of the blue-collar lunch crowd that the online reviews suggested.
As we made our way to the Municipalidad de Recoleta, the downtown shopping district where the venue was, there were more bustling crowds, plenty of food vendors, and a vibrant street art scene that had me wandering around snapping pictures when I could have been at the site "doing research".
Various Street Art Samples
We found the site without much problem and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, Christian Calcano, Owen Turtenwald and a couple of other players were gasping to get a draft off. It was not like there was any shortage of players in the room, it was that almost everyone was hard at work playing in Public Events for Planeswalker Points. Steve and I were happy to oblige -- it was all in the name of research. After a successful green-white draft with double Midnight Haunting , several fliers, and multiple Travel Preparations I finally got to try the lomito sandwich a t a local cafe. I don't know how it stacked up against the one Bourdain suggested but with pork, avocado and mayo it is hard to go wrong.
Play or Draw in Sealed
The prevailing wisdom in the Pro community over the past couple of years has been to elect to draw when winning the die roll in a Sealed Deck match. With three color mana bases and no control over your card pool -- as opposed to the Booster Draft format where you have no one to blame for your deck but yourself -- players generally want that extra card and the opportunity for their opponent to scuffle for lands and spells out of the gate. Additionally it is hard to muster a successful aggressive build in Sealed Deck with efficient low casting cost creatures and on-color removal.
With players having six guaranteed double-faced cards in every Sealed pool for Innistrad that wisdom has been questioned by some players. You do not want to be on the draw against a player opening on Reckless Waif and Cloistered Youth with any kind of removal to back them up. Just the presence of werewolves in general has changed the tempo of the game enough that the words "I'll draw first" are not automatic upon a successful die roll for choice.
We are going to be paying attention to our Feature Match participants throughout Day One and relaying in the coverage what they choose to do each round. Feel free to tell us on Twitter @magicprotour, using the hashtag #GPSantiago, what you have been doing in the Innistrad Sealed format. If you have any questions about Innistrad Limited that you would like to see answered by the Pros feel free to tweet them at us as well.
Round 3: Feature Match - Carlos Romao vs. Wilfredo Caldas
Brazil's Carlos Romao can lay claim to a title that no one else in the room can match -- he is the only player in the entire tournament with a World Championship trophy on his mantle. And he has two of them. Romao first rocketed to fame back in the day when Psychatog was the blue-black control deck's kill card of choice. He became the first South American player to win a Pro Tour and paved the way for the likes of Willy Edel and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa. Last year he doubled up on trophies when he became the MTGO World Champion.
No wonder his opponent, Wilfredo Caldas, looked nervous. One of close to two dozen Peruvian players who made the relatively short trip to Chile for the event, Caldas was not only playing in his first ever Feature Match but was going up against the godfather of the South American tournament scene, He took a deep breath, shuffled his cards and they got the match underway.
Romao won the roll and elected to have his opponent play first -- as he was shuffling I could see that he was playing three colors so that came as no surprise. Caldas led off the action with Stitcher's Apprentice . He had led off with Plains and Island but a third turn Sulfur Falls revealed that he was playing three colors as well.
Romao played Villagers of Estwald and passed the tun back to Caldas who took advantage of the two-time Champion's end step to play Forbidden Alchemy . He untapped and played Brimstone Volley to smite the Werewolf. Carlos had played Forest s and Swamp s and tapped them all to summon a Rotting Fensnake . Wilfredo passed his turn with no play.
The snake attacked and traded with the unambitious would-be stitcher. Pitchburn Devil's came down for Carlos and Caldas played Think Twice at the end of the turn. Wilfred untapped into Geist of Saint Traft and Armored Skaab -- Wilfredo watched forlornly as Stitched Drake flipped by into his bin. Carlos played Screeching Bat . He still had three cards in hand -- Wilfredo had four.
Caldas played Bonds of Faith on the Devils and sent in his Saint, the resultant token, and the Skaab. Carlos had to decide if he wanted to put his bat in the way of four open mana and a litany of possible combat tricks but he decided he had to take a chance to trade with the hexproof creature. They traded uneventfully and Caldas added Voiceless Spirit to his board.
Blazing Torch played Carlos and his otherwise useless Pitchburn Devils were able to wield it to kill the flier. Moan of the Unhallowed gave him two zombies and after Wilfredo played Abbey Griffin , he flashed it back for two more.
Rage Thrower -- a pretty good reason to be splashing red even without a Brimstone Volley -- got thrown into the mix on Caldas' side of the red zone. Romao just sent his zombie horde into the red zone and Caldas did not want to lose either his flier or his Rage Thrower and took six while occupying the fourth zombie with his Armored Skaab .
Carlos played Abbotoir Ghoul after combat and with the help of Spidery Grasp it took down the Griffin on the next turn. Carlos took two from the Rage Thrower when it died and found himself staring down Makeshift Mauler and Avacynian Priest when Caldas' second main phase ended.
Both players were working off the top of their decks at this point and Romao had to be pretty happy when his yielded Falkenrath Noble . Caldas played Silent Departure bounced the flier and sent in his Mauler. Carlos put all four of his zombies in the way and fell to five from the Rage Thrower 's ability.
He replayed the Noble and sent in his two zombies -- Caldas blocked one with his 1/4. he played Spider Spawning for three three tokens and was threatening to double that swarm next turn. Caldas played another Makeshift Mauler but it eft him without mana to flashback Silent Departure .
Romao read the card he just drew -- clearly it was not a land -- and announced attackers. Wilfredo tapped the Ghoul. Carlos played Tribute to Hunger and took two and gained four from the Armored Skkab that got sacrificed. The Falkenrath Noble meant their were no blocks for Caldas that didn't leave him at zero -- or worse -- when everything resolved.
Romao - 1 Caldas - 0
Despite Romao declining to do so when he had the option, Caldas chose to play first in game two. Romao mulliganed to start but was happy with his next six. Neither player did anything until Caldas cast Forbidden Alchemy at the end of Romao's third turn and played Makeshift Mauler a turn later.
Romao played Moan of the Unhallowed and took four from the blue zombie. Battleground Geist was summoned and briefly held at bay by an un-morbid Somberwald Spider . Caldas was able to dispatch the Spider after it blocked with Geistflame . He added Thraban Sentry to his board.
Romao was able to hold the ground with Abbatoir Ghoul but Caldas was content to attack for three in the air and marshal his forces on the ground behind a tapper.
Romao played game one's heroic Falkenrath Noble and Villagers of Estwald but he needed an answer to the flier -- and the tapper. Caldas had no play -- save attacking Romao down to six -- and the Howlpack of Estwald was unleashed. The tapper took care of the Abbatoir Ghoul and Romao eventually decided to attack with both zombie tokens and his Howlpack. He went up to 7 and when the dust settled Caldas was at 9. Romao flashed back two more zombies but Brimstone Volley , and a tapper to clear airspace for his Geist, meant it was time for game three.
Romao - 1 Caldas - 1
Calros elected to play in game three and mulliganed down to six cards. He did not have anything other than three Swamp s in play when Caldas had played Avacynian Priest and Geist of Saint Traft . Spectral Flight on the Geist on turn four was all Romao had to see to scoop up the few cards he had in play.
Final result: Wilfredo Caldas defeated Carlos Romao two games to one
After the match I asked Carlos about his decision to draw in game one and then play in game three. He explained that his deck was pretty bad and that he hoped to gain some advantage against slow three-color decks by having an extra card on the draw and possibly even have them mulligan or keep borderline hands. Once he saw all the flying creatures and the Geist of Saint Traft in his opponent's deck he said he could not possibly let Caldas be on the play if he had the option.
"It did not work out the way I wanted but it was the correct play," said Romao.
Saturday, 10:30 a.m. - Catching up with the Player of the Year Hopefuls
|1||Owen Turtenwald||United States||48|
|2||Luis Scott-Vargas||United States||48|
|3||Ben Stark||United States||46|
|6||David Sharfman||United States||40|
|9||Josh Utter-Leyton||United States||38|
|10||Paul Rietzl||United States||37|
|11||Martin Juza||Czech Republic||37|
|12||Paulo Vitor da Rosa||Brazil||36|
|14||David Ochoa||United States||34|
A little over a month ago, Luis Scott-Vargas, Ben Stark, Shuuhei Nakamura, Martin Juza, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, and David Ochoa decided to make the trip to Santiago to try to pick up a few more Pro Points during the final stretch of the 2011 season.
Owen Turtenwald doesn't usually travel abroad for Grand Prix, instead preferring to spend his energy practicing as much as possible for events in the United States. But when he discovered that six of the top fifteen players in the Player of the Year standings were going to be competing this weekend, he knew that he had no choice but to make the trip – as he would have felt sick to his stomach if he had followed the coverage from home, and watched as his lead in the Player of the Year race evaporated.
All day on Friday, players were seen going up to Turtenwald, and asking him the very question that one comes to expect to hear when you're currently tied for first place in the Player of the Year standings: "When's Luis (Scott-Vargas) going to get here?"
It was clear that Turtenwald was a bit ruffled by this question, but that frustration seemed to only strengthen the 22 year old pro's resolve – as he knows that a strong finish this weekend would allow him to retake sole possession of first place in this year's standings.
Over the past three years, Luis Scott-Vargas, the current co-leader in the Player of the Year Race, has established himself as one of the most dominant forces in the game's history. Between a win at Pro Tour Berlin in 2008, a finals finish at Pro Tour Kyoto in 2009, a Top 4 at Pro Tour San Diego in 2010 (where LSV began the tournament by going 17-0 – the single longest undefeated streak in the Pro Tour's history), a Top 8 at Pro Tour Nagoya earlier this season, 4 Grand Prix wins, and a peak three year median finish of 11th place on the Pro Tour, it's clear that LSV knows a thing or two about how to play Magic.
But there is still one notable thing missing from his resume – a Player of the Year title. Will this be the year that LSV finally earns the crown, or will he have to wait another year for a shot at the top?
Not far behind with 46 Pro Points is Pro Tour Paris Champion Ben Stark. Stark began making waves in 2004 with consecutive Top 8s at Pro Tour Kobe, and Pro Tour San Diego, to go along with an absolutely dominant stretch of performances on the North American Grand Prix circuit.
But just as he seemed to be reaching the height of his powers, Stark stepped away from the game, leaving barely a trace behind. Then, almost 5 years later, Stark started showing up at Grand Prix again. It didn't take Stark long to pick up where he left off– posting a second place finish at Grand Prix Boston a mere several months after his return to competitive play.
He hasn't looked back since.
Over the past two and a half years, Stark has earned an average 3 Pro Points per Limited Grand Prix. While Ben Stark has admitted that this is above the expectations that he would set for himself, there's no question that Stark is a force at any Limited event he shows up for, and you shouldn't be at all surprised to see Stark hoisting up another trophy this Sunday.
While Nakamura, Juza, PV, and Ochoa all need to post at least one (and probably two) exceptionally good finishes between now, and Worlds in order to claim the title of Player of the Year – you can't count them out just yet. These players have distinguished themselves as being some of the most consistent players on the Pro Tour, and a win this weekend would put them very much back in the thick of things.
While he hasn't posted any Top 8 finishes during the last couple of months, it's worth noting that Shuuhei Nakamura has been gradually eating away at the lead set by Turtenwald, and LSV -- earning three Pro Points in each of his last two Grand Prix.
David Ochoa has a bit more ground to cover – but he is a member of a strong US National Team alongside rogue deck builder extraordinaire Ali Aintrazi, and Haibing Hu (Hu has been playing on the Pro Tour semi-regularly for almost a decade), and is consequently likely to pick up a few more Pro Points during the team competition at Worlds.
Vincent Lemoine, Samuele Estratti and Raphael Levy opted to stay in Europe to compete in Grand Prix Amsterdam – while Yuuya Watanabe, and Shouta Yasooka decided to stay home this weekend, and prepare for the Standard format Grand Prix Hiroshima next weekend. With 46 and 44 points respectively, the former Player of the Year winners Watanabe, and Yasooka are very much in contention to once again earn this prestigious reward – and a good finish next weekend could put either one of them atop the standings.
Saturday, 11:00 a.m. - Playing and Drawing with Jesper Ejsing
On Thursday night Steve Sadin and I had the opportunity to visit the local game distributor headquarters, hang out with some of the people who would be manning the event, and there was even the promise of an Innistrad draft or two. As the draft started to come together we had an odd number of players and the only two people who had yet to arrive were the artists Steve Prescott and Jesper Ejsing. Where were going to find the last person we needed for the draft.
"Jesper is going to draft," said Wizards of the Coast's Brian Trunk. "He plays all the time and really wants to draft."
I knew that once upon a time Matt Cavotta had played the game quite seriously but he was the only Magic artist I had encountered who played the game but I am sure he had never drafted with us any of the times he had been at an event or I had been by the Renton offices when he was there. A Magic artist who was eager to draft? He also knew his way around a 40-card deck. He went 2-1 with his flashback monstrosity that abused Spider Spawning . This was a definite first in my experience and I wanted to find out more about him. We sat down for an interview about playing and drawing Magic cards.
BDM: Which came first; your career as a professional illustrator or playing Magic?
Jesper: I became a professional illustrator around the same time. I did my first book cover when I was 18. I was at university studying Danish literature and that was when I started playing Magic. It was a role-playing convention and I saw these guys playing a card game with illustrations on it. I remember thinking, "I could do that much better."
It looked fun and we went and bought some cards. You could choose between Arabian Nights and Antiquities. The Antiquities boosters were cheaper so we bought a lot of those and a couple of Arabian Nights. Then we played and found out the Arabian Nights cards were really, really cool. We went back to the store and asked for more cards with the scimitar on them.
BDM: What year was this?
Jesper: That was when we got the hang of it and started buying a lot of cards. It was 1993 and you could still buy the Beta versions of the cards.
BDM: When did you know you wanted to create art for the cards?
Jesper: I was a fantasy illustrator and I wanted to illustrate the cards even back then but it took me so many more years.
BDM: How competitive a player were you back then?
Jesper: Actually the year after I started playing I won a tournament in the city where I went to University. It was an all black deck with Icy Manipulator and Royal Assassin . I was the only person playing that combo and it was called Ejsing Manipulator. That was fun.
BDM: Do you have any of the old timer bad beat trade stories?
Jesper: I still remember trading my first Mox for a Control Magic.
BDM: I made that mistake too...
Jesper: I got the Mox Pearl .
BDM: Do you still have that Pearl?
Jesper: I played for like four years and then I sold my collection -- I should not have done that. I had Moxes and Lotuses. The worst part was when I sold my collection it was not for a lot of money. People were just starting to buy and sell cards. I sold my collection so I could buy a VCR. How stupid is that? They don't even produce VCRs anymore but they still make Magic.
BDM: How did you get your big break as a Magic artist?
Jesper: It is really hard coming from Denmark. I am on the other side of the Earth and I don't get to the same conventions as the other artists and I don't meet the art directors. I have to send them my stuff. I sent stuff for seven years. I improved, of course. I went to a couple of conventions but there are so many artists out there. In the end what happened was Todd Lockwood forwarded my stuff to Jeremy Jarvis.
I was sure this was going to be my ticket in. This was going to be the end of my seven year trial. I didn't hear anything for a year. Then suddenly there was this email from someone named Jarvis that asked if I wanted to draw Magic cards.
I thought it was a joke. I share a studio with 10 other guys and we are always pulling pranks on each other. That year I published my first novel called Jarvis, the Sorcerers' Apprentice. I thought it had to be a joke and I didn't even answer it. Then a day after I noticed there were all these titles under it and telephone numbers. I thought, "They are not this smart. There is no way they could figure all this out." So I politely answered and got into Magic.
BDM: Your first Magic illustration was Lignify . What is your favorite?
Jesper: The Goblin Shortcutter is one of my favorites -- and Goblin Tunneler . I think it mostly a personal thing though. That one just flowed out of me with me just holding the brush. Some of them are hard struggles. I am not one of those gifted artists who just do it. I struggle every single step of the way and think about it. The Tunnel er was one in particular where it just oozed out of me. For that one I kept the original and put it up next to my drawing table as a guideline for what it should be like.
I have just made the one that topped that but I cannot say what it is yet.
BDM: You don't do your work digitally?
Jesper: I am a pure old guy. It is not that I hate digital I just love the fact that I have an original afterwards. You could say that if I switched to digital I could work faster but this way I can sell the original and make the same amount of money. The one benefit is that I have an original out there with someone who really, really connects to the card. It is so much better than just watching pictures on a screen.
BDM: Is it true you started playing again when you got your first complimentary box of boosters after you started illustrating cards?
Jesper: I almost feel stupid saying it but I really, really love when I get a free box of boosters in the mail. When it comes to my studio I immediately call my friends and say "I got a box, want to come over and draft tonight?" That is really nice.
BDM: How do players react when they get to front of the line and you have a trade binder and a constructed Goblin deck featuring cards you illustrated?
Jesper: They do not expect it. They actually really like it. It makes them feel like I am one of them. And I am. I used to be standing in all those lines waiting for autographs from my idols. I am humble and happy now that I am one of those guys that I used to look up to 10 years ago.
BDM: Do you enjoy traveling to events like this?
Jesper: When you are an artist you spend most of your day sitting at a desk, hurting your (rear) and drinking coffee. You don't see the people that you make the art for. Coming here is the best thing because you see people who use your artwork.
BDM: That is the best part?
Jesper: That is good but the best thing was beating Steve Sadin in a draft last night.
Round 4: Feature Match - Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa vs. Diego Ostrovich
The World Championships in 2002 marked the first time that a Latin American player made it to the Top 8 of a Pro Tour. This Top 8 included not only eventual champion Carlos Romao of Brazil, but also Argentinian Pro Diego Ostrovich. Romao, and Ostrovich's success at this event was a huge step for the Pro Magic community in Latin America.
Over the next few years, a number of other Latin American Pros, including Willy Edel, and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa (who is now universally considered one of the greatest players to ever play the game), were able to take advantage of the infrastructure that Romao, and three time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Ostrovich had put into place to rise to prominence on the game's biggest stage.
Diego Ostrovich won the die roll and chose to play first. Ostrovich quickly showed why he wanted to be on the play when he started the match off with a turn one Stormkirk Noble, followed by a Village Ironsmith .
PV's Ashmouth Hound traded with Ostrovich's Stormkirk Noble – a play which under normal circumstances would have bought the Brazilian superstar some more time – but with a creature in his graveyard, Ostrovich was then able to cast a turn three Stitched Drake .
Even if he transformed it, Civilized Scholar wasn't going to do much to stop Ostrovich's flier, or his first striker – but it was nonetheless a creature that PV could sacrifice to turn on Grimgrin, Corpse-Burn, a card that could singlehandedly swing the game in his favor.
But Ostrovich's Traitorous Blood was more than enough to allow him to take the first game.
Diego Ostrovich 1 – Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa 0
PV chose to play first for game two, but had to start off with a mulligan.
Ostrovich's turn two Village Ironsmith (which quickly transformed into a 3/1 Ironfang when PV passed his third turn without a play), a Curse of Stalked Prey and a Crossway Vampire gave Ostrovich even more pressure while PV could do nothing but play Island , after Island while he stared at a hand full of red, and black cards.
PV finally drew a Mountain , and used a Devil's Play to take out his opponent's Ironfang – but this didn't serve to set Ostrovich back much at all as a Rakish Heir bumped Crossway Vampire up to a 5/4 after it connected.
Final Result: Diego Ostrovich 2 – Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa 0
Round 5: Feature Match - David Kaliski vs. Pedro Pereira
There was a large cheer from the crowd as the captain of the Chilean National team -- David Kaliski -- was called to the Feature Match area to take on the Brazilian Pedro Pereira Junior who made Day Two of the Limited Pro Tour Prague several years ago.
David Kaliski almost seemed relieved to have lost the die roll and admitted: "I don't like to make choices."
"You go first," said Pedro who promptly mulliganed his opening seven.
Doomed Traveler led off the action for Pedro and he attacked it into David's Avacynian Priest . Unsure of whether his opponent had a trick or just wanted a flying token, David chose to block. Pedro had Moment of Heroism to save the Traveler, kill the tapper, and gain three life in the process. He played Silver-Inlaid Dagger a turn later, equipped and attacked for four. David played Desperate Ravings at the end of the turn and discarded Rebuke .
David summoned Cloistered Youth to come out and play only to put her in the path of the Traveler. Pedro equipped the resultant token and passed the turn. Both players said go for two turns -- with Pedro smashing in for three a turn -- until David flashed back Ravings and discarded Island . Selhoff Occultist came down for the Chilean player but he was down to 10 from the token. Pedro played Angelic Overseer -- with no human in sight -- and David could not fire off a Brimstone Volley at it quickly enough.
David's Undead Alchemist was promptly bounced by Silent Departure for two turns -- David also managed to play a Selfless Cathar . Stormgeist eventually hit the table long enough to trade with the spirit token -- the Selhoff Occultist quietly doing its thing the whole time.
Pedro was suddenly behind in board position and tried to gain some of it back with Angel of Flight Alabaster but David had Smite the Monstrous to clear the path and attack Pedro down to 9. David replayed the long-delayed Alchemist.
Thraban Sentry came down for Pedro and it picked up the Dagger. He let the Alchemist by without blocking and took four from two other creatures. David got one zombie and saw Gurruck, the Veil Cursed mill by. The Alchemist quickly got out of hand and the only question was whether Pedro would get decked first or die to damage.
Kaliski - 1 Pereira - 0
David laughed as he flipped a card face-down to be sided in and it turned out to be a red werewolf that had no back. He grabbed it back up quickly and laughed at the gaff.
"You play first," reiterated Pereira when given the option for the second time. Kaliski mulliganed while his opponent stood pat. David furrowed his brow at the next six but kept them. Pedro played Balzing Torch on turn three and David cast Think Tice. He untapped to play Undead Alchemist only to have it stymied -- sort of -- by Bonds of Faith .
Butcher's Cleaver further stocked Pedro's arsenal but he had no creatures to wield them. Forbidden Alchemy powered out Skaab Goliath for David on turn six. Thraban Sentry came down for Pedro and went to take six -- or so he thought. The Goliath was a zombie so he milled six cards and David got three zombies for this effort.
Pedro passed the turn and David flashed back Think Twice . When David attacked, Pedro used Smite the Monstrous on the Goliath. He blocked a zombie and shot another with Blazing Torch -- he was still at 20 and could have shot the Alchemist but did not. He attempted to Cackling Counterpart his Sentry only to have it Volleyed in response. David yielded two more zombies. There were only eight cards left in Pedro's deck and he extended his hand.
Final result: The Chilean National Champion won two games to zero on the back of the Undead Alchemist .
I asked Pedro about his decision to make his opponent play first and he explained that he felt Innistrad Sealed was a slow enough format that the extra card mattered quite a bit. Plus with opponent's playing three color decks it made their mulligan decisions more difficult.
Quick Question: Which Rare Would You Most Want to Open in Sealed? Which Innistrad Do You Most Want to Find in Sealed?
In every set, there are always a handful of cards that players will figuratively (or in some cases literally) jump for joy if they are fortunate enough to open them in their Sealed Deck.
Curious to figure out which rare(s) would have the ability to brighten up a player's whole day, we went around and asked some of the top pros in attendance which rare they would most want to open in their Innistrad Sealed Deck.
Martin Juza: Am I allowed to name Mythic Rares? Yes – then Olivia Voldaren .
Christian Calcano: Bloodline Keeper , obviously.
Saturday, 12:00 p.m.: Quick Question - What is the best card in your sideboard?
As anyone who has played in a Limited Grand Prix, PTQ or even Friday Night Magic Sealed Deck tournament can tell you, the toughest part of the tournament is usually cutting down the final cards from the colors you are playing or benching a rare that does not have enough support in its color. We caught up with a handful of the big name players in the event and asked them: "What is the best card in your sideboard?" We left it to them to choose from a card in the colors they were playing or a bomb card sitting on the sidelines.
Saturday, 12:30 p.m. - As Plains as the Nose on Your Face
As the largest Grand Prix to ever take place in South America entered the last third of Day One some patterns started to emerge at the top tables. There were twelve tables with players who had not picked up a loss yet on the day. Eighteen of the twenty-four players were playing white and sixteen of those decks were heavily white with humans and spirits crashing into the red zone hand-in-hand.
The majority of the decks were tempo-based red-white and blue-white decks with efficient creatures backed up by combat tricks and removal. Most of the marks on the Plains ' record came from the top tier of the Player of the Year race -- most of whom seemed to be running blue-black decks that drew cards, stocked their graveyards, and had plenty of removal. Two such decks were squaring off in the Feature Match area in the hands of Ben Stark and David Ochoa.
Saturday, 2:00 p.m. - Controlling Your Destiny with Ben Stark
To say that Ben Stark is an excellent Limited player almost seems like an understatement. Over the past two and a half years, Ben Stark has earned an average of three Pro Points at each Limited Grand Prix that he's attended. During this time, only a select few players such as Yuuya Watanabe, Martin Juza, and Gaudenis Vidugiris have managed to accumulate Pro Points from Limited Grand Prix at this rate.
If Stark is fortunate enough to open a great Sealed Pool at a Grand Prix – he's probably going to end Day One with an undefeated record. But even when he doesn't open the greatest set of cards, Stark manages to find ways to win with them, and put himself into a position to do well come draft day.
I sat down with Ben Stark (who is currently two Pro Points behind Player of the Year frontrunners Luis-Scott Vargas, and Owen Turtenwald) in an effort to learn more about what goes through his head during deck construction.
The first question that I asked him was: how much does the speed of the format influence your deck building decisions in Sealed?
"I don't worry too much about speed, or my curve very much when I'm building my Sealed deck. I don't want to play any two power ground creatures -- I need my (non-utility) creatures to have 3+ power, or evasion."
It turns out that Stark applies this philosophy to every Sealed deck format he plays in.
"I don't think it matters that much what format you're playing – aggressive decks just aren't good enough to win consistently in Sealed. If you try to play an aggressive Sealed Deck, and your opponent kills one of your early creatures, it's so difficult for you to win. And since pretty much everyone has removal since you open 6 packs, I'd rather just play good cards"
"If you're playing a non-aggressive strategy, and you have four good cards, you don't really care if your opponent kills one of them, since you still have three other good cards. But when you're playing an aggressive deck, you rely on the cumulative impact of each of your cards to earn victories. If you play a two power creature on turn two, and your opponent kills it, then you play another two power creature on turn three – you're going to be in really bad shape."
While Ben Stark doesn't believe that aggressive Sealed Decks are worth playing, he did take the time to explain that you shouldn't go too far in the opposite direction.
"Each additional 'win the game' card that you put into your deck makes the rest of your win the game cards worse. For example, LSV was just explaining how he always wants to open one copy of Army of the Damned , but you doesn't usually
want two, and he will never play three. The reason for this is that your first copy of Army of the Damned gives you a card that you can craft your whole game plan around – but each additional copy just makes it more likely that you will end up losing with a bunch of cards that you can't cast stuck in your hand."
I then asked Stark how he felt about playing three colors in Sealed:
"If your mana can support three colors, instead of the usual two, you should almost always do it – unfortunately, there aren't that many ways to splash for free in this format. If you don't open any of the rare duals, like Clifftop Retreat , you're probably going to have to make some sacrifices in order to get your mana to work. I'm not excited to splash if I have a Traveler's Amulet in the same way that I will be if I open a rare dual, but if I'm already three colors, I'll always play Traveler's Amulet ."
At the point that I'm writing this, Ben Stark is 6-0, and well on his way to another excellent finish at a Limited Grand Prix. Will Ben Stark pick up the Pro Points that he needs to take the lead in the Player of the Year race?
Stay tuned to find out!
Round 7: Feature Match - Ben Stark vs. David Ochoa
Ben Stark won the roll and, knowing that his friend David Ochoa was playing a Blue-Black control deck that nearly mirrored his own, chose to draw first.
Ochoa opened with a turn two Deranged Assistant , into a turn three Armored Skaab , while Stark had a Deranged Assistant of his own that he used to power out a somewhat more menacing Galvanic Juggernaut . Ochoa found his third land after hiccupping for a moment, but nonetheless passed his turn with no play.
Dead Weight on Deranged Assistant got countered by Dissipate , and Ben Stark thought for a moment before using Victim of night on his mana light opponent's Deranged Assistant , as this not only set Ochoa back on mana – but allowed Stark to get in another attack for five with his Galvanic Juggernaut .
An Abattoir Ghoul gave Ochoa a threat of his own, but he still didn't have any way to stop Stark's Galvanic Juggernaut – and when Stark used a Brain Weevil to knock two cards out of his opponent's the subsequent attack with Galvanic Juggernaut left Ochoa at a mere 5 life.
While he was able to put his opponent on life support very quickly, Stark didn't have any way to close out the game – and wound up going a few turns without making any plays. Fortunately for Stark, Ochoa wasn't doing much either other than attacking with his 3/2 Abattoir Ghoul .
Stark countered a Sever the Bloodline with a Dissipate , and then summoned a Murder of Crows before attacking with his Deranged Assistant into his opponent's Armored Skaab . Ochoa blocked, allowing Stark to loot with his Murder of Crows , and untap his Galvanic Juggernaut .
Ochoa passed his turn with no play, but he wasn't out of answers just yet. When Stark attacked in with his Murder of Crows , and his Galvanic Juggernaut , Ochoa used a Cackling Counterpart to copy Abattoir Ghoul – a play which allowed him to mug his opponent's Galvanic Juggernaut , and gain 10 life for his trouble.
Ochoa found a Selfless Occultist to give himself a very real way to win, and then the two players settled into draw go for a while.
Ochoa tapped low for a Battlefround Geist – which opened up a window for Stark to Dead Weight his opponent's Murder of Crows before attacking with both of his Stitched Drake s. The ensuing attack left Ochoa on three life, and Stark with only five cards left in his library.
An attack, and a Snapcastermage for Victim of Night later, and Stark had taken the first game.
Ben Stark 1 – David Ochoa 0
Ochoa chose to draw first for game two, and Stark again used Deranged Assistant to get off to a quick start – this time powering out a turn three Abattoir Ghoul followed by a turn four Murder of Crows .
Ochoa's Armored Skaab was able to hold down Stark's 3/2 first striker – but his Brain Weevil (which threatened to take a chunk out of Stark's hand, and turn on whatever morbid effects were in Ochoa's hand) died at the hands of Dead Weight .
Stalking Vampire attacked in, and Stark double blocked with Abattoir Ghoul , and Makeshift Mauler . Ochoa opted to take down the Makeshift Mauler , before using a Morkrut Banshee to slay his opponent's bird.
Ghoulcaller's Chant brought back a Stitched Drake , which Ochoa promptly removed with his flashbacked Sever the Bloodline . However, he had no answer for Stark's Mindshrieker – and died to the pumpable flier two turns later.
Ben Stark 2 – David Ochoa 0
Round 8: Feature Match - Raimundo Meza vs. Melissa DeTora
Of all the North Americans fighting for a perfect 8-0 record only Pro Tour Paris winner Ben Stark and frequent money finisher Melissa DeTora could still achieve that record coming into the round. Ben, of course, had the help of three byes but Melissa has been scrapping with her white-black beatdown deck since Round Two.
Standing in her way of perfection was hometown hero Raimundo Meza. Raimundo runs a local gaming establishment and you could hear the murmurs ripple through the room as the pairing was announced. Like Melissa, Raimundo had only one bye coming into the tournament and his six actual wins have been hard fought.
Both players were sporting base white decks with multiple Avacynian Priest s, Chapel Geist s, and other efficient creatures. Raimundo was blue-white and had two Delver of Secrets to go along with 10 spells -- including more than his fair share of card drawing. Melissa was white-black with a Giest-Honored Monk, some Dead Weight s, and a pair of Cloistered Youth s looking to let their hair down. She was also sporting at least one Mountain for an unknown splash card.
"I will play first," announced Raimundo. Melissa preferred to draw and was not upset to lose the die roll. Despite being fairly aggressive she had no card drawing and liked getting the extra card. She claimed to not have won any die rolls and still had more than enough chances to be on the draw.
"I will take a mulligan," announced Raimundo as he looked at a hand of blue cards and Plains .
"I will keep," said Melissa who had Cloisterd Youth and Avacynian Priest and the lands to play them.
Meza could only shake his head as he went to five cards. He tapped his deck for a second land but he missed a beat while Melissa came roaring out with Cloistered Youth and Voiceless Spirit . She followed up with Silverchase Fox while he scuffled on two lands. He gave his deck one last chance to deliver before scooping up and moving onto game two.
"You said you were going to play?" asked Melissa, scarcely believing her good fortune.
Meza kept his seven card hand this time and both players conjured up Chapel Geist on their turn three. Moorland Haunt -- a potential back breaker in this match-up -- powered out Moon Heron . Melissa played Markov Patrician and laid an ominous Mountain -- what was she splashing for -- the mandatory Brimstone Volley or something rarer like Devi's Play?
Meza attacked with both his fliers and DeTora let the Geists bounce. Forbidden Alchemy from Maza dumped a land, Snapcaster Mage , and Stitched Drake in the yard and he played his fifth land, and Avacynian Priest . Melissa had a clear window to get in for five damage -- and gain three life in the process. She then played Geist Honored Monk.
Maza was undaunted and attacked for five in the air. He played a second Chapel Geist with his tapper online for the Monk. Melissa played Mausoleum Guard precombat to pump the Monk. Maza tapped the lifelink Vampire -- it was much more damaging to his race than the Monk -- and Melissa attacked for six with just her vigilant fattie. Meza took the damage. He untapped and sent all three fliers into the red zone. Two spirit tokens blocked the Heron and the Geists bounced.
Melissa sensed something was up when Meza chose not to use his tapper. She shrugged and sent in the Guard, the Monk, and the Chapel Geist . Meza made three tokens with Midnight Haunting and his Moorland Haunt . It used all his mana and he chumped two creatures. Melissa used Dead Weight to banish the do-nothing Priest.
Meza played Lantern Spirit and passed the turn without an attack. He was whittling Melissa's impressive start down to something manageable and he had to put the brakes on as well. Mez made a spirit token EOT.
Voiceless Spirit joined his team and he sat back on his Haunt. He attacked with just his two Geists and Melissa let one bounce off hers. And then Melissa revealed what her splash was for and paid R to cast Blaphemous Act. Meza returned his Lantern Spirit . Melissa netted two spirit tokens of her own from the Mausoleum Guard . She still had enough mana left over to play Cloistered Youth and Village Cannibals with untapped land to spare.
Meza, with his graveyard fully stocked with souls, made a spirit EOT and replayed the Lantern Spirit on his turn. Melissa transformed her Youth and attacked with everyone. Meza was splashing black for his Alchemy also revealed his had a Corpse Lunge to take out the Cannibals. He traded his token for one of hers and blocked the Youth with his Lantern Spirit and bounced it. Melissa took one at the end of her turn from the Unholy Fiend .
Meza hung on for many turns while Melissa kept up the pressure, eventually running him out of graveyard fodder and locking down his creatures with her own Avacynian Priest .
Final result: Melissa DeTora advanced to 8-0 over Raimundo Meza in one quick game and one long one.
I asked Meza about his decision to play and he flashed a pair of Delver of Secrets that he really wanted to play on turn one. He had something approaching 10 instants and sorceries in the deck and had played and flipped them pretty consistently in the previous rounds. As for the extra card that drawing first would get him he showed off a pair each of Think Twice and Forbidden Alchemy . Being ahead on cards was generally not a problem for him.
Round 9: Feature Match - Martin Juza vs. Juan Zacharski
Juan Zacharski came into this match with an unblemished 8-0 record, while dark horse Player of the Year contender Martin Juza was not far behind at 7-0-1.
Zacharski won the roll, and chose to draw first.
Zacharski cast a Hanweir Watchkeep , and opted to not play any spells on his next turn so he could transform it into Bane of Hanweir – while Juza pulled ahead by casting a Moon Heron , and a Fiend Hunter which he used to exile his opponent's Werewolf.
Zacharski looked to again bring the board back to parity with a Village Bell-Keeper, followed by Abbey Griffin – but Geistcatcher's Rig took out Abbey Griffin , and allowed Juza to continue attacking in unimpeded with his Moon Heron .
Zacharski summoned Thraben Sentry , and chump blocked Geistcatcher's Rig with Village Bell-Keeper – but still fell to 11 from the Moon Heron . An attack with the freshly transformed Thraben Militia knocked Juza to 13, and his follow up play of Rage Thrower meant that Juza could lose the game pretty suddenly if Zacharski had a Feeling of Dread (which would allow him to continue attacking unimpeded, while simultaneously halting Juza's offense), or a way to wipe the board.
Martin Juza 1 – Juan Zacharski 0
Zacharski again chose to draw first in Game Two, but this time he had to mulligan to 6.
Stitcher's Apprentice attacked into the Voiceless Spirit , and Zacharski, wanting to get the combat trick out of his opponent's hand, chose to block. To the surprise of no one, a Moment of Heroism allowed Juza's Stitcher's Apprentice to come out on top.
Zacharski's Fiend Hunter took out Civilized Scholar , and Juza looked to take his offense to the air with a Mindshrieker . Zacharski cast a Thraben Sentry , and Juza further built up his air force with a Moon Heron .
Not wanting to die in the air like he did in the first game, Zacharski pointed a Devil's Play at Juza's Moon Heron , prompting Juza to sacrifice it to Stitcher's Apprentice , creating a 2/2 Homunculus in the process. On the very next turn an Into the Maw of Hell forced Juza to turn his Midshrieker into a 2/2 Homonculus
Charmbreaker Devils threatened to end the game in a hurry for Zacharski, but Juza, needing an answer immediately, found a Fiend Hunter greeting him on his very next draw step. With Fiend Hinter's come into play trigger on the stack, Juza Sacrifice d it to Stitcher's Apprentice – exiling Charmbreaker Devils for good.
With Juza tapped low, Zacharski used Devil's Play on Juza's Sticher Apprentice – but the little Homunculus had already done its job.
Juza's next draw step yielded him a Manor Gargoyle , and a few attacks later Juza had won the match.
Final Result Martin Juza 2 – Juan Zacharski 0