by Marc CalderaroRound 16: Feature MatchMatt Hoey vs. Matt Costa
by Dane YoungRound 15: Feature MatchTim Landale vs. Matt Hoey
by Marc CalderaroRound 13: Feature MatchPatrick Chapin (UB Control) vs. Nathaniel Chafe (UB Zombies)
by Marc CalderaroSunday, 3:15 p.m.: Frites, Judging and German NatsAn Interview with Grinder Winner Greg Reelitz
by Dane YoungRound 13: Feature MatchMatthew Costa vs. Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
by Dane YoungSunday, 1:45 p.m.: Top Tables, Round 12
by Marc CalderaroRound 12: Drownyard You. Did I hit a Drownyard?Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa (UB Control) vs. Charles Gindy (UB Control)
by Dane YoungRound 11 Feature MatchDavid Shiels vs. Anthony Eason
by Marc CalderaroRound 10 Feature MatchMichael Hopkins (Wolf Run Ramp) vs. Derek Smith (Mono Red)
Nary a Swamp nor Island to be Seen
by Event Coverage StaffDay 1 Undefeated Decklists
by Event Coverage StaffTop 8 Blog
by Event Coverage StaffDay 1 Blog
Day 1 Undefeated Decklists
Round 10: Feature Match - Michael Hopkins (Wolf Run Ramp) vs. Derek Smith (Mono Red)
It's the battle of the top seeds. Two undefeated players and neither are playing UB Control – sounds like a great opportunity for a feature match. Michael Hopkins comes in playing the Pro-Tour-winning Wolf Run Ramp, which is, oddly enough, unique among the undefeated decks. UB Control does prey on this deck and Hopkins admitted that he's yet to face the menace, so that could explain that. Derek Smith, hailing from Austin, Texas is playing a fun Mono Red deck splashing just for a couple Kessig Wolf Runs. Unlike his opponent's deck, Smith's pretty much crushes UB Control, and is pretty set against the field, save the Zombies match-up with Smith admits is a crapfest.
Hopkins started the party off, which is a large part of the battle against Mono Red. He went double Sphere of the Suns to which Smith responded with a Grim Lavamancer and a Chandra's Phoenix and quickly attacked the totals to 17-20 in his favor.
Hopkins hit the classic turn-four Primeval Titan, searching up Kessig Wolf Run and a second Inkmoth Nexus. Using a combination of Galvanic Blast, Arc Trail and Grim Lavamancer in a flurry of red-based damage, Smith took down the green monster and then Hopkins went to 14.
The Ramper had no fear, however, casting Slagstorm to clear the board, then swinging in with two Nexii, netting the inaugural poison counters of the game. 14-20 (2 poison).
The third Inkmoth Nexus soon followed and when all three flew in, Smith used another Galvanic Blast to go to 4 poison. The board was bleak for Mono Red. Smith's Stromkirk Noble looked helpless and unhelpful. Another Volt Charge took down the second of the three Infecting lands, but his hand was now just as helpless and unhelpful.
Could Smith draw the answer off the top? He drew, defeated. He slumped in his chair and passed the turn. When Hopkins declared attacks, Smith said, "No blocks, obviously." But once Hopkins committed to the pump, Smith revealed the Brimstone Volley in his hand and preserved his poison count taking down the third flying land.
The now infect-less Hopkins switched to the damage plan with some Solemn Simulacrum action for 2. 14-18 (5 poison). Smith emptied his hand again to play Koth of the Hammer. He immediately untapped a Mountain and swung into an Acidic Slime. Hopkins went into the tank before declining to block and sinking to 10.
The Golem and the Ooze teamed up to take down the Planeswalker the following turn, then Hopkins used Green Sun's Zenith to search out another Titan. He fetched what you'd expect him to (the last Inkmoth Nexus and another Kessig Wolf Run); Smith reacted the way you'd expect him to (he got really sad). Smith drew dead the next turn, and we were on to the next game.
Michael Hopkins 1 – 0 Derek Smith
"I think I played Ramp like six times yesterday," Smith opined. He didn't seem very happy about it. However, this obviously boded well for him, as he was quite 9-0. Losing the first game isn't great, but the extra Traitorous Bloods in his sideboard could be the difference. The Vulshok Refugees also helped construct a strike team less susceptible to both Slagstorm and Galvanic Blast. His first hand was a Stormblood Berserker, Chandra's Phoenix and a couple three-cost burn spells. It wasn't fast enough and so he went to six.
Smith led off the second game with a Stromkirk Noble and then a Stormblood Berserker but no third land, while Hopkins just used a Rampant Growth. He was at 14 when he tapped out to Slagstorm them away.
"If I'd only drawn the Mountain, that would've been game!" Smith flashed the Volt Charge in his hand. One more mana would've taken Hopkins to 11, while turning his creatures into 4/4s. Hopkins agreed, that yes, it would have indeed been game. But alas, it soldiered on.
Smith found the third land on the next turn and cast Stromkirk Noble then a Chandra's Phoenix which was destroyed by a Galvanic Blast. Acidic Slime took Smith back down to two land, but the draw step net another. He cast Arc Trail to take out the Ooze and return the Phoenix to his hand, readying to attack another day.
But Hopkins decided to actually use all the mana he'd been accruing to actively damage Smith's life total instead of just messing around, and cast a big, mean, Inferno Titan. Smith had taken 4 damage from a Solemn Simulacrum then he took 3 when the Titan came in. He took 3 more when it attacked, 8 when Golem/Titan attack finished, and the final 3 when Hopkins flashed the second Inferno Titan waiting patiently in his hand. And just like that, you can see why this deck can win Pro Tours.
Michael Hopkins 2 – 0 Derek Smith
In two quick games Michael Hopkins advances to 10-0, giving his Mono Red opponent his first loss of the day and of the weekend.
Round 11 Feature Match - David Shiels vs. Anthony Eason
Former US National team member Anthony Eason was looking to make it back to the Top 8 stage with his UB Zombies deck, and he's on a good run so far with just one loss. His opponent, veteran spell-slinger David Shiels, was no pushover as he looked to add a third Grand Prix Top 8s to his resume.
David quickly went down to five cards before letting Anthony lead off with Diregraf Ghoul and Gravecrawler. Hamstrung, David was forced to take a ton of damage as he tried to dig out of his starting hole, and Anthony's additions of Mortarpod and Sword of Feast and Famine didn't help matters. An early Nihil Spellbomb was his only buffer if he could find a way to kill Gravecrawler.
The veteran was on 5 before he did, striking out in response to Anthony's attempt to equip his sword. Gravecrawler fell to Tragic Slip and Snapcaster Mage helped to pick off the Diregraf Ghoul right after. Mortarpod fired its germ token at the wizard, and suddenly the board was clear save for Anthony's lonely equipment.
Consecrated Sphinx flew down from David's hand, hoping to carry its master out of the hole he was in, but Geth's Verdict on upkeep cut those hopes off. Anthony was missing the creatures he needed to finish the job, and David's topdeck of a second Consecrated Sphinx was huge.
The first trigger from the big blue monster finally got David out of his double mulligan, and once he was able to untap, protecting the rest of his life total was academic as Anthony drew land after land.
David 1, Anthony 0
Anthony had another quick start against David's mulligan, firing out Gravecrawler, Mortarpod and Diregraf Captain while David stumbled for answers. He found a Ratchet Bomb, but Anthony had a plan that involved a lot of three drops in Sword of Feast and Famine, Geralf's Messenger and a second Diregraf Ghoul over the next few turns. David had planned to use his artifact to stabilize in a few turns, but the new additions meant he had to spend a lot of resources just staying alive.
He used a Tragic Slip and a Snapcaster Mage to buy some time, but the Diregraf Captains put a hole in his master plan as blowing it meant he would die to the tacked-on life loss. He drew for the turn, looking for something, anything that would let him escape the trap, but could only muster a shake of the head as he scooped his cards up for game three.
David 1, Anthony 1
Finally on the play and able to keep his opener, David pumped the internal fist when Anthony was forced to ship his first hand back. He stopped when a quick pair of Gravecrawlers put Anthony way ahead, but a Think Twice found him Curse of Death's Hold right on time.
He was only able to take one breath before Anthony fired back with Geralf's Messenger and Phantasmal Image copying it, but Batterskull put David zoomed him right back in front, and a second copy of the living weapon put him in an almost untouchable position against Anthony's seven lands.
Liliana of the Veil from David cleared out last card in Anthony's hand—a Tragic Slip he used to shrink a germ token—and the Batterskulls came a-knockin', shooting the control player's life total back to safety despite Anthony's best efforts at blocking.
It was a zombie massacre again the next turn as the second Liliana ate one and Batterskull shredded another, leaving the board clear. Anthony bricked his draw again and nodded as Snapcaster Mage flashed back Forbidden Alchemy before climbing into the cockpit of one of the Batterskulls. Another brick from Anthony and David was able to keep his brains from being eaten.
David Shiels wins the match 2-1
Round 12: Drownyard You. Did I hit a Drownyard? - Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa (UB Control) vs. Charles Gindy (UB Control)
Two Blue and Black undefeated players face off head to head this round. Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa has been continuing to prove why his matches are among the most watched, even when he's not featured. His confident, calculated plays are really like watching a master at work. Charles Gindy has been running completely hot this tournament, not only from his smart play, but his smart deck-building choices. He's running more planeswalkers and more Nephalia Drownyards main deck to increase his control-on-control match-up and it's been working like a charm. Perhaps a Funeral Charm – for his opponent, of course.
Paulo won the roll and elected to play. Gindy responded to the decision, "I want to choose to draw so badly, but I don't think that's right. I think you're right." Paulo agreed and the two started right up, knowing they were in for a grueling, grinding slog (potential Magic card name alert!).
Paulo went to six and was on the play. It put him a card and a half behind on this important card advantage war. He cast Forbidden Alchemy, dumped a Grave Titan and a Black Sun's Zenith away, then used a Mana Leak on Gindy's own Alchemy, trying to reach parity in card quality if not quantity. Continuing this trend, he caught Gindy's Nephalia Drownyard with a Ghost Quarter. Keeping out each one of Gindy's Nephalia Drownyard, or at least keeping even in Drownyard amount is Paulo's best chance to beat Gindy's Kiki-Jiki of a deck (you see, it breaks mirrors).
Throughout Paulo's incremental successes, Gindy had been sculpting his hand and ratcheting up his Ratchet Bomb, which stopped climbing at five. The "Draw-Go" play went by furiously fast, and at seven land, Gindy tested the fences with a Liliana of the Veil. He had six cards in hand to Paulo's five. The Brazilian cast Snapcaster Mage and flashed back a Mana Leak which Gindy paid for, then the Floridian killed the Mage with a Tragic Slip, leaving Liliana of the Veil alone on the board. The fences were tested, they failed, and the Velociraptor left its pen.
After Paulo discarded to the planeswalker he cast a Grave Titan, doomed to die to the awaiting, fully loaded Ratchet Bomb. But he would still have the two Zombies for the beats. He didn't know, however, that Gindy had the second Ratchet Bomb since turn one and Gindy promptly wiped them away. Liliana of the Veil's loyalty was moving ever upwards. It went to seven counters when it completely emptied Paulo's hand. Gindy had one card left. Of course, with all the flashback in Paulo's yard, he still had some action left. But next it was his board that took the hit when Liliana of the Veil went all ultimate up in there and Gindy split his opponent's land into two piles, bidding half of them farewell.
Gindy was far in the lead, but still had no way to win. It wasn't until he played and activated a Drownyard that the Pro Tour San Juan champion was sent packing for the second game.
Charles Gindy 1 – 0 Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
Gindy started the second game looking all aggro-like with a blank Snapcaster Mage which got Paulo down to 16. He continued the aggressive assault with another one, this time lowering the cost on a Think Twice flashback by one.
Other than Think Twices and Mages, the only spell resolved by either player was a Dissipate countering Paulo's Think Twice. Paulo waited until Gindy was tapped out to cast Go for the Throat on a Mage, then cast a Snapcaster Mage of his own to flash it back.
It was 10-20 in Gindy's favor when he stuck a Liliana of the Veil to kill only creature currently left on the board. And alone she stood.
To the untrained eye, the game state looked the same as the last one, but this time Paulo had two Nephalia Drownyards to match his opponent's, and so they could both mill each other each turn, rather than leave all that mana untapped for potential countering that would rarely occur. Gindy had 31 cards in library and Paulo had 37. They were already counting. Paulo knew it was safe to cast a Think Twice.
Six cards milled, then on Gindy's upkeep Paulo cast Surgical Extraction, targeting a lowly, but deathly important Ghost Quarter. The land was the easiest way to remove game-ending Nephalia Drownyard from play. Surgical Extraction met a Negate, which was Dissipated, which was Dissipated. Then Gindy, emerging the victor of the battle in which nothing happened, drew for the turn. Ah, control matches! Liliana of the Veil went up to three counters, then Gindy milled three cards as he passed the turn back.
Paulo forced Gindy's hand with a Grave Titan, which resolved. Gindy counted the cards in Paulo's library (28), then his own (27), then flashed back a Think Twice before untapping and drawing for his turn (28/25). All the while, Paulo counted and re-counted and perused the cards in both players' graveyards.
Gindy resolved a Black Sun's Zenith for two (28/26), then brought Liliana of the Veil to one loyalty to kill the Titan and clear the board again. Draws and mills (24/22). The control-on-control sub-game of counting cards in graveyards, libraries and exile continued and Gindy tapped down to two land for a Karn Liberated. Paulo counted and recounted cards, content in his sub-game, then went down to three land himself to flashback a Forbidden Alchemy. It found him the Dissipate he needed to off the planeswalker, but Gindy had the Mana Leak waiting and colorless behemoth resolved. Karn Liberated immediately exiled a Nephalia Drownyard. Paulo just laid another one and kept on milling, but the board state was getting worse and worse for him.
Gindy's plan was unfolding perfectly. With more Nephalia Drownyard and more planeswalkers he was still able to play the same Think Twice-Forbidden Alchemy game, but with extra friends to cast spells for him. And if those friends had to, they were prepared to die for him. Karn Liberated offed himself removing another Nephalia Drownyard for Paulo. It was now two Nephalia Drownyard to one - and both libraries were rapidly depleting. Gindy milled Paulo's last card and Paulo counted the amount remaining for his opponent. Gindy flashed the counterspell to him, and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa extended his hand, not even a Blue Sun's Zenith could win it for him.
Charles Gindy 2 – 0 Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
Sunday, 1:45 p.m.: Top Tables, Round 12
The action is heating up in the middle of day two as we sprint down the Top 8 stretch. With 203 players earning the right to play today, round 12 seemed like a good time to check in on the top 16 tables. Here's what they contained:
|Wolf Run Ramp||4|
According to these numbers, Standard's diversity is really holding up strong with UB Control and UW Delver barely leading the pack with six pilots each. One thing to note is that we've seen several UB Control mirror matches between big names like Patrick Chapin and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, Brad Nelson and Charles Gindy, and da Rosa and Gindy after they won. They're all championing the archetype very well despite knocking each other down in the race to the top.
UW Delver is in good hands as well, with Pro Tour Dark Ascenion Top 8 competitor Matthew Costa, and Grand Prix Atlanta champion Jason Ford leading the way. Interestingly, UW Delver seems to be much more popular than the Spirit Delver evolution Jon Finkel and Jelger Wiegersma took to the Top 8 of Pro Tour Dark Ascension. That ratio will be something to watch as the format matures.
As many members of the community expected coming into the tournament, UW Humans, Wolf Run Ramp and Frites aren't far behind. Even the not-so-popular Pod decks are doing well here. The rest of the decks are made up of various aggro decks, including Jackie Lee playing the RG Aggro deck she played to 5-0 on day one of Pro Tour Dark Ascension.
It's going to be a tight race to the finish line over the next few rounds, but stay tuned to find out what makes the final cut!
Round 13: Feature Match - Matthew Costa vs. Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
These Pro Tour Dark Ascension Top 8 competitors missed each other in that stacked playoff, but Matt got the better of Paulo early in the tournament. The Brazilian pro was looking for revenge here, though he had changed decks to something slightly less favorable against Matt's UW Delver deck, giving up RG Wolf Run Ramp for UB Control.
Cards flew at a furious pace as Matt's Delver of Secrets flipped early and Paulo fired off Think Twice and Forbidden Alchemy. Matt paid two life to take a peek at what he was working with and Paulo showed him a gassed up hand of Mana Leak, Mana Leak, Grave Titan, Tribute to Hunger, Curse of Death's Hold and Swamp.
The Insectile Aberration was eaten by Tribute to Hunger as Matt, who was light on lands, decided not to fight over it. He tried to reload with Snapcaster Mages but Paulo's Mana Leaks kept them off the Brazilian's back.
Moving frenetically, Paulo kept digging with draw spells, landing the first Curse of Death's Hold through his big mana advantage. A second Curse of Death's Hold wiped away a freshly cast Geist of Saint Traft and Matt conceded after checking the round clock.
Paulo 1, Matt 0
Matt had gradually slowed his pace down over the first game, deciding not to match PV's energy level. He still came out firing for game two, seeing that PV kept a six land, Phantasmal Image hand with Gitaxian Probe before sticking Delver of Secrets and Runechanter's Pike.
The Delver of Secrets flipped and picked up the lance, getting in a couple of hits before Paulo found Tribute to Hunger. Matt again said goodbye to his dude, deciding to turn him into a spirit with Moorland Haunt instead of spending mana to protect. Tragic Slip took care of the token and Bloodline Keeper showed up.
Falling behind as he drew a few too many extra lands, Matt bought some time with Vapor Snag, but his Geist of Saint Traft traded with the Phantasmal Image he knew Paulo had. That cleared the way for a second Geist of Saint Traft, but Bloodline Keeper got active and Paulo was already working on setting up his Curse of Death's Hold lock.
A second Runechanter's Pike looked a lot worse when Paulo's Nihil Spellbomb hit play, but Matt had a plan. He equipped Geist of Saint Traft with both of the polearms and stuck the legend into the red zone, letting Paulo make a second token and double block before cracking the Spellbomb to erase Matt's graveyard and turn off the Runechanter's Pikes.
Not wanting to lose his Geist of Saint Traft, Matt played his last trick, pointing Celestial Purge at Curse of Death's Hold to turn his equipment back on. The enlarged legend's first strike killed both of the blockers and the leftover angel token dropped Paulo to 16, and the now complex board made PV slow his pace down further.
With grind on the mind, Paulo he diverted Matt's attention to a Grave Titan, quickly putting it in the graveyard when Matt revealed Mana Leak. That let him shore up by sticking a different Curse of Death's Hold to keep Geist of Saint Traft from giving him any trouble as his vampire army grew and Matt's draws stalled.
Trying to represent some tricks, Matt played draw go for a couple of turns, but he had to give up the bluff when Bloodline Keeper turned into Lord of Lineage and Paulo stuck exactly 17 damage worth of flying into the red zone.
Paulo wins the match 2-0
Sunday, 3:15 p.m.: Frites, Judging and German Nats - An Interview with Grinder Winner Greg Reelitz
Raphael Levy's Frites deck is one of the most fun to watch. To a meta-game-untrained eye, a Green-Red-White reanimation deck just looks odd. But thanks to the wonders of Dark Ascension, the tools are there and this Grand Prix is proving the deck isn't just a flash in the pan, and can still fight through the hate to perform well. It might not be the best deck in the current game, but it's right up there, and it's probably the most overtly powerful of the viable candidates.
"It doesn't matter if you cast Elesh Norn on turn three or four – it still ends games quickly." Greg Reelitz, who won the first Grinder last night and is now at X-2, seems to agree with the deck's power. He's not kidding. Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite the sort of card that does things like this: Reelitz was facing down a Ravager of the Fells and many Wolf tokens, and "All I had to do was tap five, flashback an Unburial Rites targeting Norn, then cast a mana dude. Sure they gained two life when the Huntmaster flipped back, but at that point it just seemed like the life gain was mocking him." The deck has all sorts of powerful life swings within it.
According to Reelitz, "it's much more like Zvi [Mowshowitz]'s Mythic deck than people realize." The Mythic Conscription/Sovereigns of Lost Alara-based deck that Zvi popularized was also overtly powerful, but also maintained a lower profile that it deserved during the Pro Tour San Diego run in 2010. "No one took it seriously, it has mana dudes, card manipulation, fatties and the 'Oops, I win' factor. The decks are very similar."
Reelitz picked up Frites after he read an article Levy had written about it. He decided it looked fun, and he knew there wouldn't be much "grinding to time" as in control-on-control mirrors. Reelitz's deck does vary slightly from Levy's list and also from his Grinder list that won him three byes. Though he asked me to not reveal exactly what he added, it's safe to say that Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur just doesn't cut it. "It's such a win-more card," he told me, continuing, "it's basically impossible to hard-cast and with all the graveyard hate, you should be able to hard-cast your guys." Additionally, the extra graveyard removal helps trump others'. Surgical Extraction can be answered by removing the target in response, either by exiling it yourself, or shuffling it back into a library. He was also able to sneak in a Sheoldred, Whispering One into the mix. "That thing just trumps the mirror." Maybe, but I also think the Phyrexian Ingesters I saw floating around the top tables could do quite fine as well.
Reelitz also likes the challenges the deck presents in playing. "It's not as difficult as Blue-Black Control, but it's no Wolf Run." Reelitz extolled that because after turn three, the majority of the lands come into play tapped (thanks Scars of Mirrodin duals), there's a lot of calculation that factors into what land to drop when, "especially where there's Mana Leak involved."
Reelitz is a talkative guy, seemingly bursting with energy. This behavior tends to explain what he does with his life: He's currently in a double-major at the University of Connecticut in Engineering Management and German; he's a Tournament Organizer; he runs his school's Magic club; he's is in the school's business fraternity; and, oh yeah, he's a Level 2 Judge.
Reelitz also travels, but he "[doesn't] really like sightseeing." So when he was living abroad in Germany, he pretty much just entered in endless Magic events. "In November and December I competed in ten or eleven PTQs and a Grand Prix – No Magic Online needed." In fact, he was told that he was the only American to compete in German Nationals (as is notable from the score sheets posted at this event. His name has a [DEU] next to it, and just about everyone else has [USA]). Though he qualified and made the second day of Pro Tour Nagoya, this is his first Grand Prix Day Two. He's pretty excited. He said though he understands all the variance involved that hasn't stopped him from being quite happy. Although he's upset that he punted the game during his first ever feature match yesterday.
"It was the penultimate [I think he said "penultimate"] round of a very long day, and I just had a mental lapse." He continued, "it was extra frustrating because I'd judged Grand Prix feature matches before!" Reelitz status as a judge brings and extra layer to his play, and it's always nice to see when our coverage staff or judges perform well on the professional level (even if "well" is just 9-2 on the second day of a Grand Prix). When I asked if his judicial knowledge informed his play, he responded, "Oh yes."
The easiest thing to notice is that he doesn't have to stop to think how triggers resolve. "When I played the Elves combo deck from Berlin, I never had wonder which untap or draw triggers would resolve when." Reelitz said that once there's a system developed for that sort of stuff, you never have to clutter you mind with it and can focus on other things. It also helps explaining rules situations. "If I want to maintain priority after putting a Faithless Looting on the stack," he's confident he can explain his intentions quickly and correctly to his opponents.
It's pretty safe to say that what got Greg Reelitz here is a combination of his rules knowledge, his flair for participating and involving himself in just about everything he likes, and by his hatred of sight-seeing. "I came to this Grand Prix because my sister lives about 15 minutes away." He thought it would be a nice little vacation, and since there's no sight-seeing on his vacations, why not play some high-level Magic?
Reelitz was a blast to talk to, and couldn't recommend Levy' Frites deck enough. And watching it work throughout this weekend, I have to agree. It's a total blast to pilot, you get to cast giant thing repeatedly (and early), and you get to win hard. Real Hard.
Round 13: Feature Match - Patrick Chapin (UB Control) vs. Nathaniel Chafe (UB Zombies)
Patrick Chapin's been floating around this feature match area for the last few rounds as he's always fun to watch, and, oh yeah, he's doing really well. He's currently sitting at 11-1 with a whole pack of UB Control decks. Nathaniel Chafe is also at 11-1 with three of those byes coming from the Grinder he won last night. He's playing the interactive, deceptively powerful Zombies deck chock full of goodies like Skirsdag High Priest and Phyrexian Obliterator. His post-board game adds more Phyrexians in the form of Phyrexian Metamorph to combat the big 6/6 Grave Titans Chapin planned on marching to victory.
Chapin led with a couple Darkslick Shores and allowed both a Diregraf Ghoul and a Skirsdag High Priest to resolve in the early turns. The Diregraf Captain however, was not long for the battlefield and a Mana Leak took it out before Chapin sunk to 15, then 12 on the next turn. Chafe followed his attack with a Mortarpod, netting an 0/1 Germ and a decent win condition.
Chapin untapped for his fifth turn at over 10 life – that's an accomplishment – and in the coming turns he would have to reveal his plans to stop the onslaught or, well, he wouldn't have stopped the onslaught. The Pro Tour winner slipped further to 9, then let a Phyrexian Obliterator resolve, but then cast dual Tragic Slips to kill the Germ, then the Obliterator right after.
After that, he revealed his onslaught stopper – Grave Titan. Chafe responded with a Gravecrawler (perhaps the infant form of a Grave Titan), used a Geth's Verdict to knock out a Zombie token then used the Morbid trigger to make a 5/5 Flying Demon token (thanks, Priest!)
Chapin, now at 7, swung with the Titan and the remaining token damaging Chafe for the first time. A Snapcaster Mage was next for Chapin, targeting Tragic Slip, then Doom Blade on his own Mage allowing Morbid to trigger the -13/-13 ability of the now-flashbackable Slip and the new Demon disappeared. Chafe used a Phantasmal Image to make a competing Grave Titan, sacrificed and recast the Gravecrawler to make some Morbidity of his own, then remade a Demon.
After his draw, Chapin had two cards. He flipped them back and forth in his hands, his eyes darting around the board. He vacillated and oscillated for a bit before he scooped his cards up, said, "Good game," and proceeded to number two.
Nathaniel Chafe 1 – 0 Patrick Chapin
Chafe was halfway to taking down a titan (and not just the Grave one), but he had to go to six cards this game and was still going second. Two hurdles for an aggressive deck to overcome. That's not even including that his opponent is Patrick Chapin.
Chafe's Mortarpod and Geralf's Messenger were both Mana Leaked, but his Gravecrawler hit Chapin down to 8 before he responded to the pesky little zombie and his new cohort – the Skirsdag High Priest. Ratchet Bomb threatened any sort of Demon shenanigans, but it didn't really look like Chafe needed shenanigans – his 2/1 and 1/2 were doing just fine.
Chafe thought, tapped, untapped, then tapped mana again, attempting an Obliterator. It was Dissipated without remorse. Chafe kept the hits coming with Sword of Feast and Famine, but Chapin used a Snapcaster Mage to flashback one of the Mana Leaks. It seemed if Chapin ever let a real plan resolve, it was because he had the Tragic Slip for it already.
"There it is." Chafe referred to the Mage he was awaiting and he used Geth's Verdict to slay the Mage and attacked, forcing Chapin to use his Ratchet Bomb on the Gravecrawler. Chapin was at 6, then 5 the next turn. Chafe was down to one card in his hand, and after an end-of-turn Forbidden Alchemy and a draw step, Chapin had four. That's when he cast a Black Sun's Zenith for two, clearing the High Priest away. In his next turn he used Grave Titan to create some threats, but Chafe was ready with a Phyrexian Metamorph to threaten right back.
Chapin grit his teeth and declared, "Attack with Grave Titan." Chafe slipped to 14 and Chapin got two more Zombies. It was 5-14 when Chafe untapped. Chafe did the same attack back, and Chapin traded with three Zombies. The Tragic Slip Chafe was hoping to knock of his opponent's Titan was Dissipated with the help of the 2/1 Flashback-granting card advantage machine.
Attacks brought Chafe to 10, and though he sacrificed three Zombies to take out the giant menace just like Chapin had, unlike the last turn, Chapin had another one to back it up. Chafe scooped himself into game 3 at the sight of Giant-Monstrousity-That-Makes-Endless-Zombies #2.
Nathaniel Chafe 1 – 1 Patrick Chapin
This was the first game Chafe was on the play and he used that opportunity to cast a Diregraf Ghoul and a Gravecrawler before Chapin's countermagic was online. His Diregraf Captain was against met with a Mana Leak, but again Chapin fell in life quite quickly before being able to respond to anything on the board. A post-combat Mortarpod brought Chapin to 9, but a Tragic Slip took out the Diregraf Ghoul before the equipment could be moved onto the Gravecrawler. Chapin started his fifth turn at 7 life, just a few ticks lower than previous games, but a few ticks could be all that mattered.
He passed the turn with everything untapped then used a Snapcaster Mage to take out the Gravecrawler and a Dissipate to take out the follow-up one. Next, Chapin tapped out for Jace, Memory Adept. He drew and milled himself for one. Jace could prove to be a powerful win condition, immune to both the Phantasmal Images and Phyrexian Metamorphs floating throughout Chafe's deck.
"Come on, deck," Chafe said as he drew off the top. He passed it right back to Chapin who continued to gain stronger footholds with Curse of Death's Hold. Chafe strongly knocked the top of his deck, laid a seventh land (something his deck's not supposed to do on turn seven) then I watched his frown grow as he shipped the turn back.
Jace continued to accrue counters, as there was nothing to stop him, and Chapin had five cards in his hand after he laid a Ratchet Bomb. Chafe had a Geralf's Messenger, two Phantasmal Images and a Tragic Slip in his hand, but he had to wonder if he would ever successfully cast one of them. It looked like Chapin had four counterspells in his hand, and thus the answer was likely "No."
"Mill you for ten," Chapin ordered. Chafe did as instructed, drew for his turn, then glumly passed right back. There's nothing quite like losing the tempo and, well, control in a match-up like this. Chafe had nothing left to do other than moving ten cards at a time from his library into his graveyard. He would continue doing this until he died.
At least Chapin gave Chafe the satisfaction of drawing 19 cards when he had to draw 20. It seemed like a noble death.
Patrick Chapin 2 - 1 Nathaniel Chafe
Round 15: Feature Match - Tim Landale vs. Matt Hoey
There was a lot on the line in this clash between two of the pillars of the format. Tim's RG Wolf Run Ramp deck had done a lot of work for him over the last year, but Matt was very familiar with his UW Delver deck. The winner of the match would be in good position to make the Top 8, and Matt winning the die roll was huge.
He started slowly, waiting until turn three to run out Geist of Saint Traft. Slagstorm blew it away, but a second Geist of Saint Traft was ready to do some heavy lifting. Tim tried to land Primeval Titan, but Mana Leak shut it down and the geist smashed in.
Matt 1, Tim 0
"Should I have kept this hand?" Tim asked as Matt hit him with Gitaxian Probe.
Stuck in slow-motion without any acceleration or a topdecked Slagstorm, Tim was forced to let the Geist of Saint Traft rain damage on his head. When he finally got to Inferno Titan mana, Matt had the Mana Leak, and Tim's 2 life was not enough to survive another hit.
Matt Hoey wins the match 2-0
Round 16: Feature Match - Matt Hoey vs. Matt Costa
The two Matts, Hoey and Costa were both in a win-and-in situation. They had battled their Delver decks constantly against all these Johnny-come-lately strategies and proved that theirs was still a solid one. In this mirror match-up the key is usually who can use their Moorland Haunt for efficiently or who can trounce the othe win an unanswered Geist of Saint Traft or Sword of War and Peace.
"I'll take the Haunt," said Costa.
"Very funny," Hoey said back. Vapor Snag brought the Delver back and Hoey just left Mana Leak mana up. Gitaxian Probe the other way revealed, two Mana Leak, Dismember, Sword of War and Peace, Invisible Stalker and a Ponder.
Hoey threw his Delver into the wind and it caught a Mana Leak, while Costa fired back with his Invisible Stalker. It hit, dealing the first non-Probe damage for Costa and it became 16-17 for Costa. Costa's follow-up of Geist of Saint Traft was not long for this world and Mana Leak sent it packing. Costa still had his counterspells and the incremental advantage game continued.
Speaking of incremental advantage, after taking down Costa's new Delver of secrets with a Dismember, Hoey made 1/1 Spirit from Moorland Haunt then tapped down for a Geist of Saint Traft that resolved Costa returned with a strong volley of his own with a Sword of War and Peace. It was a gamble from Hoey for sure, but the next attack to Costa down into single digits And the score of 10-7 looked promising.
The Sword became equipped to the Stalker, and the nigh-unstoppable machine charged in. The Spirits couldn't help, the Vapor Snag in his hand couldn't help. All Hoey could do was minimize damage. When the Stalker hit, with the Sword of War and Peace trigger on the stagger he cast a Snapcaster Mage, and took a total of five, bringing him to 5 and raising Costa's life back to a healthy amount.
The Stalker-Sword combo forced Hoey to be more proactive than he wanted. Even though he had powerful passive cards in his grip, he had to play them aggressively or else the Sword would just take over the game.
Hoey used the flashbacked Thought Scour to target Costa and by the looks shooting around from Costa to his friends, it appeared his post-combat Ponder was specifically baiting Hoey to do just that. On the next attack, Costa sunk to 5.
Hoey tried to catch up on the board with a Phantasmal Image on the Snapcaster Mage, then on Costa's would-be-fatal attack step, casting Vapor Snag to re-cast the Image to make another Snapcaster Mage. But Costa had a Mage of his own waiting. Once Costa bounced Phantasmal Image's intended target with a flashbacked Snag, Hoey knew it was over.
Matt Costa 1- 0 Matt Hoey
Hoey started again with a Delver of Secrets that got in for one, then died to a Dismember as it flipped into this horror form. Hoey's follow-up Geist of Saint Traft was sent to the graveyard, via the Legends rule, thanks to Costa's Phantasmal Image. The two traded Thought Scours and Ponders crafting their hands – looking for the advantage they needed. Hoey, found a Moorland Haunt then cast a Snapcaster Mage targeting Ponder, proclaiming, "Silvergill Adept Imitation!"
After he shuffled his cards and drew randomly off the top he said, "Not Silvergill Adept Imitation."
Costa's own Geist of Saint Traft was quickly Legends-ruled to the 'yard, this time via a real and actual Geist from Hoey. Hoey's Gitaxian Probe revealed a Snapcaster Mage, Revoke Existence, Invisible Stalker, Dismember, and Delver of Secrets from Costa. Costa played his two creatures to no response the following turn.
Hoey was cycling Probe after Probe after Ponder, cutting deeper and deeper into his deck. "Did I already use every single Ponder?" It did seem like Hoey had been constantly spinning his wheels, but was yet to accomplish something substantive. Again, his next 1/1 Spirit hit another Vapor Snag and Costa attacked in for two more. And a Gitaxian Probe revealed two Swords War and Peaces, a Revoke Existence, an Oblivion Ring and a Dissipate
Costa's two-ping threatened more when the Delver flipped into an Insectile Aberration as Hoey went to 11, then 9 on a Gitaxian Probe the next turn. He kept digging for something, while his Oblivion Ring took out the Aberration, though Costa just filled its gap the following turn with another Delver.
Hoey's play was getting more and more fevered, and finally, when he was able to amass two Spirit tokens with incident, he put down one of his equipment and walked right into Costa's awaiting Dismember. Costa was cool the whole time has Hoey fidgeted more and more in his seat – he but his fist to his temple, then his arms in his pockets, then picked up his cards, then brought them into his face, then again put his hands in his pockets.
He didn't want his Top-8 dreams to die here and how and though he made some banter back and forth: "What you got for me, Mr. Costa? The goods? Revoke the Sword? That's good," his nervousness still showed. The score was 6-9.
A second War and Peace swung to totals back in Hoey's favor. It looked like the cards in Costa's hand were indeed not the goods, and Hoey could talk this game out from under Costa. Hoey's hand had a land, a dead Revoke Existence and a Phantasmal Image. The Image made a copy of Costa's unflipped Delver (which flipped with a Gitaxian Probe the next upkeep) and Costa drew the Vapor Snag he needed to kill the Spirit. "You have no creatures in your graveyard, right?" Hoey indeed didn't and wasn't going to be able to make another one.
Hoey killed his own Image by targeting it to make some Spirit food on his next turn, but two turns later he was down to 3 and back on the ropes. Costa now showed his own nervousness. His Delver was dead and his swings were consistent but weak.
But sometimes consistency is enough. Hoey couldn't last and he had to pack the cards in.
Matt Costa 2 - 0 Matt Hoey
Congratulations to Matt Costa's Top 8 berth!