Grand Prix Minneapolis: Day 1 Coverage

Posted in Event Coverage on November 14, 2009

By Wizards of the Coast

He can’t be stopped! Making the Player of the Year title look destined to be his, Yuuya Watanabe concluded the first day of Grand Prix-Minneapolis play with an unblemished 9-0 record, good to put him on top of the nearly 1,200 player field. He wasn’t the only player to finish without a loss, however, and will be joined on Day 2 by Owen Turtenwald, Matt Sperling, Zohar Bhagat, and Kyle Boggemes.

There are plenty of other stories to be told, just outside the undefeated players. Cedric Phillips, needing two pro points to qualify for Worlds next weekend, got part of the way there on the back of his 8-1 record. Luis Scott-Vargas, Olivier Ruel, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, Tomoharu Saito, and Shuhei Nakamura all finished Day 1 with a single loss as well.

Day 2 promises to be a powerful day filled with harsh competition, but you’ll be able to catch all the action here on!


Saturday, 12:16 p.m. – Building for Success with Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

by Dane Young

1,187 players came to battle in the Minnesota cold, as the Pro Tour regulars hope to scoop up more Pro Points and new faces look for their big break in the last Grand Prix of the year.

Brazilian sensation Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa is in the hunt for the Player of the Year title, but he needs big finishes both here and next week at the World Championships if he hopes to catch current leader Yuuya Watanabe, who is 20 points ahead of him. Even if Yuuya holds him off, a deep run in this huge field could almost assure Paulo of Level 8 status next year, which is not a bad consolation prize.

Paulo hard at work

As usual, Paulo was happy to share his thought process and enjoyed the extra space of the feature match area for deck building. He immediately began tearing through his pool and pulling out cards with gold symbols. He said he always looks for rares first and always wants to open Sorin Markov, since Black is the best color. While the Planeswalker decided not to join Team Paulo, he was rewarded with a Sphinx of Jwar Isle, which is undoubtedly one of the best rares in the format. Bloodchief Ascension, Nissa Revane, Armament Master, Misty Rainforest and Oracle of Mul Daya rounded out the rare pool, and Paulo got to work on double-checking his list.

After the bookkeeping was done, colors were sorted out and Paulo quickly gravitated toward a Green and Black base, tossing aside a stack of dreadful Red cards. White managed to stay closer to the center of the table, as it contained several good creatures, but in the end it was not deep enough to consider further.

Sphinx of Jwar Isle

Paulo decided that the Sphinx was getting in there no matter what other colors he ended up playing because it was his best card. Luckily for him, Green and Black provided a nice defensive base to set up the powerful rare. His pool also contained multiple mana-fixers, including Harrow, Khalni Gem, Misty Rainforest and Jwar Isle Refuge, which would make his splash easier and his late game arrive sooner. There were just a couple of question marks left, and Paulo constantly shuffled the same handful of cards in and out of the deck before deciding on his final list. He didn’t seem too high or low about his deck, but it seemed more than serviceable for a player like Paulo.

“It’s got a lot of raw power,” Paulo said, referring to his final 40. “I wish it had more removal, but it can win games.”

Feature Match: Round 2 – Nick Mohon vs. Leif Paulson

by Bill Stark

Earlier this year it was announced that Magic Online would host PTQs for the first time in the history of its existence. The first player to win one? Nick Mohon, who did so under the moniker “Money_Mohon.” The former Pro Tour player followed the story of many before him by finding his competitive desire reignited after a short respite from the game to pursue a professional life. Again qualified for the Tour, he made the trek up to Minnesota to get his game on through the Grand Prix circuit. His opponent, Leif Paulson, attends Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Illinois where he studies anthropology. Prior to studying, he spent time in the Army including 14 months spent in Iraq.

Nick “Money_Mohon” won the first Magic Online PTQ.After winning the die roll, Leif came blistering out of the starting gates with a first-turn Steppe Lynx. Mohon had a play to match in the form of Vampire Lacerator, but before the 2/2 could get any damage in Paulson used Disfigure to kill it (though conveniently after it had pinged its owner for 1). The battlefield stalled for the players after that point, with Paulson diligently playing lands each turn and attacking with his Lynx while Nick simply played lands. Neither had a spell until Mohon reached 2RR which enabled him to cast Shatterskull Giant.

Still, he couldn’t block his opponent’s Lynx with the 4/3 because Leif had played an Arid Mesa as one of his lands. He had the discipline not to sacrifice it immediately, meaning each turn he could pump the Lynx from 2/3 off one landfall trigger to 4/5 at the drop of a hat. Mohon tried going on the offensive adding a Tuktuk Grunts to his side of the battlefield and putting Paulson to 12. Nick was at a paltry 8, and with access to six mana his opponent finally cast a third spell in the form of an unkicked Kor Sanctifiers.

A second attack from Mohon’s team of Shatterskull Giant and Tuktuk Grunts put Paulson to 5 after he opted not to block with his Kor Sanctifiers. Post-combat Mohon used Magma Rift to kill his opponent’s 2/3 before dropping a Surrakar Marauder. Leif attacked back to drop Nick to 6, then cast a post-combat Heartstabber Mosquito with kicker to take out his opponent’s Giant. The play left him tapped out, however, and with only one blocker to Mohon’s two attackers, Paulson was dead to the Vampire’s Bite Nick was sandbagging.

Nick Mohon 1, Leif Paulson 0

A landfall creature was again the first spell of the game for the second bout, this time in the hands of Nick Mohon who made Plated Geopede on the second turn. Leif was ready with a Disfigure to prevent the ‘Pede from getting out of hand, but he had no spells while Nick cast a Ruinous Minotaur followed by Heartstabber Mosquito unkicked.

Leif Paulson holds his own in his first Feature Match.At five mana Paulson had Shepherd of the Lost to try to block, but with only black and white mana he was at risk of being color screwed with a hand full of red spells. The 3/3 could buy the Illinoisian time to find his mana, but Nick made short work of it with Inferno Trap. That allowed Nick to attack for 7 which put Leif to just 8 life. A turn later when he still didn’t have access to red mana nor spells he could cast, the gracious veteran extended his hand in defeat, a blustery exit that came about surprisingly quickly.

“Well, I wish I could have made a better showing!” Paulson said with a smile.

Nick Mohon 2, Leif Paulson 0

To find out more information on playing PTQs on Magic Online, visit

Saturday, 1:46 p.m. - Quick Hits 1

by Bill Stark

Feature Match Round 3 – Adrian Sullivan vs. Alexander West

by Dane Young

These longtime friends squared off in the third round after winning their second rounds. They chatted amiably and had even helped each other work on their decks during their bye. Things turned to business in a hurry, however, as Adrian flipped the biggest penny you’ve ever seen. He won the toss and decided to play first.

He took a mulligan, while Alex kept. Swamp and Quest for the Gravelord started the game for Adrian, and Alex made an Explorer’s Scope. Alex played a second land, but had nothing to do, so he passed the turn back. Adrian cracked Scalding Tarn and played the dangerous Vampire Nighthawk.

Surrakar Marauder made an appearance on the West side and Alex equipped it with the scope before shipping the turn back. Adrian used a Burst Lightning to remove the Marauder before cracking with the Nighthawk, but he had no fourth land.

Alex West

Timbermaw Larva replaced the Marauder and it was back to Adrian. Goblin Shortcutter entered the fray and the Nighthawk came across again. Timbermaw Larva attacked for four as Alex had two Forests and two Swamps, and Alex played Hagra Crocodile to race.

Adrian found a fourth land and sent a Crypt Ripper into the red zone along with the rest of his team. The Croc couldn’t block, so Alex went down to 10. Alex’s Larva picked up the Explorer’s Scope and attacked with the Crocodile. A land was not on top, so it was just 7 damage and Stonework Puma joined the team.

A fifth land came for Adrian and Tuktuk Grunts gave him another Hasted threat, putting Alex down to a precarious 3 life. A Magma Rift on the next turn ended it in Adrian’s favor.

Sullivan 1, West 0

Alex immediately took out half of his deck, siding in 20 cards which gave Adrian pause.

West chose to lead off and had a Graypelt Refuge. Adrian called with Goblin Bushwhacker. Alex’s Luminarch Ascension looked a little underwhelming in light of the little goblin warrior.

Adrian Sullivan

Bushwhacker got in for a point and Surrakar Marauder joined Adrian’s team. Kor Hookmaster locked down the newcomer, but Burst Lightning took it down and the goblin got in again. Alex was stuck on three lands, but Nissa’s Chosen came in to hold down the fort. Unimpressed, Adrian sent the team without triggering his Surrakar Marauder’s Landfall ability, so Alex had to imagine Slaughter Cry was on the way.

He couldn’t not block, however, and tossed his 2/3 into the yard when Adrian showed him the trick. Adrian didn’t have a fourth land either, so Makindi Shieldmate looked like it would be able to hold the ground as long as Adrian continued to miss land drops. Adrian did miss, but Vampire Nighthawk promised to be a nuisance. Grappling Hook was the wrong answer, so Adrian was free to add a Crypt Ripper to the team and turn all of his dudes sideways.

The board was not working out for Alex, as Territorial Baloth was all he could find. Vampire Nighthawk flew over again, threatening to put an end to the game soon. Grappling Hook made Crypt Ripper the Baloth and Scute Mob showed up to maximize Alex’s mana. All of that was fine with Adrian, as he replaced his Crypt Ripper with another and used a second Burst Lightning to take out the Scute Mob. The team rumbled through again, putting Alex on 3 life.

Vampire Nighthawk

Alex squeezed his draw step, hoping to find a land to kick Oran-Rief Recluse on the Vampire Nighthawk, but he could only find a second Makindi Shieldmate. Alex was left with just 1 life from the next Nighthawk attack, and he missed his land again, which forced him to use Journey to Nowhere on the flying monster. Adrian calmly plucked a land off the top to trigger his Surrakar Marauder’s Landfall, finishing his friend off.

Sullivan 2, West 0

Saturday, 3:15 p.m. – Repositioning in Zendikar

by Dane Young

Recent Grand Prix results have shown that the best sealed decks in the format are aggressive Black and Red builds. This information is starting to influence the way that players are building their decks.

Defensive cards like Ondu Cleric and Makindi Shieldmate are starting to show up more often than they used to. The little cleric can gain a life and then trade with a Goblin Shortcutter or something similar, while the Shieldmate can hold off all of the aggressive guys that don’t have evasion. Blue also has some excellent defensive cards in Kraken Hatchling and Gomazoa.

Speaking of evasion, in most formats cards like Hedron Scrabbler and Stonework Puma would not be very well-received, but in Zendikar limited, they end up being fine on both offense and defense. The Black-Red menace is powered by commons like, Guul Draz Vampire, Surrakar Marauder, and Bladetusk Boar, so creatures that aren’t intimidated are very valuable. The Puma also has value because of the Ally tag, but he will often just make the cut in slower decks as a blocker.


When I asked Florida’s Ben Stark what other cards have changed in value since the beginning of the format, he quickly stated that “Giant Scorpion is the best creature of all time.” While that might be a little overstated, it definitely gets the message across.

Ben Lundquist pointed out that Seismic Shudder is now a good tool against so many of the little aggressive dudes, regardless of color. He also said that Bog Tatters is better than it used to be, but as an aggressive weapon rather than a defensive one. In a similar vein, Surrakar Marauder has gone down in value because black is so popular.

It will be interesting to see if these adjustments can alter the results of this Grand Prix, and if there are any other sleeper-type cards to be found. We’ll find out what ends up on top at the end of the day.

Feature Match: Round 4 – Michael Bearmon vs. Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

by Bill Stark

“How do you like Minneapolis?” Michael Bearmon asked his opponent as they sat down for their Round 4 Feature Match. The Minnesota native was clearly excited for the big name Brazilian pro to experience his hometown.

“I haven’t been here that long,” Paulo admitted, adding “I got here yesterday.”

Minneapolis resident Michael Bearmon makes his Feature Match debut.The game was quickly underway with Vitor following a first-turn Vampire Lacerator up with a second-turn Oran-Rief Survivalist. Bearmon was close behind on the heels of Goblin Shortcutter and Oran-Rief Recluse and the game became a battle of the red zone with both jockeying for a lead in the damage race. Michael cast Shatterskull Giant while Paulo had Nimana Sell-Sword, which also pumped his Survivalist.

The Sell-Sword didn’t last long on the Brazilian’s side of the battlefield. Bearmon cast Mark of Mutiny targeting the 3/3 and sent his entire team in. That forced Paulo to chump block the Shatterskull Giant with his Lacerator, but a Vines of Vastwood from Michael dropped Vitor all the way to 1. Khalni Gem enabled Paulo to cast Paralyzing Grasp on his opponent’s Giant, but he was forced to keep the rest of his team back to block.

Michael had no spells for his turn, and couldn’t attack profitably, forced to simply pass with a sigh. He was so close to victory, and yet when Paulo untapped and cast Sphinx of Jwar Isle, he started to seem so very far away. Paulo quickly whittled his opponent to just 5, and when Bearmon failed to find his narrow outs waiting for him, Damo da Rosa managed to win by the literal slimmest of margins.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa 1, Michael Bearmon 0

Goblin Shortcutter made an early appearance in back-to-back games for Michael Bearmon, and the American showed no fear sending his 2/1 in against Paulo Vitor’s Giant Scorpion while the Brazilian was tapped out. Paulo considered his options, but opted to block. With a knowing nod, he placed the 1/3 in the graveyard as Michael cast Slaughter Cry.

Paulo Vitor hunts for a few more Pro Points prior to Worlds.Nimana Sell-Sword came down for Paulo Vitor while Michael had back-to-back Plated Geopedes. The only problem for Bearmon was that he didn’t have the lands to get his 1/1s active; he had been stuck on three for much of the game. That bought his opponent the time he needed to cast Turntimber Basilisk and Khalni Gem, which in turn enabled Sphinx of Jwar Isle. In no time flat, Paulo was sending his team in with Michael opting to trade a Mold Shambler for Nimana Sell-Sword. Post-combat Vitor had a backbreaker: a kicked Mold Shambler of his own to cripple his opponent’s already stunted mana development.

Michael used Magma Rift, falling to just two Mountains, to blow up the Mold Shambler then bashed with his team to put Paulo to 6. His opponent didn’t seem impressed, attacking Michael to within lethal with a single additional combat step. Bearmon had an unkicked Oran-Rief Recluse in an attempt to buy himself a turn by chumping the 5/5 Sphinx, but Vitor proved why he’s such a successful pro. He played Soaring Seacliff to give his own Turntimber Basilisk flying while using the 2/1’s landfall trigger to force Recluse to block. When he turned his creatures sideways, Michael acknowledged his fate with a smile.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa 2, Michael Bearmon 0

Saturday, 4:15 p.m. – Photo Essay: Deck Building

by Bill Stark

Here’s a look at some of the game’s biggest names as they sat down to build their decks!

A mohawked Pat Chapin.

Michael Jacob bundled up despite the warm weather.

David Ochoa was happy to see three Umara Raptor in his pool.

Native son Gerry Thompson returns to Minnesota for a hometown Grand Prix.

Second in the Player of the Year race: Martin Juza.

Everyone’s favorite Gerard, Gerard Fabiano.

Feature Match Round 5 – Brian Kibler vs. Paul Rietzl

by Dane Young

“Obviously, right? Obviously!” Paul “Little D” Rietzl said as he walked over to the feature match area. “This was supposed to be the finals of Honolulu.”
Pro Tour Austin champion Brian Kibler won the toss as he rocked out to whatever his iPod was playing. He chose to play and both players kept their openers.

Brian Kibler Kibler led off with a Mountain and Li’l D one-upped him with Akoum Refuge. Kibler played a second Mountain and a Trusty Machete to go with it.
“I wish you didn’t have the best deck of all time,” Kibler said as he passed the turn back to Paul.
“It’s not the best, it’s just really good,” Paul replied.

Burst Lightning took out a Vampire Hexmage, but Kibler was stuck on his two lands. He got a free turn as Paul was unable to do anything on turn three. Torch Slinger made an appearance as Kibler found another Mountain, and Rietzl fired back with Nimata Sell-Sword.
Torch Slinger grabbed the Trusty Machete and bashed in, taking Paul to 17 before Ruinous Minotaur came arrived for Kibler. Bog Tatters evened things up, but without Swamps on Kibler’s side, it looked like the Wraith would be on guard duty for now.
Kibler added Hellfire Mongrel to his board and was answered by an unintimidating Bladetusk Boar. Soaring Seacliff gave Kiblers pup flying, but he chose not to attack with it.
Goblin Shortcutter made Hellfire Mongrel unable to block and Bladetusk Boar traded with Torch Slinger. Zektar Shrine Expedition ended the turn for Paul.

“I’m going to turn things around here,” Kibler said as he played an Island and added the powerful Sphinx of Jwar Isle to his team.
Rietzl had to find a way to get damage through now, but it seemed to be an incredibly difficult task thanks to the flying 5/5. The Sphinx did its thing while the rest of Kibler’s forces held the ground. Heartstabber Mosquito kept Paul alive for an extra turn, but it wasn’t enough to stop the rare.

Kibler 1, Rietzl 0

Paul chose to start the game, again starting with Akoum Refuge. Highland Berserker started the party for Paul, but Kibler’s pair of Mountains allowed him to trump with Warren Instigator. Disfigure took out the double-striker and Highland Berserker got in for a couple. Hellfire Mongrel replaced the fallen goblin and blocked the incoming Berserker and Paul Demolished an Island

Paul Rietzl Kibler shrugged it off and replaced his Hellfire Mongrel with another. Paul upgraded with Shatterskull Giant, but Trusty Machete evened it up. Inferno Trap picked off the hound and his Giant got in for 4. Welkin Tern wasn’t going to cut it as Crypt Ripper bashed in with the Giant to put Kibler on 3. Tuktuk Grunts off the top put the game away.
Kibler 1, Rietzl 1

Kibler led off with Mountain and Teetering Peaks, while Paul had both of his colors and a Highland Berserker. Kibler’s third turn Torch Slinger traded with Paul’s ally and Paul finished the turn with just a land. Merfolk Seastalkers gave Kibler a good defensive card, but Paul had Gatekeeper of Malakir to bin it. Kibler added Welkin Tern to the board, leaving mana up for Cancel. Paul asked him if he had it with a kicked Goblin Ruinblaster and the answer was no, so Teetering Peaks went to the yard as Paul got 4 damage in.
Kibler attacked with his bird and burned out the Gatekeeper, but Paul’s Crypt Ripper kept the pressure on. Kibler was down to just 3 life, but Roil Elemental and Burst Lightning helped keep him in the game as long as Paul had nothing. Hellkite Charger was slightly more than nothing, and Kibler extended the hand.

Paul Rietzl defeats Brian Kibler 2-1.

Saturday, 6:42 p.m. - Player of the Year Contenders Speak

by Dane Young

Martin Juza and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa were sitting around discussing the standard format between rounds, so we decided to ask them how they feel about the Player of the Year race.

“Yuuya is as good as it gets,” Juza said about the current leader, Yuuya Watanabe. “You don’t Top 8 that often without being really good.”

Juza is currently sitting in second place, 9 points behind Watanabe’s total of 68. Juza’s fate rests on how Watanabe finishes the season. Juza unfortunately did not make the Czech National team, so he won’t be able to pick up points in the team portion of the World Championships. Watanabe not only is on the Japan National team, but has another amazing player – Shuuhei Nakamura – on the team to help him out. Things could have been even uglier if Kenji Tsumura had been able to win the playoff against Yuma Shiota.

PoY hopefuls Martin Juza and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa. “I’m 90 percent to make the Top 8 at Worlds,” Juza semi-guaranteed. “I have a good deck for Standard and Extended.”

Paulo – who admitted that his chances to make up the more than 20-point gap are unrealistic –asked Martin for the handouts, but was only given an ambiguous, “later.”
Martin is currently 4-1 in the tournament and Paulo is 5-0, which would usually be fine, but unfortunately for both of them, Yuuya is undefeated and rolling through his opponents today. The players chasing him need Watanabe to stumble in order to make up any ground, but if he keeps rolling, the chase could be close to over after this weekend.

Current PoY leader Yuuya Watanabe. It’s tough to deny a player of Yuuya’s talent. He said he plays five or six hours a day, whether online or with awesome neighbors like Tomoharu Saito and Shuuhei Nakamura. Luckily for the players chasing him, Yuuya could only shrug when asked about his Worlds decks. That might be the only opening they are going to get in Watanabe’s so far impenetrable armor, so Juza appears to have the upper hand in that department.

We won’t have to wait long to find out how things pan out. Worlds is next weekend in Rome and if Juza manages to make the final eight, it could be anyone’s ballgame.

Feature Match Round 6 – Seth Manfield vs. Olivier Ruel

by Bill Stark

Being in the Hall of Fame, one of the game’s most frequent flyers, and one of the game’s best players doesn’t mean you always show up to the table prepared to play. Olivier Ruel, who is all of those things and more, demonstrated that as he sat down to the sixth round of Grand Prix-Minneapolis but didn’t have a die with which to determine who could go first. His opponent, Grand Prix-Daytona champion Seth Manfield, didn’t either. Fortunately a helpful onlooker jumped to the rescue, and the two got under way with a borrowed six-sider.

Seth Manfield was already a Grand Prix champion...There has been much talk of how aggressive this Zendikar Limited environment is, but you wouldn’t know it based on the opening plays from Seth and Olivier. On the American side of the battlefield sat Manfield’s Gomazoa while the French quarter had a Makindi Shieldmate. Ruel followed up his defender with Kor Cartographer, leapfrogging to six mana the following turn, while Seth simply passed with five mana up.

Bog Tatters was how Ruel opted to spend his turn after accelerating his manabase, and the 4/2 was a very powerful inclusion in the matchup. Seth’s blue-black deck would have to come up with removal for the Wraith or risk losing to its unblockable nature. Stonework Puma joined Ruel’s team, pumping his Shieldmate, and Seth tried to climb into things with a Bog Tatters of his own. It wasn’t long for the world, however, as Heartstabber Mosquito with kicker ended its reign while Ruel started bashing with his team.

Manfield seemed might light on spells, having amassed quite a few lands but casting very little. When he lost Gomazoa to another enters-the-battlefield-kills-a-creature from Ruel, this time Gatekeeper of Malakir, the American opted to move to the second game instead of revealing more of his deck’s contents.

Olivier Ruel 1, Seth Manfield 0

Both players got out to a slow start in the second game, with Olivier following up a Soul Stair Expedition with Kazandu Blademaster, but on the third turn instead of the second. Seth Manfield, meanwhile, had missed his third land drop before finding it and casting Umara Raptor. The 2/2 Bird was quickly trumped by Olivier’s Vampire Nighthawk and Seth gave a grimace as he drew for the turn and fanned through his cards, none of which would (apparently) be of help in containing the 2/3 powerhouse from Olivier.

Instead, Seth cast Reckless Scholar in an effort to draw some more lands, but was under the gun from Olivier’s attackers. Bog Tatters for the Frenchman made things worse for Seth, but the American did finally nab a fourth land. That allowed him to cast Nimana Sell-Sword, which turned his Raptor into a 3/3, and when Olivier attacked with Bog Tatters and Vampire Nighthawk Seth moved the flyer in front of his opponent’s Vampire. Olivier revealed Shieldmate’s Blessing, however, and the Nighthawk remained on the table.

...but could he hold off Hall of Famer Olivier Ruel?With the turn back, Seth agonized over his choices. He was still short on mana, but he needed to start building his board or risk being overcome by his opponent’s superior forces. Paralyzing Grasp put an end to Vampire Nighthawk, at least short term, but Heartstabber Mosquito with kicker from Olivier blew up Seth’s Nimana Sell-Sword and Ruel sent his entire team sideways. That dropped Manfield to 2 as he absorbed Bog Tatters, Kor Cartographer, and Kazandu Blademaster.

Seth was still in it, however. At the end of his opponent’s turn he used Into the Roil to bounce a Soul Stair Expedition from Ruel, then untapped and cast Marsh Casualties with kicker. Ruel smiled at the tight play, but followed right back up with Guul Draz Specter and Quest for the Gravelord. Though it was a good play from Seth, he needed an immediate answer to the 2/2 flyer or he was still dead. When he didn’t find it, he tried an extra draw with Reckless Scholar. When it still wasn’t there, he nodded in defeat.

Olivier Ruel 2, Seth Manfield 0

Saturday, 6:43 p.m. - Quick Hits 2

by Bill Stark

Saturday, 7:49 p.m. - The Family That Plays Together

by Bill Stark

Amidst the humdrum of Player of the Year races, Grand Prix titles, and competitive Magic, it becomes all too easy to lose sight of the fact that at the end of the day, Magic is a game after all. At Grand Prix-Minneapolis one group of players served as a reminder to the whole event: the Jewell family. The trio of Magic fans ventured to their first Grand Prix together, and the coverage team took a moment to ask them about their weekend so far.

Kurt Jewell, an electrical engineer who lives with his family in Minneapolis, Minnesota, explained how he came to Magic. “It was Andrew who got us started!” Andrew Jewell, an eighth grader, gave a big grin before developing his dad’s statement further by adding “I hooked a bunch of my friends too!”

The duo, with their youngest member in tow as well, were experiencing their first Grand Prix. What did they think? “Andrew is the only one playing,” Kurt explained before adding “but I was impressed that all the competitors he faced have been really nice. It’s also very well organized.” And for Andrew, who was competing?

“It’s exciting, other than the waiting.”

So just how long had it been since Andrew had hooked his family on one of the world’s most popular games? “We got started during Fifth Dawn,” Andrew said. “Now, one of my friends is even playing in the Grand Prix.” What was the future star’s favorite format? “I prefer Legacy or booster drafting, but my record today is 1-3.”

The Grand Prix was truly a family affair, even though only one of the team was actually battling in it. Were there any upsides to not playing? Said Kurt “I agonized over signing up, but ultimately decided not to. Once Round 1 started, however, we had a lot of one-on-one time with the artists! We all managed to get lots of cards signed, which was neat.”

After posing for a photo, the Jewell family headed off to find their next adventure at the event, but they served as a very strong reminder: Grand Prixs aren’t just about playing and winning. There are tons of other things to do all weekend long, and you can have a fantastic time even if you’re not playing the main event!

The Jewell family.

Feature Match Round 7 – Luis Scott-Vargas vs. Ben Lundquist

by Bill Stark

Former U.S. National teammates sat down to see who would continue their undefeated run in the tournament. Both players kept their hands and Ben led with a pair of Mountains and Highland Berserker. Luis started with Kabira Crossroads, Forest and Blazing Torch, but Ben upped the ante with Ruinous Minotaur.

Ben Lundquist Luis missed his third land drop and took 7 after Ben added Shatterskull Giant to his board. Luis could only send it on a Journey to Nowhere without a land again.

“This one’s going to be over quick,” Luis mused as he iscarded Territorial Baloth the next turn.

Ben added Tuktuk Grunts to his board and that was all she wrote.

Lundquist 1, Scott-Vargas 0

Both players sideboarded quickly and this time Luis had lands to play with. He started with Kabira Crossroads and Plains for Kor Aeronaut, which Ben matched with Bloodchief Ascension and Highland Berserker.

Both players traded damage, but Luis had no play on the third turn, while Ben added a foil Ruinous Minotaur. Turntimber Basilisk arrived for Luis as his flying bear attacked again. Ben wanted to keep his lands, so he declined attacking with Ruinous Minotaur, but Highland Berserker got in again. Bladetusk Boar joined Ben’s team, but it was immediately provoked by the Basilisk’s Landfall ability.

Luis Scott-Vargas Ben tried to turn things around with Malakir Bloodwitch, but Luis windmilled his sixth land and Oran-Rief Recluse for the Wallop. Ben was out of gas and a Baloth Woodcrasher powered by Harrow put it away.

Lundquist 1, Scott-Vargas 1

Ben again led off with Bloodchief Ascension and Highland Berserker, which Luis answered with Kor Skyfisher. Shatterskull Giant gave Ben enough power to punch through the Skyfisher, but Kor Hookmaster pumped the brakes again, freeing up the Skyfisher to attack.

Ben missed on his fifth land drop, which allowed him to get in another 2 damage with the Skyfisher and Makindi Shieldmate further solidified his board. Ben didn’t want to trade his Giant for any of Luis’s guys, so he added Geyser Glider and passed.

Luis attacked with Kor Skyfisher after blowing away the Geyser Glider with Journey to Nowhere. Ben saw that Luis had left two Forests open to represent Vines of Vastwood, but he had enough to punch through the trick so he sent Shatterskull Giant into the red zone. Luis double-blocked and Ben pointed Burst Lightning at Kor Hookmaster. Luis did have the Vines of Vastwood and used it to power-up his defender, but Inferno Trap killed that, too.


Bloodchief Ascension
Kor Skyfisher picked up a Trusty Machete and smashed again, but Ben’s Magma Rift took it out and the Red squadron piled in for 6. Shepherd of the Lost got clipped by Spire Barrage and Luis fell to 8.

Luis added Territorial Baloth to the board and used it to block Highland Berserker when Ben attacked with his team, knocking Luis to 4 and Ruinous Minotaur joined the squad. Bloodchief Ascension was looming over Luis’ head as he added another Territorial Baloth and a Scute Mob as he tried to hold off Ben’s team.

Tuktuk Grunts from Ben was the perfect hasted threat as two of Luis’ creatures would have to die blocking, which meant Bloodchief Ascension would deal the last 4 and Luis extended the hand.

Ben Lundquist defeats Luis Scott-Vargas 2-1.

Saturday, 9:01 p.m. - Tickled... Black-Red?

by Dane Young

Popular opinion is that Black and Red are the best colors in the format, so it makes sense that players hope to put the two together as they build their sealed decks.


vampire nighthawk
Not surprisingly, Matt Sperling is engaged in a Black-Red mirror match on table one. Also unsurprising is that there is a least one Vampire Nighthawk in that match. The amazing uncommon is not only in arguably the best color, but is also one of the best cards in the format.

Americans Ben Lundquist and Owen Turtenwald are also duking it out in a Black-Red mirror match on table five, but it is unclear if there are Nighthawks involved there.

On the other hand, it might be surprising that White is tied with Black for the most-played color on the top 16 tables. Both colors show up 15 times, while Red is right behind with 14 appearances. Only four decks do not contain Red or Black, with one being Kyle Boggemes’ undefeated Blue-White deck on table three.

Olivier Ruel is attacking with Vampire Nighthawk on table seven and both players there are Black-White. His opponent may or may not have a Vampire Nighthawk of his own, but he does have Sorin Markov, the amazing Black Planeswalker.

Cedric Phillips is undefeated and battling on table four in a tight Red-White mirror match that is just entering Game 3.

Cedric Phillips fights for red-white dominance. Blue and Green bring up the rear as the least played colors with four appearances each. That’s not to say the colors are bad, however, as Yuuya Watanabe is 8-0 with his Blue-Black deck after squeaking by Noah Weil’s Red-White deck.

While the Black-Red decks have dominated the top of the standings in recent Grand Prix, it looks like other color combinations are more than ready to compete. It will be interesting to see what decks end up on top at the end of the day, so stay tuned to find out as we enter the final round of the day.

Feature Match Round 8 – Yuuya Watanabe vs. Noah Weil

by Bill Stark

Former Rookie of the Year Yuuya Watanabe sought to pad his lead in the 2009 Player of the Year race by attending Grand Prix-Minneapolis. By Round 8, he looked to be in good position to do exactly that with an unblemished record. Standing in his way was fellow undefeated player and former Wizards R&D member Noah Weil. The tournament was a homecoming of sorts for Weil, who hailed originally from Minnesota before re-locating to Seattle. In his final year of law school, the Minnesotan transplant was friendly, but all business.

“Booooo!” Martin Juza chimed in from the peanut gallery. In second place in the Player of the Year race, he was sad to see his opponent in the Feature Match area while he himself had washed out from the tournament proper. The road to the title had become decidedly tougher for the Czech standout.

Off to yet another fantastic tournament: Yuuya Watanabe.The first game got under way, and a Surrakar Marauder from Yuuya was quickly dealt with by Punishing Fire from Noah. Both players cast three-drops: for the Japanese side of the table Umara Raptor while Kor Sanctifiers hit the battlefield on the American side. Watanabe followed up his flyer with Crypt Ripper, then Blood Seeker while his opponent missed a fourth-turn play.

Torch Slinger kicked from Weil dealt with Umara Raptor, but Yuuya had managed to add Blood Seeker to his team, and had quickly whittled his opponent to 7. Noah tried to use Journey to Nowhere to take care of Crypt Ripper, but Yuuya had Into the Roil to bounce his own creature in response. He re-cast his 2/2 and rumbled to the red zone, dropping Weil to just 2 life. A second Torch Slinger allowed Weil to deal with the Ripper after Yuuya had tapped out to cast it, and the Pro Tour standout made an uncharacteristic misplay of forgetting his Blood Seeker trigger. It all turned out to be moot, however, as he untapped and cast Hideous End to burn Weil out of the first game.

Yuuya Watanabe 1, Noah Weil 0

“I was gonna win next turn!” Noah whispered loud enough for all to hear. He was clearly trying to explain his aggressive choices from the game, attacking Watanabe instead of holding back to block. “I’m sure I blew that game somewhere, but I don’t know where.”

Trusty Machete was the first relevant permanent to the battlefield in the second game on Noah Weil’s side of the board. Yuuya cast Aether Figment, unkicked, then Kraken Hatchling to build his board himself, but took 4 from a Kor Sanctifiers after Noah used Teetering Peaks to pump it and Kor Hookmaster to tap his opponent’s Hatchling.

Nimana Sell-Sword came down for Yuuya, but a Goblin Shortcutter and Machete equip from Noah allowed Weil to attack the pro down to 10. The following turn it became 6, but Yuuya landed a powerful Mind Sludge for three that cleared Weil’s hand of a Bladetusk Boar, Burst Lightning, and second Shortcutter. Watanabe cast Crypt Ripper, but had to hold it back to block.

Looking to rebuild his hand but ahead on board, Noah Weil drew his card for the turn. He cast Kor Aeronaut with kicker, which allowed his 4/3 Kor Hookmaster to fly across carrying a Trusty Machete. That dropped Yuuya to 2, dead on the following turn unless he could block the 2/2 Aeronaut. He managed to set that exact play up by casting Umara Raptor, but Noah untapped and revealed Punishing Fire; it was his turn to burn the opponent out from 2.

Yuuya Watanabe 1, Noah Weil 1

One-mana equipments were the rule of the land in the final game of the match; Yuuya led on Explorer’s Scope while his opponent had Adventuring Gear. Neither player had further spells until Yuuya cast Crypt Ripper on turn five, paying an extra mana to equip. Noah was ready with a Punishing Fire, then cast his first creature with the turn back. That creature? Emeria Angel, followed by a land to get a free 1/1 which picked up the Adventuring Gear.

Coverage reporter Noah Weil found himself a lock for Day 2 at 7-0.Yuuya had removal for the Angel with Hideous End, but still no creatures. He took 3 from a Bird token wearing a backpack (Adventuring Gear), then lost his Explorer’s Scope from a kicked Kor Sanctifiers out of Weil. Mind Sludge from Yuuya wiped Noah’s hand, but the American was able to continue attacking with his creatures. Watanabe put an end to that with a tricky combo, casting Gatekeeper of Malakir with kicker, putting the effect on the stack, and using Whiplash Trap to bounce his own Gatekeeper and Noah’s Bird token. That meant Weil had no choice but to sacrifice his Sanctifiers, and the two were back to stalemate.

Quest for the Gravelord from Yuuya began picking up tokens as the two players went back and forth blowing up one another’s creatures. When Sphinx of Lost Truths hit, Noah answered with Journey to Nowhere. That allowed him to attack with a Goblin Shortcutter wearing Adventuring Gear to drop Watanabe to 7.

Yuuya cast twin Windrider Eels in a single turn and sent his opponent into the tank figuring out the correct attack. Watanabe’s Quest was one counter away from making a 5/5, but if the Japanese player had land Weil was potentially taking 8 in the air each turn. Noah opted not to attack and Yuuya found the land to crack for 8. Weil had no choice but to attack back with a Goblin Shortcutter and Torch Slinger, but Yuuya used Disfigure to kill Torch Slinger. That play turned on Quest for the Gravelord, which hopped out a 5/5. Noah revealed Burst Lightning with kicker targeting the 5/5, which resolved. He then cast Punishing Fire, but Yuuya revealed Cancel to stop that and Noah had no creatures or spells left facing down lethal from his opponent.

“Man, if he didn’t have it I had him dead that turn...” –Noah Weil

Yuuya Watanabe 2, Noah Weil 1

Saturday, 9:04 p.m. – Deck Tech with Gaudenis Vidugiris

by Bill Stark

Deck techs are a staple of the coverage team, but for most Sealed events they just don’t read all that well. After all, what are the odds you’ll ever open the same pool as the person being interviewed? When we discovered the rumors about Gaudenis Vidugiris playing monored were true, however, we couldn’t pass the chance to chat with the Midwest pro, fresh off a victory at Grand Prix-Tampa, about his deck.

Gaudenis VidugirisA quick scan through revealed 19 lands, including an Arid Mesa and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, a host of creatures, and the burn you’d expect from a monored deck. “The rest of the colors weren’t good enough,” Vidugiris explained. “Plus Valakut and Expedition Map are the main reasons for going red.” The Wisconsite, who is Lithuanian as well, detailed the process by which he came to play only red cards.

“First I spread the cards out; ‘let’s see if this is enough cards.’ Then I asked myself ‘does adding a color help me in anyway?’“ The answer was no, but it was a tough one to come by. A Marsh Casualties proved tempting, but ultimately the BB cost proved prohibitive and Gaudenis opted to stick with the more stable manabase of monored. Did only playing red cards make other cards more powerful in his deck? “Of course Valakut is better. It goes from not playable to insane. That also makes Expedition Map the same. Molten Ravager is definitely more powerful in monored. Having consistent mana is nice too; you can’t get color screwed.”

It was definitely a risk playing 19 lands and an Explorer’s Scope, but Gaudenis was quick to assure us it had worked out well so far. He detailed one game in particular that was jaw-droppingly aggressive, and it went something like this:

Turn 1: Explorer’s Scope.
Turn 2: Plated Geopede.
Turn 3: Arid Mesa, equip Plated Geopede, crack Mesa for Mountain, attack. Reveal Valakut, get in for 7.
Turn 4: Mountain, Tuktuk Grunts, attack, flip Mountain dealing 3 with Valakut to clear a blocker.

That’s a whopping amount of damage, particularly when you consider the fact that every land drop from that point forward was a Lightning Bolt. At X-2, Gaudenis still had his work cut out for him, but what did he think of the deck?

“I think it’s solid. It’s not great, but it’s pretty good.”


Gaudenis Vidugiris

Download Arena Decklist

Saturday, 9:06 p.m. – Photo Essay 2: Around the Hall

by Bill Stark

Looking for tough opponents? Pro Tour champion Kazuya Mitamura squared off against superstar Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa in this round.

Artist Franz Vohwinkel.

Arist rk Post.

Head judge (and Canadian!) Jason Ness.

The crew, in the middle of broadcasting the Grand Prix (Ben Swartz, Ray Punzalan, and Rashad Miller L-R).

Gunslinger Ken Nagle.

Free for all participants.

Saturday, 9:18 p.m. - Quick Hits 3

by Bill Stark

Feature Match Round 9 – Owen Turtenwald vs. Philip Yam

by Dane Young

The final round of the day found these two in a feature match fight in the quest for an undefeated first day. Both of these players just defeated solid opponents in mirror matches, with Owen’s aggressive Black-Red deck edging out Ben Lundquist and Philip beating out Cedric Phillips.

Owen won the roll and chose to play. He kept his opener, but Philip had to send his back not once, but twice. He nodded and Owen led with a Swamp. Plains and Steppe Lynx was a decent start for the Bay Area native.

A second Swamp and Hedron Scrabbler joined Owen’s team, but a Mountain and Highland Berserker got Philip on the board first. Hedron Scrabbler jumped off a Teetering Peaks as Owen caught up in the damage race, but Highlander Berserker cracked back to even things up as Philip whiffed on land.

Yambushed!Owen played a fourth land and sent the little artifact across again, but it seemed like he was flooded as he had no play. Highland Berserker kept swinging, but Philip still had no third land. Tuktuk Grunts entered play for Owen and he pounded through for 5 more damage. Philip was unfazed and his Journey to Nowhere locked up the Grunts. A Teetering Peaks of his own powered up his whole team and he knocked Owen to 6.

Owen peeled a Nimata Sell-Sword and shipped it back after playing it, but Goblin Bushwhacker forced some bad trades and Owen revealed a hand of four land before packing it up.

Yam 1, Turtenwald 0

Owen shipped his hand back, but kept a solid six, disfiguring Yam’s Kazandu Blademaster before playing Vampire Nighthawk on time. Molten Ravager was no match for the flying Shaman and Crypt Ripper joined Owen’s team as Vampire Nighthawk got to work.

Philip’s Shatterskull Giant looked to get something going, but he would have a hard time racing the Black army, as Crypt Ripper kept coming in for the full amount. Philip suddenly found himself on 5 life, while Owen was on a comfortable 22.

Journey to Nowhere was a sweet topdeck for Philip, stopping the Vampire Nighthawk from sucking the life out of him, but he still had the Crypt Ripper to deal with. He passed the turn and double-blocked the Shade. Owen pumped once to take down the Shatterskull Giant and made Kazuul Warlord. He was sitting on Seismic Shudder, but would have to manufacture a good opportunity to use it as all of Philip’s creatures were bigger than 1 toughness.

Owen T. Philip was in need of spells as he played his eighth land and a Goblin Bushwhacker before passing the turn. After conferring with a judge, Owen sent his team into battle. Molten Ravager blocked Molten Ravager and Kor Cartographer blocked Kazuul Warlord. Bold Defense with kicker swallowed the rare ally, so he added a real threat in Heartstabber Mosquito despite having 6 lands in play and passed the turn.

It turned out that Phil couldn’t kill the Mosquito, so three swings later he was dead.

Yam 1, Turtenwald 1

Phil chose to play first and had to mulligan again while Owen kept his starting seven. Phil flicked his six cards around, but quickly sent them back for a fresh five. He would need another good early start to make a game of this one.

Both players made four land drops without incident, so Owen’s card advantage would be a real issue for Philip this game. Phil still had nothing to do with five lands in play, so Owen’s Tuktuk Grunts smashed in for 5. Phil’s Trusty Machete was not the answer he was looking for, and Kazuul Warlord only made things worse.

Phil was on 12 before he used Journey to Nowhere on Tuktuk Grunts, but he didn’t have any way to stop Nimata Sell-Sword and Kazuul Warlord and Owen picked up the win.

Owen Turtenwald defeats Philip Yam 2-1 and enters day two undefeated.

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