Grand Prix–Houston: Day 1 Coverage

Posted in Event Coverage on April 3, 2010


Saturday, 12:10 p.m. – Our Story So Far...

by Steve Sadin

Grand Prix: Houston is coming at the end of a hard fought Extended season that has seen old favorites such as Zoo and new powerhouses such as Dark Depths battle for supremacy. Extended has always been one of the most exciting and skill testing formats and this year has been no exception. Pro Tour: Austin had a star-studded Top 8 featuring Brian Kibler, Martin Juza, Yuuya Watanabe, Paulo Vitor Dama da Rosa and Tsuyoshi Ikeda.

Kyle Boggemes

The format has, of course, changed considerably in the past few months. So read on if you're looking for the information you need to win one of those last qualifications for Pro Tour: San Juan, or you're simply looking to catch up on your Extended history while the final Extended Grand Prix of the season unfolds.

Going into Pro Tour: Austin last October, people were expecting the tournament to be full of the proven standby Zoo, the much hyped Hypergenesis, and as of yet unproven Dark Depths strategies.

Blue-black Dark Depths proved itself to be the real deal, with Paulo Vitor Dama da Rosa it to a Top 8 finish and leading numerous other players to money finishes. Zoo did not disappoint either. Brian Kibler won the tournament with a mid-range Zoo deck designed by Ben Rubin, while several other, more traditional, Zoo decks were able to make it to the elimination rounds. Despite being represented in the Top 8 by Evangelos Papatsarouchas, Hypergenesis had somewhat underwhelming results, falling victim to a room full of hateful Chalice of the Voids. Fittingly, Dredge came back from the dead with Noaki Shimizu and Yuuya Watanabe piloting it to Top 8 finishes.

Over the next couple of months blue-white Thopter Foundry, Kyle Boggemes' Bloodbraid Elf Zoo deck and Scapeshift were able to lead their pilots to money finishes at Worlds and numerous qualifications for Pro Tour: San Juan.

Gerry Thompson

When Gerry Thompson won an Online PTQ with Thepths, his hybrid Dark Depths/Thopter Foundry deck, the format was irreversibly changed. No longer could players hope to beat their Dark Depths opponents simply on the back of a Ghost Quarter or a Path to Exile, they would now need to have answers for both a 20/20 indestructible flier and a never-ending army of 1/1 fliers. The Thepths deck quickly became a favorite of Pro Tour and PTQ veterans the world over, winning countless PTQs, helping Adam Yurchick to his third Grand Prix Top 8 in Oakland, and Katsuhiro Mori to another premier event win in Yokohama.

While Thepths has definitely been the talk of the town for the past few weeks, Hypergenesis seems to be on the rise again, with Tomoharu Saito posting a Top 8 at Grand Prix: Oakland with his Hypergenesis deck and fellow Japanese Pro Tour champion Masashiro Kuroda made it all the way to the finals of Grand Prix: Yokohama a few weeks later with a very similar list.

Will Thepths continue its reign of terror? Will Hypergenesis muscle its way past the opposition? Will Faeries fly to the top? Will Elves win back to back American Grand Prixs? Will Dredge make yet another comeback? Will Zoo continue burning its way top 8s? Will Scapeshift Valakut its way to the top? Will a totally new strategy surprise us all?

Stay tuned to find out!

Saturday, 1:43 p.m. – Super Friday Night Magic Files

by Brian David-Marshall

One of the side effects of being a good judge is that it often leaves you very little time to play Magic. There are events in need of good judges every single weekend of the year ranging from the burgeoning $5K scene to PTQs to Prereleases and, of course, the occasional Grand Prix or Pro Tour. Judges can play in their own local FNM events now, even if they are judging them, but that is not the same as as flexing your competitive muscles and getting into a scrum of over 100 players and seeing where you stand when the dust settles. Super Friday Night Magic is just the Fight Club these too often sidelined warriors are looking for. There were a handful of judges who tried their hand last night for a shot at a foil, alternate art Bloodbraid Elf among the many foils available at this souped up version of everyone's favorite Friday Night tournament. Let's meet them and see how they did:

Nicola DiPasquale

Name: Nicola DiPasquale
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Judge Level: 2

Most exciting match you have ever judged: I am not sure...there have been so many matches and most of them are exciting in some way.

How often do you play FNM: Basically whenever I can.

Why did you play super FNM last night? To have some fun and play some FNM prior to the Grand Prix

How was your card pool last night? It was alright. A bunch of green fatties with Terastadon plus some decent black removal.

Did You win anything? I went 3-1 and scored the appropriate prize for that.

Did you have fun? Yes, most certainly!

James M. Elliot

Name: James M. Elliot
Hometown: Stirling, Scotland
Judge Level: 2

Most exciting match you have ever judged: I had one PTQ finals a few years ago that came down to both players being at 1 life and trying to top deck the win for at least 10 turns!

How often do you play FNM: Once a month and always Limited.

Why did you play super FNM last night? I didn't have an FNM Bloodbraid Elf yet and I thought it would be fun.

How was your card pool last night? Hmmmmmmm...lacked control. I played WGU but master Jared Slyva gave me a lecture for not playing UB mill!!
Did You win anything? I went 2-1-1 and have not picked up my prize yet -- a couple of FNM foils.

Did you have fun? Always. I did get to taunt fellow judge Nicola DiPasquale at the next table and told him he was the most "vertically challenged" judge at GP Houston.

Brian Bradshaw

Name: Brian Bradshaw
Hometown: Tarboro, NC
Judge Level: 2

Most exciting match you have ever judged: First Mid-Atlantic Regionals in Concord, NC. Ken Nowell had been taken to 1 life by 3 Sakura-Tribe Elders. He finally pulled his fourth land to cast Wrath of God, stabilized, proceeded to win the match, coming back from a penalty/game loss.

How often do you play FNM: Since judges have been allowed to play -- as often as possible.

Why did you play super FNM last night? I wanted to play Standard but I figured I could "suffer" through Zen/Worldwake Sealed.

How was your card pool last night? Anowon, the Ruin Sage, Abyssal Persecutor, Blood Tribute, and lots of Vampires and a bunch of bounce. I call it yummy.
Did You win anything? A foil.

Did you have fun? When my deck worked, yes! When the mana gods cursed me, no. Mind you the trip to IHOP through Zombieland more than made up for it.

Jared Sylva

Name: Jared Sylva
Hometown: Roanoke, VA
Judge Level: 3

Most exciting match you have ever judged: Top 8 of PT Hollywood

How often do you play FNM: At GPs and PTs.

Why did you play super FNM last night? It is one of my only opportunities to play sanctioned Magic.

How was your card pool last night? Pretty good. Rampaging Baloths, Mordant Dragon, and Stoneforge Mystic with 2 equipment to fetch with it!.

Did You win anything? Went 3-1 and still have to pick up prizes...I think I get 3 foils and a draft set.

Did you have fun? Absolutely!

Saturday, 3:38 p.m. – Misha's Journey

by Steve Sadin

Misha Gurevich (whose flair-filled hat has over 600 Facebook friends) loves Magic. He lives in a gamer house in Madison, Wisconsin along with globetrotting pro Sam Black, Justin Cohen, Levi Stenz and Jared Pierce. "We game pretty much every day," said Misha. "Let's just say that it's a lot easier to get a draft together when you already have five gamers living under one roof."

Misha Gurevich

Although Misha has a substantial collection of Magic cards, he didn't play in many live constructed events until recently because his cards were extremely disorganized.

"It was much easier for me to play constructed Pro Tour Qualifiers online because I wouldn't have to try to sort through my cards to build a deck. I wound up giving my collection to Sam Black (who keeps his extensive collection meticulously organized) in exchange for the right to borrow a deck whenever I want to play in an event."

Sam's organizing skills have allowed Misha to play in six PTQs for San Juan as well as the Grand Prix this weekend.

"I'm really into tournaments, especially Grand Prix. There are so many cool people to hang out with and even if I pick up a couple of losses, I still have a chance to win the tournament. And even if I don't do well, I love travelling and touristing so I'm still happy with the tip. I will admit, I'm not a huge fan of air travel so I don't go to that many foreign events. Whenever I get the chance, I prefer to road trip. It's so much more fun."

A 20 hour drive from Madison to Houston was the perfect opportunity for Misha to enjoy a road trip along with some of his globetrotting friends.

At 10PM on Wednesday, Misha began his drive from Madison to Houston along with his roommate Sam Black, Patrick Chapin and Gerry Thompson (who had been staying with him for the week to prepare for the Grand Prix). The first stop on their trip was in Milwaukee where they picked up Owen Turtenwald. The group got dinner, and then drove straight through the night, stopping only to gas up the gamer car. At about noon the next day, Chapin noticed that Misha had been driving for the last 14 hours without complaining, or drawing any attention to himself. Misha was unselfishly happy to continue driving, but the group (perhaps concerned with how safe it would be to have a sleepless driver) insisted that someone else share the driving burden for the remaining six hours of their journey.

The group made it here in one piece and Misha is looking forward to a weekend full of Magic. A little chance to get away and game for a few days, before returning to a house full of gamers and a life full of games.

Feature Match Round 4 - David Ochoa versus Kyle Boggemes

by Steve Sadin
Kyle Boggemes

Kyle Boggemes, only a few weeks removed from a second place finish at Pro Tour: San Diego sat down for his feature match with one of the most talked about decks of the tournament: a Zoo deck with a Congregation at Dawn engine of his own design. David Ochoa, on the other hand, showed up to the table with the format defining Thepths deck.

"So much for this deck staying under wraps for long, both of the feature matches have people playing my deck," said Boggemes, pointing at Gerry Thompson’s match against Josh Utter-Leyton which is covered on GGSLive.

"Are you happy with how the deck turned out?" asked Ochoa

"Yeah, DJ (Kastner) wanted to play something like this since Bloodbraid Elf got printed. We put the idea on the shelf until the fetch lands got printed in Zendikar, and we’ve been tinkering with the idea ever since," said Boggemes.

Game 1
Ochoa kept his opening 7, but Boggemes had to go all the way down to 5 before he found a hand that he felt comfortable playing with. Ochoa began with an Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, followed by a Dark Depths and a Vampire Hexmage threatening a turn three kill, but Boggemes was ready with a Path to Exile.

Ochoa laid a Chrome Mox and began refueling his hand with Compulsive Research, while Boggemes dropped a Rhox War Monk onto the table to start up his offense. Ochoa then cast Thoughtseize taking an Eternal Witness from a hand that also contained Bant Charm, and Bloodbraid Elf before playing two copies of Dark Confidant.

A Bloodbraid Elf for Boggemes flipped over a Path to Exile that removed one of Ochoa’s Dark Confidants. An attack for 6 followed by Dark Confidant flipping a Repeal left Ochoa at 11. The Repeal Bounced Boggemes’ War Monk, and Dark Confidant traded for Bloodbraid Elf on the next attack.

A series of Thirst For Knowledges and Compulsive Researches put Ochoa way up on cards, but Ochoa’s Thepths deck was unable to offer him anything other than a smother for Rhox War Monk and a Thoughtseize to take one of Boggemes’ two Bant Charms.

A couple of attacks from a Stirring Wildwood and a Wild Nacatl were enough to win the game for Boggemes before Ochoa could draw anything gamebreaking.

Boggemes 1 – Ochoa 0

David Ochoa

Game 2
Both players kept their opening hands this time around and Ochoa started things off with a Thoughtseize, taking a Bloodbraid Elf from a hand that also contained Wild Nacatl, Noble Heirarch, Bant Charm, Bant Charm, Plains and Stirring Wildwood.

"I’ll take the one card you can’t cast," said Ochoa.

Like in Game 1, Ochoa had a flurry of card drawing and removal spells, but unlike the previous game, Ochoa was able to put together an offense with Vampire Hexmage and Gatekeeper of Malakir.

After Ochoa got in a few turns of successful attacks which put Boggemes down to 9, it looked like Boggemes was going able to hold off Ochoa’s offense for a little while with Stirring Wildwood. That was at least until Ochoa drew a Tolaria West which fetched a Ghost Quarter that dealt with the pesky man land.

However, by the time Ochoa had drawn a way to remove Boggemes’ blocker, Boggemes had a Congregation at Dawn to refuel. A Dark Depths on Ochoa’s side of the board, to go with his Vampire Hexmage, meant that Boggemes needed to get creatures that would allow him to leave enough mana open for his Bant Charm or else fall victim to a 20/20 indestructible flier. After a bit of thought, Boggemes put Tarmogoyf, Tarmogoyf and Eternal Witness on the top of his deck.

Boggemes cast a Tarmogoyf, leaving open mana for his Bant Charm to prevent any 20 powered shenanigans from occurring. While his Bant Charm was clearly being reserved for a 20/20 flier, at a mere 5 life, Boggemes had to counter Ochoa’s Smother on his first Tarmogoyf with Bant Charm.

Hoping that the coast was clear, Ochoa sacrificed his Vampire Hexmage to make a 20/20 flier, but Boggemes was ready with another Bant Charm.

Two Tarmogoyfs were too much for Ochoa to stare idly at, so he used an Engineered Explosives for two to clear the board. Boggemes promptly rebuilt with Eternal Witness and a recast Congregation at Dawn for Tarmogoyf, Bloodbraid Elf and Gaddock Teeg.

A Damnation took care of the Eternal Witness and the Tarmogoyf, but Ochoa was unable to keep up with Boggemes’ never-ending Congregation at Dawn fueled army and succumbed several turns later to the Bloodbraid Elf.

Final Result:
Boggemes 2 – Ochoa 0

Quick Question - Which officially spoiled Rise of Eldrazi card are you most excited to play with so far?

by Event Coverage Staff
Brian KiblerAll Is Dust

Brian Kibler: All is Dust. It is the second coming of Nevinyrral's Disk!

Billy MorenoJoraga Treespeaker

Billy Moreno: It is not terribly exciting but Joraga Treespeaker. A 1-drop elf that makes 2 mana? He levels up so smoothly and you are going to be able to make 5 mana on turn 3.

Sam BlackGideon Jura

Sam Black: The card that has the most overlap between fun, good, and something I would play is Gideon Jura. Honorable mention goes to Overgrown Battlement. If I were the sort to put a Mountain into play then Kargan Dragonlord is pretty good.

Feature Match Round 5: Zaiem Beg vs. Patrick Chapin

by Brian David-Marshall

“I heard your deck was pretty sweet,” said Zaiem Beg as he and Patrick shuffled up for their feature match. Zaiem is a prominent member of the Northwestern Magic community and writes a weekly column for

Patrick -- who needs little introduction but what the heck -- is a long-time Pro who is Hall of Fame eligible and writes a weekly column for He has also just published a book about playing Magic.

“Do you mean sweet as in nice? Or su-weet like that is a really su-weet ride?”

“I mean something like a late 60’s Mustang Sweet.”

“I guess so then but only if you mean a mustang with hydraulics,” said Patrick as he demonstrated his deck rising and falling on its tricked out suspension. He was playing a Cruel Control deck with Jace the Mind Sculptor and Gatekeeper of Malakir. “I heard your deck is actually sweet. Like boring and nice.”

“I am playing something like a Taurus,” shrugged Zaiem, who was playing Dark Zoo.

“A Taurus? Is that what do you call a red green deck that goes first turn Kird Ape, second turn Tarmogoyf?” laughed Patrick. “Like something Owen Turtenwald would have played in the late 80s?”

“How about a Honda Accord?”

“I like an Accord better than a Taurus,” said Patrick who seemed satisfied with both his shuffling and their deck metaphors.

Game 1

Zaiem Beg

Zaiem went right to 17 to play Kird Ape. He took another two to follow up with Dark Confidant. Patrick played a Signet. Zaiem was not done bloodying himself up yet and flipped Knight of the Reliquary off of Confidant. He broke a fetch land and played it.

“You’re at 9?” asked Chapin who was about to untap for turn three and had done absolutley nothing to get Beg there. Jace the Mindsculptor came down on turn 3 and Chapin promptly “brainstormed”.

Zaiem went to 7 from a Tarmogoyf on top but he attacked Chapin for 8, dropping him to 6. A Bolt and a Helix later and they were both reaching for their sideboards. Chapin never got to see his turn four. That, ladies and gentleman is why people keep playing Zoo.

Game 2

In sharp contrast to the pregame banter for Game 1 there was no talking this time around.

“Did you say you drove down here?” asked Zaiem.

“Yup,” was the only reply from Chapin.

That was about the extent of their dialog. There was no turn one play for Zaiem this game. He passed with a Verdant Catacombs waiting for Patrick’s end of turn. Chapin had no mana acceleration for his turn two -- perhaps to keep his mana ready for something more pressing. Zaiem went to 16 on his second turn and offered up Tarmogoyf, which Patrick promptly Flashfreezed. Patrick played a third land -- Watery Grave tapped -- and had another Flashfreeze ready for the Knight of Reliquary Zaiem attempted. Patrick had no fourth land and a Tarmogoyf stuck a turn later. Patrick played Thirst for Knowledge and pitched land and Repeal. His next turn brought a signature card from his latest Cruel Control brew -- Gatekeeper of Malakir. Zaiem binned his ‘Goyf and played another Knight.

Patrick’s hand, which had been scuffling for mana a couple of turns ago, was still loaded for bear -- or Knight. Smother took out the Knight and another Thirst reloaded him with another Gatekeeper for Z’s Wild Nacatl and then a Repeal for Loam Lion. Zaiem replayed the Lion and Patrick had to sit back on his vampires. Loam Lion attacked and Patrick double blocked. Bolt took out the first Gatekeeper and the Lion made short work of the remaining one. Patrick played Damnation on his next turn but Zaiem had Negate.

“You have me at 15,” announced Patrick as the Lion continued to attack.

Tribal Flames you?” asked Zaiem.

“I am at 10,” said Patrick who attempted another Thirst at the end of Zaiem’s turn. The Northwestern player chose to negate it and when Patrick untapped and cast Cruel Ultimatum he scooped up his cards and they were on to Game 3.

Game 3

Patrick Chapin

Kird Ape led off for Zaiem -- he only had to go to 18 since he played it off of Blood Crypt. Dark Confidant was next. Patrick played his second land and braced to fall to 14 from Zaiem’s attack. He offered up a second Kird Ape and nodded when Chapin countered with Flashfreeze. Zaiem revealed Lightning Helix off of his Confidant -- he had flipped Bolt a turn earlier -- and Chapin had to stabilize quickly. He played Gatekeeper of Malakir and Kird Ape hit the bin. Zaiem Bolted Patrick at the end of his turn and untapped with no attack but took advantage of Chapin’s tapped mana to play Tarmogoyf.

Patrick played Deathmark on the ‘Goyf but Zaiem was ready to Negate it. Patrick attacked with Gatekeeper and Z blocked with his ‘Goyf. To the surprise of exactly no one Patrick followed up with Damnation. He had to break a fetch land to do so and went to 6. Z Bolted on his turn and Patrick knew there was a Lightning Helix waiting in the wings.

“You got it,” said Patrick as he extended his hand.

“That was my first non-fake Feature Match,” said the happy Zaiem after the match.

Final result: Zaiem Beg - 2 Patrick Chapin - 1

Feature Match: Round 6 – Gabe Walls vs. Josh Utter-Leyton

by Steve Sadin

Josh Utter-Leyton is an up and coming California player who regularly works closely with Luis Scott-Vargas, Gerry Thompson, David Ochoa Tom Ross, and Paulo Vitor Dama da Rosa. While Josh might not have the same level of success as his teammates, yet, his teammates expect very big things from him in the future.

While Josh is fairly new to the pro scene, Gabe has been around for a long time. Gabe doesn’t hesitate to admit that his most intense playing and globe trotting days are behind him, but he enjoys Magic just as much as ever. Much to the delight of his many Magic playing friends and fans, Gabe has once again become a regular fixture at high-profile American tournaments where he remains a fierce opponent despite his lack of preparation.

“Maybe if this weren’t a 90-10 matchup in your favor, you would concede to me,” said Gabe
“I think I have an edge, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near that big,” replied Josh
“We’re playing a mirror match, and all you do is play, and all I do is not, how am I supposed to beat you?” said Gabe

Game 1

Gabe Walls

Gabe won the roll and kept his opening seven, but Josh had to mull down to six.

“At least my hand isn’t that good,” said Gabe with a smile.
“That can’t be a good sign,” said Josh.

Gabe opened on Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and his turn one Thoughtseize took Smother leaving Josh with Sword of the Meek, Vampire Hexmage, Jace, the Mind Sculptor and two River of Tears. Josh drew a Thoughtseize of his own to take Muddle the Mixture leaving Gabe with 2 copies of Thopter Foundry a Vampire Hexmage and a Tolaria West.

“Well that made my hand a lot worse,” said Gabe.

Josh deployed a Vampire Hexmage and a Dark Confidant before Gabe drew another Muddle the Mixture that he used to transmute for Sword of the Meek, the second half of his token making combo.

Josh ran out a Dark Confidant, a Dark Depths and later a Jace, the Mind Sculptor. However, Gabe’s army of 1/1 flying Thopter artifact tokens gave him no reason to fear the prospect of a 20/20 flying creature.

A few turns and a bunch of Thopter tokens later and Gabe was up a game.

Gabe 1 – Josh 0

Game 2

Josh Utter-Leyton

For Game 2, Josh was on the play and Gabe mulliganed. Josh had a Vampire Hexmage, but Gabe was more than ready with a Darkblast.

Before Josh’s Dark Confidant could be met with a dredged back Darkblast, Gabe’s Vendillion Clique took Muddle the Mixture leaving Josh with Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Repeal, Vampire Hexmage and a land.

A Thoughtseize from Josh prompted Gabe to reveal a hand of three lands and gesture as though he were hanging himself with an invisible noose.
Fortunately for Gabe, Josh’s hand wasn’t much better. When Josh ran out a couple of Vampire Hexmages on his next turn, they fell victim to Gatekeeper of Malakir and a dredged back Darkblast. A couple of attacks and some underwhelming turns for Josh later and Gabe was 6-0.

Final result:
Gabe 2 – Josh 0

Saturday, 6:30 p.m. –

by Steve Sadin

Pro Tour Kyoto Top 8 alumni Cedric Phillips is known for being a snazzy dresser at tournaments. If he isn’t wearing a suit, you can usually find him in a sharp button down. Cedric’s friend John Penick also prides himself on his classy appearance, but he doesn’t put quite as much effort into his outfit at events.

Penick decided that he was sick of being shown up by Cedric at every event, so he decided to put on the Ritz for Grand Prix: Houston. This meant a classy leather bag, a pair of nice slacks, fancy shoes, a brand new polo and a freshly pressed jacket.

John Penick

Penick was truly playing in style at this event.

Cedric for his part was, unfortunately, feeling too ill to compete in an impromptu fashion showdown against Penick. Rather than a suit, a button down, or even business casual attire, Cedric outfit consisted of a t-shirt, jeans and... a towel.

Cedric Phillips

Feature Match: Round 7 – Corey Lege vs. Conley Woods

by Brian David-Marshall

You may remember Corey Lege as an excited Texas player who was featured in a Deck Tech during Pro Tour Austin after his All-American Control deck came close to earning him a Pro Tour berth in the LCQ. While the opportunity to play in a hometown Pro Tour may have eluded him then he was not going to pass up his first taste of Grand Prix competition when it was in Texas. Corey was off to a 5-1 start, without the benefit of any byes, playing Hive Mind. His deck and its performance so far was the talk of many of the players from Texas playing today.

Conley Woods has become something of a Magic rock star since his breakout performance at Pro Tour Honolulu last season. His outgoing nature, flair for the dramatic, and -- most importantly -- his tendency to play the rogue deck have made him a fan favorite where ever he plays. Last round he was faced off against a player with a foiled out version of Conley’s Bantwagon deck from Grand Prix Oakland. After the match, his opponent asked Conley to sign all 75 of the cards -- foil Jace and all. Even his opponent this round seemed a little starstruck by the Denver area player.

“Can I get a picture of you Conley Woods?” asked Corey Lege as they sat down in the Feature Match area. Conley obliged and explained why he might seem to be behaving a little oddly.

“In case you didn’t know, my zipper broke after last round. I am in the midst of a wardrobe malfunction,” laughed Conley as he tied a sweatshirt around his waist with the long end hanging in front like an apron. “Good luck Corey!”

“Thanks I am going to need it.”

Game 1

Corey Lege

As Corey picked up his cards for his opening hand he was obviously struggling to keep his hands steady: “I am a little nervous. My first Grand Prix, my first time up here.”

Once Corey picked up his cards he was fine with what he saw. Conley, on the other hand, had to go down to five before he could stomach keeping his hand.

Corey opened on Halimar Depths and followed up with an Island and Ponder -- choosing not to shuffle.

Conley could only play land and try to suss out what deck his opponent was playing. A Shivan Reef raised an eyebrow: “Not what I was expecting. You’re playing Dragonstorm?”

“I wish I was playing Dragonstorm,” said Corey with sincere excitement.

“I am putting you on Dragonstorm until I see otherwise,” Conley insisted.

Corey kept sifting through his deck with Telling Time and another Halimar Depths.

“My opponent has seen more cards off the top of his deck than I saw in my opening hand. Never a good sign,” sighed Conley as he played Chrome Mox.

Into the Roil the Mox.

“Not like that Smother was doing anything,” said Conley as he tried to figure out how Corey was going to finish him off.

“I guess I will just go for it,” said Corey. He pitched Simian Spirit Guide to get to six mana and played Hive Mind and Pact of the Titan. Hive Mind compelled Conley to play a copy of the spell.

“Okay...your copy is fine. I am going to counter mine.” Conley said as he flashed out Spellstutter Sprite.

“You are playing Faeries?!?” said an incredulous Corey as he slumped back in his seat to one of the very few cards that could foil him in that scenario.

“You say you follow all my work and then you think I am playing Faeries?” scoffed Conley as he played Abyssal Persecutor. “My hand is a spicy one.”

“Yeah?” asked Corey as he drew a card for his turn.

“You lose the game,” said Conley pointing to the Pact in his opponent’s graveyard.

Corey face palmed himself and scooped up his cards. I am sure that in all his preparation with the deck he rarely if ever had the turn handed back to him after playing a Pact on the same turn as Hive Mind. But it is even more complicated that. The two of them realized that Corey could not lose the game due to the Abyssal Persecutor in play. A judge was called over and it was ruled that by scooping up his cards Corey had conceded.

Game 2

Conley Woods

Conley led off the action with Thoughtseize nabbing a a Spell Snare leaving a pair of Negates and a Ponder. He followed up with Dark Confidant while Corey was sitting on a handful of reactive spells and combo pieces. Still he was whittling down Conley’s life total as the Confidant flipped Jace and Ninja of the Deep Hours -- yes, really -- on subsequent turns. Conley was at eight but he was able to Ninja his Confidant back to his hand and had so many cards he was forced to discard. Corey was scuffling for his fourth land and missed on a main phase Telling Time. Conley wanted to make sure the coast was clear and played Extirpate on the Spell Snare at the end of the turn. He saw a hand full of two Pacts, two Negates, Rite of Flame, Telling Time, and Hive Mind. Conley untapped and played Cranial Extraction and Corey -- still sitting on three lands -- countered it with Pact of Negation. He extended the hand to an apologetic Conley who was still mortified by the sequence of plays in Game 1.

“Sorry about Game 1,” he said.

“If you felt really bad,” laughed Corey, “You would give me the win for that game.”

“I don’t feel that bad.”

“I don’t think I would have won that game anyway,” admitted Corey who had used up all his gas on the Hive Mind turn. “I had no more Pacts and there were eight lands on top of my deck.”

Final result: Conley Woods 2* - Corey Lege - 0

After the match I asked Conley about his deck, which has been dubbed “Guess, who?” and is certain to be the subject of a deck tech for tomorrow’s coverage.

“I have been working on Fish style decks for some time,” said Conley who explained that the shell of the deck is very similar to the much ballyhooed but ultimately shelved Extended list from this past season’s World Championships. “Minus the white and with the addition of Abyssal Persecutor.”

Abyssal Persecutor lets you go really fast against combo decks -- against any deck really. He beats up Goyf,” grinned Conley as he talked about the Worldwake demon. “Faeries sided in Sphinx of Jwar Isle against me and it looked pretty stupid once he saw my Persector.”

Perhaps the most fascinating card in his deck is Ninja of the Deep Hours which can combo to bounce the Persecutor.

“Ninja is obviously good with Gatekeeper, Spellstutter, Vendillion Clique, and Abyssal Persecutor,” said Conley as he ticked off the combos in his deck. “He is also good with Sower occasionally. I also have Glen Elendra Archmage and sometimes you can counter a spell and then reset it.”

Saturday, 7:38 p.m. – Archetype Breakdown

by Jared Sylva

The dominant deck in the format may be Thopter-Depths but try telling that to the sixth of the field brought some form of Zoo deck to the table. Four major variants of the Naya build are prevalent with Classic Zoo alongside versions splashing for Bant Charm and some leaning on Boom // Bust. The fourth variant, Zoo-Shift, mixes in the powerful Scapeshift and Valakut engine as a way to pump landfall creatures and finish off opponents who have managed to stabilize after the initial rush. It's no surprise to see Thopter-Depths as one of the most popular decks, but many expected it to be here in much higher numbers. The traditional Scapeshift build is the only other archetype that managed to break 5%, but nine other decks had at least 20 representatives in the field. It is worth noting that Living End seems to have passed Hypergenesis as the Cascade abuse engine of choice.

Check out the Archetype Breakdown:

Archetype # % of field
Zoo 104 16.43%
(Boom // Bust) 19 3.00%
Thopter-Depths 62 9.79%
Scapeshift 34 5.37%
Living End 28 4.42%
Bant 26 4.11%
Dredge 26 4.11%
Hypergenesis 26 4.11%
R/W Aggro 26 4.11%
Elves 23 3.63%
Doran Rock 22 3.48%
Cruel Control 21 3.32%
Zoo-Shift 21 3.32%
Faeries 25 3.95%
Affinity 17 2.69%
Red Deck Wins 14 2.21%
All In Red 13 2.05%
B/G Control 13 2.05%
B/W Control 13 2.05%
Hexmage Depths 12 1.90%
Reveillark 9 1.42%
U/R Control 8 1.26%
White Weenie 7 1.11%
Other 83 13.11

Feature Match: Round 8 – David Sharfman versus Matt Costa

by Steve Sadin

Matt Costa and David Sharfman walked into the feature match area as locks for day two with perfect 7-0 records.

David Sharfman

Sharfman, who was born in Massachusetts and is currently living in Florida, Top 8ed US Nationals in 2008 and is fresh off of a win at the Star City Games Legacy Open in Orlando. Costa, who made the trip from Boston, hasn’t had any major event wins yet, but he has had numerous PTQ Top 8 finishes to go with his countless tournament wins on Magic Online.

Game 1
Sharfman won the roll and after both players mulliganed. Sharfman got things started with a Wild Nacatl. A Thoughtseize from Costa took a Knight of the Reliquary and left Sharfman with two Path to Exiles and a land. Sharfman’s next couple of turns offered him a Loam Lion and a Tarmogoyf that he used to make quick work of Costa with.

Sharfman 1 – Costa 0

Game 2
Both players kept their opening seven this time around and Sharfman was again able to make the first play of the game with a turn one Wild Nacatl. A Thopter Foundry for Costa was met by a Meddling Mage naming Sword of the Meek. Costa dug deeper with a Compulsive Research, and Sharfman simply attacked, played a land and passed his turn choosing to hold creatures in his hand should Costa be holding a Damnation or some other board-clearing effect.

Matt Costa

A Deathmark dealt with Meddling Mage and a turn later Sword of the Meek made its way onto the board. Sharfman’s Bant Charm got countered by Muddle the Mixture, but he still had a Qasali Pridemage to take out the Thopter Foundry.

An Engineered Explosives for Costa cleared two of Sharfman’s Wild Nacatls off the board, but that didn’t stop Sharfman from knocking Costa down to 4 with a Stirring Wildwood. Another attack and a Lightning Bolt later and Sharfman was 8-0.

Sharfman 2 – Costa 0

Feature Match: Round 8 – Brian Kibler versus Craig Wescoe

by Steve Sadin

With Sharfman and Costa’s match ending quickly, I was able to hop over to Pro Tour: Austin champion Brian Kibler’s match against Pro Tour: San Diego semifinalist Craig Wescoe. Let’s catch the rest of the action!

In Game 1 of Kibler’s match against Wescoe, a Qasali Pridemage and a well timed Path to Exile allowed Kibler’s Tarmogoyf to survive an attack in which he was blocked by both Tarmogoyf and Rhox War Monk.

Brian Kibler

Despite the incredible amount of pressure that Kibler put Wescoe under, it wasn’t enough to win him the game as Wescoe was able to put together his Thopter Foundry + Sword of the Meek combo just in the nick of time.

Wescoe 1 – Kibler 0

Game 2 started off somewhat slowly, with Kibler’s first play being a turn three Knight of the Reliquary. A Ranger of Eos fetched two Mogg Fanatics which he used to punish the land light, Noble Hierarch heavy Wescoe. A few attacks and a Bant Charm were enough to give Kibler the win in Game 2.

Wescoe 1 – Kibler 1

In Game 3, Wescoe got things going right off the bat with a turn one Thopter Foundry while Kibler opened on a Wild Nacatl. A Thirst for Knowledge helped Wescoe dig, while a Qasali Pridemage allowed Kibler to crack in for 4 with his Wild Nacatl. A Bant Charm dealt with Kibler’s Qasali Pridemage and Wescoe’s attempt at Path to Exile on Kibler’s turn got countered by Negate.

Another Thirst for Knowledge allowed Wescoe to draw into a Stoneforge Mystic which fetched Sword of the Meek. Kibler responded with a Meddling Mage naming Sword of the Meek but it quickly fell to Wescoe’s Path to Exile.

Craig Wescoe

Wescoe then cast his Sword of the Meek and quickly tapped out to make three 1/1 flying Thopter tokens.

Kibler used a Bant Charm to destroy Thopter Foundry, but that didn’t buy him much time as Wescoe was simply able to Academy ruins his combo piece back to the top of his library to be recast a turn later. While another Bant Charm from Kibler bought him another turn, his deck failed to offer up a permanent solution to the combo and he quickly succumbed to Wescoe’s army of 1/1 fliers.

Final result
Wescoe 2 – Kibler 1

Quick Questions

by Event Coverage Staff

How many hours did it take you to travel to this event?

Ben Lunquist:

"Go out to eat with some friends and then it depends on how I do. Stay up all night drafting if don't make it."
Shuhei Nakamura:

"If I make Day 2 I will sleep. Sleep is very good for me. I arrived on Thursday but I still get jet lagged. If I don't make it I will go out. Do you know a good bar in Houston? "
Gaudenis Vidugiris:

"Go out to dinner and get some sleep. I don't think I am going to make Day Two but everyone else who does make Day 2 is going to sleep so there won't be any drafting."

What are you going to do tonight between Day 1 and Day 2 of the Grand Prix?

Martin Juza:

"Probably just sleep. I got in yesterday after midnight after traveling for more than 24 hours. I am probably going to sleep."
Cedric Phillips:

"I am sleeping. I am going to eat at Whataburger and then straight to bed. I will be sunshine and rainbows tomorrow."
Adam Yurchick:

"Sit around, eat, hang out, and play no Magic. I have never been one to draft or stuff during a tournament. I just relax my mind."

Feature Match: Round 9 – Eric Froehlich vs. Martin Juza

by Brian David-Marshall

Eric Froehlich is a four-time GP Top 8 competitor -- with some of the most miserly teams imaginable, I might add -- and Pro Tour San Diego Top 8 competitor. He is also a high profile poker player and was for some time the youngest player to ever win a World Series of Poker bracelet. He recently played at Pro Tour San Diego and has been showing off his flashy Vintage purchases on Facebook. His opponent for this final Day One round -- which was essentially an elimination match -- was Martin Juza. Martin has torn up the Pro Tour scene for the past couple of years with a deep run at the Player of the Year title last year. He has racked up two Pro Tour Top 8s and three Grand Prix Top 8s in a short period of time.

Game 1

Martin Juza

“That roll is pretty average,” commented Eric after Martin rolled a 7 on two D6. To underscore that point they proceeded to roll 7 -- in just about every way imaginable -- for seven straight rolls until Eric finally rolled a 9. Martin, who did not get to the tournament until after midnight Friday evening was looking pretty worn around the edges. He shrugged at his next six cards and said, “Sure”.

Mogg Fanatic led off the match for Eric and a Duress from Juza revealed a hand of Path to Exile, 2 Knight of the Reliquary, Tarmogoyf, and Hallowed Fountain. Martin took the only legal target. Eric played a 3/4 Tarmogoyf and Kuza crossed two cards off the notes he had taken of Eric’s hand. Martin floated a blue through his River of Tears and then played Urborg to cast Thopter Foundry. Eric played Qasali Pridemage, attacked with the Goyf, and then sac’d the Pridemage to be rid of the artifact. Martin transmuted Muddle the Mixture for Vampire Hexmage. He fell to 7 from Eric’s next attack. Eric then fortified with Wild Nacatl.

Martin played his Hexmage and laid a Dark Depths. Eric sacrificed his Mogg Fanatic to kill the Hexmage -- forcing Martin to unleash Marit Lage. “How many cards do you have? Do you really have the Bant Charm?”

Martin shrugged and made the legendary token and Eric cleared the way with Path to Exile. Martin bought himself an additional turn with Echoing Truth bouncing the ‘Goyf but he could not deal with Eric’s board for another one.

Game 2

This game it was Eric’s turn to mulligan. Neither of the players were very chatty as they went about the business of shuffling for round two of what has become the defining match-up in this format -- Zoo vs. Dark Depths. Eric went to 17 to play a 2/3 Kird Ape on turn one. Martin came back with a turn 2 Thoughtseize revealing Bant Charm, Mogg Fanatic, and Wild Nacatl -- Martin took the Bant Charm. Eric deployed Wild Nacatl and Mogg Fanatic. Martin played his Dark Depths and cast Beseech the Queen for Hexmage. Eric had drawn into Path to Exile and played Hallowed Fountain up and added Tarmogoyf to the board with only one card left in his hand. Martin had the Duress for the Path and a Deathmark for the Tarmogoyf. Eric did not waste any time and they reached for their toolboxes to tinker for Game 3.

Game 3

Eric Froehlich

Eric mulliganed and looked pretty sour about the six cards he kept. Judging by his lack of plays on turns one or two a little bit of sourness is perfectly understandable. Martin was not doing much either but when your opponent is sitting back on untapped mana of the blue and/or black variety things can often go awry for you. Case in point; the Smother that took down Eric’s turn three Knight of the Reliquary. Martin untapped, played two Chrome Mox -- imprinting Muddle and Beseech -- and brought forth Jace the Mind Sculptor. He peeked at the top of Eric’s deck and pushed a card to the bottom. Eric played another Knight but Martin was sitting on Deathmark. With Jace more or less safely at 5 loyalty Martin used the “brainstorm” ability. He dug three cards deeper with Compulsive Research. Eric had no play. When Juza cast Duress, Eric Negated it to protect the contents of his hand -- or the illusions of a hand with any content. Martin dig for Thoughtseize and saw two lands in Eric’s hand.

Eric’s deck spit out a Qasali Pridemage but Martin’s machinery was tumbling all the locks into place. He played Beseech for Compulsive Research. He pushed one of Eric’s cards with Jace and had Deathmark for the Pridemage which took a Mox out on its way down.

Eric was out of plays. Martin kept digging with his Compulsive Research and played Dark Depths. They played draw-go with Juza building up the loyalty on his Jace by looking at the top of his deck -- and removing counters from Dark Depths the hard way. The turn before Jace was set to go off, Eric activated his Treetop Village to whittle it down to size and a brief counter war ensued when Martin went to Smother it. Eric had the Negate but Martin had the last word with Muddle the Mixture.

Final result: Martin Juza - 2 Eric Froehlich - 1

Saturday, 9:46 p.m. –

by Steve Sadin

A number of high profile players found themselves at 6-2 going into the last round and hoping to get that last win that they needed to make it to Sunday. Some of the pros were able to win their critical bubble matches, but others were not so fortunate.

Gerry Thompson

Gerry Thompson, piloting Kyle Boggemes’ Congregation at Dawn Zoo deck was able to beat Cash Gavlik’s Living End deck to advance to day two.

Lundquist and Walls

Gabe Walls’ Thepths deck made short work of Robert Berni’s Bant deck. While his friend Ben Lundquist was able to dredge his way to victory against Derrick Steele’s Zoo deck.

Sperling and Martell

Matt Sperling’s black-white control deck lost to David Saunder’s classic Hexmage Depths deck while Tom Martell’s Thepths deck took down Dylan Smith’s Scapefhift deck

Brian Kibler

Brian Kibler fell to Michael Van Dyke in the Blue Zoo mirror.

David Williams

David Williams also lost in a Blue Zoo mirror to William Cruse.

Misha Gurevich

Die-hard gamer Misha Gurevich fell to Nathan Zamora in yet another Zoo on Zoo matchup.

Saturday, 10:00 p.m. – End of Day 1 Archetype Breakdown

by Jared Sylva
Archetype # of Decks In Field % of Decks in Field Day 1 Record (vs. Field) Day 1 Win % (vs. Field)
Zoo 104 16.43% 273-228-20 54.32%
(+U) 49 7.74% 131-99-14 56.56%
(Boom // Bust) 19 3.00% 39-47-2 45.45%
Thopter-Depths 62 9.79% 194-138-8 58.24%
Scapeshift 34 5.37% 91-80-7 53.09%
Living End 28 4.42% 81-69-3 53.92%
Bant 26 4.11% 76-63-10 54.36%
Dredge 26 4.11% 63-66-9 48.91%
Hypergenesis 26 4.11% 68-75-2 47.59%
R/W Aggro 26 4.11% 51-74-6 41.22%
Faeries 25 3.95% 71-62-6 53.24%
Elves 23 3.63% 47-67-8 41.80%
Doran Rock 22 3.48% 50-59-10 46.22%
Cruel Control 21 3.32% 45-61-7 42.92%
Zoo-Shift 21 3.32% 72-53-3 57.42%
Affinity 17 2.69% 35-46-1 43.29%
Red Deck Wins 14 2.21% 37-41-1 47.47%
All In Red 13 2.05% 29-41-0 41.43%
B/G Control 13 2.05% 30-36-4 45.71%
B/W Control 13 2.05% 34-31-7 52.08%
Hexmage Depths 12 1.90% 38-32-1 54.23%
Reveillark 9 1.42% 21-25-6 46.15%
U/R Control 8 1.26% 27-20-2 57.14%
White Weenie 7 1.11% 15-20-6 43.90%
Other 83 13.11%    

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