by Marc CalderaroRound 9: Feature MatchOrrin Beasley (UB Control) vs. Drew Levin (Spirit Delver)
by Dane YoungRound 8: Feature MatchGregory Reelitz vs. Charles Gindy
by Event Coverage StaffSaturday, 9:24 p.m: Brian Kibler - He's Pretty Good
by Dane YoungSaturday, 8:15 p.m.: Top Tables, Round 7
by Marc CalderaroRound 7: Sometimes You Just Have to Get Punched in the FaceDavid Sharfman (UB Control) vs. Christian Calcano (Humans)
by Dane YoungRound 6: Feature MatchTodd Anderson vs. Ali Aintrazi
by Marc CalderaroSaturday, 5:30 p.m.: The Card BazaarThe GP From the Eyes of the Dealers
by Marc CalderaroRound 5: Feature MatchMatthias Hunt (Frites) vs. Ryan Bogner (UB Zombies)
by Dane YoungSaturday, 5:15 p.m.:The Shifting Sands of Standard
by Dane YoungRound 4: Feature MatchMichael Jacob vs. Kyle Dembinksi
by Marc CalderaroRound 3: Feature MatchCharles Gindy (UB Control) vs. Aubrey Morin (UB Zombies)
by Event Coverage StaffSaturday, 10:09 a.m.Winner Grinder Decklists
by Event Coverage StaffInfo: Fact Sheet
Winner Grinder Decklists
Round 2: Feature Match - Charles Gindy (UB Control) vs. Aubrey Morin (UB Zombies)
"My history against you is not good, Charlie," Morin said, smiling as he sat down. These two dueled at Grand Prix Orlando, and the Floridian five-time Grand-Prix Top 8er, blew Morin out of the water game three by keeping in Mana Leaks and taking out a Sword of War and Peace at the critical moment.
Morin hoped to use his zombies to redeem himself, but a bunch of planeswalkers and endless removal stood in his way. After winning the roll things were already in his favor.
Morin led with two Darkslick Shores, a Diregraf Ghoul, a Fume Spitter and a Gravecrawler. Gindy calmly laid down a Ratchet Bomb, threatening all of them and sunk to a quick 13. He took out the zombie hordes with the Bomb, then Dissipated the turn-three Geralf's Messenger. The next two threats were hit by Mana Leak and Tragic Slip and when Gindy laid down Liliana of the Veil and activated her plus ability, Morin was handless. Handless by Gindy's fourth turn. This would be an uphill battle for Morin.
Gindy started his kill mechanism – Nephalia Drownyard, and just started going to town. Morin landed a Mortarpod and said, "I definitely have effects before your main phase," while staring at Liliana's six counters. Morin gained momentum with a Gravecrawler (brining back the previous one) and chained the grave parade to take out the planeswalker. However Gindy was still at 12 with a Think Twice, Mana Leak and a second Liliana in hand.
The Leak took out the second Geralf's Messenger and then the Liliana II cast a Cruel Edict to slow down Morin's zombie assault. This is the resiliency of this zombie deck. Morin had been playing off the top since turn five and now Gindy was at 5.
Gindy was sick to death to taking out Gravecrawler after Gravecrawler and right after he finally took both out, Morin smirked, "You're not going to be very happy," and cast a third one. Black Sun's Zenith sent them packing (but not before Mortarpod took Gindy to four) and Morin was left sitting on two Phantasmal Images but nothing to imagine.
A couple turns of blanks on both sides and Morin was at 21 cards left in his library. Now Gindy was nabbing six cards at a time thanks to a second Drownyard, and had a good amount of cards banked in his hand. On Morin's last turn, with seven cards in his library, he cast an empty Geth's Verdict to take Gindy to 3, but the bevy of Gindy's removal and counters didn't allow Morin to stick a Diregraf Captain long enough to copy and throw, copy and throw.
Charles Gindy 1 – 0 Aubrey Morin
He admitted that Zombies was definitely one of his hardest matchups and winning the pre-boarded first game was a boon. He sided out all his counterspells in favor of more threats. I'm not a doctor, but I think more Karn Liberateds = more lulz.
"I'm about to Distress you, so I can laugh too." Morin cast Diregraf Ghoul then looked at the weird amalgamation of cards in Gindy's hand and laughed so heartily he almost forgot to take a card at all. Gindy politely reminded him. It's not that those are bad cards, they're just, well, specific. Hopefully the Ratchet Bombs could delay until the Curse, which could delay until the Karn Liberated. But that's a pretty soft keep, I think.
Morin followed his Ghoul and Distress with a Cemetery Reaper. Gindy cast concurrent Ratchet Bombs using one on the Ghoul and then the other on the Reaper, and was sitting at 10. The turns went by quickly as Gindy kept magically hitting his land drops. His bombs successfully delayed at least a bit.
On turn six he confidently tapped out for a Consecrated Sphinx into an empty board. "I sure hope you boarded out all your removal."
"The life of Charlie Gindy: he keeps a two-land hand and casts a turn-six Sphinx." Morin frowned. He frowned harder when Gindy untapped, top-decked yet another land and cast Karn Liberated.
"The life of Charlie Gindy..." Morin extended his hand.
Charles Gindy 2 – 0 Aubrey Morin
Round 4: Feature Match - Michael Jacob vs. Kyle Dembinksi
Kyle Dembinski was set to play the exact same deck as his friend Michael Jacob, but Michael talked him out of it. Now here they are, playing against each other after taking their three byes. Michael quickly took a trio of mulligans before starting the first game while Kyle shuffled his opener in silence.
"See, aren't you glad you're not playing this deck?"
Surprisingly upbeat in the face of his severely diminished starting hand, MJ Pondered and snap-kept the cards where they were while Kyle ramped up with Birds of Paradise, Avacyn's Pilgrim and Faithless Looting. MJ was impressed by the Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite and Unburial Rites that hit the bin, but he had the Mana Leak for the reanimation spell the next turn.
Lingering Souls and the backside of Faithless Looting kept Kyle in the driver's seat, binning a second copy of Unburial Rites that successfully brought Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite back from the dead next turn. MJ took a hit from the spirits, but Day of Judgment made Kyle start from scratch as he tried to climb back into the game.
Inferno Titan was a fine restart for Kyle, dropping MJ to 7, but it had to stay home for a turn after MJ cheated out his own Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite with Unburial Rites. Michael had a turn to find a way to punish Kyle, but he was only able to fire off a few card drawing spells and pass the turn. Kyle's second Faithles Looting found him his third Unburial Rites to legend rule the opposing Elesh Norn, letting Inferno Titan rumble in for the kill.
Kyle 1, Michael 0
This time it was Kyle's turn to mulligan, but not wanting to be too fair and friendly, he only took one. MJ's Nihil Spellbomb put a damper on Kyle's plans, but he did what he could with Avacyn's Pilgrim into Lingering Souls, giving him at least a semblance of pressure.
Ratchet Bomb and Pristine Talisman were a bit of a safety net against the little army, but Kyle went large with Wurmoil Engine. It drew an Oblivion Ring and was quickly replaced by Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, prompting MJ to blow up his uncharged Ratchet Bomb to avoid a big hit.
MJ's own Elesh Norn cleared the board again as Kyle struggled to find the right colors of mana. He Mulched into a Copperline Ridge, but he was behind the pace as MJ had his defenses in place. MJ offered a glimmer of hope when he let Inferno Titan resolve and subsequently attack for 10, dropping him to 7 in a hurry, but Unburial Rites on Elesh Norn enabled a trade with Michael falling to 5. Out of gas, Kyle had to pass the turn after losing his graveyard to Nihil Spellbomb.
Kyle 1, Michael 1
It was a slow start for Kyle with just an Avacyn's Pilgrim and Lingering Souls, which MJ wiped away with a Whipflare. MJ sculpted his game plan with Desperate Ravings and Forbidden Alchemy while keeping Kyle from ever really establishing himself, keeping the board clear with sweepers before playing Jace, Memory Adept onto an empty board. The Planeswalker got to work on Kyle's library after MJ set up Nihil Spellbomb with a couple of Dissipates to support it.
Michael Jacob wins the match 2-1
Saturday, 5:15 p.m.: The Shifting Sands of Standard
Before Brian Kibler won Pro Tour Dark Ascension—defeating Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa in a 75-card finals mirror match featuring ChannelFireball's deck of choice—the Standard format was dominated by Delver of Secrets decks that ate traditional control decks for lunch. ChannelFireball's dedication to beating Delver decks has turned the format on its ear, causing a huge shift in the balance of the metagame.
Even with Jon Finkel and Jelger Wiegersma piloting updated Delver decks to great finishes in Honolulu, it seems to be a well-known fact in the Magic community that a Delver of Secrets deck is an underdog against Huntmaster of the Fells. That knowledge has seemed to slow the format down, causing many Grand Prix Baltimore players to choose U/B Control decks as their weapon of choice as they look to turn the Hunt(mast)er into the prey.
Another large segment of players have taken a less subtle approach to the issue, adopting Raphael Levy's Frites, a Reanimator-style deck built around filling its graveyard and using Unburial Rites to cheat a quick bomb into play. Several of the deck's pilots have mentioned that they are not favored against U/B Control, but that the deck is too fun and powerful to not play anyway.
That leaves the aggressive decks to split the remainder of the field between themselves. Whether it's Delver of Secrets (with or without Lingering Souls), Huntmaster of the Fells, Stromkirk Noble, Gravecrawler, or Dungrove Elder, Standard has suddenly turned into a rough place for creatures between Frites' package of Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, Inferno Titan and Wurmcoil Engine, and U/B Control's Grave Titans and Black Sun's Zeniths.
It's still early in day one, so we'll find out how thing shake out as Grand Prix Baltimore rolls on. Which side of the metagame are you on?
Round 5: Feature Match - Matthias Hunt (Frites) vs. Ryan Bogner (UB Zombies)
Ryan Bogner is coming off his first Pro Tour appearance, which he finished in the Top 50. Qualifying via Planeswalker Points, Bogner had a very impressive first showing and is looking to do the same here. Since Matthias Hunt was a little late to the match, we joked that Hunt was scared and probably wouldn't show at all. This is funny, you see, because the reigning Rookie of the Year was clearly not actually scared, folks. You don't get to be RotY by being scared, ya dig? Ok, so it wasn't really funny but they can't all be winners. Jeez, get off our backs here.
The two sat down, introduced themselves, shook hands and shuffled up for the match.
"Ready for this one? Spectral Procession!" Hunt cast three Avacyn's Pilgrims and made the totals 19-16 in his favor.
Bogner responded with another High Priest, but no third land. Hunt made a substantially spicier play on his own turn: The ol' tap-all-my-guys-for-turn-four-Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite play. Gets 'em every time. "Let's see if you have the Doom Blade."
Bogner exhaled and sat; he didn't. And Hunt took a quick game one.
Matthias Hunt 1 – 0 Ryan Bogner
"Seems like a pretty good one." Bogner then proceeded to cast Geralf's Messenger into double Drogskol Captain and then attacked Hunt down to six. Apparently that wasn't Bogner's only plan. He also had the Really Big Zombies That Drain Life When They Die plan.
"Wow. Ok, so if I kill your guys I'll lose, 2, 3 – wait, I can't even kill your guys without dying. That's no good." Hunt scooped up his cards are the scores became tied.
And with that, the first two games were over in eight minutes. And to think, Hunt asked me how much time was left when he sat down.
Matthias Hunt 1 – 1 Ryan Bogner
"Hmm, I see what your plan is against me, and it seems pretty good. If you don't let me drop Elesh Norn, it makes it hard for me to win." Hunt has clearly grasped the crux of this matchup. Generally speaking, the Hellraiser-looking praetor is bad news when it's on the opponents side of the board, unless it was put there by an Evil Presents or something. Come to think of it, even then it's still pretty good.
Hunt started unsurprisingly with a mana "bird" (really a mana Avacyn's Pilgrim), then cast Mulch into a couple land and ditched a Lingering Souls in the graveyard. Bogner started slower than usual, just killing the "bird" with a Geth's Verdict, then followed with the standard turn three Geralf's Messenger. Hunt got two tokens and cast another Mulch which filled up the graveyard nicely. Though Hunt had an Unburial Rites in the bin, he had nothing to unbury.
Hunt fixed that by skipping his land drop, staying on eight cards in his hand, and then discarded Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. Bogner was quite prepared for that and cast a Surgical Extraction to whisk them all away. Bogner followed with a Phantasmal Image copying the Messenger forcing a "Wow" from Hunt when he realized he was already down to 12. Hunt skipped another land drop to ditch his Wurmcoil Engine to reanimate, but Bogner just flashed a Nihil Spellbomb.
"Well, if you're prepared, you're prepared." Hunt slumped in his chair.
He drew his cards for a couple more turns, but the combination of having no graveyard, no Elesh Norns, and being two land behind (by choice) pretty much put him out for the count. It took two more attacks for Hunt to pack it in.
Ryan Bogner advanced to 5-0. A solid start with an increasingly impressive deck.
Ryan Bogner 2 – 1 Matthias Hunt
"I have to start declining feature matches. I literally think I'm 1-9." I did some research and it's true that the reigning Rookie of the Year's track record in feature matches isn't as good as his resume would boast. Well just for that, I'm going to feature him more so that you can all see how solid of a player he is! Or wait, is that going to work?
Saturday, 5:30 p.m.: The Card Bazaar - The GP From the Eyes of the Dealers
See this really, really long hallway? It's completely filled with dealers. That's a lot of dealers. This long hallway of cards is one of my favorite aspects unique to constructed Magic events. The sheer immediate card demand for 1,556 players means that this hallway can support all these dealers. And it's easy to get a grand layout of the tournament by picking their brains. They know what people are buying and they know what people aren't buying. I took a stroll down this Gnat Alley Creeper (yes I was a little bit creepy) and gleaned some nuggets of info off these wise gents.
For example, they can easily answer what colors people are playing. After a few words with Julius at the CoolStuffInc.com table, he pointed at the empty dual land spots. Darkslick Shores and Drowned Catacombs were nowhere to be found. This was the same story at table after table. Joe and Joey over at StarCityGames also talked about how Seachrome Coast was really tough to keep in. With the imminent fear of a Blue and Black tide overcoming this tournament like a wave, the low numbers of lands quite confirmed it.
However, you can't assume those lands are going to be used for control. Because although Havengul Lich is out at a couple stores and over at Magic Stronghold they're out of Karn Liberated because "everyone plays one Karn Liberated in their sideboards," the vast majority are out of Phyrexian Obliterators. Yup, the card that was supposed to be good, then it was bad, then ok, then bad again, seems to be back on the upswing. The UB Zombies list (similar to the one Nate Chafe used to earn three byes last night) seems to have a strong presence. Though whether they're the real deal remains to be seen. Geralf's Messengers keep flying off the shelves, and as Magic Stronghold also extolled, so are Demon tokens (the product of a Skirsdag High Priest, some minions, and some morbid lovin'). As a side note, Stronghold also said most of their Angel tokens are gone too.
A couple venues have run out of Hellriders and Surgical Extractions. As the 3/3 Devil is my favorite card in Dark Ascension I hope to see some copies at the top tables in a little while. I keep looking, but they've yet to rear their devilish heads, or tails, or whatever they rear.
The elephant in the room is a card that every single dealer said they'd sold at least 50-60 copies: Corrosive Gale. The "color-less", target-less answer to just about every type of flyer around is a sideboard staple here. Just talking to six or seven dealers, my tally is around 400 copies of the card sold so far.
This probably answers the other questions vendors have, "Why aren't people buying Geist of Saint Traft?" The blue-white monster that was eating up the tables a couple weeks ago has cooled off a bit. That coolness is most certainly influenced by the Phyrexian-mana-fueled Sorcery.
Dave Young over at Comics and Gaming from Gainesville, Virginia showed me an empty box labeled "Corrosive Gale" and stated, "This holds 80 cards." Young is an affable, talkative sales representative who waxed about the a variety of topics of which selling out of Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite was just the beginning. He talked about wanting reprints of old tokens, the pangs of drafting Dark Ascension as your first pack, and one specific topic of which I'd like to share the details with you.
Mr. Young asked strongly (you see, I was wearing my Wizards of the Coast shirt, so people often view me as Mr. Wizard) for a five-color Legendary Goblin. "I have a five-color Goblin Commander deck and no general. I need it." He extolled that it should have a big butt, probably a 2/6, it should be 100% constructed unplayable, have five abilities, and you should only be able to target him by sacrificing a goblin. "Oh, and there has to be dice-rolling involved." This wonderful five-color, dice-rolling, unplayable goblin sounded so amazing to me, I simply had to share it. I told Dave I'd pass it along to a relevant designer, even though I have no such actual capacity, so I thought the best I could do for him was post it here. If you have some good ideas for abilities, hit the forums and sculpt this magical card. Man, it's little tidbits like these that make me love trips to Dealer Alley.
Is Blue-Black really the next big thing? Does is beat more than just Wolf-Run? Will Geist of Saint Traft rise back into prominence after all these Corrosive Gales leave people's sideboards? Will there ever be a five-color Legendary goblin? All these questions will plague me for the rest of the tournament. I've actually been trying to name the goblin for the last twenty minutes, but all I can think of is Ipsky-Bipsky, Emperor of the Goblins. I think other people can do better.
Round 6: Feature Match - Todd Anderson vs. Ali Aintrazi
With one loss apiece, Todd and Ali are going to have some heavy lifting to do if they both want to make day two. One of these two former US National Team members is going to fall into the danger zone of two losses here, meaning they'll have to win out to keep their hopes alive, but the other won't have it easy with three more grueling rounds to play.
Todd zoomed out to Garruk Relentless on turn three, but Ali had the Mana Leak to pick it off. He followed up with Liliana of the Veil who ate a Birds of Paradise but fell to Todd's Inkmoth Nexus. Sorin, Lord of Innistrad kicked it up a notch for Ali's Esper-colored monstrosity. He made a vampire token, but left the door open for Garruk, Primal Hunter to wander in with a 3/3 beast token at his side.
Consecrated Sphinx was a big time answer, refilling Ali's hand, but allowing Primeval Titan to bring in Kessig Wolf Run and the Mountain to turn it on while Garruk kept pumping out beasts. Doom Blade took care of the problem, but Sorin, Lord of Innistrad fell to a trampling beast as Todd tapped low to power up his Kessig Wolf Run.
That gave Ali a window to stick Karn Liberated and eat the troublesome Garruk, Primal Hunter, but he was falling behind to the beast tokens, losing his big Planeswalker to another angry beast. A Curse of Death's Hold and Go for the Throat slowed Todd down a bit, and Todd decided to improve his board rather than jam in damage. He went for Dungrove Elder with Green Sun's Zenith, prompting Day of Judgment.
Todd was out of gas and was forced to say go after drawing for his turn, groaning in horror when Ali's end of turn Forbidden Alchemy spilled Gideon Jura and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad into the graveyard.
"It's a good one," Ali promised, surprising no one.
He revealed it to be Liliana of the Veil, forcing Todd to lose his last card—a Forest—and giving Ali an impressive front line of defense to go with his Curse of Death's Hold. Todd tried to fight back with another Dungrove Elder, but Liliana Vess ate it and a second Consecrated Sphinx wrapped it up.
Ali 1, Todd 0
A third turn Thrun, the Last Troll was a brutal kick in the teeth for Ali, who was ready to stop anything else with the two Mana Leaks in his hand. He took his beatings like a man, using the Mana Leaks to pick off Sword of Feast and Famine and Dungrove Elder while falling to 8 before Consecrated Sphinx arrived.
Not sweating it, Todd shrugged as he found Bellowing Tanglewurm with Green Sun's Zenith and dropped Ali to 4, but Ali had Day of Judgment and Liliana of the Veil to get rid of the big troll and stabilize the board. Todd fired back with Primeval Titan, but it wasn't good enough against Ali's heavy removal suite.
Ali Aintrazi wins the match 2-0
Round 7: Sometimes You Just Have to Get Punched in the Face - David Sharfman (UB Control) vs. Christian Calcano (Humans)
It was just announced that we'd be only playing nine rounds today. There was a small collective sigh of relief when the announcement was made, because so many matches were going to time, the day is behind than everyone was hoping. David Sharfman was piloting the almost-ubiquitous, going-to-time UB Control and we'll see how quickly it could dispatch, or be dispatched by the New Yorker Christian Calcano's UW Humans. The match-up is pretty bleak for Sharfman, but if he can hit just the right mix of removal and early counters that allow him to get to his late game, he could sweep the rug out from under Calcano. Both players were sitting at 6-1, and with three rounds to go, a win here makes things a little more comfortable going into Rounds 8 and 9 before the cut for Day 2.
Sharfman's first play was a Mana Leak on Calcano's Grand Abolisher. Calcano followed up with an Honor of the Pure to test the counterspell waters, then finished the turn by sending Champion of the Parish into the surf. Sharfman cast Forbidden Alchemy and passed the turn again with nothing on the board but land. The land were sweet – Ghost Quarter and a Nephalia Drownyard which he used to mill himself before he untapped – but there were still just land; none of which could block or kill creatures.
Sharfman was sitting on a Black Sun's Zenith, Consecrated Sphinx and Karn Liberated as Calcano spent two turns casting two Hero of the Bladeholds. All of Sharfman's potential energy was matched by Calcano's kinetic energy. Calcano, wary and protective of his two fragile Hero of the Bladeholds meekly questioned, "Attack step?" After Sharfman said go, Calcano snapped, "All right!"
In one fell swoop, he took Sharfman from 18 to 3. The Floridian Pro Tour champ was desperately seeking an out, of which his deck had many, but they just didn't come quickly enough. Double Hero + Champion of the Parish = good beats.
Christian Calcano 1 – 0 David Sharfman
Calcano started off a bit meanly with a Doomed Traveler and a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Luckily, Sharfman was on the play, so the Legend didn't completely cripple him, she just put a lot of weight on his back foot. Sharfman tried to use Black Sun's Zenith to throw the creatures in the waste bin, but Calcano had the Mana Leak ready. The New Yorker followed up with Hero of the Bladehold and took Sharfman to 10. It was 10-20 when Sharfman resolved a Curse of Death's Hold, cleaning up everything but the Hero.
Calcano made a bit of a blunder and left his Hero untapped through his next turn. As Sharfman drew for his turn Calcano said, "Did I really just do that?" He muttered a bit to himself before saying, "Don't worry, I'll get you on the next turn." Sharfman chuckled and used a few Think Twices. After his Batterskull was Mana Leaked, he used another Black Sun's Zenith to clean up the board for good while at 6 life. Calcano was drawing land after land, and was unable to apply any serious pressure to the Floridian after that first wave was taken out. The mistake from Calcano could be relevant, as Sharfman would've had just the right life total if Calcano drew an Angelic Destiny or an Honor of the Pure so the Bladehold tokens would survive the -1/-1. However, a glance over at Sharfman's hand revealed all four Mana Leaks and a Snapcaster Mage or two. Maybe that mistake wouldn't matter after all.
Sharfman was finally ready to cast a win condition: Sorin Markov. The planeswalker cast a couple Vicious Hungers swinging the totals to 14-12. Mirran Crusader (then a second one) valiantly kept Sorin from going ultimate, but the Curse kept their damage manageable. Calcano was trying to claw his way out but another Zenith, clearing the board again, was enough to make him pack it in.
David Sharfman 1 – 1 Christian Calcano
"The only way I beat Humans is when the board looks like that. Look, you have more land than I do."
Calcano had become silent and was looking at the people and happenings around him. He was clearly a little rattled by his silly misplay, but it happens to everyone and the third game is still strongly in his favor.
Sharfman kept in good spirits, even after his unsuccessful game one, but his grin got bigger awaiting game three. As he laid his seven cards face down on the table, he consciously sucked the smile off his face and returned to stoic. He glanced around the room as Calcano shuffled, but made a strong stare once his opponent went down to six cards.
Calcano kept his six and led with a Champion of the Parish. He attacked his second turn to bait out the Tragic Slip, and when it didn't come, he followed with an Honor of the Pure. After untapping, he tried for another Glorious Anthem-like enchantment, and when it got stopped by Mana Leak he used a Doomed Traveler to pump the Champion and drop Sharfman to 16 .. then 12 ... then 6.
These interim turns are a sad time for UB Control. They just have to sit and get pounded in the face until they stop getting pounded in the face. Sometimes that's because they've successfully stopped the onslaught, and sometimes it's because they're dead.
Throughout these turns, Sharfman was throwing a couple counterspells back and forth, stopping any further development, Calcano's board was already threatening enough. Sharfman took a long time to think on his last turn, but he scooped soon after. He stopped getting punched in the face because he died.
As he was packing up he said, "That's pretty much my nightmare match."
Christian Calcano 2 – 1 David Sharfman
Saturday, 8:15 p.m.: Top Tables, Round 7
The first row of tables can reveal a lot of information to an attentive onlooker, and Grand Prix Baltimore is no different. Coming into the tournament, the diverse Standard format had finally seemed to settle into a rock-paper-scissors of sorts, with Huntmaster of the Fells Ramp decks suppressing Delver of Secrets decks enough to allow the slower blue control decks to take root, with a good mix of other decks like Frites, Humans and Zombies on the fringes of the metagame.
After letting the dust settle a bit, we checked on the top 12 tables in round seven to find a good sample of what was doing well through the middle of the first day. The results were just about what we expected, with a good amount of RG Ramp, Delver of Secrets, Esper and U/B Control, with a smattering of other not quite rogue decks. Here, take a look:
Considering BrianKibler's recent Pro Tour win with RG Ramp, it should come as no surprise that it leads our pack in popularity, but the rise of control is something to consider with Charles Gindy and Patrick Chapin comprising two-thirds of the UB Control population. Those decks seem primed to do well given the slower field, but they'll have to fight through a horde of strong players armed with good decks if they want to make a deep run. Stay tuned to our coverage to find out what comes out on top!
Saturday, 9:24 p.m: - Brian Kibler – He's Pretty Good
With some wandering time, I sat and watched Brian Kibler play a match. He's throwing around GR Aggro, the deck he was going to play at Pro Tour Dark Ascension before a last-minute audible. Though that audible gave him the win, he still wanted to play an aggressive deck filled with Strangleroot Geists, Huntmaster of the Fells and the like, and so here that deck is.
Kibler went to three games against the UB Zombies deck (which I am trying to christen "Drowned"– feel free to proliferate) but won fairly convincingly at the end. After his opponent lost, he immediately asked Kibler for advice. He asked about any misplays or how he might've been able to change the match. Kibler thought earnestly and answered with a few specific things and then broadened his answer to talk about the match as a whole. This level of interaction is pretty much what I think of when I think of Brian Kibler. He's a Magic superstar, sure; he's locked for Platinum Pro Level and for the World Magic Cup, but he's so community-minded and always up for a gab.
After his match finished up, and his conversation finished. I picked his brain for a bit about the field, his competition, his stream, and his upcoming chance to becoming America's team captain.
Firstly, about his deck, he doesn't fully endorse it. "It's OK against the field, but it rolls to Wolf Run; and Wolf Run just won a Pro Tour, you know." Hmm, if only I could remember what event he's referring to... Additionally, he seemed even more interested about his Splinterfright deck that he really wants to unleash upon the world. He said Nihil Spellbomb made him a bit too scared, but that doesn't mean you won't see it in the near future. "I think I'm going to Salt Lake City solely to be able to play that deck in a tournament." Must be nice.
Though he doesn't think RG Aggro is the answer to the format, he said Wolf Run is the only truly bad match-up and you put enough pressure on Frites that they have to react, and your flurry of powerful creatures can knock them off-balance. Also, to give his that little extra push in the aggro matchup which is already favorable, he has a couple Batterskulls floating around (which was what allowed him to race the multiple Geralf's Messengers in the last round). It's nice to know that when you accomplish as much as he has, you can bring these sort of pet decks to Grand Prixes and still do so well with them.
But though Kibler has accomplished so much, there is at least one thing he hasn't done. I'd heard at Worlds this past year that Kibler said one of his biggest Magic regrets was not being able to hoist up the American flag at Worlds having won a Nationals. He told me though that's a bit of an exaggeration, he always wanted to win a Nationals event, especially because he's made the Quarterfinals twice. Though he might not be able to lift the flag by winning a traditional Nationals again, he's in the lead to be the captain of Team America at the first ever World Magic Cup by a fair amount of points. Ahead of the second-place Luis Scott-Vargas by a full eight, though it's possible for him to be dethroned, it'll require some good Pro Tour finishes from his opponents and some bad ones from him.
"And Luis isn't even here this weekend," Kibler added. We discussed that though neither Luis nor Brian will be going to all the remaining Grand Prixes, a nice finish here could give Kibler a firm cushion to sit upon as he cruises into Seattle, Indianapolis, Salt Lake City and then into the World Magic Cup in May.
Filling the rest of his time outside of work, travel and Magic Pro Tours and Grand Prixes, are pretty much filled with, you guessed it, more Magic. Like many of the pro players have been realizing, online streaming is the future. (Probably taking a sweet cue from Rashad Miller's awesome GGsLive in the newly revamped video coverage). Lately Kibler has been streaming as much as possible. Generally he's just playing Magic Online, but as we talked about, that's all streaming has to be. Kibler said that unlike everything that came before it, streaming allows you access to tournament-level pro magic in between tournaments. And even better than that, there's an interactivity that was simply impossible before.
"I always have the chat window open on my second monitor, and people can immediately question why I did what I did." This level of instantaneous interactivity makes it easy to communicate with your favorite Magic Pro. And honestly, with a heartthrob like little Kibbles, who wouldn't want that instantaneous interactivity, Amirite? Providing even more evidence to that statement (as if Kibler's coif wasn't enough), as Kibler and I talked about his stream, four or five people standing around all chimed in about how good and informative of a stream it was and how much they enjoyed watching. Kibler graciously thanked them and started up little dialogues with them on the spot about the tournament. I imagine this is exactly what his stream sessions are like.
The latest Pro Tour champion, Brian Kibler is such a good ambassador for this game. He's affable, vibrant and, well, and he's really good. I think he's a great candidate to hoist the American flag into the sky at the inaugural World Magic Cup this year. And if things keeps going like they have, it's the most likely outcome.
If you can't get enough Pro Magic, check out his stream at http://www.twitch.tv/bmkibler and just say hey.
Round 8: Feature Match - Gregory Reelitz vs. Charles Gindy
Round 8 Feature Match: Gregory Reelitz vs. Charles Gindy
Gregory Reelitz was on quite a run coming into this round, crushing a grinder yesterday and settling in for the second-to-last round on the day at 7-0. Let's see, five plus seven minus three is makes that nine straight non-bye wins for Greg. His opponent, with Pro Tour Hollywood champion among other titles, Charles Gindy, was having a decent day of his own as he looked to add to his resume.
A pair of accelerators and were swept away by Gindy's Black Sun's Zenith as the pro looked to slow things down. Greg reloaded with multiple Tracker's Instincts and Mulches, but was light on gas and Gindy's Mana Leak for his Unburial Rites wasn't helping matters.
Thrun, the Last Troll gave Greg a way to put some pressure on, forcing Gindy to take time off from his frenzy of card drawing with Black Sun's Zenith. Greg got right back to work with more graveyard fillers, but he was running out of time to get Gindy dead before Nephalia Drownyard filled his yard a little too much.
Craftily massaging his life total with Curse of Death's Holds, Black Sun's Zeniths and Snapcaster Mage blocks, Gindy ducked and dodged his way down to two life, but it looked like he was going to be a turn short of milling his opponent out in the face of two Wurmcoil Engine tokens. He looked shocked when Greg tapped two for Tracker's Instincts, giving him the extra mill he needed to finish off Greg's library with two Nephalia Drownyard activations.
Gindy 1, Reelitz 0
Greg started with Birds of Paradise and Tracker's Instincts, but Tragic Slip cut off the accelerator as Gindy worked his deck with Think Twice. A replacement Birds of Paradise arrived and Greg flashed back Memory's Journey after Gindy fired another Think Twice, choosing to leave the Tragic Slip. Gindy took advantage of it with Snapcaster Mage to keep Greg for getting too far ahead on mana.
Inferno Titan slipped through the cracks, however, and Gindy quickly found himself at 8. Wurmcoil Engine joined the party, and Gindy looked to be in a world of hurt. He found Phantasmal Image to copy Wurmcoil Engine and dared Greg to attack.
He did, killing the Phantasmal Image with a poke from Inferno Titan and using the rest to Shock Gindy's face. The clone turned into lifelink and deathtouch 3/3s, the latter of which traded with Inferno Titan after Tragic Slip picked off papa Wurmcoil Engine to save Gindy some damage. The lifelink tokens traded and Black Sun's Zenith took care of the last token, but Greg went right back to work firing off Unburial Rites after Unburial Rites.
A pair of Negates kept Gindy from getting up-close and personal with another big monster, and Karn Liberated let him keep the trouble at bay a while longer, eating Greg's only white source in Razorverge Thicket and stretching Gindy's 9 life out a little further.
Thrun, the Last Troll showed up late as Gindy had already earned 11 loyalty from Karn Liberated, but Greg set the two mythics dueling while he desperately looked for a way through the rest of Gindy's life total. He found one in Inferno Titan, but Karn Liberated and a fresh Liliana of the Veil put an end to both threats, and Gindy was able to grind the rest of Greg's library down to dust by dual-wielding Nephalia Drownyards.
Charles Gindy wins the match 2-0
Round 9: Feature Match - Orrin Beasley (UB Control) vs. Drew Levin (Spirit Delver)
Both of these Grade-A grinders are sitting at 6-0-1 in a win-and-in situation. Orrin Beasley made it to the finals of Grand Prix Dallas and has been a consistent top-tabler. Drew Levin has finished in the Top 8 of a bevy of StarCityGames Open Series and is a writer for the site. Though many times he can be seen commanding Stifles he does just as well with the newer card frames. As we continue our Tour de UB Control, we will now see what happens when the big behemoth meets up against the Spirit Delver deck that proved so affectively oh-so-shortly ago. This match is often defined by subtle jockeys for position as the Spirit deck looks to eke out damage over and over while fighting off Big Control's removal with some well-placed counterspells.
Levin won the die roll and opened with a Delver of Secrets. It made a Tragic Slip into the graveyard (prompted by Beasley) and Levin spent the next couple turns casting some Ponders. He had a Drogskol Captain and two Vapor Snags. When he found a Lingering Souls, he cast it, then followed with the Captain, attempting to create tenacious fliers. Beasley stemmed the bleeding by killing a 1/1 Spirit right before it gained Hexproof. Then after sinking to 14, he used Forbidden Alchemy to find some more gas.
Beasley took a big turn during Levin's next combat step with a Snapcaster Mage, into two more Tragic Slips, both targeting the Drogskol Captain. Sadly for Beasley, the second Slip was countered and the rest of the attack resolved, making the totals 7-20 in Levin's favor.
Though Beasley went further to 4, he resolved two Curse of Death's Holds and the match-up quickly devolved into, "Go." "Go." "Go." "Go." Ad infinitum. A Ponder from Levin, an Alchemy from Beasley. "Go." "Go". "Go." "Go." The Snapcaster Mage had be previously hit with a Vapor Snag, and all these statements of "Go" were accompanied with the underlying life total of 3-20. I stopped to take a look at both players' hands, as they'd resorted to discarding every turn, and they looked exactly as you'd expect: Levin had barely usable Snapcaster Mages and a couple counterspells while Beasley had almost all counters with a board sweeper and spot removal for good measure.
Levin cast a Gitaxian Probe, looked at Beasley's hand, looked through his graveyard, looked at Nephalia Drownyard on Beasley's board, and scooped up his cards. He was not going to fight through all that in time.
Orrin Beasley 1 – 0 Drew Levin
Levin spent the next few turns just sculpting his hand, a Drogskol Captain and two Phantasmal Images waiting in his hand. When he cast another Probe, Beasley proclaimed, "It's getting more slippery." It was the same hand as before just plus another Tragic Slip and a Black Sun's Zenith.
Levin's Ponder sub-game continued. He was trying to cast as many Ponders as he could. Even though he ran out of the actual card, that's what Snapcaster Mage was for. Beasley made the mage slip into an open grave and the board was now empty again, save a Nihil Spellbomb for Beasley. Celestial Purge, Negate, Mana Leak and a second Captain was the correct combination of cards to get Levin to cast that first Drogskol Captain. He left exactly three mana up. Beasley let him keep it and now Levin thought some more. Next turn he laid a Phantasmal Image backed up with a Negate and Mana Leak. Doom Blade on the Captain was eaten by Negate and the Mana Leak re-ate it on the Flashback thanks to Beasley's Snapcaster Mage. Some points of damage were thrown back and forth, now 17-14 for Beasley, but the Black Sun's Zenith simply reset it all. And Levin was back to Pondering.
Levin got another Captain out, but Beasley fired back with Batterskull with Dissipate back-up. Levin didn't mind. He simply made two more copies of the Captain and made it 13-14. Beasley Lifelinked the totals to 17-10, then, realizing he couldn't race well, used another Black Sun's Zenith (or maybe it was the same one – who knows with those Zeniths).
Then Levin said it was time. He cast Snapcaster Mage, flashbacked a Gitaxian Probe which didn't stick and slammed down the Hero of Bladehold. Beasley thought a fair amount, then magically used two Tragic Slips after his draw step to clear the board and refueled Batterskull with another Germ token. The next Snapcaster from Levin was the final straw for the Spellbomb and after a Celestial Purge to remove the Germ, Levin was handless and Beasley was defenseless.
Snapcaster Mage (netting a Dissipate to counter Levin's top-decked Hero of Bladehold) and a second refueling of Batterskull was too much for Levin to handle. He had two draw steps and neither of them saved him.
Orrin Beasley 2 – 0 Drew Levin