Grand Prix–Washington DC Day 2 Coverage

Posted in Event Coverage on May 23, 2010

By Wizards of the Coast


Day 1 - Undefeated Deck Lists

by Event Coverage Staff

Owen Turtenwald - Day 1 Undefeated

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Brett Blackman - Day 1 Undefeated

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Jiayi Chen - Day 1 Undefeated

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Ari Lax - Day 1 Undefeated

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Eric Froehlich - Day 1 Undefeated

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Carlos Romao - Day 1 Undefeated

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Sunday, 8:45 a.m. - Photo Essay: Back to the Grind

by Sam Feeley

For those of us who couldn't crack day two of the GP (and did not join the coverage team), the race for the blue envelope resumes. From the top tier to the most cutthroat rogues, players seek to redeem their weekends with all sorts of decks in today's PTQ. Will we see one of these decks earn a ticket to Amsterdam?

As if you needed another reason to despise Jund, now it gets the bling-bling treatment.

There's not much Monored can do about trips Deft Duelist.

Bant Conscription, with special guest stars Vengevine and Khalni Hydra.

We haven't seen much black-green-white Junk decks of late, but will this player put it back on the map?

Original recipe Sarkhan makes a triumphant return to the tournament tables, this time in Naya.

Finally someone figured out Eldrazi Temple, and to great effect too! The pilot had just cast a second Ulamog to take back his Mind Controlled Kozilek and shuffle his graveyard back into his library. Don't you love abusing the legend rule?

If you aren't prepared for this or Jund, you're doing it wrong.

So there you have it. There are a plethora of strategies you can bring to your next FNM or PTQ. What will work for you? That's for you to decide.

Feature Match Round 10 - Brett Blackman vs. Eric Froehlich

by Bill Stark

The first Feature Match of Day 2 saw a big name sitting down to face a "new" name: Eric Froehlich the seasoned vet against young (but successful) Brett Blackman. Froehlich's storied history with the game included top finishes at the highest echelons of play, and a storied career of professional card playing to boot. Blackman, a young college student, was a Pro Tour regular with some success of his own before being pulled into the world of academia full-time.

The game started with Eric on the play, and Brett Blackman had to take a mulligan. Content with six, Brett kept and the two got underway. Froehlich cast Everflowing Chalice on his second turn to accelerate out a third-turn Jace, the Mind Sculptor . Blackman had two copies of the card himself in hand, but needed to draw a fourth land to even think about casting one. On top of that, he was missing access to green mana for his Bant deck and would be behind on cards as Eric "cast" not one but two Brainstorm s with his planeswalker.

Brett Blackman

Brett's deck came through, offering up a Misty Rainforest to give him both his fourth land drop and a Forest , and he cast his own Jace to blow up Eric's. The play hardly seemed to bother the New Yorker, who had cast Gideon Jura and was able to begin attacking. He also had a Mind Shatter for four that left Brett with just a Sovereigns of Lost Alara , something he couldn't even cast due to his lack of mana.

The Jura made quick work of Brett, and when Eric cast Esper Charm to force both of Brett's cards out of his hand during his next draw step, Blackman read the writing on the wall.

Eric Froehlich 1 - Brett Blackman 0

The second game started out in similar fashion to the first for Brett Blackman, who had to mulligan. Not happy with his six card hand, Brett sent that back for one fewer still, but kept on five. "If you go to four, I might have to mulligan…" Froehlich joked, though he couldn't because of the mulligan rules.

Blackman played green/white dual lands for his first two turns, then passed without a land drop on turn three. His opponent had a second-turn Everflowing Chalice , then had to pass without a third land drop and began discarding soon after, mana screwed with more than seven cards in hand. Brett's deck coughed up a Celestial Colonnade to give him access to all the colored mana he needed, then a Forest after and he was able to begin casting spells.

First up was Oblivion Ring to take out Eric's Everflowing Chalice . Then he had Birds of Paradise and a Negate for Esper Charm from Froehlich, who finally hit a third land. At long last Jace, the Mind Sculptor hit for Brett and he used it to fateseal the top card of Eric's library, putting it to the bottom. Like a pro, Froehlich simply drew a fourth land off the top, then cast a Jace of his own to take out Blackman's.

Brett had a second copy of Jace, the Mind Sculptor which he was able to use to Brainstorm his way into a seventh mana source, his initial stumble a long forgotten memory. Dauntless Escort came down for the Bant player but he had to sacrifice it after Day of Judgment from his opponent in order to save a Birds of Paradise . The play allowed him to successfully resolve Sovereigns of Lost Alara . With his Birds of Paradise left over and untapped, Brett sent the 0/1 sideways. It became a 1/2 from the exalted trigger on Sovereigns, then picked up an Eldrazi Conscription to become a much more massive 11/12.

Eric had one turn to find a solution, his life total more than halved, but the top card of his deck was no help and he scooped his permanents up. Somehow Brett Blackman had managed to take the pro out despite his mulligan to five!

Eric Froehlich 1 - Brett Blackman 1

Eric Froehlich

Both players got to start the final game of the match with full grips, and Brett opened on Birds of Paradise into Dauntless Escort . Like the second game, he missed his third land drop. Froehlich wasn't having that problem, using an Esper Charm to make sure he drew into enough juice to keep going early.

At four mana he cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor and promptly used a loyalty to bounce the Dauntless Escort . Blackman re-cast the 3/3, alongside a second Birds of Paradise , and Eric spent his turn casting Mind Spring for three additional cards and using Jace to bounce the Escort yet again. Brett managed to kill the planeswalker by casting Noble Hierarch and attacking with Birds of Paradise into the blue permanent for 1 before casting the same Dauntless Escort for the third time in the match.

Froehlich plopped Gideon Jura onto the table, forcing his opponent to attack with everything into the planeswalker, which meant the Escort and a Stirring Wildwood that had been activated. Eric tried to use Path to Exile to halve the damage, but Blackman used Negate to counter. Gideon dropped to two loyalty, but Froehlich untapped for a big turn.

He cast Mind Shatter to wipe out Brett's hand, then used the final counters on his Gideon to blow up Dauntless Escort . When he passed back, Brett had Stirring Wildwood and three mana creatures, looking for help on top of his library. He didn't find any, and attacked with Stirring Wildwood . Jace, the Mind Sculptor hit for Eric, who used it to filter the top three cards of his library, and when Brett tried to take it out with an attack from his creature-land, Eric had Path to Exile .

Unfortunately for him, Blackman had drawn a second Negate , countering the spot removal spell for the second time in the game. A second Jace came down for Eric who continued trying to find a solution to the Wildwood. Brett sent the land at the planeswalker yet again, and Eric cast Esper Charm to draw two. Blackman had his third Negate , but it was a trap! Instead of looking for the next Path to Exile , Eric already had it in hand and used it to take out the creature-land after bluffing with his draw spell. Brett didn't look pleased.

A turn later Eric used fateseal from Jace to target Brett and opted to leave the card on top of Blackman's library. That could not have been a good feeling for Brett, and when Eric followed up with a Mind Spring for a half dozen+ cards, Brett seemed all but finished.

He drew for his turn, found a Dauntless Escort , and opted to concede rather than try to play out of it with active Jace messing with his draws and Eric's hand stacked with powerful Esper spells.

Eric Froehlich 2 - Brett Blackman 1

Sunday, 10:15 a.m. - The Global Challenge update

by Rich Hagon

Yesterday, we highlighted thirty players from around the world who were stopping off here in Washington before heading for the exotic Pro Tour in San Juan, Puerto Rico. With almost 2,000 players in action, the attrition rate was high, but there are still plenty of Pros from around the world looking to make a run at the title here on day two.


Thomas Enevoldsen

At 7-2, there aren't many more losses to give. Denis Sinner of Germany made it through, as did the Russian Dimitry Nikitin. From Taiwan, Tzu Ching Kuo is their all-time Points leader, while Mark Dictus made day two for Belgium. Someone worth keeping an eye on is Thomas Enevoldsen. The Danish player made it to 8-0 at Pro Tour Hollywood in 2008, and seems pleased to be here again on day two.

Three giants of the game also need to make a massive run. From Japan, Tomoharu Saito is in pursuit of his third Top 8 of the Grand Prix season. That leaves the two French powerhouses, Raphael Levy and Gabriel Nassif, both of whom made it through with the maximum two losses.

One point ahead of that crowd on 22 stands former Rookie of the Year Sebastian Thaler.

On day one, draws are generally bad news, since they don't really 'count' towards making day two. Once you get there, though, having turned a potential loss into a draw can make all the difference down the stretch.

Then it's on to the elite crowd, on at least 8-1.

Sebastian Thaler

Lucas Blohon

Lucas Blohon is one of the new breed of Czech players who consistently turn up at the top tables. With a Top 8 already this season, he's poised for a run at a second. Joining him on 8-1 is the Belgian player Peter Vieren.

His brother Pascal is a former National Champion, and there are signs that Peter could soon follow suit. There's a quiet buzz around the Pros about him, and he seems a really solid player. Also on 8-1 is the Brazilian Rafael Coqueiro. It's easy to be forgotten when you're accompanied by Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and Carlos Romao as flagbearers for your country, but we talked about Coqueiro yesterday, and he duly delivered, only losing in the last round of the day – to Romao!

Peter Vieren

Carlos stands on top of proceedings with a perfect 9-0 record, a score shared by five others – Americans Owen Turtenwald, Brett Blackman, Eric Froehlich, and one other (more in a moment), plus the Chinese player Jiayi Chen.

Ari Lax

In fact, there's a real developing storyline involving the Chinese, since World Team Champion Zhiyang Zhang is also right in contention on 8-1. As for that other American, this is what 9-0 looks like if you're Ari Lax...

Feature Match Round 11 - Carlos Romao vs. Brian Kibler

by Rich Hagon

Brian Kibler

'Have we even played since you won Worlds?' asked Kibler as the players shuffled up.

'Nope' replied the 2002 Champ Romao.


Carlos opened with an unexceptional Island , while Brian was straight into action with Noble Hierarch feeding Sea Gate Oracle . Oblivion Ring from Carlos sent the accelerating Exalted 0/1 packing, leaving Brian with his 1/3 from Rise of the Eldrazi. Jace, the Mind Sculptor came down for Carlos (Planeswalker count: 1 play along at home), and stayed at three loyalty, with the Brazilian opting to Brainstorm . A second Sea Gate Oracle came down for Brian, but there was little going on. Scute Mob was next for Brian, as Carlos continued to Brainstorm in pursuit of land.

Spreading Seas on Brian's Seaside Citadel seemed a good plan, but Brian still had the mana to cast a Jace, the Mind Sculptor of his own (Planeswalker count: 2), once his forces had smashed the Brazilian Planeswalker. Now it was Brian's turn to Brainstorm , before passing the turn. Carlos had Jace Beleren (Planeswalker count: 3), Brian had another Jace, the Mind Sculptor (Planeswalker count: 4). Carlos had Path to Exile for the Scute Mob which had now reached the five land mark, making it distinctly dangerous.

How many Planeswalkers? Gideon Jura (Planeswalker count: 5) was up next for Carlos, and he went to eight loyalty, forcing Brian's two Sea Gate Oracle s to attack. Brian had Gideon of his own, (Planeswalker count: 6) another Scute Mob , and the Oracles attacked Carlos.

Another Planeswalker! This time it was Elspeth, Knight-Errant for Carlos (Planeswalker count: 7), making a token, only to see it bounced by Jace, the Mind Sculptor . That let a 5/5 Scute Mob through the door, and Brian made Elspeth, Knight-Errant (Planeswalker count: 8) which pretty much locked things up.

There had been eight Planeswalkers cast during the game, but only one remained in play at the end, and it was Jace, the Mind Sculptor belonging to Brian.

Romao 0 - 1 Kibler.

Birds of Paradise led to Qasali Pridemage as Brian started out quickly in game two, with Carlos laying land early. Jace Beleren was his turn three play (Planeswalker count: 9) which went to five loyalty. Qasali Pridemage reduced that to two, and Kibler cast Ranger of Eos , fetching two Noble Hierarch s. Jace fell to one loyalty, drawing Carlos a card, and Day of Judgment completed the turn.

Brian was down to three mana, but not for long, laying Noble Hierarch , Seaside Citadel , and Scute Mob , before passing. Both players drew a bonus card thanks to Jace, and Carlos put a sizeable roadblock into play in the form of Wall of Denial . Even if Brian laid a fifth land, it would be a while before Carlos would need to deal with the Scute Mob . Jace donated a card once again, but this was only for Carlos this time. The Brazilian followed up with Gideon Jura (Planeswalker count: 10).

Oblivion Ring dealt with that particular threat, but even as a 5/5 Scute Mob couldn't shut down Jace, which was giving Carlos a huge advantage. He cast another Gideon Jura (Planeswalker count: 11) and passed, seeing the Scute Mob become 9/9 in Brian's upkeep. Once again Brian had Oblivion Ring for the Planeswalker, and Carlos now had to decide what to do about the Scute Mob . He could block with Wall of Denial , use Path to Exile , or just take ten (because of the Noble Hierarch for Brian), and that's what he selected.

He untapped, and cast Oblivion Ring on Brian's copy, bringing him back a Gideon Jura (Planeswalker count: 12. Or possibly still 11, if you're being picky.) Gideon offed the huge Scute Mob , while Jace Beleren remained on board, currently at one loyalty. Brian began again with another Scute Mob , and Carlos was willing to let Jace help Brian along, both players drawing a card. Brian attempted Pithing Needle , and that was quickly countered by Negate . Ranger of Eos resolved, and two Noble Hierarch s came to hand, both of which he cast, and then completed the set, making his 5/5 Scute Mob attack as a 9/9. The Wall of Denial went down hard.

Martial Coup for five was more than enough, though. Brian had found all four Noble Hierarch s, but was suspiciously lacking in the Planeswalker department, and Carlos had squared the match.

Romao 1 - 1 Kibler.

Carlos Romao

Brian opened on Noble Hierarch , and used Sea Gate Oracle to go up a card. Wall of Denial for Carlos would ensure there would be no cheap beats early. Brian added a second Sea Gate Oracle , so Carlos added a second Wall, and this one drew him a card, being the 0/4 Wall of Omens . Elspeth, Knight-Errant was next for the Brazilian (Planeswalker count: 13), and a Soldier quickly followed. That was all, though, as Brian yet again had Oblivion Ring ready. Carlos tried for Gideon Jura (Planeswalker count 14) but this time Brian wasn't prepared to let it see play, using Negate to counter it.

Finally, he had the first Planeswalker of his own for what seemed like an age, Jace, the Mind Sculptor . (Planeswalker count: 15). Jace, the Mind Sculptor for Carlos (Planeswalker count: 16) also got countered, this time by Deprive . Brian continued to Brainstorm with his Jace, and now Vengevine came to play, with Carlos now at seventeen. A second Wall of Omens had Carlos at three cards, the same as Brian. Two more Vengevine s came piling down for the American, and although Path to Exile stemmed some of the damage, Carlos still took four.

At that point, a judge intervened to deliver warnings to both players the Vengevine that had met Path to Exile was sitting in Brian's graveyard, rather than being Exile d. Finally Carlos was able to make a Planeswalker resolve, with Jace, the Mind Sculptor (Planeswalker count: 17) sending Brian's own copy packing. In came the American team, with Carlos taking another four. Brian dropped Gideon Jura (Planeswalker count: 18) and forced Carlos to attack Gideon the following turn, not that his three Walls would be doing much of that. An Actual Jace Beleren (Planeswalker count: 19) drew Carlos a card, and a huge crowd had gathered to see the climax of the match.

Elspeth, Knight-Errant was Brian's next play (Planeswalker count: 20) and that was on turn zero of extra turns. Elspeth granted flying to a Sea Gate Oracle , Stirring Wildwood activated, and Carlos had to block ever so carefully to try and stay alive. He managed it, falling to just one life.

Turn one Carlos. Jace drew him a bonus card. Day of Judgment swept the board, but still left Brian with two Planeswalkers in play. That was more than enough.

'Revenge!' said Kibler, raising his arms skyward. 'Then again, you went on to win the World Championship, and I've just won Round eleven of a Grand Prix.' And it took twenty Planeswalkers to do it.

Carlos Romao 1 - 2 Brian Kibler.

Sunday, 12:55 p.m. - The Lord of Casual Magic

by Rich Hagon

All right, I want to show you some really exciting photographs. Ready? Here we go. First off, here's an incredibly exciting picture of some basic land:

Look! Look! There's all five colors of basics in nice neat piles. Isn't that great?!?! Alright, let's move on. Next, I'm going to show you part of a draft deck:See, he's got an Earthquake and a Black Lotus. Those cards are good! And here's what someone else is putting together:Do you have any idea how powerful Vampiric Tutor is? And Juzam Djinn is just an utter beating. Of course, you might by now be suspecting that there's something strange going on, and you'd be absolutely right. Let's see if this picture of ggslive boss Rashad Miller gives it away...That's right, these are the special promo oversized cards that have been around since the start of Magic. And what's going on here at Washington is an incredible exercise in casual Magic. See, what these four lucky participants are up to is a super-bizarre Rochester Draft, featuring hundreds of these six-by-nine promos.Enduring Renewal? What does that even do? I could be taking Shivan Dragon instead. The decks are starting to take shape. Draft the Deflection, it's awesome!When you're doing Rochester four cards at a time, it can take a while, but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. This is almost certainly the only collection like this on the entire planet. Plenty of us have one or two of these in a 1990's drawer somewhere, but putting together enough basic land to make something like this viable is an incredible achievement. And who is responsible for all this?Here's the man in charge, Brad Lewis. It's taken him many, many years, and an insatiable appetite for the wacky, to put this amazing exhibit/adventure together, and if you ever get the chance, you should definitely get a seat at one of the most exclusive tables in Magic. Make no mistake, Brad really is the Lord of Casual Magic...

Feature Match Round 12 - Gabriel Carleton-Barnes vs. Gerard Fabiano

by Bill Stark

"How was your birthday party?" Gerard asked his opponent as he showed up to the feature match table.

"It was good!" Gabe replied with a smile. Fabiano offered up a weak excuse for not having attended, saying something about not receiving the email (Gabe pointed out he had sent a message on Facebook too) and they got underway. Both East coast players, Gabe and Gerard knew each other well.

On the play, Gabe Carleton-Barnes had a Spreading Seas for his opponent's first-turn Arcane Sanctum , and the two then settled into a back-and-forth draw-go affair. Both were playing control, with Barnes on the blue-white-red Planeswalkers/Super Friends variety while Gerard had splashed black into his blue-white for an Esper deck he had had some success with already this season. The first relevant permanent to stick was Jace, the Mind Sculptor for Gabe.

Gabriel Carleton-Barnes

Gerard made a planeswalker in Gideon Jura , and the Jura stared down the Jace, each player waiting for the other to flinch. Sphinx of Jwar Isle for Carleton-Barnes drew a Day of Judgment out of his opponent's hand, and Gerard also had Into the Roil with kicker to bounce Gabe's Jace. That cleared the way for Fabiano to play his own copy of the blue planeswalker, though he had to contend with an Ajani Vengeant from Gabe.

Re-casting his Jace, Carleton-Barnes blew up his opponent's copy and continued grinding his Ajani up toward seven loyalty. Worried about the possibility of impending Armageddon , Fabiano cast Baneslayer Angel in an effort to start pressuring the red and white planeswalker, but had his 5/5 exiled by a Path of the same name. Gabriel then cast a second Jace, the Mind Sculptor , immediately using it to look at three fresh cards from the top of his library.

Looking to clear the path for his Gideon Jura to begin attacking, Gerard tried for a Mind Shatter for three. The powerful discard spell would empty his opponent's hand, so Gabe was forced to use Negate to counter. That left him tapped out, however, and he was unable to use Path to Exile on Gideon when Gerard turned it sideways into Ajani Vengeant . What Gabe did have was an Elspeth, Knight-Errant and she was soon making Soldiers and providing for an increase in clock size for the planeswalker player.

Oblivion Ring knocked out the Gideon, and when Gabe resolved a Mind Spring for five he looked to be ahead. Up on cards, with an active Elspeth and Jace, and with his opponent on no action Carleton-Barnes seemed to be in a good spot. Trying to get something going, Gerard cast a second Baneslayer Angel .

Day of Judgment took out the powerful flyer, and Jace began fatesealing Gerard. Never a good spot to be in, Fabiano was fast running out of options for winning the game. A Celestial Colonnade and a Soldier token pumped by Elspeth began beating down, and Gerard soon found himself dead to his opponent's overwhelming forces.

Gabriel Carleton-Barnes 1, Gerard Fabiano 0

Gerard Fabiano

The second game started in similar fashion to the first with Gabe casting Spreading Seas on his opponent's land, then resolving Jace, the Mind Sculptor . He used the planeswalker to fateseal his opponent, likely afraid of the Creeping Tar Pit on Gerard's side of the battlefield, and was tapped out when Fabiano cast Gideon Jura .

Oblivion Ring took care of Gideon, then Jace from Gerard took care of Jace from Gabe; back to square one. A Gideon Jura joined the table, this time for Gabe but he didn't tap enough white mana to cast in, inadvertently using an Everflowing Chalice for two, a Mountain , an Island , and a Plains . No one caught it, but it didn't matter as he couldn't use the other colored mana sources he had on his opponent's turn and the technical mistake didn't actually impact the game. The planeswalker then began beating Gerard down.

Again in a hole, Fabiano tried to dig his way out, looking for a solution to the Gideon. He flailed desperately, his frantic positioning deteriorating further as a Celestial Colonnade joined in on the fun. He came up with Baneslayer Angel , but Gabe had Into the Roil to bounce it. Gerard tried Negate , but Gabe had a counter for the counter and emerged victorious.

Gabe Carleton-Barnes 2, Gerard Fabiano 0

Video: Deck Tech with Conley Woods

by Bill Stark

Round 13 Feature Match – Luis Scott-Vargas vs. Tomharu Saito

by Sam Feeley
Tomharu Saito

As two of the top pros in the game, Luis Scott-Vargas and Tomoharu Saito, sat down for their match LSV quipped about his last opponent, Saito's fellow countryman, Shuuhei Nakamura. "He doesn't even have a good record," LSV joshed. Both pros came into the feature match with a record of 9-3, so a win was crucial for them to stay in the hunt for the money. Scott-Vargas was running Naya, the same color trio that took him to the Semifinals of Pro Tour-San Diego. Saito was piloting Super Friends, the red-white-blue planeswalker control deck.

Scott-Vargas won the die roll and elected to go first. They both kept their opening hands and were subsequently deck checked. During the eleven minute delay they exchanged thoughts on Magic Online, drafting, Grand Prix attendance, and LSV's weekly commute to Superstars Game Center in San Jose.

LSV led with a turn-one Basilisk Collar and turn-two Lotus Cobra . Saito shut off LSV's Forest with a Spreading Seas , but the editor dropped a Stirring Wildwood to generate green off the Cobra and managed a turn-three Knight of the Reliquary . An attack for 2 from the Cobra brought Saito down to 18; the Stirring Wildwood also took a Spreading Seas on Saito's turn. Facing the growing threat that is Knight of the Reliquary , Saito exiled it with Path to Exile during his main phase. The next turn LSV dropped Elspeth, Knight-Errant and made a Soldier, then dressed the Cobra with Basilisk Collar and attacked.

Luis Scott-Vargas

Saito came back with his own Elspeth to destroy the one in play, but LSV put the heat on with Vengvine and cracked for 7. A second Elspeth from Saito brought a Soldier token, but LSV hit a second Vengevine . After some deliberation, LSV sent all his attackers at Saito, putting the Japanese pro at 2 life. Saito bought some time by dropping Gideon Jura and forced LSV's army to attack the Rise of the Eldrazi newcomer. Gideon bit the dust, and Saito followed up with Prophetic Prism and Ajani Vengeant , keeping the equipped Vengevine tapped. It wouldn't be enough, however, as LSV ripped Bloodbraid Elf off the top and cascaded into Behemoth Sledge , inducing a scoop from Saito.

Luis Scott-Vargas 1, Tomoharu Saito 0

After a silent sideboarding session, both players kept their opening hands for game two. Saito brought himself to 18 with fetch-land activations, while LSV brought a turn-one Noble Hierarch , turn-two Knight of the Reliquary , and turn-three Elspeth, Knight-Errant . LSV declined to attack with the Knight, a 3/3, and instead made a Soldier token. Tomoharu wiped out that threat with a Day of Judgment , but LSV activated the Knight to get a Mountain . He followed up with another Knight on his turn, but Saito had another Day of Judgment .

LSV's onslaught would not relent, however, as he dropped Vengevine and gave it +3/+3 and flying with Elspeth, putting Saito at 11 life. Saito brought out Jace, the Mind Sculptor and subsequently Brainstorm ed, but didn't hit any outs. LSV animated Raging Ravine and made it large with Elspeth. The 11 damage from the attack was enough to give Scott-Vargas the sweep.

Luis Scott-Vargas 2, Tomoharu Saito 0

Sunday, 2:35 p.m. - Metagame Breakdown

by Jared Sylva and Rich Hagon

With over 1900 players in the field, Sunday was always going to have plenty of useful data to fool around with. And nobody fools around with data more wonderfully than Jared Sylva, the Events Manager for With a succession of huge Magic weekends, Jared has had plenty of practice at pulling all the numbers together. Here's how the 220 decks of day two break down:

Jund 55 25.00%
Jund (With Plated Geopede) 3 1.36%
Sovereign Mythic 33 15.00%
U/W Tap Out 30 13.64%
Naya 28 12.73%
Naya (With Knightfall) 20 9.09%
Super Friends 23 10.45%
Devastating Red 12 5.45%
Cruel Control 5 2.27%
Red Deck Wins 5 2.27%
Bant Control (Chapin's deck) 4 1.82%
Esper Control 4 1.82%
Mythic 4 1.82%
Polymorph 3 1.36%
R/W Weenie 3 1.36%
R/U/G Ponza (Billy Moreno's deck) 3 1.36%
Naya Allies 2 0.91%
Vampires 2 0.91%
G/W Tokens 1 0.45%
Runeflare Trap 1 0.45%
U/W Control 1 0.45%
U/W Weenie 1 0.45
Sovereigns of Lost Alara

When the world of Magic looks back on the Jund era, it will be interesting to note just how many players insisted on simply 'not liking it' rather than either actively hating it (i.e. making sure they beat it) or embracing it (making sure they won with it.) Owen Turtenwald, currently sitting undefeated on 13-0, may not be a massive Jund fan, but it's certainly winning him plenty of games, not least because, as he says, beating Mythic Conscription is really easy. As you may have noticed, that's the second most popular archetype here.

There's something deeply satisfying about an utterly unloved card like Sovereigns of Lost Alara suddenly springing out of dark corners to do wondrous things in Constructed, and there's no doubt that part of the reason for the deck's popularity is the fact that giving something +10 +10 and so on is a very different experience than Cascading a Bloodbraid Elf into Blightning .

Jace Beleren
Jace, the Mind Sculptor

U/W Tap out Control remains popular, not least because it does one of the more absurd things available to Magic players draw five hundred and seventy three cards in a turn. Well, maybe half a dozen or so anyway. Naya and Super Friends round out the decks with more than 10% of the field. What is abundantly clear is that you simply must have many ways to deal with Planeswalkers. These guys and girls are everywhere, and plenty of matches are coming down to what we used to call the 'Legends' rule. I make Jace Beleren , you make Jace, the Mind Sculptor , and they're both gone. Here's my Gideon Jura , there's your Gideon Jura . And so on.

Devastating Summons

Once we dip below the 10% mark, you get one of the most heart-stopping decks in Standard, Devastating Red. Those of you old enough to remember Desolation Angel will recall what a thrill ride those decks could be, as you gleefully blew up everything in sight, and prayed that your opponent wouldn't float any mana in response. Now you get Devastating Summons . It can, of course, be amazing, but if it goes wrong, there's well and truly no comeback. That's just as true in Standard as in Limited, where your fabulous pair of 7/7s can suddenly be trumped by a 7/11 Eldrazi. That's not quite the same in Standard, but working out how far to push your one-sided Armageddon is something of a skill tester for some.

Runeflare Trap

Although nothing else has made a huge impact, it's nice to see some real niche strategies making it into day two. Naya Allies can be a blast to play, and a real lesson in synergy. Polymorph is another deck like Devastating Summons that can leave you with egg on your face, and also requires a lot of playskill to pilot successfully. This is no mindless 'get to four, cast Polymorph ' deck. And Runeflare Trap ? That's one of the most fun decks you could ever play.

Or you could play Jund.

Feature Match Round 14 – Brian Kibler vs. Owen Turtenwald

by Bill Stark

Grand Prix-Washington D.C. had just one remaining undefeated player: Owen Turtenwald. He was paired against a titan of the game for Round 14 as Pro Tour champion Brian Kibler sat down with just a single loss.

"Deluxe! Man…" Brian Kibler teased Owen as they sat down, pointing to an orange sticker on Turtenwald's deck box that read "deluxe."

"Yeah, you like that?" Owen said with his characteristic sly grin.

Kibler, on the play, immediately mulliganed his opening hand. He immediately sent his second hand back as well. "So this is how you go undefeated!" He exclaimed.

"Yeah, I'm a good player," Turtenwald responded with a laugh.

Owen Turtenwald

Kibler had a Forest and a Noble Hierarch on his first turn, then cast a second Hierarch a turn later. He had a third copy of the card for his third turn, but still had no lands beside his Forest . With exalted triggers, however, he was able to eat 5 points of Owen's life.

Maelstrom Pulse from Turtenwald's Jund deck put an end to those shenanigans, and the red-green-black player followed it up with Bloodbraid Elf into Putrid Leech . Kibler managed to find a Plains , but never drew another land and was quickly felled by the 7-point attacks from his opponent.

Owen Turtenwald 1, Brian Kibler 0

Both players got to keep their opening hands for the second game, and Kibler led off with Birds of Paradise . His Bant-flavored deck was created by Patrick Chapin and featured the Kor Skyfisher / Vengevine combo. It also packed a hefty load of one-drops for use with Ranger of Eos , the first deck to truly abuse Vengevine in the Standard format.

Turtenwald did what Jund does, casting Sprouting Thrinax after his opponent had summoned a Ranger of Eos . A Gideon Jura from Brian forced Owen to attack with his Sprouting Thrinax , which donked the planeswalker for three loyalty counters. He then cast a second copy of the card.

Brian Kibler

Kibler fired right back with an attack of his own after using Bant Charm to put the untapped Thrinax on the bottom of Owen's deck. Noble Hierarch made his Ranger of Eos a 4/3 in the red zone, but Turtenwald had a third copy of Sprouting Thrinax . Vengevine for Brian allowed him to start attacking more aggressively, but Owen returned fire with Broodmate Dragon , and his twin 4/4s forced his opponent into the tank when Kibler was next able to untap. Things were getting serious for Brian, who was starting to find himself behind on-board against the Jund deck.

Scute Mob was Kibler's answer, with enough lands on the table to begin supercharging it. Owen sent a Maelstrom Pulse at the Gideon so he could start beating down with his Dragons, then had a Doom Blade to blow up Celestial Colonnade when Brian activated the creature-land and tried to attack with it. Stirring Wildwood made a heroic chump block, but with Owen's superior forces, the Wisconsin native was able to defeat the seasoned veteran to remain undefeated.

Owen Turtenwald 2, Brian Kibler 0

Sunday, 4:58 p.m. - Storylines that Might

by Rich Hagon

Two rounds to go, and almost anything could happen. Thirty six players sit on thirty six points or better, and nobody can really tell what figure is going to make the Top 8. If forty two is the Magic number and Douglas Adams fans know that it's the answer to life, the universe, and everything then there are some fabulous possibilities. Here's a Top 8 I could concoct for you from the contenders:

Level 7 Gaudenis Vidugiris

Former Rookie of the Year Sebastian Thaler

Online sensation Brad Nelson

The King of Magical entertainment, Brian Kibler

2002 World Champion from Brazil, Carlos Romao

The stone-cold 2010 Hall of Famer, Gabriel Nassif

Pro Tour Champion Osyp Lebedowicz

The best deckbuilder around today, Gerry Thompson

Now, let's not be coy that's a monster lineup. The thing is, I could just as easily get your attention with this alternative set:

Fresh from the San Diego Pro Tour Final, Kyle Boggemes

Reigning World Champion (but not of Magic) Billy Postlethwait

The mighty deckbuilder Conley Woods

2008 World Champion Antti Malin

Former Team World Champion Josh Wagener

Eternal master, Owen Turtenwald, who started 14-0

Brett Blackman, looking for Top 8 number two

Ari Lax, looking to repeat his Top 8 success from Seattle a year ago

Frankly, I think that's a pretty awesome Top 8 too. Or, all the experience in the world could count for nothing, and the Top 8 could be packed with first-timers. Turtenwald and Blackman lead the field, and they look almost certain to make it, but from their it's anybody's guess. Two rounds, six points available, and a lot of number crunching. Stretch time at Grand Prix Washington, and we just love it.

Feature Match Round 15 – Kyle Boggemes vs. Gaudenis Vidugiris

by Rich Hagon
Kyle Boggemes

With three rounds to go, the pace is hotting up. Twelve wins and two losses sees Kyle Boggemes in great shape, while Gaudenis Vidugiris has a one point head start with just one loss and one draw on the weekend so far.

Wall of Omens was first for Kyle, matched by Gaudenis. Spreading Seas made a Seaside Citadel into an Island , and Kyle passed. Gaudenis dropped Sunpetal Grove , and a second Wall of Omens plus a Noble Hierarch , representing the first acceleration of the match. Divination drew two cards for Kyle, while Gaudenis was more proactive, sending Vengevine into the red zone, only to be met by Path to Exile with Kyle's last remaining mana. With five land in play, Gaudenis added Scute Mob , which would start getting big the following turn.

Except, of course, it wouldn't. Kyle had Day of Judgment to send everything packing, and Gaudenis would have to begin phase two of his plans for global domination with a tapped Celestial Colonnade , easily trumped by Tectonic Edge , should Kyle wish to pull that particular trigger. Instead, he did what all filthy Control players do, drawing a bunch of cards (four) off Mind Spring .

Kor Skyfisher wasn't the most exciting play imaginable for Gaudenis, and Kyle turned the Celestial Colonnade into an Island , drawing himself a card with Spreading Seas . Tectonic Edge ended a second Colonnade, with Gaudenis flying over for two with his Kor Skyfisher . That still left Kyle at a healthy-seeming fourteen, and that position improved with Baneslayer Angel entering the fray.

Sea Gate Oracle drew Gaudenis deeper into his library, and Bant Charm sent the Baneslayer to the bottom of Kyle's library. However, it was hard to see how he was going to negate that early Mind Spring , and Kyle, unfazed, cast Martial Coup for seven. That's a lot of guys on board. Vengevine got rid of one of them, and Gaudenis continued to battle, with another Sea Gate Oracle .

It had taken a while, but at last we saw the first Planeswalker of the match, Jace, the Mind Sculptor . Moments later, there were two in play, as Kyle added Gideon Jura . That went away thanks to Bant Charm . Elspeth, Knight-Errant replaced Gideon, moments before Gideon replaced Gideon. (Still with me?). Gaudenis knew what was happening, and what was happening was that he was losing game one.

Boggemes 1 0 Vidugiris.

Gaudenis Vidugiris

This is the bit where we insert suitable dialogue between the players. There was none.

As game two opened, Gaudenis had acceleration straight away with Noble Hierarch , attacking for one on turn two, not least because his Seaside Citadel had to arrive tapped. It would never tap for white, however, since by the time it was perpendicular, it had mysteriously turned into an Island . Kor Skyfisher dealt with that problem, though, as Gaudenis bounced, and then replayed, the Alara tri-land. Kyle used Oblivion Ring to stunt the mana, taking out Noble Hierarch , but Gaudenis seemed unaffected, laying Celestial Colonnade .

Four mana was enough for Kyle to try for Jace, the Mind Sculptor , while two mana was enough for Gaudenis to say no with Negate . The Kor Skyfisher attacked again, and Oblivion Ring for Oblivion Ring got his Noble Hierarch back. Day of Judgment seemed a more permanent solution, and the board was clear.

Few cards re-tool creature decks better than Ranger of Eos , and that was the next play for Gaudenis, who went aggressive with two Scute Mob ready to play the following turn. Mind Spring refuelled things the other way, and now Gaudenis would try some Planeswalker handiwork of his own, with Jace, the Mind Sculptor going into Brainstorm mode. With Ranger of Eos attacking, Kyle was down to eleven. Oblivion Ring sent Jace away, and the Ranger of Eos went back to work, met with Path to Exile . He landed Gideon Jura , who went straight to eight loyalty. Kyle ended the turn with Tectonic Edge sending away Celestial Colonnade , and untapped ready to start some Planeswalker action of his own, bringing Jace, the Mind Sculptor to the battlefield. Yet another Oblivion Ring left Jace alone in the Planeswalker crew, with Gideon Jura gone.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor for Gaudenis meant the board was almost entirely clear, except for a freshly-laid Scute Mob . The trouble was, Tectonic Edge was going to keep him off the critical fifth land. Sea gate Oracle met Essence Scatter , so no digging for Gaudenis. Wall of Omens , via a fifth land, kept the cards coming, and the Scute Mob threat live.

Day of Judgment and Elspeth, Knight-Errant undid that good work, and Vengevine was blocked by Kyle's Elspeth-summoned Soldier. Another Scute Mob arrived, as Kyle loaded up Everflowing Chalice , and sent Elspeth to six loyalty. Kyle used Path to Exile to deal with the 5/5 Scute Mob in upkeep, but Gaudenis had just one card, and that card was Bant Charm , countering the instant. Now Kyle was down to six, and was into topdeck Magic mode. Spreading Seas was more about drawing a card than denying mana, as Elspeth moved to seven loyalty. With Celestial Colonnade and a Soldier as defence, could he hold on to find his next backbreaker spell?

In came the team, and Kyle blocked as best he could. A Soldier arrived, Elspeth went to eight loyalty. The Scute Mob was now 13/13, but if Elspeth delivered, that wouldn't matter. Vengevine came down. The Soldier went down to the Scute Mob , and Kyle went down to just two life. Gideon Jura came just in the nick of time to assassinate the Scute Mob . Gaudenis was stockpiling cards, but were any of them any good? Those 1/1 Soldiers were buying Kyle the time he needed. Vengevine attacked, and killed a Soldier, but now Kyle could assassinate the Vengevine if he wished.

Celestial Colonnade activated, and with Gideon provided ten damage. Now Gaudenis was at five. Gideon had been good, Jace had been good, but it was making 1/1 Soldiers turn after turn that had made the difference, and put Kyle within touching distance of the Top 8.

Kyle Boggemes 2 0 Gaudenis Vidugiris.

Video: Deck Tech - Next Level Bant with Brian Kibler

by Bill Stark

Feature Match: Round 16 – Andrew Noworaj VS Joshua Wagoner

by Bill Stark

Grand Prix-Washington D.C. had been, in some ways, a story of old timers. Eric Froehlich had started the first day off undefeated, and the Round 16 feature match saw former U.S. National Champion Josh Wagoner sitting down with a record that put him within a breath of the Top 8. His opponent was Canadian Andrew Noworaj, who himself was having a stellar weekend and was one of few Canadians representing on Day 2.

Andrew won the die roll and started off with Plains , then Celestial Colonnade . Wagoner's Jund deck also opened slowly, with no play on his second turn. He did have a Blightning one draw step later, and the hybrid burn/discard spell connected for an Island and Path to Exile from Noworaj. Bloodbraid Elf a turn later flipped up a Lightning Bolt , and Andrew found himself at 11 life over just two turns.

Andrew Noworaj

Looking to hold the fort, he cast Baneslayer Angel . The 5/5 was able to prevent an attack from Bloodbraid before going on the offensive itself and gaining Andrew 5 life. A second Bloodbraid from Josh revealed a second Lightning Bolt , and a third revealed Maelstrom Pulse . That spell took out Baneslayer and Wagoner sent his team sideways. An activated Celestial Colonnade munched one of the Bloodbraids, and Andrew fell to 7.

Trying to repeat the play the following turn, Noworaj found himself with a dead creature-land when Josh used Terminate to blow up the Colonnade. With two Siege-Gang Commander s in his hand, Josh looked to be in a very commanding position, but he opted to hold them for a possible Day of Judgment rather than play them out. Andrew tried a desperation Mind Spring for one additional card, but didn't find what he wanted and conceded.

Josh Wagoner 1, Andrew Noworaj 0

It was mulligan town for Andrew Noworaj to start the second game, and that looked like bad news for the control player. Josh's hand was a juicy one with four lands of sufficient color variance to cast all the spells in his deck, a Terminate , a Sprouting Thrinax , and Bloodbraid Elf .

The Canadian quickly made up the mulligan with a free draw from Wall of Omens , but he had to agonize over his third turn. He opted to cast Everflowing Chalice with a counter, then used his final mana, one of which came from the Chalice, to cast a second Wall of Omens . Wagoner spent his third turn casting Blightning rather than play out his Sprouting Thrinax , but Andrew undid the damage with a Mind Spring for two the following turn.

Joshua Wagoner

Bloodbraid Elf revealed a Lightning Bolt for Wagoner's Jund deck, and Andrew cast Gideon Jura then promptly upped its loyalty count to ensure all Josh's creatures would be headed his way. Josh built reinforcements with a Sprouting Thrinax and Putrid Leech , but took 4 from an activated Celestial Colonnade as Andrew decided to begin attacking.

Gideon ate the Bloodbraid by destroying it whilst it was tapped, and a Celestial Purge took out Putrid Leech . When Andrew tried attacking with his planeswalker, Terminate blew it up for Josh. The Colonnade still connected for 4, and the game was a race. Wagoner dropped Broodmate Dragon , then cast Pithing Needle set to Celestial Colonnade . Noworaj could have responded by activating it in an effort to block, but opted not to.

A turn later he ripped a second Gideon Jura , using it to knock out Broodmate Dragon which was tapped from an attack. Josh's Dragon token promptly answered that threat, then the American cast Malakir Bloodwitch for good measure. Andrew had a third Gideon, forcing the team to attack the planeswalker, and used Path to Exile to take care of the Dragon token. He still had a Malakir Bloodwitch to contend with, and with protection from white the 4/4 flyer was turning out to be a real problem.

Out of cards, Andrew looked to the top of his library for some help. He didn't find it in one draw step, and Gideon "fogged" but fell to two loyalty. A second draw didn't help either, and after a final fog the Gideon was felled by the Bloodwitch. Andrew had one more card to find himself some help, and when he didn't he found himself the loser.

Josh Wagoner 2, Andrew Noworaj 0

Photo Essay Day Two at GP Washington

by Sam Feeley

Midnight Madness isn't restricted to prereleases. Early morning hotel lobby drafts are commonplace on the Pro Tour.

Uncle Sam needs his share, fool! (He most certainly does.) Fill out those W9's!

What could possibly prompt a player to write this note to himself?

For those jaded by Standard, Sunday's side events include a trial for the next American Grand Prix in Columbus. The format? Legacy!

And for those jaded by sanctioned formats, you can partake in a draft featuring 6x9 versions of cards from as recent as Mirage and as old as Alpha!

Maybe you'll end up with a hand (or is that two hands?) that looks like this.

Pros who didn't make day two (like Kazuya Mitamura, right) have more time to get ready for next weekend's Pro Tour in San Juan, Puerto Rico. They'll be playing Rise of the Eldrazi draft ( above)...

and Zendikar block constructed.

Tensions (and crowds) mount as we wind down toward the end of the Swiss rounds. Also Conley Woods.

The guys (and girl, Lauren Lee) of bring you all the action straight to your home. Rashad Miller sold separately.

The black hole of judges, with the glimmering red light of head judges Ingrid Lind-Jahn and Kevin Desprez in the center.

None of this could be possible without the supervision and support of our tournament organizer, Laurel Chiat of Dream Wizards. Thanks for a great weekend, Laurel!

Feature Match: Round 17 – Billy Postlethwait vs. Brad Nelson

by Sam Feeley

"So where are you from?" Billy asked.

"North Dakota," replied Brad.

"I'm sorry," said a judge passing by. "I have another judge friend who lives in South Dakota who says there's nothing there in terms of Magic."

Brad Nelson has overcome that alleged Magic wasteland by becoming one of the top players on Magic Online under the username "Fffreak." Billy Postlethwait is an accomplished TCG veteran, with success at multiple levels of multiple card games. The match could put one of the young men into the Top 8 of the largest Grand Prix in North American history. No pressure, right?

Brad Nelson

Brad won the die roll and went first. Nelson had two turns of land-go, while Billy had a turn-two Putrid Leech . Brad's first play was Spreading Seas on Billy's Swamp . Putrid Leech attacked for 4, putting the life totals at 17-16 in favor of Billy P. A second Spreading Seas shut off a tapped Dragonskull Summit , which found Nelson his fourth land and enabled a Wall of Omens . Bloodbraid Elf cascaded into Maelstrom Pulse (but not before a large pocket of lands was revealed), blowing up the blue enchantments, and Putrid Leech got through for 4 more putting Billy ahead 15-12. Nelson went to 11 for a fetch-land and Gideon Jura blew up Putrid Leech . Billy cast Sprouting Thrinax followed by Rampant Growth , attacked Gideon with Bloodbraid Elf , and passed the turn.

Nelson cast Everflowing Chalice for two counters and followed with Jace, the Mind Sculptor . He brainstormed then forced an attack on Gideon. Bloodbraid Elf got through to cut Gideon to three loyalty counters, then a Blightning put Brad at 8 life and forced him to discard Tectonic Edge and Oblivion Ring . Billy followed with a second Blightning , putting Nelson at 5 and stripping him of Celestial Colonnade and Path to Exile , leaving him with no cards in hand. Desperate for answers, Nelson brainstormed again with Jace, but appeared stumped by the result. After putting two cards on top of his library, he tapped out to cast Mind Spring for six, forced another attack to Gideon, and passed.

A second Bloodbraid Elf found a second Sprouting Thrinax , and Gideon hit the bin. Back to Brad, who brainstormed once again. He went to 4 off an Arid Mesa activation, and cast a second Wall of Omens , which was followed up by Oblivion Ring on the untapped Thrinax. His second Gideon of the game hit the battlefield and forced an attack. Billy had the answer, however, in Maelstrom Pulse . The attack instead went to Brad's dome and was followed by a lethal Lightning Bolt .

Billy Postlethwait 1, Brad Nelson 0

Some of the crowd began to dissipate after that game, and in the second, Brad was forced to mulligan to six on the play. He kept his six and shut off Billy's first two lands – both Raging Ravine s – with Spreading Seas , followed by Everflowing Chalice for two counters. Short on mana options, Billy popped his Verdant Catacombs for a Forest then got his Swamp and Pulsed the Spreading Seas . An attack from Nelson's Celestial Colonnade put Billy at 15 life, but Goblin Ruinblaster ended those plans the next turn. Life totals were now 15-even.

Bloodbraid Elf cascaded into Doom Blade , which Nelson tried to Jedi mind trick Billy into killing his own Ruinblaster, but Billy had none of it. The creatures attacked, and Ruinblaster got through to put Billy ahead 15-13. Martial Coup for five put the board squarely in Nelson's favor until Broodmate Dragon hit play for Billy. An attack from five tokens and Celestial Colonnade got through after Nelson had a Path to Exile each for the Broodmate Dragon and the token, putting the life totals at 13-6 in favor of Brad. Billy drew his card, took one look, and scooped.

Billy Postlethwait 1, Brad Nelson 1

Billy Postlethwait

Now it was Billy's turn to mulligan (which he claimed to have done 23 times on the day), but Brad joined him in that dance once again. They both kept their six, but Billy couldn't draw a third land and was forced to cast Rampant Growth to get it. Brad had his third land in hand, but Billy was stuck. He cast a Sprouting Thrinax , which was forced to attack Gideon Jura the next turn. Still stuck on three lands, Billy cast Putrid Leech . Baneslayer Angel hit the table the next turn and killed Putrid Leech . A swing from Baneslayer Angel put the life totals at 24-15 Brad, and Sphinx of Lost Truths with kicker filled up Brad's hand. Only at that point did Billy get his fourth land, but it was a tapped Dragonskull Summit and he tried to muster some offense with an unkicked Goblin Ruinblaster . Brad let the attack through with enough life to spare, and as he started tapping his mana for a spell that was never revealed, Billy conceded the match.

Brad Nelson 2, Billy Postlethwait 1

After the match, Brian Kibler saw the Sphinx of Lost Truths on the table and exclaimed, "What do you think this is, next weekend?"

Brad replied, "I'm getting practice in!"

He also said that he "Couldn't do eight rounds of math…" to determine the cut, so he "…just decided to play Magic until someone told him to stop." He never stopped, but does this mean he keeps going into the Top 8?

Sunday, 5:40 p.m. - So About These Other Fifteen...

by Rich Hagon

Personally, I have trouble making my first sixty cards behave. Sideboarding is like a dark and mysterious place that nobody should visit alone, and I for one rarely come out again alive. I read thousands of decklists every year, and working out how a Sideboard comes to be the way it is can be super-hard. Take, for example, the fifteen card Sideboard that Ari Lax is running here this weekend:


4 Duress

2 Sarkhan the Mad

3 Doom Blade

1 Malakir Bloodwitch

1 Grim Discovery

1 Bituminous Blast

1 Jund Charm

1 Master of the Wild Hunt

1 Maelstrom Pulse

Ari, in case you're wondering, is playing Jund. So how does the Sideboard come together?

Duress – 'You want this against all Control decks. Somehow you have to beat Mind Spring . And since you really want to see it, you go with the full four.'

Doom Blade

Fine, that's a straightforward concept. The more you want to see it, the more you should put in. How about Doom Blade ? Don't you want to see that?

'The key thing about Doom Blade is that it's cheap. That's essential, because if they power out a turn two Knight of the Reliquary , you absolutely have to kill it right there.' Why? 'Because if they ever untap with it, they can activate it to search out Sejiri Steppe , and that's really bad news.'

So now we're on to a card that there's only two of, Sarkhan the Mad . Surely you either want it or you don't? 'The thing with Sarkhan is that you really want not to overload the top of the deck, and it's a card that's specifically for the mirror match. If you have too many cards dedicated to just one matchup, you hurt yourself elsewhere.'

Maelstrom Pulse

It's when we get to the one-ofs that I get really confused. 'Sometimes they're going to be something that you already have some in the maindeck, but you're not sure if you can afford the full four without knowing what your opponent's playing. Maelstrom Pulse can be amazing, but if it turns out to be unexciting, and you draw three of them, that's bad. So, you put one in the Board, and that makes it much more likely you won't draw too many of something that's not that good.'

How about that one Jund Charm ? 'I just wanted a miser's card against Open the Vaults !'

Fair enough, I asked for that. It seems as if there's always room for some personalization. 'Sure, but it's really important to know what's going away. For example, you might want to take out Maelstrom Pulse and Terminate – that's five cards. So, you need five cards to put in. '

That makes sense. So what would his number one piece of advice be to players just starting out, and trying to work out how to Sideboard better?

'If you don't have cards to board out, consider why you're boarding cards in.'

Video: Deck Tech with Billy Moreno

by Bill Stark

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