Day 2 Blog Archive

Posted in Event Coverage on February 5, 2006

By Wizards of the Coast



Sunday, Feb. 5: 10:33 a.m. - Paid for by Frank Karsten for Resident Genius

The scribbles of a madman or genius? You decide

Frank Karsten is an interesting candidate for Resident Genius on this week Invitational ballot. He is one of the few candidates there because of his reputation as a Limited thinker as well as his skills as a deck designer and player. Frank's Limited skills first came to light on the Pro level when he reached the Top 8 of Nagoya with his fabled List for Champions of Kamigawa. He had rated every single card in the block in order on the flight. He continued to tinker with the document until it looked more like the route Billy from Family Circus took to go straight to school than an orderly list.

Yesterday when I spoke to Frank about his Sealed Deck strategy he promised to explain his method for card sorting that helped him to analyze his card pool. When I walked in this morning Frank was hunched over a scrap of paper scribbling what looked like perhaps a chemical formula. It turns out that it was a graph representing the twelve piles he sets out when breaking out his deck.

"I thought people might want to use this method at the PTQs," Frank explained, "This way they can see all the color combinations next to each other."

Sunday, Feb. 5: 11:02 a.m. - Cats and Dogs Living Together…Mass Hysteria!

Kenji Tsumura, left, and Gabe Walls prepare to Draft in Pod 1

"I object to this draft pod!" exclaimed Ken Krouner with a laugh. "Can someone tell people that the last draft pod is not supposed to be harder than the first one?"

That was a variation on a theme that everyone was talking about this morning as we got ready for the first draft. While I would not exactly deem the first pod - which featured reigning Player of the Year Kenji Tsumura and Grand Prix Philadelphia winner Jon Sonne - a slam dunk for anyone 'fortunate' enough to be seated there, it was not as chock full of names as table eight.

Draft Table Eight

Eugene Harvey
Katsuhiro Mori
Kyle Smith
Zach Parker
Frank Karsten
Nicholas Neary
Patrick Sullivan
Ken Krouner

Katsuhiro Mori and Frank Karsten were destined for a first round rematch of the finals of the 2005 World Championships.

Sunday, Feb. 5: 11:40 a.m. - Draft one: Gabe Walls and Kenji Tsumura

Trophy Hunter

Before the draft Kenji and Gabe were talking about their draft preferences. Kenji expressed an affection for the five-color archetype in this new format and when Gabe found himself sitting to Kenji's left he knew he was going to go blue. His decision was made even easier by a decidedly mediocre first pack - he took Clutch of the Undercity passing almost nothing.

Kenji had a tougher time with his first pick. He isolated Trophy Hunter, Brainspoil, Shambling Shell, and Vinelasher Kudzu as the cards on his plate and finally settled on the Hunter. Gabe happily took the Brainspoil and the subsequent Stinkweed Imp that Kenji passed him after the Japanese player took Bramble Elemental.

Things got a little tricky with Kenji's third pick when he veered into black for Brainspoil over Overwhelm and Transluminant creating some overlap between his and Gabe's colors. Kenji did consider white briefly when his next pack offered up Boros Guldmage and Conclave Equenaut - instead he took Nullmage Shepherd. He veered again with a fifth pick Vedalken Dismisser. Hunted Dragon was in the next pack but Kenji was prepared to let someone else take that bait and picked up Sewerdreg.

Kenji continued to be Green-black-X in the second pack when he nabbed a second Brainspoil with his first pick. Bramble Elemental ended up in front of him despite being tempted by Circu, Peel from Reality, and Remand. He succumbed to the lure of blue when he was passed Glimpse the Unthinkable one card later.

Gabe was raking in blue ahead of him though with Snapping Drake, double Compulsive Research, and an impossibly late Halcyon Glaze. He could scarcely believe it as every blue card he passed - except for one Peel - came back around the table including two Remands.

Guildpact seemed to give Kenji a splitting headache as he couldn't really decide what direction he wanted his deck to go in. He finally decided that Orhzov was going to be the road he followed and took a pair of Blind Hunters sandwiching an Ostiary Thrull.

Gabe was in perfect position for Izzet and first picked that color combination's Guildmage and just about any card he wanted in the common slot over the rest of the pack. He was of mixed emotion when he long-ranged Izzet Chronarch around the table. He was excited to get it back but sad that it was the only one at the table because he would have had them all.

Kenji was miserable after the draft and did not feel like he could even win a match with his draft deck.

Kenji Tsumura

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Gabe Walls

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Sunday, Feb. 5: 12:15 p.m. - Round 9: Frank Karsten vs. Katsuhiro Mori

Frank Karsten, left, vs. Katsuhiro Mori

Frank Karsten and Katsuhiro Mori went through the first draft in the furthest corner of the room, exiled to table eight by virtue of a pair of losses (offset by the tiebreakery goodness of three byes). It is unusual to have a feature match with two players nestles so far down in the standings but it is also unusual to have a rematch of the finals from the World Championships.

Frank has been around the block a few times and went straight to the feature match are as soon as he looked at the pairings board - he didn't even bother to wait for the announcement.

"Nice smile Frank," shouted someone from the crowd as Frank grimaced for the camera.

"My deck is not so good," explained Frank. It should be pointed out that Mori was not smiling either as he sat down for the match.

Frank led off with Wild Cantor and "Nice deck"ed himself. Nether player did much of anything early on. Frank was stalled on three lands and sacrificed the Cantor to play Torch Drake. Mori's deck was green-white-red and he seemed to have an underwhelming array of Mossdogs and Brownscales. Karsten recovered from his brief mana stumble and his deck delivered Rumbling Slum and Primordial Sage over the next few turns. Mori was able to Lightning Helix the flier but could not do much about the card advantage generated by the Sage.

Frank - 1 Mori - 0

Game 2

Ivy Dancer was the first play from Mori and Karsten answered with Silhana Starfletcher. The two players just mounted their forces for several turns -- Greater Mossdog from Mori and Torch Drake from Karsten followed by Sagitars from Mori.

The flier and the ersatz spider traded and the players traded attacks. Mossdog got in for three and allowed the Stafletcher to get in for one which set up a turn of bloodthirsty Burning-Tree Bloodscale and Scab-Clan Mauler. Mori put Sinstriker's Will on his Mossdog but once Karsten played a Siege Wurm the World Champion could not keep up with the Onslaught of fatties and eventually succumbed to superior numbers.

It may not make up for losing the finals of World Championships but that didn't stop Karsten from pumping the fist.

Sunday, Feb. 5: 12:41 p.m. - Just Admit It!

"You have to be jay-kay!" declared J. Evan Dean as Mark Zadjner played Searing Meditation against him in the feature match area - the match was featured to highlight Mark's unusual deck.

This man conceeded to the Benediction of Moons

I am sure you have been in a draft before and seen a couple of Meditations going around the table and considered trying to see if the card could be anything like Lightning Rift. Well Mark saw three - in the first pack of his draft no less. He took the third one he saw within the first five picks of the draft and waited for the other two to come back around (which they did) and then drafted every life gain card he could get his hands on. There was only one Mourning Thrull in the third set of packs but he did get three Benediction of Moons. Since Mark could stack the haunt effect of the spell so it resolved before the Searing Meditation he could actually machine gun two gray ogres with five mana.

Other nuttiness in the deck included a Conclave Phalanx, Flash Conscription, and Douse in Gloom.

Dean had an Absolver Thrull for the Searing Meditation - to Mark it felt like a Flametongue Kavu - but there was another copy of the enchantment waiting in the wings.

Dean frowned, prompting Mark to exclaim, "What are you frowning for? You had FTK on turn four; I thought I took all of those."

When Mark killed Viashino Fangtail with Douse in Gloom and activated Searing Meditation. "Nice deck here, huh? If you didn't have that FTK on turn four you would be packing it in right now."

The second Searing Meditation may not have been enough for concession but when Mark cast two Benediction of Moons - with a one-toughness army in play on Dean's side of the table - that was enough for the concession.

Dean sided out most of his white and brought in green cards to get a second disenchant effect into his deck but it was just not enough as Mark quickly had three Searing Meditations in play for Game 2. Mark laughed as he played Hammerfist Giant with a Centaur Safeguard in play on his side of the table. "You had better kill this guy or you are dead - you will take ten."

Dean attacked with a flier and then Fiery Conclusioned the Hammerfist.

"You're killing this guy?" asked Mark.

"You just told me that I would lose if I let it live. Maybe you should not be giving me advice."

Exhumer Thrull from Mark brought back a Mourning Thrull and that was about all Dean could take and he conceded the second game in the face of seven a turn from the Thrull.

Mark Zajdner

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Sunday, Feb. 5: 12:55 a.m. - Round 10: Gabe Walls vs. Kenji Tsumura

Gabe Walls is going to die in 7 days!

Gabe Walls is a mountain of a man, and this jolly ball of boisterous fun is once again displaying his spell-slinging skills this weekend, only losing one match through the first nine rounds. Sitting across from him is the diminutive form of the reigning Player of the Year, Kenji Tsumura. Tsumura has gone undefeated this weekend, the only blemish on his record a draw from early on Day 1. According to master draft analyst Brian David-Marshall, Walls's deck is clearly superior (he was feeding Tsumura), but any time Kenji is involved, playskill is going to matter.

Both players kept their opening hands, and Walls started out with a Roofstalker Wight and Terraformer on the play to Kenji's Dimir Signet and Sadistic Augermage. Walls then went for the full on blowout, bouncing the perverse drilling machine with Clutch of the Undercity, then using Gaze of the Gorgon to let his Wight take out a Bramble Elemental. Tsumura stabilized with another Bramble, plus an Augurmage and Brainspoil on a fresh Tattered Drake, as the two giants (one figurative, one literal) exchanged body blow after body blow, aggressively shipping their men into the red zone. Kenji was able to drop Walls to five before a Peel from Reality and Ogre Savant shipped his men back to his hand, and Repeal made sure no other blockers would staunch the flow of blood, giving Walls an early lead.

Walls 1 - Tsumura 0

Tsumura led the action in game 2 with a third-turn Civic Wayfinder, only to see it get Remanded back to his hand for not once, but twice. A pair of Blind Hunters quickly swung the lead back to Tsumura. Brainspoil again sent Tattered Drake to the yard, and Walls was now staring at an 18-10 deficit in life totals, with four points of haunt life loss lingering at some point. A Brainspoil from Walls this time killed one of the Hunters, but both players never lacked for spells and the board was soon Stinkweed Imp and Snapping Drake for Walls versus Bramble Elemental, Benevolent Ancestor, Blind Hunter, and Greater Mossdog. Trophy Hunter from Tsumura drew a flag for piling on, and Walls fell under the Onslaught, despite the fact that his hand was filled to the brim with cards.

Walls 1 - Tsumura 1

Walls mumbled, "I think he would have won that game on either side of the table," as he began shuffling up for game 3. Things did not get better in game 3 for the "boom boom" that Japanese players love to love, as Walls had to mulligan on the play. Fortunately for Gabe, Kenji didn't have much gas this time either, which allowed Gabe to set down two impressive defensive creatures in Stinkweed Imp and Tattered Drake against Tsumura's Ostiary Thrull, Benevolent Ancestor, and a suddenly dangerous Sewerdreg. The 'Dreg became a lot less impressive, however, when Walls played his fourth karoo of the game, putting his sole Swamp back into his hand, and started drawing fistfuls of cards.

With his fliers controlling the board and his bounce controlling Kenji's board, Walls began to bash repeatedly, dropping Tsumura to 9 before a Blind Hunter made it 11 instead. Walls drew four cards off of Train of Thought, again restocking his grip. The board stalemated for a couple of turns, as neither player could find an advantage until Walls used Gaze of the Gorgon to get rid of Tsumura's pesky bat. Halcyon Glaze and Izzet Chronarch returning Gaze of the Gorgon suddenly meant Tsumura could neither attack nor block effectively. The Chronarch/Peel from Reality mini-lock sealed the game and Tsumura conceded just as time was called in the round.

Walls 2 - Tsumura 1

Sunday, Feb. 5: 1:24 p.m. - Day One Undefeated Decklists

Jim Ferraiolo

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John E. Moore

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Jonathan Sonne

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John E. Moore

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Taylor Webb

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Kenji Tsumura

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Sunday, Feb. 5: 1:56 p.m. - Top to Bottom Update

Taylor Webb was undefeated

At the start of the day we pointed out the high quality of the last draft table, which featured a potential rematch of this past season's World Championships finals. It was contrasted with the top table which featured Jon Sonne, Gabe Walls, and Player of the Year Kenji Tsumura but far more unfamiliar names than the table all the way on the other side of the standings.

At the end of three rounds it was relatively unknown Taylor Webb and Gabe Walls drawing in an eleventh round pairing of undefeated players from table one. Taylor was the only undefeated player remaining in the tournament at 10-0-1. If Taylor and his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hoodie seem familiar you may be remembering him from U.S. Nationals where he was a near-mortal lock to make the Top 8. He only needed to win one of his three remaining matches to secure a berth and possible shot at being on the National team. He struck out in that pursuit and the Texan Magic player was hoping to avoid a repeat performance in the last draft.

Eugene Harvey swept his table of all-stars

As for that fabled Table 8… Eugene Harvey has been sighted and he went 3-0 with a green-black-white deck. The table came down to a match-up between him and Canadian Nationals Top 8 competitor Kyle Smith. Eugene climbed as high as the second table for the last draft pod and was in excellent shape to make a run at the Top 8.

Taylor Webb

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Eugene Harvey

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Sunday, Feb. 5: 3:32 p.m. - Draft 2 Coverage

John Fiorillo

John Fiorillo is one of those unlucky players who live in perpetual Pro Tour Hell, a space reserved for those special few who seem to consistently find themselves a few Pro Tour points of guaranteeing qualification for future Tours. He has once again put himself in contention for another spot on the Tour, needing only a Top 16 finish to earn a trip to Prague in May. Feeding John for this draft is Gerry Thompson, an outstanding Grand Prix player whose skills never quite seem to carry him to Pro Tour glory.

Back at Worlds, the thing players dreaded the most was drafting a Boros deck next to one of their neighbors. This was thought to guarantee both players a 1-2 record or worse, submarining one's chances at big money, no whammies. Since that time, however, Sam Gomersall managed to win a thousand-person Grand Prix by being the only Boros drafter at his table, making that most derided of archetypes considerably more inviting. However, the question still remains: Can you post a good record by sharing Boros cards with your neighbor?

Fiorillo got the classic Mark of Eviction vs. Selesnya Evangel pick for pack 1, taking the Mark. Thompson took Lighting Helix over Siege Wurm, Razia's Purification, and Boros Guildmage.

Pack 2 Fiorillo grabbed the Guildmage, while Thompson did exactly the same thing in front of him, shipping a Trumpeter, another Wurm, and Vitu-Ghazi. Fiorillo then took the Thundersong out of that pack.

The next pack saw Fiorillo pause over a Watchwolf that Thompson hadn't given a second thought, while Thompson busied himself going heavy Boros, snagging a Screeching Griffin, with Fiorillo taking a Vedalker Dismisser.

By pack 6, Fiorillo had fallen to the full hook, snagging whatever leftover Boros cards Thompson didn't take, in this case a Skyknight Legionnaire. This left him sucking hind pick for the rest of the pack, adding cards like Goblin Spelunkers and Dogpile to the stack in front of him.

At the end of pack 1, Fiorillo had a somewhat confused-looking mash that didn't know whether it wanted to be a more controlling U/R deck or something that splashed White to go more aggro. As for Thompson, he had the makings of a very quick Boros deck that looked to have some solid late game as well.

Fiorillo's first pick in pack 2 was the same as pack 1, as was Thompson's, giving Fiorillo a pair of Marks now while Thompson had two Helixes (taking his second over Faith's Fetters). Thompson took another Guildmage for himself out John's pack, and Fiorillo picked a second Skyknight Legionnaire.

Gerry Thompson

At the end of Pack 2, Fiorillo had a deck sporting Boros creatures with two Marks and four Peel from Reality, while it was Thompson's turn to feel a little uncomfortable about finding enough playables to finish his deck.

Fiorillo's first pick in Guildpact was Strattozeppelid, a hefty addition to the U/R archetype. Thompson's grab was an underwhelming Bloodscale Prowler. Thompson took a blimp of his own for pick 2. Fiorillo then began was stocking up on bouncelands as Thompson stole a Steamcore Weird away, again dipping into Fio's strategy, though this gave John an Izzet Chronarch to go along with his Peels.

Unbeknownst to either of these gentlemen, Gabe Walls was also swiping their playables in pack 2, taking a midpack Lightning Helix and Viashino Fangtail for his mostly Selesnya deck.

Looking at their completed builds, things could go either way. Fiorillo actually cut a Peel from his deck, giving him only five excellent bounce spells to go along with his mediocre creature base. Thompson's deck has the potential to come out lightning fast (I wasn't even punning on the Helix there, honest), and it will be interesting to see whether or not one of both of these guys end up in the Top 8.

As for the question posed above, we'll know the answer in about three rounds from now.

John Fiorillo

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