Day 2 Coverage of Grand Prix Atlanta

Posted in Event Coverage on May 25, 2014

It's Sunday here in Atlanta, and 167 players have returned after nine rounds of Sealed Pack. The format today is Theros block Booster Draft, and these players will have two drafts and six rounds to go before the Top 8 is decided.

Leading the pack are some big names such as No. 24 Ranked Player William "Huey" Jensen, Jon Stern, Nathan Holiday, and Alex Majlaton. Alongside these big names is John Esposito, who also finished undefeated alongside the other four. However, undefeated when there are six rounds only means something if these players can retain their solid records. There are plenty of players behind them with, at worst, only two losses, meaning anything could still happen today.

Who will be crowned the champion of Grand Prix Atlanta and Theros block Limited this weekend? Find out as we bring you live coverage of today's Limited rounds!


EVENT COVERAGE

Sunday, 11:00 a.m. – "Hours of Need" – Drafting with Jon Stern

by Olle Råde
 

Not only did Canadian Jon Stern end up Day One with a 9-0 record. He did it with a deck that on first sight didn't look spectacular. It was Green/Blue, looked a bit slow, and Stern opted to play only 16 lands, smoothing out his draws with two Font of Fertility, a Divination and two Font of Fortune. It turns out the sealed portion was a good sign of his preference in draft as well.

"Green/Blue is really where I want to be in this format, and in a lot of our practice drafts I've ended up as the Green drafter," he explained.


Jon Stern

The draft instantly put a test to Jon Stern's color preferences when he opened a good rare in Harness by Force along with the strong uncommon Hour of Need and one of the best commons in Supply Line Cranes. He didn't hesitate a second to pick the Blue uncommon.

"The pack also had a few other Red cards, and I already don't like drafting Red. So I didn't mind setting up Nathan Holiday on my left with a good Red deck," Stern said after the draft.

Hour of Need

The pack passed from fellow Canadian, Alexander Hayne was lacking in Blue, but did offer a Mogis's War Hound and a Supply-Line Cranes, Stern settling for the latter. As it turned out though, Hayne had picked a White rare over it and to Hayne's right, William Jensen also first picked an Hour of Need. So it didn't look as Stern's colors would be open. In fact Nathan Holiday had also opened the Blue uncommon, but quickly moved into Red when he saw the signals and grabbed the Harness of Force second.

A third pick Hydra Broodmaster raised Stern's eyebrows a bit, taking it as a good signal of Green being open. A fourth pick Golden Hind seemed to agree, and he rounded up the pack with a Leonin Iconoclast, a pair of Font of Fertility and some Green two-drops. Making his options look very Green, with one Blue and one White card, postponing his decision on a second color to Born of the Gods.

A choice that was made for him by his own booster, which contained a Hero of Iroas, and no Green or Blue other than a Snake of the Golden Grove. A second pick Elite Skirmisher suggested that Stern had made up his mind, but a third pick Sudden Storm hinted that the Canadian wasn't scared to splash Blue with the help of his Font of Fertility. A pretty sweet gift came in a sixth pick Reap What Is Sown, and Stern felt confidant he was the only Green/White drafter at the table.

"Green/White is a pretty unpopular color combination, so there was a good chance of getting a Reap What Is Sown if one was opened. And Font of Fertility really allows me to splash Blue if I need to," Stern explained his decisions during pack two.

Theros did, as suspected, deliver solid Green, and after first picking an Ordeal of Heliod, Stern picked up a Nemesis of Mortals before being faced with the classic choice between Nessian Asp or Voyaging Satyr. While once in triple Theros draft you might pick a first Satyr over an Asp, those days are gone, and nowadays the Asp is a pretty given pick. Jon Stern could only smile as he saw a Voyaging Satyr a few packs later, and in the end he was very happy to end up in Green.

"That went well," he commented, predicting his deck good for at least a 2-1 record.

On a side note, this coverage reporter was extra impressed not only by Jon Sterns good memory of the tricks he passed in the draft, but also that he took time to write them down during deck construction to know what to expect from his upcoming opponents.

Jon Stern

Download Arena Decklist

Round 10 Feature Match – Nathan Holiday vs. (24) William Jensen

by Mike Rosenberg
 

At just 15 Pro Points, Grand Prix mainstay Nathan Holiday needed the assist of another solid Grand Prix finish to lock up Silver, which would guarantee him entry into Pro Tour at Honolulu with his other locked finishes. A Top 16 is the only thing that can improve Holiday's Pro Point standing at the Grand Prix level, although Holiday was unsurprisingly hoping that he just wins today instead.

Hall of Famer and No. 24 Ranked Player William Jensen, however, had only one more accomplishment to set his eyes on: the World Championship invitation. While Player of the Year was far out of his reach – with his teammate and good friend No. 1 Ranked Player Reid Duke currently in the lead – Jensen can really only improve on his already stellar Grand Prix season with a Top 8. A Grand Prix following a Pro Tour in the same city was too good for Jensen to pass up. The man loves some Magic.

The Games

Jensen's first play of the game, Deepwater Hypnotist, was matched by Tymaret, the Murder King from Holiday. Ephara's Enlightenment allowed Jensen to attack over Holiday's creature, dropping him to 17. Holiday however had Blood-Toll Harpy, dropping himself to 16 and Jensen to 17. Jensen's attack dropped Holiday to 14, but when Holiday went for Gild on the Hypnotist, Jensen used Breaching Hippocamp to bring back his Enlightenment.

The Enlightenment then came down again, this time on the Hippocamp, but the gold artifact Holiday got from Gild allowed him to stonewall the attacking Hippocamp with his Blood-Toll Harpy courtesy of Coordinated Assault. A Disciple of Phenax on the next turn then gave Holiday his pick from Jensen's four card hand: Ordeal of Heliod, Calvary Pegasus, Lagonna-Band Elder, and Retraction Helix. The Helix hit the graveyard, and attacks dropped Jensen to 11.


Nathan Holiday

Aspect of Gorgon allowed Holiday to attack through Jensen's Calvary Pegasus with Blood-Toll Harpy on the next turn, while Tymaret (temporarily) succumbed to a block from the Lagonna-Band Elder. Any hopes of a comeback when Jensen put Ordeal of Heliod on his Pegasus for an attack were quashed by the Weight of the Underworld, as Jensen quickly scooped up his cards for the next game.

Brain Maggot gave Holiday some much needed information in the second game, revealing Jensen's hand of Lagonna-Band Elder, Battlewise Valor, Ajani's Presence, Island, and Plains. The Maggot stole away Jensen's Ajani's Presence, leaving Jensen with the Elder, Battlewise Valor, and his in-play Deepwater Hypnotist. The Hypnotist was joined by the Elder on the next turn after an attack from Jensen.

Holiday's Pensive Minotaur was dispatched after a block on Jensen's next attack, courtesy of the Battlewise Valor Holiday was aware of. This allowed Holiday to ensure Scouring Sands would kill the Hypnotist on the next turn. However, the Fleshmad Steed Holiday had on the next turn succumbed to a sweet sequence from Jensen when Holiday went for a block on the attacking Lagonna-Band Elder. Jensen used Last Breath to dispose of the Brain Maggot, then used the Ajani's Presence he got back to ensure his Elder would survive combat.


No. 24 Ranked Player William Jensen

While Holiday bounced back with Flurry of Horns, Jensen's Ephara's Enlightenment on his Elder ensured Holiday could not attack through. Another Flurry of Horns however put the pressure on the Hall of Famer. Despite having a Reatraction Helix to stem the bleeding after blocks, Jensen fell to 4. Without any real action after that, Jensen offered the handshake.

Holiday 2 – Jensen 0


Round 11 Feature Match – Jon Stern vs. Jasper Johnson-Epstein

by Olle Råde
 

Round 11 saw two players both with 10-1 records, but Jasper Johnson-Epstein had actually won his first match of the draft, where Jon Stern had lost his to Alexander Hayne.

Coming into the event Canadian Jon Stern has 32 Pro Points, being virtually locked for Gold by showing up at Pro Tour Magic 2015 this summer. With Platinum status right around the corner he is on the hunt for more points. But has to make top 16 to earn any, since he already has Pro Point finishes from five Grand Prix. Johnson-Epstein might not be as well known as his opponent with four Grand Prix top 8's, but according to fellow Madison-resident Sam Black, he has numerous PTQ top 8's and is looking for his first Grand Prix one this weekend.


Jasper Johnson-Epstein

The match-up turned out to be between two Green drafters. But where Jon Stern had White to complement his, Johnson-Epstein was on Green/Blue, featuring two copies of Hero of Leina Tower, plenty of other heroic creatures and cheap spells to trigger them like Stratus Walk, Fate Foretold and Aspect of Hydra.

"The deck is really good, but if it had something like one more Stratus Walk it would be insane," Johnson-Epstein, explained.

Game one turned out to be a battle of rivaling Heroes. As Stern kept an awkward 6-card hand, and wasn't able to cast anything until a turn four Hero of Iroas. Johnson-Epstein however, had a Hero of Leina Tower on the very first turn, that was soon joined by a Setessan Oathsworn.

Aspect of Hydra

If he had been told Jon Stern's deck was mainly Green he might not have believed it, as the spells Stern cast were Hero of Iroas, an Ordeal of Heliod and a Crypsis to block and kill the Settesan Oathsworn. Johnson-Epstein hope against the giant Hero of Iroas was to grow his Hero of Leina Tower with an Aspect of Hydra, hoping to double block along with a freshly cast Ravenous Leucrocota.

Right on time though, Sterns deck delivered a crucial Forest and he was able to take out both blockers with a Reap What Is Sown, growing his Hero of Iroas even bigger, which was enough for Johnson-Epstein to concede a turn later.

Between games both players brought in a copy of Hunt the Hunted, Johnson-Epstein also opting to switch his Ravenous Leucrocota for a Staunch-Hearted Warrior, which could be nice with the Green mirror breaker. Jon Stern also brought in Nylea's Presence and the Hour of Need that he originally sidelined.

After the mandatory jokes about not being sure who was going to play first, Johnson-Epstein was off to an optimal start in the second game. He curved nicely with Sedge Scorpion, Satyr Grovedancer and Setessan Oathsworn, before enchanting it with both Fate Foretold and Stratus Walk.

On Jon Stern's side of the table a Oreskos Sun Guide was joined by a Font of Fertility allowing a turn 4 Nessian Demolok, but as soon as it hit the table Johnson-Epstein showed an Aspect of Hydra in his hand, which would grow his Setessan Oathsworn big enough to attack for lethal in the air on his turn.

The deciding game would once again be decided by the Heroes. As Jon Stern had probably the best draw his deck could deliver, with Font of Tranquility into Hero of Iroas, enchanting it once again with Ordeal of Heliod, following up with Chronicler of Heroes, Supply-Line Cranes and Nessian Asp.


Jon Stern

The only surprise of the game was that Johnson-Epstein managed to stay in it for as long as he did, much thanks to his War-Wing Siren, enchanted by Fate Foretold, a Golden Hind with a Nimbus Naiad on it and a Noble Quarry with Stratus Walk. The auras however, aren't really set up for playing defense, and Johnson-Epstein scooped up the remainder of his team when Stern, never out of action, cast Nemesis of Mortals and Golden Hind on his next turn.

"Yeah, that's good enough," Johnson-Epstein joked, indicating that the game was a close one, when he was never really in it. The players packed up their decks, exchanged advice for the final round of the draft and calculated their chances to make top 8. Jon Stern would probably need another two wins and a draw, and Johnson-Epstein would have to win his next three to have a shot at his Grand Prix top 8 debut.


Sunday, 2:10 p.m. – Drafting with Martin Jůza

by Frank Karsten
 

I'm really happy I get to draft," Martin told me last night. Although he is a Platinum pro with multiple Grand Prix trophies to his name, he has not had the best of seasons so far. At the last couple of Limited Grand Prix tournaments he participated in, he had failed to make Day 2, and he is currently in danger of missing the Gold status that would qualify him for next season's Pro Tours.

So, Martin was in dire need of pro points.


Martin Jůza

Fortunately, this weekend started out well for him with an 8-1 record in the Saturday competition. Now that we get to the drafting on Sunday, Martin was confident. He had spent a week in a Czech mountain cabin to hone his Theros Block drafting skills in preparation for the Pro Tour, and now he can finally show off his drafting approach.

Journey into Nyx

Pick Card taken Other relevant cards
1 Oreskos Swiftclaw Gnarled Scarhide, Tethmos High Priest, Ajani's Presence, Cast into Darkness, Harvestguard Alseids
2 Bladetusk Boar Feast of Dreams, Triton Cavalry, Hall of Triumph
3 Oreskos Swiftclaw Magma Spray, Tethmos High Priest, Harvestguard Alseids
4 Satyr Hoplite Sigiled Starfish, Gnarled Scarhide, Starfall
5 Pensive Minotaur Quarry Colossus, Riptide Chimera, Lagonna-Band Trailblazer
6 Oppressive Ray Rouse the Mob
7 Mortal Obstinacy Gluttonous Cyclops, Nyx Infusion
8 Akroan Mastiff Mortal Obstinacy, Twinflame
9 Harvestguard Alseids  
10 Hall of Triumph  
11 Harvestguard Alseids  
12 Cruel Feeding  
13 Rotted Hulk  
14 Font of Vigor  

Martin clearly showed his preference for efficient, aggressively costed creatures in his early picks of the draft. After the draft, he mentioned that he took Oreskos Swiftclaw because he felt Harvestguard Alseids (which goes very well with the Swiftclaw) is undervalued and he might table them. Indeed, that is what happened. Judging from these late Harvestguard Alseids, White seemed to be open at the table. However, Red was not flowing as smoothly.

After the first booster, I took a peek left and right to see what Martin's neighbors were doing. Todd Anderson, to his right, was drafting Blue, with Green, or Black as options for his second color. Shaun McLaren, to his left, was in White-Black.

Born of the Gods

Going into the second round of packs, Martin clearly seemed to be steering into an unassuming White-Red deck. Nothing special. However, his draft was about to get more interesting.

Martin faced a situation that every drafter dreads: What do you do when the booster you open is completely devoid of reasonable playables in your main color?

Let's find out.

Pick Card taken Other relevant cards
1 Sudden Storm Excoriate, Griffin Dreamfinder, Scouring Sands
2 Ephara's Enlightenment Pillar of War, Reckless Reveler, Pharagax Giant, Scourge of Skola Vale, Crypsis
3 Fall of the Hammer Nyxborn Shieldmate, Fated Retribution, Archetype of Aggression, Stratus Walk
4 Deepwater Hypnotist Drown in Sorrow, Excoriate, Scouring Sand
5 Meletis Astronomer Hold at Bay, Crypsis, Swordwise Centaur
6 Loyal Pegasus Drown in Sorrow, Sphinx's Disciple, Pharagax Giant
7 Stratus Walk Fated Retribution, Divination
8 Hold at Bay Floodtide Serpent, Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass
9 Vortex Elemental Swordwise Centaur
10 Sphinx's Disciple  
11 Great Hart  
12 Setessan Starbreaker  
13 Epiphany Storm  
14 Ephara's Radiance  

This draft taught us that (i) when there are no reasonable playables in your color and (ii) you might still be able to switch into another color, then it can be correct to pick up some speculative cards from another color and see how it turns out. Accordingly, Martin took the powerful Sudden Storm and Ephara's Enlightenment rather than 24-25th cards in Red or White, and kept the option of going Blue open.

His third pick was one of the more interesting picks of the draft. Basically, do you abandon Red or not? Nyxborn Shieldmate would find a spot in his deck no matter what and would go well with his double Oreskos Swiftclaw, but Fall of the Hammer is more powerful and Martin could still reasonably go into Red/White. Martin went with the Hammer, but regretted his pick afterwards.

After pack 2, Martin was certainly in White with around 9 White playables, in addition to 4 Red playables (headlined by Bladetusk Boar and Fall of the Hammer) and 6 Blue playables (headlined by Sudden Storm and Ephara's Enlightenment). Blue/White was the most likely end result, though Martin could still switch if he would open a Red bomb like Stormbreath Dragon.

He would have to keep the double Drown in Sorrow that he passed in mind, however, as his deck looked to be soft to it.

Theros

Pick Card taken Other relevant cards
1 Ordeal of Heliod Wavecrash Triton, Chosen by Heliod, Ray of Dissolution, Minotaur Skullcleaver
2 Gods Willing Horizon Scholar, Prescient Chimera, Setessan Battle Priest
3 Nimbus Naiad Battlewise Valor, Minotaur Skullcleaver
4 Gods Willing Vaporkin, Breaching Hippocamp, Aqueous Form
5 Thassa's Emissary Nimbus Naiad, Battlewise Valor
6 Lagonna-Band Elder Cavalry Pegasus, Bronze Sable, Crackling Triton
7 Coastline Chimera Temple of Silence, Prowler's Helm, Leafcrown Dryad
8 Vanquish the Foul Breaching Hippocamp
9 Leafcrown Dryad Mnemonic Wall
10 Fleetfeather Sandals Yoked Ox
11 Shredding Winds Flamecast Wheel, Benthic Giant
12 Aqueous Form  
13 Traveler's Amulet  
14 Commune with the Gods  

So, Blue/White it was. Sometimes it pays off to stay open and switch colors during the second booster.


Sunday, 2:30 p.m. – Draft 1 Elimination Matches

by Mike Rosenberg
 

Going into Round 12, the final round of the first Booster Draft for today, there are a few facts to keep in mind:

  • 39 Points before Round 15 locks you in the Top 8 with this event size
  • Since only 36 points are possible at this point, nobody is safe for Top 8 going into Draft #2
  • 27 points is the bubble, and anyone who loses here is most assuredly out of the Top 8

Round 12 presented a number of incredible match-ups, where players were battling for their tournament life.

Table 114: David Ochoa vs. Vidianto Wijaya


Vidianto Wijaya (left) and David Ochoa (right)

Both Platinum Pro David Ochoa and Grand Prix Denver 2013 Champion Vidianto Wijaya were fighting for different stakes going into this event. While Ochoa desperately needs a good Grand Prix finish or two to make reclaiming Platinum for next season a more realistic possibility, Wijaya is vying for two Pro Points from this tournament in order to lock up Silver, which would give him an invitation to compete at Pro Tour Magic 2015.

While Ochoa kicked away color combinations in order to just go mono-Black, Wijaya sported a powerful Blue-Green deck with some reasonable options.

Ultimately, it would be Wijaya who persevered, giving him a good shot at achieving his goal of the weekend. Ochoa, meanwhile, would have his work cut out for him if he wanted to maintain his Platinum status.

Ochoa 0 – Wijaya 2

Table 112: Ben Friedman vs. Frank Skarren


Ben Friedman (left) and Frank Skarren (right)

Table 112 featured two-time Limited Grand Prix winner Frank Skarren against two-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Ben Friedman. The two players are known for being very active personalities, and it was no surprise to hear them joking around during their match, despite the pressure of knowing that a loss most assuredly knocks them out of Top 8.

Conveniently (or rather inconveniently), both players were on White-Red aggressive decks. However, it was Friedman who managed to best Skarren 2-1 in their match, keeping his hopes of a Top 8 alive and – for the moment – well.

Friedman 2 – Skarren 1

Table 110: Pierre Mondon vs. Guillaume Wafo-Tapa


Pierre Mondon (left) and Guillaume Wafo-Tapa (right)

While Grand Prix Oklahoma City 2013 Champion Pierre Mondon had proven his understanding of the Theros Limited format months ago, the format has changed, and most certainly has not remained the same. Worse for him was that he was up against Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, Pro Tour Theros Quarterfinalist and a man hoping to achieve Platinum this season. At 34 points, Wafo-Tapa could use some Grand Prix finishes to make his journey to Platinum a lot easier at Pro Tour Magic 2015. Mondon, however, is simply going for Silver at this point.

Ultimately, it would be Wafo-Tapa's pursuit of Platinum that truly remains alive, as the French pro dispatched his opponent's White-Red deck 2-0 with – shockingly – a Blue-Black deck. As though you'd ever expect anything else of a player known for casting Blue spells whenever feasible.

Mondon 0 – Wafo-Tapa 2

Hmm...I seem to be forgetting two big matches.

Oh right! These two matches.

While No. 4 Ranked Player Owen Turtenwald keeps his Top 8 hopes alive against teammate No. 10 Ranked Player Ben Stark, No. 21 Ranked Player Jacob Wilson has kept his Platinum dreams alive after dispatching Pro Tour Theros Finalist Pierre Dagen. You can catch some of these matches in the video below.


Round 13 Feature Match – Jon Stern (CAN) vs. Yuuya Watanabe (JPN)

by Olle Råde
 

With both players at 11-1 this round 13 feature might just be the last win needed for either player to be able to draw into the prestigious Top 8. For Jon Stern, with four previous Grand Prix Top 8 it would be his first one in limited. For Yuuya Watanabe it would be his umpteenth. Even though there was a a lot at stake, the discussion was rather relaxed before the match when the players debated their chances to draw into top 8 with a win.

"I don't think so, since there are nine people with x and 1-records, but I haven't done the math," Jon Stern was quick to point out.

Yuuya shrugged his shoulders, hoping to win regardless.


Yuuya Watanabe

When it came to their decks it seemed like Jon Stern had abandoned his affinity for Green in the final draft of the Swiss. Ending up with a Black/White deck with multiple Scholar of Athreos and the pre-release familiar Dawnbringer Charioteers. Watanabe's deck was Green/White with solid creatures like Golden Hind, Oakheart Dryads and highlights like Skyspear Cavalry and Anthousa, Setessan Hero.

Scholar of Athreos

In the first game Watanabe mulliganed before settling for a hand of five lands and a Satyr Grovedancer. His first three draw steps unfortunately turned out to be a Landcestral Recall, and he could only watch as Stern took the first game with Tormented Hero, Cast into Darkness for his Grovedancer, Lagonna-Band Elder and Scholar of Athreos. Watanabe showed his hand of all lands and packed up his cards.

Between games Jon Stern read from his note book to recall what tricks he had passed in the draft that might be in Watanabe's deck. Trying to narrow down what the Japanese had in his deck other than lands and the Satyr Grovedancer.

With 45 minutes still on the clock, the match hopefully had more game play to offer than just basic basic lands from the Japanese superstar.

And it did, as Watanabe was able to overwhelm Stern's Black and White army of small creatures with various Green beasts from an assortment of both the Pheres-Band clan and Nessians. The final ten points of damage dealt in style from Skyspear Cavalry bestowed with Nyxborn Wolf.

The third game was certainly an example of how the two archetypes matched up against each other. As Sterns deck had a faster curve, but Watanabe would be favored to win with his larger creatures if the game went longer.

Stonewise Fortifier opened up the game for the Canadian, who increased the pressure with Scholar of Athreos, a key card in the Black/White archetype. Dawnbringer Charioteer earned a big sigh from Watanabe who's plays on the first four turns were the following:

Stonewise Fortifier

Forest
Plains
Forest
Plains

Stern hesitated for attacking into the four open mana for a while, fearing a Divine Verdict, before choosing to enchant his Stonewise Fortifier with Nyxborn Shieldmate, not to put all his eggs in one basket.

"I saw both a Divine Verdict and an Excoriate in the draft, so I wanted to play around either," he explained after the match.

Watanabe, who's slow opened failed to deliver any early drops cast his first (and last?) spell of the game in Anthousa, Setessan Hero. But a hero alone can hardly win games.

Boon of Erebos on Stonewise Fortifier took out the hero and Watanabe could only cast a Setessen Griffin, that died to Asphyxiate. The Japanese veteran drew for his seventh turn, played his seventh land and stared for a while at the Fated Retribution in his hand, that would have saved him if he had one more life. As it was he was already down to one life, so casting it on his own turn would leave him dead to the Nyxborn Shieldmate, and waiting until Stern's turn would leave him dead to the Scholar of Athreos.


Jon Stern

"1 more life," Watanabe said, shook his opponents hand and showed him the Retribution in his hand.

"I figured," Stern responded, since Watanabe took his time before conceding, and because Stern actually saw the Fated Retribution in the draft.

Stern moves on to 12-1, hopefully in good shape to make his first limited Grand Prix top 8. And Watanabe, who has already two limited Grand Prix titles in his belt needs to win a few more matches to make another one.


Sunday, 3:00 p.m. – Drafting with Mister X

by Olle Råde
 

Okay, so you've seen the best players in the games draft at these GP's. You've seen them make the correct picks and perfectly reading what colors are open. We thought we'd give you a little different feature this time, by covering an unnamed player who went 0-3 in his first draft to show how complicated draft can be. Maybe all the choices aren't correct, maybe you agree with some of them and maybe some could be done better. We will, as good as possible feature the difficult decisions in the draft, and give you the deck list of how the deck turned out. And a the end of the Swiss we will see how the deck did, and maybe, just maybe, who the player is. Since it's not certain he or she wants to be portrayed as the 0-6 drafter if that's how the second deck ends up doing.

Underworld Coinsmith

Pack one pick one was actually the easiest decision in the draft. The first boosters best cards were Doomwake Giant, Feast of Dreams, Cloaked Siren, Underworld Coinsmith, Stonewise Fortifier, also containing Sightless Brawler and Deadbringer Lampads with a good chance to wheel. Our hero picked the powerful rare of Doomwake Giant, setting up for an interesting draft.

Pick two, and here is where some might have drafted differently, saw Bladetusk Boar, Pharika's Chosen, Squelching Leeches, Triton Cavalry and Eagle of the Watch. The pick? Triton Cavalry.

The third pick also had an interesting decision, where our drafter saw another Underworld Coinsmith, Supply-Line Cranes, Feast of Dreams, Hubris, Deadbringer Lampads and Thoughtrender Lamia. In other words, Black looking open, a super strong common in Supply-Line Cranes and a Coinsmith which is sweet in enchantment heavy decks. After a slight consideration the pick was Feast of Dreams, a card that a lot of players actually have dismissed this weekend not being as good as they originally thought.

The rest of Journey into Nyx panned out as follows:

Next up was Born of the Gods, where this particular drafter favored synergy over raw power, taking enchantments like Stratus Walk and Grisly Transformation over solid the solid flier Chorus of the Tides.

All the Born of the Gods picks:

With fingers crossed for good Black, if not both Black and Blue Theros started great with a Keepsake Gorgon, but the Blue wasn't exactly floating, and the second pick Triton Cavalry might turn out to be either a trap, or a deck defining card leading the way to a great deck.

All the Theros picks:

When discussing the picks after the draft the first card that stood out was the Triton Cavalry. When asked about picking it over Pharika's Chosen to stay in Black the drafter had no doubt about the pick, mentioning the strength of Triton Cavalry as "insane".

In the end, the deck turned out very synergetic, with a lot of enchantments for both the Doomwake Giant and the Triton Cavalry. But will it be good enough? The last three rounds of the Swiss will tell!

Deck list for the drafter:

Mister X

Download Arena Decklist

Round 14 Feature Match – (18) Chris Fennell vs. Ben Friedman

by Mike Rosenberg
 

For No. 18 Ranked Player Fennell, one additional Pro Point will lock him into Platinum once he attends Pro Tour Magic 2015. However, a second-place finish or a win would do him even better, giving him Platinum before he event gets to the Pro Tour, a huge upgrade to an already stellar position to be in.

For his opponent Ben Friedman, more points before the last Pro Tour of the season are always welcome. The Baltimore pro is sitting at 28 Pro Points right now, and a few more points would be critical in bringing Platinum into reach with even a Top 25 finish at the next Pro Tour.

The Games

Friedman led off with Oreskos Sun Guide into Kragma Butcher, while Fennell started with the Golden Hind into Daring Thief. Satyr Rambler joined Friedman's creatures, while Fennell added Nyxborn Triton to the table. Friedman sent in his inspired Kragma Butcher on the next turn, which warranted a Retraction Helix, tapping the Daring Thief, from Fennell. Friedman paused for a moment, wary of the impending inspired trigger from the Thief, and settled on Eagle of the Watch post-combat.

Fennell inspired his Daring Thief, swapping his Nyxborn Triton for the Eagle of the Watch. Vulpine Goliath hit play, with Friedman's best follow-up being the re-played Kragma Butcher. The Goliath's twin came down after an attack on the next turn. An attack from the two oversized vulpines forced a triple-block on one of them from Friedman, with Fennell taking out the two three-toughness blockers. Friedman dropped to 6.


No. 18 Ranked Player Chris Fennell

A bestowed Nyxborn Triton on the surviving Vulpine Goliath was more than enough to lock up the first game on the next turn when Fennell sent in his team. Friedman managed to survive the attack with a Mortal's Ardor, going to 1, but with Fennell's gargantuan Vulpine still around, Friedman conceded to Fennell's board on the next turn.

Daring Thief

Friedman's start was faster in the second game with Deathbellow Raider into Eagle of the Watch. Fennell's first play, a third-turn Nessian Course was enchanted with Oppressive Rays, allowing Friedman to continue his assault. Akroan Skyguard gave him some flying offense, so despite Fennell's Desecration Plague to free up his Courser, he was in good shape. Tethmos High Priest followed suit, while Fennell dropped Daring Thief into play.

Two-Headed Cerberus looked like it would be enough to hold back Fennell's Daring Thief, but when Fennell went for the attack, Friedman blocked with the Cerberus and the High Priest. Hubris bounced the High Priest, and when Friedman had no tricks, the Cerberus went down.

"I want them all!" Fennell said, as Friedman dropped Stoneshock Giant into play on the next turn. When his Daring Thief triggered, he was content on taking the Eagle of the Watch in exchange for Nyxborn Triton. Friedman sent in his Giant and Akroan Skyguard, trading flying creatures and using Divine Verdict to take out Fennell's freshly played Vulpine Goliath when it blocked. Fennell sat at 5.

The Daring Thief attacked again, and Fennell reloaded with Anthousa, Setessan Hero. Friedman's Spear of Heliod allowed him to attack, throwing the Nyxborn Triton he was given into Anthousa, while the Stoneshock Giant ate Nessian Courser. Fennell quickly untapped and traded his Daring Thief for the Stoneshock Giant.


Ben Friedman

With Fennell now possessing the larger board, Friedman was at a disadvantage despite the Spear of Heliod. He could choose not to add to the board, leaving mana open for the Spear while Fennell created a larger board. His other option was to play a creature, knowing it won't match up against Fennell's options. He chose the latter, casting Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass. The Cyclops traded with Fennell's Stoneshock Giant while the Agent of Horizons got in for 3 damage after Fennell used its effect.

Friedman, with his opponent at 5, played his own powerful heroic creature with Akroan Conscriptor. However, Friedman sat at 13, which became 9 after Anthousa rumbled in for 4 on the next turn. He only had a few points to deal, but his time was running out, as Fennell added Ravenous Leucrocota to his growing board on the next turn.

Spear of Heliod

When he had no heroic enablers on the next turn, things started to look grim for him. He cast Kragma Butcher and hoped for the best. An attack from the Leucrocota and Anthousa forced a double-block from Friedman, trading Conscriptors for the Leucrocota. Spear of Heliod let Friedman take out Anthousa in retaliation to the attack, and when Fennell had no follow-up, it was clear he was drawing lands. Friedman re-cast his Tethmos High Priest and attacked with the Butcher, dropping Fennell to 2.

When no creature made its way from Fennell's deck into his hand on the next draw, Fennell no longer had the ability to out-race Friedman with the Agent of Horizons. A pair of chump-blocks on the next turn later, and Fennell packed it up for the third and final game...

...which started off with Fennell going to six cards, and Friedman keeping a one-lander on six.

When Friedman passed without a land on turn two, the match looked all but over. Oppressive Rays slowed down Fennell's third-turn Agent of Horizons. Friedman's first creature of the game, Akroan Skyguard, was quickly dispatched with Crystalline Nautilus into Hubris, and when Friedman had no reasonable follow-up, he offered the handshake.

Fennell 2 – Friedman 1


Sunday, 5:30 p.m. – Revealing Mister X and How He Did in the Draft

by Olle Råde
 

So, who was the mystery drafter who went 0-3 in his first draft and had high hopes for his second? None other than Pro Tour Journey into Nyx competitor Trey van Cleave. Who said he was surprised how badly he has been doing in draft lately, as he went 10-5 in his team's test drafts before the Pro Tour.

His record in the second draft today? A little better than the first, but not a lot, ending it at 1-2 after losing to Jeremy Dezani, who drafted Blue/Black on van Cleave's left. A first picked King Macar, the Gold-Cursed won at least one of the games for the Frenchman.


Trey van Cleave

When asked about his deck after the Swiss, ending the day at an unfortunate 1-5, Trey van Cleave did have a few words to defend his deck. "The deck was good. I got a little unlucky against Dezani, and in the last round I lost to an unblockable guy and Fleetfeather Sandals," he said.

Hopefully we have all learned something from his draft. If not, there are more interesting draft features to come.


Sunday, 6:00 p.m. – Win and Ins at Grand Prix Atlanta

by Olle Råde
 

Eight players entered the feature match area for the last round of Swiss in Atlanta. Four left as happy top 8 competitors and four left disappointed losing the last round barely missing the draft for the title.

(12) Shaun McLaren (Blue/White) vs. (5) Owen Turtenwald (4 color Boulderfall)


Shaun McLaren

Owen Turtenwald's deck was one of the more interesting as the day drew to an end in Atlanta. Running four colors with mana fix like Market Festival and strong cards from all colors but Blue it looked quite sweet. But it was Shaun McLaren, and his Blue/White deck that drew the longest straw when they battled for top 8. The Canadian took Game One on the back of unblockable creatures like Flitterstep Eidolon and Whitewater Naiads, locking down Turtenwald's creatures with Thassa's Ire. And in the second game a strong curve of Flitterstep Eidolon into Bident of Thassa got him far enough ahead that he could dispatch Turtenwald who would have to settle for cheering for his teammate William Jensen in the top 8.

Shaun McLaren 2 – 0 Owen Turtenwald

Nathan Holiday (Black/Green/Red) vs. Tomaharo Saito (Blue/Black)


Nathan Holiday

Nathan Holiday went into the last draft needing only two wins to guarantee his spot in the top 8. And his deck was looking good. Sporting a Green/Black base, splashing Red for Xenagos, the Reveler and Underworld Cerberus. It even had a Pharika, God of Affliction for added mythic value. Unfortunately for him, Japanese veteran Tomaharo Saito had other plans, as his King-Macar, the Gold-Cursed locked down Game One. Game Two looked incredibly close, and Saito had to draw his sixth land the specific turn he did to be able to Thwart Holiday's team with a Sea God's Revenge just in time to race with a Nimbus Naiad he fetched from his deck with Disciple of Deceit. In the end, Holiday couldn't deal lethal before the Naiad and Pharika, God of Affliction could only watch, never being transformed into a creature to attack Holiday into the top 8.

Tomaharo Saito 2 – 0 Nathan Holiday

(19) Shuhei Nakamura (Green/Blue/Red) vs. Charley Murdock (Red/White)


Charley Murdock

The other match between Japan and the US for a seat in the top 8 draft also came down to three games. The players split the first games when Hydra Broodmaster won one for Nakamura and Portent of Betrayal (on the Broodmaster) one for Murdock. In the decider Nakamura stalled on three lands after casting Swordwise Centaur, Hall of Triumph and a Cackling Triton, while Murdock was able to Oppressive Ray the Centaur, burn away the Cackling Triton while mounting his own offense with fast beaters like Arena Athlete, Spearpoint Oread and an Observant Alseid, growing his Athlete. The game ending Portent of Betrayal just added insult to the injury when Nakamura finally found a fourth land to cast a Nylea's Disciple. He conceded in the face of a Flurry of Horns on Murdock's next turn.

Jeremy Clunan (Blue/White) vs. (18) Chris Fennell (Green/Blue)


Jeremy Clunan

Chris Fennell has been on somewhat of a streak lately, adding fine finishes to his resume that already has 4 Grand Prix top 8 including one win in it. In what turned out to be the most lopsided match for top 8, his Green/Blue deck made short work of Jeremy Clunan's Blue/White one. Game Two looked like it might go to Clunan, after he summoned two copies of Heliod's Emissary and Fennell was mostly on lands. But Fennell came back with a Rise of Eagles, a Retraction Helix (on a double enchanted Emissary) and drew the Desecration Plague he had sideboarded in to get rid of the last of Emissary and sealed his spot in the top 8.


Sunday, 6:20 p.m. – Drafting with No. 18 Ranked Player Chris Fennell

by Mike Rosenberg
 

For No. 18 Ranked Player Chris Fennell, drafting is just another day. There are few players in the room more focused and on-target when he finds a signal than he is in drafts, proven by his consistent string of cash-finishes in Limited Grand Prix over the years.

And there have been fewer times than today where that consistency really needed to come into play. Fennell sits at mere points away from Platinum Pro status, and a Top 8 here would lock him into Platinum as long as he shows up to Pro Tour Magic 2015. A 3-0 would be necessary for that. Nothing else would be good enough.

And when Fennell began his draft with Hubris (over Akroan Mastiff) into Daring Thief into Sigiled Starfish (over Fleetfeather Cockatrice), it became clear that he had a plan. Pin to the Earth and Hubris followed, and then Golden Hind and Dictate of Karametra. Blue was his strong point, and it appeared Green was open.


WNo. 18 Ranked Player Chris Fennell

It became clearer that he was in the right colors when an eighth pick Font of Fertility made it his way. Rise of Eagles made it around the table into his draft pile, and when the next pick had nothing but Green and Blue cards, he held them for me to view and smirked. He knew that this was the way to start things off. He took Desecration Plague over Font of Fortunes, then smiled as he got a tenth pick Ravenous Leucrocota. The draft was shaping up well.

Fennell's Born of the Gods pack also continued to bolster his strength. A first-pick Retraction Helix was followed by Nyxborn Triton, then a Kiora's Follower, which Fennell couldn't put into his draft pile fast enough. A criminally late Siren of the Fanged Coast followed, and a Nyxborn Triton that Fennell saw in the same pack that the Kiora's Follower was in surprisingly made its way around the table and back into Fennell's draft pile.

Theros left Fennell frustrated, but this was mainly due to having two Gray Merchant of Asphodels pass through him and to his left. His deck picked up a couple of key cards, mainly big-mana threats that are capable of pushing damage through in two Vulpine Goliaths. Voyaging Satyr gave him some added ramp, his first pick of the pack, and two copies of Anthousa, Setessan Hero rounded out his deck.

Ultimately, the deck did its job, earning Fennell his Top 8 goal, as well as Platinum status when he attends the next Pro Tour. Of course, another win here in the Quarterfinals would get him Platinum before the Pro Tour. You can see his final deck below.

Chris Fennell

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