TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Blog - 3:50 p.m. - Operational Maneuvers
by Ted Knutson
- Blog - 3:02 p.m. - Round 12: Masashi Oiso vs. Bo Sun
by Ted Knutson
- Blog - 1:34 p.m. - Day 2 Metagame Breakdown
by Ted Knutson
- Blog - 11:29 a.m. - Photojournalism
by Ted Knutson
- Blog - 10:15 a.m. - Round 9: Masahiko Morita vs. Olivier Ruel
by Ted Knutson
- Blog - 9:11 a.m. - Impressions of China
by Ted Knutson
Sunday, November 26: 9:11 a.m. - Impressions of China
So I've been in China for five days now, which is just long enough to make a few impressions about the state of the country and the people here. I'll go over what I've learned here for the sake of both those who will never come and visit and those who are planning to come sometime soon.
First of all, Beijing is a city of about thirteen million people, and the city sprawls out from Tienanmen Square for a considerable distance in every direction. China is not a crazy island nation, so driving here is done on the right side of the road, making it a bit easier for ignorant Americans not to get run over by the extremely aggressive drivers here.
I've had little incentive to figure out the public transportation system here because cab rides are incredibly cheap. And by incredibly cheap I mean I rode across town for five U.S. dollars and every other cab ride has cost considerably less. Food here is also extremely cheap as long as you aren't eating inside your hotel. We had dinner for four two nights ago with plenty of beer and it cost just under twenty dollars for the crew - you can't even get fast food for that cost in the States and there are exceptional restaurants available here for considerable discount. You just have to get past the fact that unlike Japan), they don't have picture menus and at this point (though this could change considerably because the Olympics will be here in 2008) there isn't much English on the menus either. Another thing to consider is that China is a food disaster just waiting to happen. Don't get me wrong - there's plenty of excellent, edible dishes available here, but one wrong syllable could have you munching on peppered pigs feet with a rare sheep's tongue chaser.
Shopping here is absolutely ridiculous, as is the depth of culture you can experience with a little preparation. Goods both real and fake are available at huge discounts, especially if you know where to look and are a good haggler. This process often involves starting the price at something insultingly low, raising your price only slightly, and then being willing to walk away at any point. If I only had one more day, I could be stocking my closet with 12$ Diesel jeans, but alas… a 9AM flight to Narita has my name on it. Also of note is that commercial brands you would recognize are everywhere. I'm sure you've heard it before, but China is a market of one billion people, and every company in the world is willing to pay government officials well to get their foot in the door and be able to sell products to an increasingly affluent city population. German automobile makers seem to have the early lead in the car industry here, while the fast food industry has about every name imaginable including the ubiquitous McDonald's, Subway, Pizza Hut, and (yesterday's lunch), Papa John's.
Aside from all that, China is a developing nation, meaning you'll find traffic snarls everywhere, people here seem very busy and not particularly courteous, and pollution can occasionally be obnoxious under the right weather conditions. Oh, and the Chinese smoke like chimneys. The area directly outside the venue here is so thick with smoke that I've actually been holding my breath until I reach the elevators.
So there you have it. China is a land of awesome opportunities right now and you can get by here very cheaply if you are interested in coming to stay for a while. Student English teachers are in high demand, so if you find yourself intrigued at the prospect of getting out and seeing a bit of the world, you might check into it.
Sunday, November 26: 10:15 a.m. - Round 9: Masahiko Morita vs. Olivier RuelMasahiko Morita
Masahiko Morita may actually be unbeatable on Day 1 of Constructed Grand Prix. He's reeled off 7-0 records in Day 1 of consecutive Grand Prix and grabbed another win this morning, meaning he only needs one more win in his next five matches to guarantee Level 5 mage benefits for the 2006 season. Olivier Ruel is already Level 6 and is the leader for mystical (and perhaps mythical) Level 7 status, a lofty height reserved only for the reigning Player of the Year. Ruel is on a bit of a streak as well, not having lost with his CAL deck since Day 1 of Bilbao, a run of sixteen match wins in a row.
Game 1 was all about mana screw. Ruel had mana and was able to resolve turn 3 Seismic Assault and wreck Morita's hand with multiple Cabal Therapies. It was close at the end because Ruel couldn't find one more land to finish Morita off, but Burning Wish for Life from the Loam with six lands in the yard did the trick.
Ruel 1 - Morita 0Olivier Ruel
Ruel sided out his Burning Wishes and Solitary Confinements, changing the deck into a more aggressive configuration with extra disruption plus some pappy pachyderms to give Morita more threats to deal with.
There was very little action to start game 3, with Ruel cycling a series of lands and casting a few discard spells while Morita resolved a turn 5 Tog and began the oh-so-gentle process of beating down with Dr, Teeth. Ruel used Cabal Therapy to strip Morita of his entire hand and then resolved Seismic Assault with no difficulty. The resolved Assault presented a serious problem for Morita - since he didn't have any card drawing gas in hand, he couldn't power the Tog through it, especially with Ruel's full Life from the Loam + Cycling engine going. He also needed to get rid of the Assault as quickly as possible or he'd be very dead within a turn or two. Morita couldn't find an answer and Ruel was able to chuck mudballs at his head, killing him from 15 with two lands to spare. This stretched Olivier's run with CAL to seventeen wins in a row.
Ruel 2 - Morita 0
Sunday, November 26: 11:29 a.m. - Photojournalism
Oddly enough, I often find that it's the simplest things about other countries that wind up being the most fascinating. For example, one of my favorite things to do is to walk through supermarkets and look at the food they have on display. "Fresh" takes on an entirely different meaning here in China, so I tried to snag a camera and give you the photographic lowdown on just what I am talking about.You can't tell it, but this is an action shot of the little buggers crawling over each other.
Can I interest you in some ribs? All of them?
The fish head in the middle of this one is waving at you. Who knew you could flap with half a body?
Yep, those are turtles. Cute ones too.
Some restaurants here have tanks and tanks of fish, frogs, shellfish, and … things in cages.
Sunday, November 26: 1:34 p.m. - Day 2 Metagame Breakdown
We're at the halfway point in Day 2, but here is what the metagame looked like after the cut.
I knew from walking around yesterday that there were a lot of black and green decks out there, but I didn't think it would run quite as deep as this. Back in Los Angeles some Rock players were splashing white for things like Loxodon Hierarch, but here the white splash is rampant and seems to be mostly for Armadillo Cloak, with maybe a Kataki or three out of the board.
Psychatog's early season success means that it will be heavily played pretty much everywhere, though players are still split on the proper build of the deck. Where the Japanese go, so goes Scepter Chant, and Boros, Affinity, and the "goofy" decks round out the field. Ruel and his CAL deck still haven't thrown a match all weekend and is now a lock for the Top 8 after drawing in round 11 with Katsu Mori. Tsumura is near the top tables, but Oiso has dropped a little and has to face his teammate on the Japanese National team this round in Ichiro Shimura. We'll get back to feature match action next round as we prepare to eliminate the pretenders and see who will be the new king of Magic in China.
Sunday, November 26: 3:02 p.m. - Round 12: Masashi Oiso vs. Bo SunBo Sun
The magic number today looks like it's going to be 31 points, meaning you'll need at least ten wins and a draw to lock up your spot, though a couple 10-3s will probably make it in. This match pits Masashi Oiso vs. Bo Sun, both of whom need one more win to reach the number ten and draw in next round.
Like many Japanese players, Oiso has chosen to run Scepter Chant this weekend and has fared pretty well thus far, though one would expect nothing less from the Japanese master. His opponent for this round is playing a deck that has run rampant here this weekend, a modified form of Aggro Rock that uses a White splash to cast Armadillo Cloak and some interesting animals. Sun started out with an early mana accelerator into a turn 2 Anurid Brushopper, following that with Withered Wretch for the full beatdown plan. Oiso's life total hit 8, but then stabilized… someone had found the Isochron Scepter plus Orim's Chant lock and then got to untap as well. Doh.
Fact or Fiction gave Oiso a Wrath and a Cunning Wish for Hinder in hand, and at this point the crowd of spectators were just waiting for the fat lady to sing. That happened three turns down the road when Sun went digging for his sideboard to make sure he could get out of the lock in games 2 and (hopefully) 3.
Oiso 1 - Sun 0Masashi Oiso
Both players kept their hands for game 2, and Sun cast a blind Cabal Therapy naming Force Spike, whiffing but seeing a pair of Fire/Ice, Counterspell, Cunning Wish, Wrath of God and two lands. The Great One took one for the team on turn 2, flashing back the Therapy and sending Fire/Ice to the bin. Bob number two hit the board on turn 3, while Oiso answered with a very sexy morph, earning a grimace from Sun. Another Cabal Therapy from Sun's side of the board snatched Cunning Wish and revealed that Oiso did not yet have the fourth land he needed to flip the angel, but he drew it on the next turn, choosing not to flip it, instead leaving counterspell mana open and then doing it at the end of Sun's turn. Angel beats plus land damage and the tithe to Bob had already dropped Sun to five life, a total easily dispatched two swings later.
Oiso 2 - Sun 0
Sunday, November 26: 3:50 p.m. - Operational ManeuversKatsuhiro Mori, left, and Tomoharu Saito
Take a look at this scene for just a moment:
That's just Katsuhiro Mori and Tomoharu Saito sitting next to each other playing Magic, nothing special about that, right? Well, sort of. You see, it's the last round of the Grand Prix and they are seated at tables two and three respectively, tables that are practically an automatic draw at this point in the day. Even more interesting is that Mori and Saito are both already Q'd for the Top 8, but their opponents are on the bubble and will only be guaranteed a spot with a draw. So why are Saito and Mori still playing?
It's Olivier Ruel's fault (of course). He was paired against Kenji Tsumura last round after scooping to Mori in the round prior, and I just assumed that Ruel would once again scoop a good friend into the Top 8 (so I didn't cover that feature match - yes I am an utter failure as a human being). Not so fast! I had briefly overlooked the fact that Tsumura is Ruel's chief competitor in the Player of the Year race, and an action that would be automatic at any other time of the year suddenly became a battle to the death as Oli looked to win a very good matchup for him and insure extra points going into next week. So Ruel did just that, smashing Tsumura 2-0 and keeping him on the bubble.
However, the Japanese players are awesome at pulling for one another and doing what is necessary to try and help each other succeed. Seeing that they were paired against other players still on the bubble, Mori and Saito are trying to crush them and give Tsumura and Ichiro Shimura (sitting one table down from Kenji) a chance, while hopefully keeping non-Japanese players out of the Top 8. Depending on which side of the fence you sit on, this is either cruel and unusual or it's exactly how the game should be played and is a refreshing change from the normal way things operate at the end of tournaments.
Things are very interesting here and it will go right down to the wire to see who else will be joining Ruel, Oiso, Mori, and Saito in the Top 8 here.