- Feature Match: Round 15 - Win or Go Home
Gerard Fabiano vs. Steven SadinBy Brian David-Marshall
- Feature Match: Round 14 - Countermeasures
Chris Ripple vs. Matt HansenBy Duncan McGregor
- Feature Match: Round 13 - The Mirror Cracked from Side to Side
Luis Scott-Vargas vs. DJ KastnerBy Tom Fowler
- Blog: Deck Tech: Talking RetroTron with Adam Yurchick
By Brian David-Marshall
- Blog: Deck Tech: Stomping Spirits with Matt Hansen and Rashad Miller
By Duncan McGregor
- Blog: What Do You Think About The Shadowmoor Preview Pack?
By Evan Erwin
- Feature Match: Round 12 - It's All About the Mulligans
Gerry Thompson vs. Chris RippleBy Tom Fowler
- Blog: Deck Tech - Next Level/Chase Rare with Patrick Chapin
By Brian David-Marshall
- Blog: Metagame Analysis - The View from the Top
By Duncan McGregor
- Feature Match: Round 10 - "Greatness, at any cost."
Patrick Chapin vs. Adam YurchickBy Tom Fowler
- Feature Match: Round 10 - Dan O'Mahoney-Schwartz vs. Paul Mathews
By Brian David-Marshall
Feature Match: Round 10 - Dan O'Mahoney-Schwartz vs. Paul Mathews
While both matches at the Feature tables were undefeated pairings only this one could boast 18 wins yesterday – Adam Yurchick, Patrick's round nine dance partner had put up a draw yesterday.
While Dan's career has been pretty well documented – member of team Antarctica, couple of GP wins and Top 8s – I knew nothing about Paul Mathews, who was playing TEPS this weekend. Paul is from Maine and although he has been playing Magic for a some time, he can recall going to an Odyssey Block Grand Prix, has only recently begun to taste any success. He locked up an invite to Hollywood earlier this season playing a Doran deck to get his first invite to the Pro Tour.
"I was really bad for a long time," said Mathews. "I didn't know I was bad but I was."
Paul started playing Magic with a new crowd, one that was appreciably better than he was, and he has picked up his game to keep pace. But could he keep pace with a cagey Pro Tour veteran like Dan OMS?
"Good," declared a mildly exasperated Mathews.
"Good?" asked Dan.
"I mean...you finally made a play"
On turn two Dan went back into the tank trying to determine which land to fetch.
"And I thought my deck was hard to play," laughed Mathews who was happy to see Dan's turn two pass without Gaddock Teeg hitting the board. He took his third turn and fired off a flurry of spells; Rite of Flame, Rite of Flame, Channel the Suns, Peer through Depths, Rite of Flame, Chrome Mox, and finally Mind's Desire.
"How many cards do you have in hand?" asked Dan.
"So I have chance..."
Mathews looked down at all the cards he had played this turn and shrugged his shoulders, "I mean eight cards..."
"Hey, every time I playtested with this deck I missed..."
Paul came very close to actually missing when he revealed five lands, two Burning Wish, and Plunge into Darkness. He paid enough life to stay out of range of the Lightning Helix Dan was no doubt holding and found Cabal Ritual. He was then able to Burning Wish for Tendrils.
Dan led with a Kird Ape and went to fifteen on turn two from his lands and added Dark Confidant. He needed a third land to turn on his Vindicates in hand but had to content himself with Tarmogoyf on turn three.
Paul Mathews Matthews played Peer through Depths at the end of the turn and revealed Rite of Flame. He looked over the other cards in his hand and started to do some math as he untapped.
He and Dan exchanged pleasantries after the match as the returned their decks to their original states. As the other feature dragged on, Mathews made it clear he was pulling for Yurchick. He nodded over at Chapin's latest concoction, "I don't want to play against that deck."
Final result: Paul Mathews – 2 Dan OMS – 0
Feature Match: Round 10 - "Greatness, at any cost."
After winning his final-round feature match yesterday, Patrick Chapin took a 9-0 record into his match. His opponent, Adam Yurchick, was 8-0-1 with the potent U/G Tron deck. Could Patrick's faster deck do its work before Adam's abundant mana and powerful cards took over the game?
Before the fist game, Adam won the die roll and chose to play. "First or second?" Patrick asked. It's a valid question, but to the surprise of no one, Adam chose to play first. Both players kept their initial seven and we were underway.
Adam's first play consisted of dropping a Tolaria West into play tapped. Patrick was more productive, as he fetched a Godless Shrine, played Chrome Mox (imprinting Counterbalance), and used his two mana to play Dark Confidant. Adam found his first piece of the Urzatron with an Urza's Mine, and fell to 18 when Dark Confidant went into the red zone. Patrick played another Chrome Mox (imprinting Gaddock Teeg) and a land, and played the second Teeg in his hand. With only two mana available, Adam could only play Condescend for 1, which Patrick was happy to pay.
Adam found his second Urza land (Power Plant), and played Thirst for Knowledge, pitching Tormod's Crypt. Dark Confidant revealed Tarmogoyf, sending Patrick to 13. He played the Goyf after attacking Adam for 4. Again, Adam dug for the last piece of the Urzatron with Thirst for Knowledge, but it wasn't there. He did manage to find a Skycloud Expanse. Patrick attacked for 7 and played a second Dark Confidant. The pair of Confidants would take him to 4 on his next turn. Patrick attacked again, and Adam cycled Decree of Justice, making two Soldier tokens to block Tarmogoyf and Gaddock Teeg. A Vindicate on Adam's Skycloud Expanse took away his White mana, but only until he played an Azorius Signet. Patrick, however, was at 4 life with 2 Dark Confidant triggers waiting to resolve. "Greatness, at any cost," he said, before flipping over the top card. It was Spell Snare, taking him to 3. The second card was . . .
Polluted Delta. Patrick remained at 3, and Adam scooped up his cards.
Chapin 1, Yurchick 0.
Both players took their time sideboarding. They each looked at several cards, putting a few in here and there. After each player shuffled methodically, we were on to the second game.
Game 2: Adam played first again and took a mulligan to six. He started his quest for the Urzatron right away this time with an Urza's Mine. Patrick's had a far less explosive first turn than last game, consisting solely of a Flooded Strand. Adam added a Skycloud Expanse to his side, and Patrick traded in his Strand for a Hallowed Fountain. He played a Forest and Tarmogoyf, and this time could not pay the extra mana when Adam had Condescend for 1. Patrick's next play was Gaddock Teeg, which resolved. Adam had a quick answer for the troublesome Kithkin in Oblivion Ring. Undeterred by the removal of Teeg, Patrick played an second Teeg and a Tarmogoyf, then passed the turn.
Adam was ready with Threads of Disloyalty for the Goyf. That kept Teeg at home, but Adam had no compunction about swinging with the stolen Tarmogoyf. That allowed Patrick to push Teeg into combat, leaving the life totals at 18-14 in Adam's favor. Adam pitched Sundering Titan to his end-of-turn Thirst for Knowledge, and attacked with the now-bigger Goyf for 4. On his turn, Patrick played Sower of Temptation, trying to get his Tarmogoyf back. Adam had Remand at the ready, but Patrick's 2 untapped lands let him Counterspell that. He got his Goyf back, but it wasn't going far. Despite still lacking the Urzatron, Adam had enough mana to play Exalted Angel. A swing from the Angel left the life totals at 20-6 in Adam's favor. A cycled Decree of Justice for 5 Soldiers was enough for Patrick to concede the game.
Both players kept their opening hands. Patrick went to 18 right away to play Hallowed Fountain and Sensei's Divining Top. Adam just played Urza's Tower and passed. Patrick used his Top during his upkeep and played an Island. He had no third land the next time he looked, however. He found one the next turn, in the form of Windswept Heath into Overgrown Tomb, and played Dark Confidant. Adam, already with two Urza lands, went digging for a third with an EOT Thirst for Knowledge. He found it, playing it on his turn and using his plentiful mana to play Sundering Titan, which would destroy all of Patrick's lands. With just an Island up, Patrick tapped it and started to take a card from his hand. The miser's Force Spike wasn't there, though, and Patrick packed it in.
Final result: Adam Yurchick defeated Patrick Chapin, 2-1.
March 16th, Metagame Analysis: The View from the Top
The decks that managed at least eight wins in the nine rounds of Day One are an incredibly diverse bunch. Listing the 26 decks out by archetypes puts them into a full 16 different buckets, spanning the standard archetypes of combo, control, beatdown, as well as those decks that try to split the difference. The only deck that is represented by more than two entries is Domain Zoo, with a whopping four players at the top choosing one of the most painful manabases in history in exchange for raw power and a fast clock. Joining them in the beatdown category are two Red Deck Wins players, one each of Goblins and Tallowisp, and a single player with burn – if that deck should be considered beatdown, and not simply the most consistent combo deck of all time.
Control decks make up the next largest part of the metagame, although with no agreement on the best configuration. The three Tron decks disagree on their second color – two with white, one with green – while the four Blue/x control decks split the difference on whether or not to include Counterbalance. Combo players seem somewhat underrepresented in comparison, with only four players running various decks that can either win or lock down the game in one big turn.
The mid-range decks were well represented, with Doran builds and other GB concoctions trying to combine disruption with a reasonable clock. Perhaps the best of these decks, though – for today, at least – is the deck being run by Patrick Chapin and Steven Sadin, which can apparently beat the beatdown with control and the control with beatdown.
The biggest story from the top of the standings, especially in light of the metagame at our sister GP in Vienna, is the lack of Dredge. While it isn't completely unrepresented on Day 2, nobody running the boogeyman of today's Extended is near the top of the standings here on this side of the ocean. On the other hand, the top decks here haven't been showing the same drop-off in sideboard cards for it that was reported in Austria. It seems the gamble that paid off over there was not successful in Philadelphia, but the final chapters on this GP have not yet been written.
March 16th, Deck Tech: Next Level/Chase Rare with Patrick Chapin
Two players were piloting Patrick Chapin's latest creation in this tournament and both of them collided in Round 11. Steven Sadin and the World Championships finalist met in the 75-card mirror and while Patrick has to be happy with his deck's success he would have preferred to be sitting down for this Deck Tech at 10-1 instead of 9-2. Steven took the match in two games and was looking to win his second Grand Prix behind the absurdly powerful tandem of Counterbalance and Sensei's Divining Top.
Patrick has had a profound effect on the Extended metagame this season with his Next Level Blue deck that evolved in the hands of Cheon and LSV into Previous Level Blue. While this weekend's deck has been lumped into the overarching Split Level Blue archetype Patrick contends that this deck owes its origins to the Pro Tour Valencia winning decklist.
"I like to call decks things so people will know what they are," explained Patrick. "This is really more of Chase Rare Control deck. So many people have played Next Level Blue that players were siding in things like Ancient Grudge and Boil. Vindicate and Dark Confidant seem particularly good right now. I also wanted to take away some of the control elements and play a more tempo oriented strategy."
Patrick explained that the deck still functions a lot like the Next Level Blue deck with Dark Confidant playing the role of Thirst for Knowledge and Vindicate subbing in for Shackles. In addition to providing card advantage the Confidants gave Patrick something to say in multiple situations on the weekend when hitting anything other than a land with his Bob would kill him.
"Greatness at any cost," Patrick would invoke – the flavor text from the card.
His preferred match-ups were anything blue, combo-based, or decks like Death Cloud and Tron.
"Basically any deck that makes big mana. I can't really beat Goblins or Dredge but I am not seeing any of those decks near the top tables," said Patrick who also admitted he doesn't even have a real post-board plan for Dredge. "I can't really beat Dredge so why waste spots trying."
Patrick was surprised that more people weren't playing a variant of his deck or Dredge. "The are only two viable strategies involve Sensei's Divining Top and Narcomoeba. I think extended would be much better if both cards were banned but I guess I get to play with Top this way which is good for me. For some reason other people still choose not to play with it but it is way too powerful."
With Steve Sadin going strong it looked like Patrick's deck had an excellent shot at reaching the Top 8 and at 9-2 Patrick was also in a great position to get there as well. Don't be surprised if the deck ends up putting multiple players into the Top 8 of today's 239-person PTQ as Patrick was besieged with requests to copy down his decklist last night. There might be as many as 20 players in the consolation tournament playing his list.
For more details on this creation you can check out the video deck tech by Evan Erwin here.
Feature Match: Round 12 - It's All About the Mulligans
Both players came into the round at 9-2. Gerry Thompson brought Aggro Loam to the table. The breakout deck of last season, Aggro Loam is still potent and has earned some strong finishes this year. Chris Ripple was armed with this season's early deck to beat, the three-color aggressive "Rock" deck built around Doran, the Siege Tower. Could the Doran deck continue its strong run this season against the powerful Life from the Loam engine?
On the play, Gerry began the game with a mulligan to four. Chris kept his starting seven. Gerry dropped Wooded Foothills, and Chris turned Windswept Heath into a Forest for Birds of Paradise. Gerry fetched a Stomping Ground and played a Birds of his own, but had no second land. Chris capitalized by Vindicating Gerry's Birds, then his lone land the next turn. Left with no permanents in play, Gerry could only watch as Chris added a Dark Confidant, Doran, the Siege Tower, and Umezawa's Jitte to his board. That was easily enough to earn the concession.
Ripple 1, Thompson 0
Between games, Chris sideboarded quickly and decisively, despite seeing only three cards from Gerry. He told me after the match that he knew what Gerry was playing beforehand.
Gerry began this game with another mulligan. "I hope you feel bad about this," he said as he shuffled some more. No sympathy was forthcoming, however. "Last time we played, I mulliganed," Chris said. Gerry kept his six cards, and now it was Chris' turn to send his opening hand back. "Yes!" Gerry said. He pointed out to the crowd that he still held a 4-1 lead in mulligans. Chris drew his six cards and pondered them for a minute. "Yeah, you're not gonna get there," Gerry prodded, "you better ship it." Ship it Chris did, finally finding five cards he liked. At this point, the players had spent a lot more time shuffling than actually playing.
Gerry led off with a Forest, while Chris fetched Overgrown Tomb with Polluted Delta and played Birds of Paradise. Gerry cycled a Tranquil Thicket at end of turn, then played a Forgotten Cave. Tarmogoyf and Treetop Village came down for Chris, and Gerry answered with Terravore. Chris Vindicated it and swung for 3 with his Goyf. Gerry played his second Terravore, but Chris had a second Vindicate to send that one packing as well. His Terravores weren't doing so well, but Gerry stayed in the Lhurgoyf family and played Tarmogoyf. Chris answered with Doran, the Siege Tower. Gerry played Burning Wish, fetching Life from the Loam to get his engine started. He wouldn't have a chance, though, as Chris Smothered Gerry's Goyf, animated his Treetop Village, and attacked for 13. Gerry saw nothing helpful in his next draw and extended the hand.
Final result: Chris Ripple defeated Gerry Thompson, 2-0.
March 15th – What Do You Think About The Shadowmoor Preview Pack?
March 16th, Deck Tech: Stomping Spirits with Matt Hansen and Rashad Miller
The green-white Tallowisp deck has been building momentum since the middle of this PTQ season. One Top 8... two Top 8s a few weeks later... then a blue envelope, and suddenly it wasn't just a rogue deck, but one with a lot of street cred. Two players ran the deck into Day Two, Rashad Miller and Matt Hansen, and each had some insight to provide.
"The initial concept started with 'Cloak a Troll'", Rashad commented. "Then I thought – they were Cloaking Trolls back at Worlds 2005." A fan of green decks of all kinds, he was remembering a deck titled The Phantom Menace that was featured briefly at that event. Played by Gerard Fabiano to a mediocre 3-3, it was nonetheless entertaining enough to be worth a mention, and Rashad took some inspiration from its use of the Tallowisp engine to dig up Armadillo Cloaks and more. Although he discarded many of the Spirits that cluttered up the original incarnation of the deck – Phantom Tiger and such – the years since have brought new tools. It earned Rashad a PTQ top 4, and he continued to work on the deck with his friend Rusty Kubis. Two weeks later, both placed in the top 8 of a PTQ in Iowa, and this time people weren't dismissing the result as a fluke.
When I caught up with Rashad, he was shaking his head as he received his third straight loss of day two, knocking him out of contention. Despite this, he was still complimentary about the deck. "The general concept should beat any aggro deck," he commented. And for the rest, "you have specific cards against each matchup." Orim's Chant shores up a number of bad matchups for the deck, although it can only go so far.
While Rashad is to thank for the decks existence in today's metagame, its standard bearer is Matt Hansen. He was introduced to the deck at the Iowa PTQ, where Rusty beat him with it in round 1. He continued to keep an eye on it during the day, and was impressed enough to grab the decklist and play it himself at a PTQ the next week. That extra week allowed the entrance of Morningtide into the environment, and Chameleon Colossus – who is, of course, also a Spirit – was a slam-dunk inclusion into the deck. With that added power Matt was able to win the PTQ, although it was still not a guarantee that he was going to play the deck in Philadelphia.
"It was either this or Dredge," he commented, "but Dredge is just too fragile." He had heard that several of the pros were choosing to drop the Dredge hate from their sideboards to free up space for other matches, but decided not to try that gambit. Instead he and Rashad worked on tuning the Tallowisp decks for the expected metagame, although they came up with slightly different builds, as seen in the unexpected mirror match yesterday. Like Rashad, Matt was very happy with the deck's matchup against other aggro decks, but explained that the control matchup is bad due to the prevalence of Control Magic effects in today's blue decks. Still, the deck is not a pushover, and Matt was happy with the addition of Thornscape Battlemage to his board – a card he can Eladamri's Call for that can kill Vedalken Shackles or Sower of Temptation, or – if you're extremely lucky – both.
Matt also stated that the deck isn't that hard to play, although you do need to be careful about the order you play your spells in. "You learn to plan three turns ahead," he explained, as a turn two Tallowisp can let you have most of the game mapped out, barring surprises. While there are only a couple weeks left in the season, he was also enthusiastic about using in the time that is left, citing a lack of hate cards for it. Near the very top of the standings, he's looking to give the deck one more blast of publicity to send it on its way.
March 16th, Deck Tech: Talking RetroTron with Adam Yurchick
Asher Hecht, a New York PTQ regular and Top8Magic intern, came up to me on Saturday morning and said, "You should make sure you Deck Tech Adam Yurchick at some point. His blue-white Tron deck is going to win the tournament."
I made a mental note to keep my eye on Adam and sure enough he continued to bob along just near the top of the standings throughout Day One; along with Zach Hall who abandoned his blue-green Tron list from Vancouver for the retro blue-white build. Adam ended Day One with only a draw to blemish his record and as of the end of Round Thirteen had only picked up one loss on the weekend – a seemingly unlikely loss to Doran.
"After Vancouver blue-green Tron did well. I played it in a PTQ and got second," explained Adam when asked how he arrived at his current list. "I have always liked Tron so I kept playing it and playing it. I was testing all week and we realized that everyone had hate like Extirpate, Destructive Flow, and Gaddock Teeg."
All cards that just give blue-green Tron lists a fit with Extirpate busting out of the Gifts package, Destructive Flow destroying their precious Tron pieces, and Teeg just shutting off the possibility of a Mindslaver. The solution?
"We were thinking that blue-white had Oblivion Ring to get around Flow and Teeg. It is somewhat immune to graveyard hate because you have Decree of Justice and other ways to win and it is good against the burn decks because you have Sphere of Law."
Once everyone got to the tournament site on Friday Adam and his friends starting poring over as many Top 8 lists as they could find for good blue-white decks. They discovered that Armin Birner had made the Top 8 of two separate PTQs with blue-white Tron lists and began working from that skeleton.
"I went on MTGO and fooled around with the list. I played a couple of games in the casual room, showed up here, tuned it some more, and here we are," he explained with 'we' being Adam Yurchick, Josh Wludyka, and Zach Hall. Josh did not fare as well as his two friends who ended Day One with one draw and one loss between the two of them.
"Gavin Verhey played the deck yesterday in his PTQ and Top 8'd so it is putting up results."
Several cards have been key to Adam's dominance through thirteen rounds. On top of that list is Oblivion Ring.
"Most decks don't have enchantment removal so it is essentially a Vindicate for 2W. I have done some cool things with it like Oblivion Ringing my Sundering Titan," said Adam. He then joked: "This has never happened but if there were not other permanents and three Oblivion Rings you could go infinite and draw out the game."
When asked what card he wanted to see most in his opening hand each game Adam said that beyond the obvious Tron lands: "I think the best card is Thirst for Knowledge. I would play eight if I could. You cast it early and it gets you everything you need while getting rid of dead cards."
Another card that has been very powerful for him in the deck was an old favorite that required a very specific skill set that appears to have atrophied for most players over the years.
"Fact of Fiction is awesome," grinned Adam. "Nobody has played with it in three years and nobody knows what they are doing when they split piles. You get really sick splits. It is amazing."
Adam pointed out that no one should be very surprised by the success of blue-white Tron. After all, it did put two players into the Top 8 of Pro Tour Valencia. With a couple more wins between him and Zach Hall it might just put two players into the Top 8 this weekend as well.
Feature Match: Round 13 - The Mirror Cracked from Side to Side
At 10-2 coming into this match, both players were looking for a win to push them on their way to the Top 8. Both made names for themselves at last year's Magic Weekend in Baltimore: Luis added to his résumé by winning the US National Championship, and DJ turned in an impressive Top 8 showing in the Magic Scholarship Series. This weekend, about two hours north, who would prevail in this mirror match?
DJ KastnerDJ was on the play; both players kept their starting seven. DJ kicked things off with a Sensei's Divining Top. Luis' attempt at a second-turn Top was met with a Counterspell from DJ. DJ tried to play Tarmogoyf, but that was stopped by Spell Snare. That gave LSV the opening to play Vedalken Shackles, then he resolved a Top on his next turn. The players fought over Luis' end-of-turn Thirst for Knowledge, with LSV getting the better of the Cryptic Command exchange, countering DJ's and drawing a card. With DJ's resources expended, LSV was free to drop Tarmogoyf and Counterbalance. DJ paid 5 for an Engineered Explosives with 2 counters, dodging Counterbalance. LSV bashed with his 4/5 Tarmogoyf and played another Thirst for Knowledge. Engineered Explosives sent Goyf and Counterbalance to the graveyard.
LSV had another Counterbalance, which DJ tried to stop with Cryptic Command. Luis had a Counterspell for that, and DJ had a Counterspell for that. LSV shrugged, let the stack resolve, and then played another Counterbalance. DJ used Academy Ruins to recover his Engineered Explosives and overpaid for it again to avoid Counterbalance. When DJ popped the Explosives, Luis had Cryptic Command ready, rescuing his Counterbalance and drawing a card. Luis played Trinket Mage, retrieving a Top. He tried to replay his Counterbalance, but DJ found a welcome Spell Snare with his Top. DJ played Tarmogoyf, which was quickly stolen by Threads of Disloyalty. To make sure he would keep the Goyf, Luis added Vedalken Shackles to his board. DJ tried replaying his Top, and that was foiled by LSV's Counterbalance. Counterspell took care of DJ's Vedalken Shackles, and that was Game 1.
Scott-Vargas 1, Kastner 0
The first game took 30 minutes. Looking at only 20 minutes left in the round, the players made their sideboarding decisions quickly, even as they talked about how the first game went.
Luis Scott-VargasOn the play, DJ mulliganed to 6 and led of with a Polluted Delta. Luis went to 18 right away for Breeding Pool and the omnipresent Sensei's Divining Top. When Luis went to crack his fetchland, DJ used his to get the lands needed to Krosan Grip the Top. Luis played Counterbalance, but was unable to use the enchantment to counter DJ's Engineered Explosives for 2. Academy Ruins got Luis' Top back for him. DJ went looking for answers with Thirst for Knowledge, while LSV was content to replay his Top. When DJ used Engineered Explosives, Luis had no Cryptic Command ready this time, but he did have a Krosan Grip for DJ's Top.
Another counter war ensued over Luis' Tarmogoyf. DJ played Cryptic Command, Luis followed with Counterspell, and DJ stopped that with Spell Snare. Luis had another Counterspell, but DJ had a second Spell Snare. On the next turn, DJ tried to Counterspell Luis' top, but the national champion had Spell Snare waiting. Counterbalance quickly followed for Luis. DJ's attempt to play Vedalken Shackles was stopped by the Thirst for Knowledge atop Luis' deck. Luis had nothing waiting for DJ's Counterbalance, so he cracked a fetchland and spun the Top again. This time, Counterspell was in his top three cards. Luis dropped a redundant Top and, with a board position full of answers, began digging for a threat. DJ tried to break up that board position with Krosan Grip on Counterbalance, but Luis had obviously anticipated the play and had Vedalken Shackles parked atop his deck. With time running short and the board decidedly against him, DJ conceded the game.
Final result: Luis Scott-Vargas defeated DJ Kastner 2-0,
Feature Match: Round 14- Countermeasures
Chris and Matt were a late choice for a feature match after Steven Sadin and Luis Scott-Vargas chose to draw and test their luck in the last round. After being uprooted from their initial table, they returned to the serious business of shuffling. Matt is an Iowa native with a 12th place at PT Charleston and a 10th at GP St. Louis under his belt, while Chris, from Atlantic City, has qualified for several large events, but is still chasing a signal success.
The snake eyes that Chris rolled seemed to set the stage for the first game. Matt's turn two Kami of Ancient Law was met by a Dark Confidant, a card which Matt is incapable of answering directly. However, card advantage isn't everything in this game, and Matt used Chrome Mox to power a Chameleon Colossus onto the table on his third turn. Chris played a Doran to try and threaten a counterattack, but Matt simply played an Armadillo Cloak onto the Colossus and swung in. Chris was unable to block and fell to 11, then to 8 on his upkeep when Bob revealed a Vindicate. Even without the Cloak, the Colossus would still be lethal on the next swing, and with no outs Chris just peeked at Matt's hand with a Cabal Therapy before scooping.
Chris Ripple 0 – 1 Matt Hansen
Chris RippleMatt mulled to six in the second game, and after Chris kept the first turns saw Treetop Villages from each player. Chris' second turn Bob was looking more impressive this game when it was only answered by a Tallowisp, and Chris Vindicated that before it could trigger. Matt replaced it with a Kami of Ancient Law and passed the turn back, but not before playing a Temple Garden untapped. During Chris' draw phase he used the Orim's Chant he'd telegraphed, leaving Chris nothing to do except attack. He had to take additional damage for the green mana he needed to animate the Village, and after Matt traded his Kami for Bob the life totals were even at 13.
Matt threatened to undo the parity very quickly with a Chameleon Colossus, but Chris had a Pernicious Deed as well as another Treetop Village. Matt continued to make land drops and swung for 8 with the Colossus, but (as expected) saw it Deeded away on his next attack, replacing it with a Troll Ascetic. Chris tried a Cabal Therapy in case the last card in Matt's hand was a Cloak, but Chris just flashed him yet another land. Matt played a Loxodon Heirarch as well, and Chris could only play a land before passing the turn back.
With six cards in hand to Matt's one, Chris seemed to be in control of the game, but still needed to find a way to kill Matt past the Troll. With no immediate way to produce offence, he Vindicated Matt's Treetop Village and played a new Dark Confidant. Chris replaced the Village and passed the turn back, leaving Bob to reveal yet another Village on the top of Chris' deck. After some thought, Chris animated his existing Village and entered the red zone with all three creatures. Matt chose to kill the attacking land and fell to 6 from the other two. Matt played his new man-land and used a Chrome Mox to enable Doran, the Siege Tower that turn as a blocker.
Matt's next draw was a good one, as Chameleon Colossus joined his team. Bob gave Chris a new Putrefy to replace the one he'd imprinted on the Mox, but it couldn't target anything on Matt's board unless he animated the Village. With his attack not yet lethal, Chris chose to Vindicate the Treetop and then pass the turn. Matt drew and thought before attacking with Colossus. Chris considered his options, but elected to just chump with one Treetop. Matt had no other play, and when Chris aimed a Cabal Therapy at him the next turn he conceded.
Chris Ripple 1 – 1 Matt Hansen
Matt HansenMatt thought for a while about his initial hand in Game 3 (Wooded Foothills, Chrome Mox, Temporal Isolation, Kami of Ancient Law, two Troll Ascetics and Phantom Centaur) before shipping it back. Chris likewise went down to six before keeping, but had very explosive six. After Matt's Treetop Village, he was able to play a first turn Dark Confidant off Chrome Mox. Chris had only another Village, and when Bob turned up a Vindicate Chris used it on one of the lands before starting the beats.
Matt emptied his hand on the next turn, but not in a way that made him happy – in addition to a third Village he played two Chrome Moxes – imprinting Ancient Grudge and Armadillo Cloak – to allow a Troll Ascetic. Bob turned over a Loxodon Heirarch for Chris, and when he swung with the Confidant Matt reluctantly accepted the trade. The Heirarch gave Chris back the life that Bob had stolen for him, and Chris passed the turn with the life totals at 14-18 in Matt's favor. That wouldn't last – Matt had only a Dwarven Blastminer on his next turn, and Loxodon Heirarch evened the life totals while Doran also joined Chris' team. Matt topdecked a Phantom Centaur to hold the ground on his next turn, however.
Chris debated his attack before sending the Heirarch over by itself. Matt, forgetting about Doran, blocked with only the Centaur, shaking his head when the Heirarch stayed in play with only three damage. Matt tried the same attack on his next turn, getting through this time, and added a Dark Confidant to his board. He elected to hold a Thoughtseize in his hand, though, and this proved a mistake when Matt used Eladamri's Call to send out for a Chameleon Colossus. On his turn he swung with the Phantom Centaur, which snuck past Doran and Bob to leave Chris at 12, before playing the Colossus.
Dark Confidant came up big on his next trigger, though, providing an Umezawa's Jitte for Chris. With Matt still having a protection from black creature available, the Heirarch picked up the equipment and smashed in. Dwarven Blastminer jumped in the way, but with two counters on the Umezawa's Jitte Matt was not looking happy. He continued to demonstrate his top-decking skills, though, as he dropped an Armadillo Cloak onto the Colossus. In the wake of his attack he was ahead on life 16-4, and passed the turn back.
Chris thought for a while before allowing the Bob trigger to resolve, electing in the end to not remove any counters from Umezawa's Jitte. Bob gave him a backup Umezawa's Jitte, not what he was hoping for, and he attacked again with the Heirarch. This time the Phantom Centaur got in the way, and Chris came face-to-face with a nasty rules interaction – because the phantom ability prevents the damage while removing the counter, the damage is not considered dealt, and so the Umezawa's Jitte did not get any counters! Chris tried to hold off Matt's attack by playing a Tarmogoyf and equipping it, but it was not enough – with neither Doran nor Bob able to block, and the Colossus going all the way up to 12/12 off a single activation, Matt was able to take the game and the match.
Matt Hansen defeats Chris Ripple 2-1.
Feature Match: Round 15 - Win or Go Home
Sadin, who was playing the Next Level/Chase Rare build that he worked on with Patrick Chapin, had drawn in the previous round with Luis Scott Vargas to assure himself a Top 16 position in the hopes of not having to play a friend in the last round but that was not to be.
Gerard Fabiano had been lurking just off the top tables all weekend. A round five draw had left him with an odd point total that, once combined with a loss, provided him with a pretty under-the-radar tournament experience. Yet here he was, in the final round, fighting for a berth in the Top 8 against his good friend Steven Sadin. Gerard was playing a deck very similar to the Barra Rock deck from Valencia with the addition of Gerrard's Verdict.
Steven SadinSteve went right to eighteen and played Sensei's Divining Top. Gerard looked at Steve and named Counterbalance with Cabal Therapy. Steve showed him a hand that had a Counterspell and nothing else of note.
"I knew your hand was bad," smirked Gerard.
"That's why I kept it."
As the match was playing out Adam Yurchick walked by, having just locked up his won Top 8 berth to see what he might be facing; "I didn't know Gerard was in this tournament and here he is fighting for Top 8."
Steve had to counter a Ravenous Baloth the old fashioned way but other than that Steve countered everything else with his enchantment and Gerard did not resolve another spell in the game.
Gerard and Steve bantered back and forth about plans for the coming week that involved a horde of Magic players on Spring Break staying at Gerard's house.
"I was supposed to have a sleepover at Gerard's house but if I beat him he won't let me stay," laughed Steve.
"Is that being a bad sport? I don't think your deck should beat me anyway. It is so bad."
"It's so bad?
"If you don't get Counterbalance/Top how do you ever win?"
Thoughtsieze for Gerard revealed a hand with Vindicate, Threads, two Dark Confidant, and Chrome Mox along with two lands. Gerard took away one of the Bobs. Steve imprinted the Threads on the Mox and played his other copy but Gerard had the Smother for his turn two before Steve could recoup any card advantage. Another Thoughtsieze left Steve holding Spell Snare and Island after Gerard took the Vindicate.
He was now able to start bashing with his Treetop Village. Steve Counterspelled Deed but had no response to Ravenous Baloth a turn later. Steve drew a Vindicate and Gerard gained four life. He gained four more on Loxodon Hierarch. Steve had yet another Counterspell for Eternal Witness but he was under heavy pressure from the elephant and they were quickly on to Game 3.
Gerard Fabiano Steve went back to the well after looking at his starting seven. He kept the next six and led off with a tapped Overgrown Tomb – not his strongest opening. Gerard spent 25% of his life total on a turn one Thoughtsieze that revealed two Goyf, Bob, and Counterspell. Gerard took the black card.
Steve played his first Goyf and sent it into the red zone to eat Gerard's Sakura Tribe Elder before it was joined by a second one. Steve only had two lands and Gerard decided to Vindicate an Island instead of either of the two chase rares and he fell to eight on Steve's next attack.
Gerard played Tarmogoyf and Sakura Tribe Elder. Steve elected not to attack and instead playing a third Goyf. Gerard cleared the board with Pernicious Deed and then proceeded to buy back Vindicates for the next two turns with Eternal Witness leaving Steve with no lands and no chance of coming back.
On the bright side, he had a place to stay over Spring Break.
Final result: Gerard Fabiano clinched a Top 8 berth defeating Steve Sadin two games to one.