by Bill Stark and Marc CalderaroSunday, 7:30 p.m.:Draft #1 Undefeated Decklists
by Marc CalderaroFeature Match Round 16: "I just wanted the world to know…"Christian Calcano vs. Matt Ferrando
by Bill StarkSunday, 3:15 p.m.:Drafting with Conley Woods
by Bill StarkFeature Match Round 15:Sam Black vs. Conley Woods
by Marc CalderaroSunday, 2:00 p.m.:Photo Essay"Getting Lost in a Magical World"
by Marc CalderaroFeature Match Round 14Jarvis Yu vs. Eric Froehlich
by Marc CalderaroSunday, 12:30 p.m.:"Old School/New School"An Interview with T.O. Donnie Noland
by Bill StarkFeature Match Round 13:Gerard Fabiano vs. Ari Lax
by Bill StarkVideo Feature:"The End of a Japanese Era"
by Marc CalderaroFeature Match Round 11:"...And a Dual Shrug to End the Game."Martin Juza vs. Tom Ross
by Bill StarkSunday, 10:30 a.m.:Drafting with Paul Rietzl
by Bill StarkFeature Match Round 11:Paul Rietzl vs. Erik Landriz
by Event Coverage StaffDay 1:Undefeated Decks
by Event Coverage StaffDay 1:Complete Day 1 Coverage
by Event Coverage StaffInfo : Fact Sheet
Feature Match Round 11 – Paul Rietzl vs. Erik Landriz
The newest Pro Tour champion, Paul Rietzl managed to cap an incredible professional comeback at Pro Tour-Amsterdam by taking down the title of champion. At Grand Prix—Nashville he worked to shore up his points total in the Player of the Year race, one of few players who could potentially catch up to Brad Nelson, the current leader. His opponent in the eleventh round of competition? Erik Landriz, who had yet to drop a match on the weekend.
Landriz won the die roll, but surprisingly opted to draw first instead of playing. That was a common play Saturday as the field battled with their Sealed decks, but it was a bit more surprising in Draft. Erik's decision looked smart as he opened on a mulligan, giving himself room to make up the card disadvantage, but his opponent wasn't going to freely give him time to catch back up. Paul cast a Goblin Gaveleer, then Sunspear Shikari and quickly headed to the red zone. The Shikari traded for an Embersmith before being replaced by Myr Galvanizer, and Rietzl chuckled as Landriz copied the Galvanizer play upon getting the turn back.
Instill Infection took out Gaveleer, but Golem Artisan gave Erik his first significant threat, and when a second copy of Myr Galvanizer hit for Landriz, he was able to use the Artisan to give it haste and swing for 5; Turn to Slag for Paul ended the Golem's run.
In a dance that saw both players mirroring one another, Paul cast an Argentum Armor only to see his opponent cast one of his own. The only problem for Paul was that he didn't have any creatures to go with his while Erik still had a Myr Galvanizer. That meant the 2/2 Myr was able to pick up the suit and use it to blow up the opposing copy before Paul had a chance to use it. On 5 life, Paul cast Origin Spellbomb to allow him to chump-block his opponent's equipped creature. When he tried to activate the Spellbomb to create a token for blocking, however, Erik revealed Galvanic Blast to kill the 1/1 instead, and Paul said simply, "Yep, I'm dead."
Erik Landriz 1, Paul Rietzl 0
Origin Spellbomb kicked off the second game for Paul Rietzl, who bounced it back to his hand on his second turn with Glint Hawk before recasting it. Galvanic Blast from Erik took out the Hawk, but Rietzl reloaded with Goblin Gaveleer. "That guy again?" His opponent complained.
Myr Galvanizer gave Erik his first creature of the game, but Accorder's Shield for Paul allowed him to turn his Goblin Gaveleer into a 3/4 trampler. Contagion Clasp made it a 2/3 trampler, but that was still big enough to charge into the Galvanizer, dropping Landriz to 15. Argentum Armor, which both players were playing, hit the board for Paul, but a Rust Tick from his opponent meant the 1/1 Myr token from Origin Spellbomb wouldn't be getting in.
Goblin Gaveleer suited up with the Armor, and attacked to blow up Rust Tick. The attack left Erik at 6 life and needing to draw an out to the Armor, and fast. He drew for his turn and found Instill Infection. It wasn't a solution, but it did allow him to draw another card. He cast it to blow up the Myr token, but when his free draw didn't find an answer he could cast for two mana, the players headed to the third game.
Erik Landriz 1, Paul Rietzl 1Paul Rietzl
Origin Spellbomb again led the way for Paul Rietzl in the final battle, being joined a turn later by Gold Myr. Myr Galvanizer for Paul allowed him to transform his 1/1 Myr into a 2/2, and he sent it crashing to the red zone against Embersmith from Erik. Landriz wasn't willing to trade although he did have a Galvanic Blast on his turn to kill the Galvanizer, attacking for 2 with his 2/1 'Smith.
A Snapsail Glider joined Paul's team while his opponent began using Embersmith to mow down Rietzl's X/1 creatures. First Gold Myr died, then the Origin Spellbomb token. When Erik attacked with a Myr Galvanizer, Paul attempted to trade with Snapsail Glider, but instead was blown out by Instill Infection. In an attempt to rebuild, the Pro Tour champion cast Goblin Gaveleer, then immediately cast Accorder's Shield and equipped it. A Skinrender from Erik made the Goblin a 0/1 and freed Landriz to continue attacking with Embersmith and Myr Galvanizer.
A turn later Paul's own Glint Hawk finished off his Goblin by bouncing Accorder's Shield in order to successfully resolve. Paul then cast the Shield again, equipping his Hawk, but it was all Erik from there. Landriz cast a SECOND copy of Skinrender to nullify the Hawk, then a Vulshok Replica for good measure. That left Paul with nothing he could trade with and a precariously low life total. He took one final draw and found himself dead in the water.
Erik Landriz 2, Paul Rietzl 1
Sunday, 10:30 a.m. – Drafting with Paul Rietzl
He is the newest Pro Tour champion, taking the title at the recent Pro Tour-Amsterdam. When Brad Nelson failed to make the cut to Day 2 here at Grand Prix—Nashville, Paul Rietzl also became one of a tiny handful of players with the opportunity to catch up on Brad's lead in the Player of the Year race. Paul had positioned himself well in that regard; throughout the entire first day of competition, Paul had failed to drop a match and began the tournament at 10-0. Accordingly, I tucked in behind him to watch the first draft of Saturday morning to see what Paul's strategy for making a run at the Top 8 would be.
The first pack offered up the powerful Oxidda Scrapmelter, but rather than just plop the 3/3 onto his stack Paul considered Origin Spellbomb and Lumengrid Drake. His second choice was between Chrome Steed, Neurok Invisimancer, and Glimmerpoint Stag. The Steed is a powerful core of most metalcraft strategies, and evasive creatures like the Invisimancer have always been powerful. But in context of his first pick, the Glimmerpoint Stag was a potential blowout, allowing Paul to rebuy on his Scrapmelter; the white card made the cut.
Two removal spells stared back at Paul for his third selection: Shatter or Turn to Slag. In Sealed deck the five-casting-cost spell is arguably the more powerful of the two, taking out a number of the "bombs" in the format like Hoard-Smelter Dragon. But in the much faster Draft format? Paul dallied only a moment before adding the instant to his stack. It was only three picks in, but he had two powerful red cards to indicate he was headed in a Mountainous direction.
The fourth pick saw little for Paul from red and white, but did have a Volition Reins. He carefully glanced over the enchantment, then looked longingly at a Copper Myr; the 1/1 was off-color, but still useful for casting expensive artifacts. Ultimately he added Origin Spellbomb to his deck, making his selection at the last possible second. From there he picked up a Sunspear Shikari over Vulshok Replica and Goblin Gaveleer, then a Strider Harness to go with it. A pick later he had the choice between Ghalma's Warden and Acid-Web Spider, and surprisingly took the green card. Was he switching game plans, moving into a different color combination? Or was he simply cutting a card that would be good against his actual plan?
Cutting seemed the answer as he rounded out the first booster with Bladed Pinions, Flameborn Hellion, Seize the Initiative, and Goblin Gaveleer. With 45 seconds on the clock to review his stack, Paul shifted the cards according to mana curve. He looked to be drafting an aggressive red and white deck, but would he stick with that plan?Paul Rietzl
Rietzl opened the second pack to reveal a Galvanic Blast and Contagion Clasp staring back at him. The Blast was on-color, but he didn't have a whole lot of artifacts to super-size it. Taking the full time once more, Paul finally decided to take the Contagion Clasp. His next pick, however, was Turn to Slag without much else to consider.
With the draft picking up steam, Paul next found himself staring at a pick with relatively little for him but a Grasp of Darkness and Volition Reins for someone downstream. With a grimace he flipped back and forth between the black and blue card; was it time to audible? He agonized over the decision before opting to pick Myr Galvanizer, technically "on color." His next pick gave him a choice between four equipment cards: Argentum Armor, Accorder's Shield, Heavy Arbalest, and Strider Harness. He opted to take the rare, though at six mana to cast and six mana to equip Paul's aggressive deck might need to restructure its manabase a bit in building to ensure it could cast the thing when he drew it.
A Gold Myr followed by Accorder's Shield were next up, each comboing with other cards Paul had already drafted. In the case of the Myr, the 1/1 would be pumped by Rietzl's Myr Galvanizer while Accorder's Shield was a powerful combo with Goblin Gaveleer. Next up was a choice involving yet another equipment, Barbed Battlegear, which Paul added to his stack after considering a Ghalma's Warden instead. The second pack closed with Paul hating a Cystbearer, Blight Mamba, and Stoic Rebuttal before auto-picking the very last picks.
He shuffled through his deck once more, firmly set on the red and white plan. He had a smattering of removal, a few creatures, and some equipment to pump the creatures he did have. Overall, however, his deck was a bit low on the power scale and Paul was going to need some help in the third pack. It appeared, however, that he was getting cut by some of his neighbors and might not be rewarded with the powerful red and white to round things out.
Dissatisfaction read thick across Rietzl's face as he cracked his third pack and looked through it. His only real options were Nim Deathmantle or Origin Spellbomb, not exactly what first pick dreams are made of. The Spellbomb hit the deck, but its prospects got a bit brighter as a Myrsmith joined Paul's team a pick later. The 2/1 could combine with Paul's Spellbombs to clutter the field with 1/1 Myr, which would in turn be pumped by his Galvanizer creating an army of Grizzly Bears out of relatively few cards.
An easy pick of Revoke Existence gave Paul a rest in the third, then he took Sunspear Shikari over Copper Myr. He took longer to decide between Necrogen Censer and Glint Hawk; had the two been separated by a few picks he might have taken both to combo with one another. Instead he took the Hawk though he didn't have a lot of means of abusing the 2/2 flyer by returning cards like Tumble Magnet to his hand.
Snapsail Glider made for an average middle-of-the-pack pick, a relatively hit or miss card for Paul who would need Spellbombs to help him out in order to get the 2/2 flying consistently. He then took Chrome Steed over Auriok Replica, giving him another artifact to help with metalcraft. He wound the draft down by taking Soul Parry, Oxidda Daredevil, and Auriok Sunchaser before being forced to decide what of the chaff remaining in the pack he still wanted.
The draft had certainly not gone as well as Paul had hoped, but in chatting with him afterwards he pointed out he felt he had managed to salvage something in the third pack. "I think I managed to pull something together," he pointed out after both Jeff Cunningham and Conley Woods had cut him from red.
Was it enough for Paul to work towards adding to his Player of the Year points total? We'll see after the end of three rounds playing with the deck!
Feature Match Round 11 – Martin Juza vs. Tom Ross: "...And a Dual Shrug to End the Game."
Juza flashed me a Memnite as he sat down. "Pack 1, Pick 1. Oh yeah." Take it where you can get it, Martin.
"My deck's not good, but it's sweet." Ross chimed in. He was Proliferating blue with a red splash pretty much only for Koth. I like this match already.
Juza agonized over a one-land hand. "How am I even thinking of keeping this? The Americans are a bad influence on me;" he promptly shipped it back. Ross had a hand with Grand Architect and two Thrummingbirds. The birds worked well with his turn-one Golden Urn and a Riddlesmith into Auriok Replica for Juza. A Golem Foundry came down for Ross before Thrummingbird ticked a point and added a counter to his Urn.
Attacks from 2-powered dudes made the scores 14-19 for Juza, then he cast a Memnite and shrugged while Arresting the Thrummingbird. Grand Architect for Ross and it tapped the Arrested bird to cast an Etched Champion. Juza continued to filter with Riddlesmith thanks to Origin Spellbomb and attacked with his 2/2 then cast a pumped Auriok Sunchaser.
Ross only had three Islands, but the Architect provided well – especially with the mana-hungry Myr Propagator and Trigon of Infestation in his hand. The scores were 12-17, as Juza filtered away lands like a champ and was left with a hand of Origin Spellbomb and Molten-Tail Masticore. The boarded crowded for Ross with Darksteel Sentinel and the Trigon, and a Flight Spellbomb helped Juza's Auriok Replica jump in front of a 2/2 Thrummingbird.
Juza's board was light, but Molten-Tail Masticore, another Spellbomb and Glint Hawk were in-hand against a handless Tom Ross. Although that Masticore would need more than two Islands and a Plains. Juza dug while making a Myr, found a Plains, then cast Glint Hawk to return a new Memnite, digging and digging with the Riddlesmith. He kept filtering lands and ended with just the molten masticator in his hand.
Ross added counters and more counter-makers while Juza added fliers back and forth until the score was 6-7 in Juza's favor. Then...
Boom-shaka-laka! Molten-Tail Masticore finally came down, with one card left in Juza's hand (though an Origin on the field) and Ross sunk to 1 on the attack. He needed to make something happen. His deck was certainly doing sweet things, but it wasn't really winning. Granted, the Golden Urn was now up to eight counters, but there was some math to be done and Insect and Propagator tokens to be made. Ross shuffled his creatures around multiple times, played the last card in his hand (an Island), and swung with Champion, Architect, both Myr Propagators and a Golem Foundry token. Juza quickly blocked the Sentinel with Riddlesmith and the Champion with Molten-Tail Masticore. After all was said and done and the Urn sacrificed, it was 9-2 with 2 insects, the architect and a sentinel untapped for Ross, and the non-Metalcrafted Auriok Sunchaser, Glint Hawk, Molten-Tail Masticore and a Spellbomb for Juza.
On the Czech's upkeep, he searched for an out. Architect went down to 'core (though getting a slow-play warning in the process) and Juza used some Spellbomb tricks to keep the Masticore going strong and to find a Tumble Magnet that quickly came down. Juza handed Ross his two more Propagator tokens then perched in his chair.
On the attacks he quickly magnetized the Sentinel and the rest of the artifacts came crashing in. Juza had to let one through, sinking to one; this was crunch time. He used his turn to maintain the board and attack with the hawk (1-7). Finally finishing his Trigon (with poison his only on-board, not-conitnuously tapped damage), Ross cast his second architect and soon attacked with a now Darksteel Axe-d Architect.
It was 2-4. If Juza got the flier he wanted, he could steal this very long game with a Glint Hawk attack and then the follow-up creature. "Come on, Kemba's Skyguard!" he said. He peeked then slammed down a non-flying win condition – Necrogen Censer. He tapped it and stole the game.
They discussed whether Ross could've poisoned Juza to death, and I agree it was worth discussion. Ross prioritized making Myr Propagator tokens over the last 1/1 Insect (understandably), but with the late game Axe he drew, he might have been able to use his only Infect card to get the necessary ten counters.
Tom Ross 0 – 1 Martin Juza
Game 2Martin Juza
A long Game 1 made them hustle for Game 2.
Ross went Vedalken Certarch, Iron Myr, then Rust Tick while missing his third land. Juza just cycled an Origin Spellbomb then Trinket Mage-d up a Memnite that stayed in his hand. Ross Trinket-searched back and found the indestructible Axe. Certarch was now keeping a land tapped as Ross added more to the board (Propagator and a Thrummingbird, though with nothing to thrum). Grand Architect, pumping both Mage and bird, elicited "That's good," from Juza, who declined to use his Tumble Magnet, and allowed his Skyguard to fall to a Contagion Clasp + Proliferate, then Magneted the Certarch on the turns' end.
Juza cast his Molten-Tail Masticore, then a Memnite/Glint Hawk combo. Tom Rust-Ticked the Tumble Magnet on Juza's end step, then suited up the Mage with an Axe , attacking with it alongside the bird. White bird blocked blue bird and Mage teamed up with a Myr token to block the opposing axe-wielder. Memnite binned from Juza's hand to pay for the Molten-Tail Masticore, but Certarch quickly tapped the beast down. The Architect was shot to the ground, but not before allowing Ross another Propagator token.
The scores were still high, 18-16, when Ross got the turn back. His four land plus the Iron Myr allowed him a Trigon of Thought to empty his hand. Juza made a Memnite blocker as he didn't expect the Masticore to remain untapped, thanks to Certarch. However, its tail still binned the Rust Rick, then the Certarch in quick succession.
The board was 3 Myr Propagators, an Iron Myr and a new Trinket Mage (with 2 Golden Urns, a Contagion Clasp, Trigon of Thought and the Axe for support) against the Molten-Tail Masticore and Memnite (with a twice-countered Tumbler). Propagators chumped the 'core, but the tail kept picking away Ross' defenses – two per turn. The board seemed to break for Ross with a second bird and architect. And the now-"infinite" mana from the Architect allowed Ross to proliferate and draw from the Trigon in the same turn. But against what Ross needed, time was called, and all Juza had to do was not lose.
Tom's double-proliferation each turn and a new Argent Sphinx seemed good enough but he had to sneak in the damage soon. It was 18-14 (or so Ross thought) when Juza used Spellbombs to let the Masticore kill a little longer (the second Architect hit the bin). Ross attacked with a lonely Axe-wielding bird as the Sphinx took the Tumble Magnet to one counter. He passed the turn counting his Propagators (he had five in play), and Juza simply left everything untapped for the ensuing attack.
With two turns left, Ross, after end-of-turn shenanigans, was content with the same attacks, using up the Magnet and getting his Bird sniped by the 'core. As far as he knew, the 14 damage would be too much unless he drew a miracle. He Dispersed the Molten-Tail Masticore at the end of Juza's second main phase, and began his last turn with 9 Propagators, the Sphinx and the Axe.
He just shrugged, turned everything sideways and said, "I lose; it's not enough." Juza went into the tank for a second, counted the damage and said, "Tom, I'm at 11." Ross looked at his notepad and sure enough, faintly etched into his pad was a marking of 11; his pen had run out of ink. To his surprise, he had just enough damage after blocks to win the game. It was now Juza's turn to shrug.
Tom Ross 1 – 1 Martin Juza
Video Feature – "The End of a Japanese Era?"
Feature Match Round 13 – Gerard Fabiano vs. Ari Lax
Gerard Fabiano and Ari Lax sat down to the 13th round of Grand Prix—Nashville with the Top 8 on their minds. Both were within range, but in order to get there they'd have to make it through the rest of the tournament without picking up many additional losses. While they shuffled, they chatted quietly about making it to the World Championships. "I have to get first or second here to qualify," Gerard explained, while Ari pointed out he couldn't make it due to school commitments.
The first game kicked off with a cavalcade of Myr. Gerard cast back-to-back Copper Myr while his opponent had Palladium Myr, followed by Molder Beast. Fabiano accelerated out Rusted Relic and began attacking with it, adding a 4/4 Chrome Steed to his side of the battlefield as well.
Only five turns in to the match, Ari Lax found himself behind. He worked to catch up by casting Blade-Tribe Berserkers with metalcraft, sending the 6/6 and his Molder Beast to the red zone. Gerard blocked Molder Beast with Chrome Steed, but Untamed Might for two from Lax allowed him to knock the robot Horse out while keeping the Molder Beast on the battlefield.
Undeterred, Fabiano attacked with his Rusted Relic, reloading via Silver Myr and Perilous Myr. A Sylvok Replica from his opponent was countered with Stoic Rebuttal before Perilous Myr traded with Blade-Tribe Berserkers. Out of steam, Ari cast Leaden Myr before passing, using the 1/1 to chump the next attack from his opponent's Rusted Relic. Gerard, pleased with how well his first copy of the card was doing, cast a second.
One soon traded for Molder Beast, and the other died to Slice in Twain. Ari cast a second Blade-Tribe Berserkers, sending the 6/6 sideways with a Palladium Myr to knock Gerard to 3. That left Lax tapped out, and he fell to 3 as his opponent attacked back with two 1/1 Myr. Oxidda Scrapmelter and Vedalken Certarch for Gerard gave him some breathing room to deal with his opponent's creatures, and when Ari didn't come up with a card to dig himself out from his opponent's army the two were headed to the second game.
Gerard Fabiano 1, Ari Lax 0
"What do you want to do?" Gerard asked his opponent as they shuffled.
"I'll draw first," Lax replied.
Vedalken Certarch was Gerard's first spell of the second game, getting in rather than staying back to play defense. Ari had Bladed Pinions followed by Palladium Myr while his opponent had nothing beyond the Certarch until a Rusted Relic on his fourth turn. When Lax dropped a Molder Beast a full turn early, he seemed to be well in the lead. That is, until his opponent cast Precursor Golem.
"Ew..." Ari said, watching Gerard's board become cluttered with creatures while the Rusted Relic became active.
Bladed Pinions were picked up by Molder Beast, but the 5/3 couldn't block as it became tapped by Vedalken Certarch. Gerard sent his team to the red zone and dropped Lax to 4. "Do you have it?" He asked as he passed the turn.
Lax did! He found a second source of green mana that enabled him to cast Slice in Twain. He targeted Precursor Golem, but because the Rusted Relics were active and Golems, the spell was copied to target two Rusted Relics and both 3/3 Golem tokens. When the spell resolved, Gerard's board was back to just Vedalken Certarch and his opponent had drawn a MASSIVE five cards! Adding insult to injury, the Molder Beast became a 15-powered threat! That dropped Fabiano to 5 and a game that looked impossible for Lax all of a sudden went to Ari instead!!! Fabiano failed to pluck a miracle from the top of his deck and scooped.
Gerard Fabiano 1, Ari Lax 1Gerard Fabiano
Like his opponent in the first two games, Gerard opted to draw first in the third. His start, however, was quite powerful opening on Memnite and Darksteel Axe before casting Copper Myr on his second turn. Lax kept pace nicely with Perilous Myr and Palladium Myr, but a Rusted Relic hit for Fabiano that allowed him to threaten 5 points of attack. A Sylvok Replica out of Ari put an end to that plan, or at least, Ari thought it would. When he blocked with his 1/3 and sacrificed it, he found his opponent ready with Tel-Jilad Defiance.
Fabiano pressed hard, activating Snapsail Glider with Darksteel Axe and using it to take out a Koth of the Hammer as his opponent tapped out to cast it. Gerard worked furiously to keep tempo on his side of the court, casting Neurok Replica, but Ari had Spikeshot Elder and Blade-Tribe Berserkers to keep up. A Chrome Steed pushed Gerard over the top, and he attacked with Rusted Relic and the Axe-wielding Glider. A Perilous Myr chumped the Relic and traded for the Snapsail, but Ari fell to 15 in order to do so.
Continuing to press his advantage, Gerard sent a big attack in the following turn with most of his team. When the dust settled Ari was at 7 and had traded his Blade-Tribe Berserkers for a Chrome Steed and Copper Myr. Post-combat Trinket Mage joined Gerard's team.
Slice in Twain pitched in to Lax's cause, but he fell to 2 on his opponent's next attack. A turn later he didn't have the action he needed to deal with his opponent's fatties and Fabiano held on to take the match.
Gerard Fabiano 2, Ari Lax 1
Sunday, 12:30 p.m. – "Old School/New School": An Interview with T.O. Donnie Noland
"Molten-Tail Masticore, no doubt." The answer to his favorite Scars of Mirrodin card came like lightning. "It might be part nostalgia, but it's awesome." And that's the kind of guy, Grand Prix—Nashville's tournament organizer Donnie Noland is; he cut his teeth in the early days of Magic and knows what's what, and he uses that to spot what's up-and-coming. Noland, the player-turned-store-owner-to-tournament-organizer-turned-player, has been a part of the scene for a long time, qualifying for his first Pro Tour back in 1998, and he's since solidified his role as a community organizer (Obama would be proud), store owner, and just about the best TO in these parts.
Magic was his college game, and like many collegians around that time he supported himself with baseball cards while competing on the circuit. But once family became a larger priority, he wanted to become more involved with the future of the Magic community (as well providing monetarily more consistently for his wife and daughter). He bought the small store around the turn of the millennium and quickly upgraded the square footage 800% (it's even larger today). He was already established in the community, and was able to turn that establishment into, well, an establishment. "Owning a store isn't for everyone; it's a life decision. You'd better have a good support system to help you out." But Noland's rather rousing success came from not only showing up at PTQs selling cards and helping his brand, but also using his store and his name to foster growth in the state. He was holding great JSS tournaments, and as I wrote in my Zac Hill interview, would always help out a player in need.
Its this history in tournament organization that got him where he is today – briskly answering questions, offering help to judges, event staff and players alike, and basically running the show. And thanks to his hard work and successes, he's been able to re-involve himself more with the game. "There was a time when I wasn't enjoying it; I was playing, but it was a job." Then he realized something, "Sometimes you become better when you stop trying...You know, it's like love. Once it's gone, you start to remember what you were missing out on." That's a feeling we can all relate to. My relationship to Magic is a love, and sometimes that that relationship can get strained, but treat it right and you come back feeling better than you ever have before.
He's become reinvigorated, stepped up his marketing efforts and started performing successfully in tournaments. "I teamed with UltraPro to market the new deck box", a great deck box that was given out to all the competitors here a Grand Prix—Nashville, "And I started finishing around the Top 8 in 5ks." The man's still clearly on his game.
Donnie Noland is a professional, stand-up guy who can easily run a 1,500-player tournament without a hitch, but he didn't mind stopping to talk to me for a full 15 minutes in the middle of all the mayhem. When I asked what it takes to run a successful tournament like this and what attendance number he shot for, he responded with a different number "10 and 10". "If the tournament starts by 10:10, it's a successful tournament." Wouldn't you know it, this tournament kicked off at 10:08.
Noland goes back a long way in the Magic community, in fact he jokes to Pete Hoefling (owner of StarCityGames.com), "I was selling you cards before you even dreamt about doing it yourself." And with that history, he helps construct the future of Magic. Looking at this Grand Prix, the future looks bright.
Feature Match Round 14 – Jarvis Yu vs. Eric Froehlich
Eric Froehlich, a professional card player, has been putting up some great numbers recently. He's finished in the Top 8 of Grand Prix—Toronto as well as US Nationals. Jarvis Yu is no slouch himself, a stellar deck designer and an awesome Magic internet personality. And both have already secured money finishes as the Grand Prix soldiers on.
Both players kept their openers and Froehlich's first action was an Ichor Rats to Yu's Nihil Spellbomb. Yu answered the rats firmly with a turn-four Molten-Tail Masticore. Seeing his opponent was poison, Yu sought to take a commanding early lead. Froehlich just sent a fresh Blackcleave Goblin and the Rats at his opponent, netting the second and third poison counters and two -1/-1s on the Molten-Tail Masticore. A Rusted Relic came down for Yu, but a Steady Progress and Throne of Geth finished off the 'core and de-creaturefied the Relic and grew the infection. After the next attack it was 7 poison counters to 18.
Nihil Spellbomb and Rust Relic #2 made two nice Metalcrafted 5/5s, but one was quickly Volition Reins-ed away, though not before evening out the life totals. Froehlich's next turn threatened Yu further, making the poison count to 9, but Necrogen Scudder and Silver Myr came down to fight back for the Maryland native. Yu swung for the win with the Scudder and Relic, however, a timely Grasp of Darkness took out the flyer to let Froehlich slip to merely 3, instead of to his death. The oft-forgotten Blackcleave Goblin came down as the second infection strike force alongside the Rats, and with only a Silver Myr, it was lights out for Yu. Like Spinal Tap, his went to 11 (his poison count, that is).
Jarvis Yu 0 – 1 Eric Froehlich
Game 2Jarvis Yu
Yu started with a Vector Asp, a Dross Hopper, Ezuri's Archers – all three of his sideboarded, self-admitted "embarrassing" creatures. "I've faced down every one of these, but never all at the same time; you've got that going for you," Froehlich quipped while he laid down a Neurok Replica, a Contagious Nim and a Thrummingbird, stuck on three lands. But Yu's odd amalgamation of creatures was enough to trade with most of the threats of a poison deck and the Dross Hopper would turn off Volition Reins.
Yu's Rusted Relic was now online thanks to the Asp and a Silver Myr, but it was held at bay by a Tumble Magnet. In addition, Yu's next big threat, Necrogen Scudder, was slowed by an Instill Infection. Froehlich's deck wasn't able to put on the pressure like it had in the last game, but it was playing control fairly well. Froehlich eventually traded his Contagious Nim for two counters on the Rusted Relic, making sure the Magnet stayed at one for Thrummingbird and Steady Progress fun. Sadly for Froehlich, though a Progress connected, when he cast Grasp of Darkness on the Archers to let his bird fly through, a Galvanic Blast sent lil' Thrummy to the yard. Froehlich, undeterred, used another Progress to kill off the Scudder, make the Relic a 1/1 and rejuvenate the Tumble Magnet to its original strength.
Yu felt it was time to play his trump card, the Molten-Tail Masticore. But his trump was quickly un-trumped. The next turn, a whirlwind of removal spells and sacrifice trickery radically changed the game state. After the Instill Infection/double Grasp of Darkness/Dross Hopper dust settled, Yu had a Trigon of Infestation (with 2 counters), a 1/1 Relic, a Silver Myr and the Vector Asp to a Tumble Magnet across the table. Froehlich dropped to 13 in the ordeal, but got a Blackcleave Goblin strike in there to draw his first poisonous blood. He emptied his hand the next turn by adding two more Goblins and swinging with the trio.
The players were hitting each other back and forth and it was 8 life to 6 poison when Froehlich dipped into the think tank before his attack step. He used the last Tumble Magnet counter to force the artifact Asp to trade with a Goblin, before adding an Asp of his own. Yu's attack then made the game 7 life to 8 poison. The Trigon was slowly creating blockers but it couldn't block the new Plague Stinger that upped his poison count to 9.
Yu's Golem Artisan top-deck stopped the flying poison for the time being, but Yu knew it would be ephemeral. So he sent his Artisan in the next turn and quickly gave it flying. With seven untapped mana, and six life, Yu left Froehlich no choice but to block with his Stinger. Trample and +1/+1 meant Froehlich was on 3 life when he used his last creature to cast a Flesh Allergy targeting the Artisan. It was an empty board for Froehlich as the next attack dropped the poison player to one. His draw step found him no relief. Except the amount of relief that comes from scooping and shuffling – which is minimal.
Jarvis Yu 1 – 1 Eric Froehlich
They shuffled up and immediately got down to business. Silver Myr, Sylvok Replica and Necrogen Scudder promptly filled Yu's board, while and Tumble Magnet and two 1/1 fliers, the Thrummer and the Stinger, started the party for Froehlich.
The totals were 15-19 in Froehlich's favor when Yu Galvanic Blasted the Stinger from the sky, then he followed up with the card that won him the last game, Golem Artisan. Yu was handless after trading his Replica for the Magnet and casting a Dross Hopper, but with the Artisan currently attacking, six land was great to have and the score became 14 & 3 poison counters to 8.
Froehlich had a handful of cards, though they seemed to be mostly lands. But when his Thrummingbird went unblocked, before damage he cycled an Instill Infection targeting the Aristan to proliferate it down to a 1/1 with the bird. Froehlich grimaced as he looked at his draw and shipped the turn away.
Yu attacked with everything (Hopper, Myr, Scudder and the 1/1 Artisan) and there were no blockers good enough to cover the Artisan damage spread. Froehlich was a tad frustrated and left the table in a hurry.
Jarvis Yu 2 – 1 Eric Froehlich
Sunday, 2:00 p.m. Photo Essay: Getting Lost in a al World
I woke up late this morning. So late, in fact, I ironed my pants while wearing them. Luckily, my hotel room in the Gaylord Opryland is attached to the Convention Center, so how hard could it be to get there? I wouldn't get lost, right? I mean it couldn't be that big. Well, this morning I learned the hard way just how expansive this place really is.So I stepped outside, and saw this place had totally skipped Thanksgiving; it was so big it created some sort of Time Warp
Excuse me, Miss, maybe you can help me out?
A map, you say?
That's not enough; I need a bigger one, please.
Ok... it looks like if I turn left here, I should be good, right?
Uh, that's not it. How about this way?
Don't give me that pouting-model look, Sam Black, I'll get there.
My boss is going to kill me.
Can you help me, Flying-Zebra-who's-playing-the-Guitar?
Find the waterfall? You mean the water fountain, right? There's no way this place has a water fountains and a waterfalls.
Well, here's the islands that spit water at each other. Are they from Zendikar?
And here's a flower canopy. Perhaps the petals will have me gain Shroud from my supervisor.
There it is! Ok so what did the Zebra say after that? Go past the shopping island and into the convention center. Here's the shopping island.
And what's the name of this restaurant?
Oh, I must be close.
Here it comes...
down the endless hallway...
that seems to be the doorway to every Magic event...
Phew, and just in time for the draft!
What do you think, pouting-model Sam Black?
I figured as much. That's what I get for underestimating the size of this colossal, record-breaking hotel. I hope my sweat-stained armpits don't give me away. Man, I need a nap.
Note to my bosses: Everything about this is a work of fiction – except for the part about ironing my pants while wearing them; that was totally true. Just ask Bill Stark.
Feature Match Round 15 – Sam Black vs. Conley Woods
"I'm gonna play first," Conley Woods said as he sat down to square off against former U.S. National Team member Sam Black. The Colorado native needed one win in the final two rounds of battle to lock up a Top 8 slot. That would earn him the Pro Points he needed to level up for the 2011 season, but Sam Black had no interest in helping the cherubic Woods out.
Iron Myr and Cystbearer led the way for Black, though Conley kept up with Auriok Replica and Darkslick Drake. "That's a brew!" Woods teased as Sam cast a Molder Beast, his 5/3 traditionally powered creature at odds with his 2/3 infect creature. Sam paid no mind, sending both creatures sideways. Conley tried to double block the Molder Beast with a Neurok Replica and his Darkslick Drake, but Shatter ruined that plan and he found himself two-for-oned.
Trying to keep his head above water, Conley cast Grand Architect, then used the blue creature to cast Tumble Magnet too. The Magnet allowed him to tap down his opponent's Cystbearer, but he fell to 12 from an attack with Molder Beast. An Alpha Tyrannax joined the table for Sam, giving him a massive army of dinosauresque attackers supplemented by a smaller-sized army of infect creatures.
Woods had his work cut out for him. He cast Chrome Steed and Moriok Replica, hoping his Tumble Magnet would be enough to buy him some time. Sam's return-play was a less-than-imposing Golden Urn, but his attack left Conley on 11 life and six poison counters. A Lumengrid Drake for Woods' blue-red deck allowed him to temporarily buy some time against the Alpha Tyrannax, and Sam spent a turn without attacking.
With a chance to catch his breath, Conley began stabilizing. He cast Sky-Eel School, filtering the card on top of his library for the Silver Myr in his hand, and began attacking in the air. Sam had to pass a second turn without attacking, paving the way for his opponent to get in with both Lumengrid Drake and the School. That put Sam at 8, and when his opponent cast Rusted Relic to permanently deal with Alpha Tyrannax, it looked like Black's luck had run out. He had a turn to live, but when he didn't come up with something big the players were on to the second game.
Conley Woods 1, Sam Black 0
"Your deck's so annoying!" Conley Woods complained to his opponent as they readied for the second game. "I have to use two columns on my life pad to keep track of poison and regular damage!"
Sam Black didn't seem to mind his opponent's whining.
The Necropede was soon getting in for poison damage while Conley cast Neurok Replica and Darkslick Drake. He seemed unsurprised as his opponent reached five mana and pulled the trigger on a fatty: Molder Beast. But Woods had a "fatty" of his own as he cast Golem Artisan, threatening to not only serve with the 3/3 but to make the rest of his artifact creatures gigantic, evasive, and hasty.
Alpha Tyrannax joined Black's team, but a Lumengrid Drake bounced it back to his hand and it seemed as though Conley's deck was perfectly designed to parry every thing his opponent's deck could attempt to do. Sam re-cast his Alpha Tyrannax, only to see it stolen by a Volition Reins. In the meanwhile, he was slowly getting beaten down by flyers from his opponent with little time left to maneuver a solution to his numerous problems.
Turn to Slag blew up Golem Artisan, but Sam didn't have enough to attack profitably and had to keep his remaining team of Molder Beast and Necropede home. "You're at 12?" His opponent asked as he untapped for the turn, never a good sign. Conley attacked Sam to 8, then cast Auriok Replica and Silver Myr leaving enough mana up to sacrifice his Neurok Replica if need be.
Sam cast Trigon of Infestation, but Conley pulled the trigger on his Neurok to leave Black with only two blockers (if he activated his Trigon), and attacked with his team. That dealt 6 damage, leaving Black at 2, and post-combat Conley revealed Shatter on his own Perilous Myr to finish the job.
Conley Woods 2, Sam Black 0
Sunday, 3:15 p.m. – Drafting with Conley Woods
Headed into Grand Prix—Nashville, Conley Woods was quoted as saying he felt he needed one final push of a performance on the 2010 Pro Tour circuit. This weekend? He may have accomplished what he was looking for. His name stood at the top of the standings as pairings for the second draft were posted. I followed his draft, the last of the Swiss rounds in the event.
In the first pack, Conley immediately focused on Grand Architect, the rare. It is not as flashy as Molten-Tail Masticore or some of the other cards considered bombs in the environment, but the Colorado pro seemed set on taking it. He flipped it back and forth between a Trinket Mage and Perilous Myr, the only other cards in the pack he had moved to the front, before finally placing the lord down in front of him. His second pack showed him Shatter and Turn to Slag, but after taking a blue card that required something of a commitment to use it, Woods opted to take the more splashable of the two removal spells in Shatter.
For the third pick Conley paused on quite a few cards. Wall of Tanglecord, Neurok Replica, Saberclaw Golem, and Necropede all drew his attention. With time ticking down he opted to add the Replica to his deck, leaving the other artifacts for his podmates to consider. Up next he added a Tumble Magnet taking a pass on Vedalken Certarch, Golem Artisan, and Perilous Myr. He added Darksteel Juggernaut and a second Neurok Replica without pausing to give them much consideration, the remainder of the contents of their boosters relatively weak.
With the first booster winding down, Conley took Darkslick Drake over Sky-Eel School, then a Lumengrid Drake. He certainly would not be the first mage to rely on evasive blue creatures in the 40-card format, and they would get a powerful boost from his first-pick Architect. He rounded things out with a Bloodshot Trainee and an Auriok Replica before reverting to taking whatever was left from his opponents.
Looking through his stack of 14 cards, Conley quickly flicked them into the semblance of a deck. He had plenty of blue cards, indicating he was firmly cemented in that color, but his second color remained up for grabs. He looked carefully over the Shatter he had taken second, and even moved up the Bloodshot Trainee to remind himself he had taken that. Would he be splashing red into the deck?
The second pack was a doozy for Conley. He opened Riddlesmith and Volition Reins, giving him two powerful choices right off the bat. He opted to take the enchantment (can you blame him?), then took a Silver Myr second over Neurok Replica and Sky-Eel School. After passing one in the first pack, Conley quickly nabbed a second chance at Golem Artisan. For his fourth pick he agonized over Tumble Magnet, Darkslick Drake, and Sky-Eel School before opting to take the artifact. Humorously, his very next pick was another copy of the Magnet in an otherwise weak pack, meaning Conley had THREE copies of Tumble Magnet to bring to battle. Using those to keep his opponent's ground pounders busy while Conley himself took to the skies was certainly a reasonable strategy.
Rounding the middle of the pack, a Neurok Replica and Vedalken Certarch made their way to Conley's grip. He also took Throne of Geth, and seemed happy to have gotten the card. By the time he was flipping through his cards for deckbuilding it seemed clear Conley was on the mostly-blue plan, the second pack having yielded little to cement him as being strongly involved in any other colors.
Just like that, the third pack opened with a sign as to which color Conley should rely on: he stared at an Arc Trail and quickly added it to his stack. That on top of the fact the pack also had Arrest and Spikeshot Elder, but ultimately the two-for-one proved too tempting, especially as it was so easy to play on the splash. He added Chrome Steed second, over Silver Myr and Lumengrid Drake. When he was given a shot at Rusted Relic for the third pick he practically slammed it into his deck, barely looking at the remaining options available to him.
Having added a metalcraft theme to his blue fliers, Woods shifted to making sure he had enough artifacts to keep cards like Chrome Steed and Rusted Relic fully powered. A Perilous Myr joined his team, then Tower of Calamities. A late gift of Riddlesmith made up for the one he had been forced to pass in order to take Volition Reins in the second pack, and he got Lumengrid Drake before he began cutting cards from his potential opponents. The cuts? Acid-Web Spider to protect his flyers, Bellowing Tanglewurm to protect himself from dealing with a fatty, and Exsanguinate which was, for all intents and purposes, a powerful X-spell against Conley's deck.
With his stellar performance throughout the first 13 rounds of play, Conley doesn't need too much from his deck in order to crack the Top 8. If he manages to nab two wins he's a lock; fewer with a draw and he is still a probable candidate to make the cut.
Feature Match Round 16: "I just wanted the world to know…" - Christian Calcano vs. Matt Ferrando
Both of these east coasters are amateurs, but they aren't newbies to the Feature Match Arena. "I've only won one, though" said Matt Ferrando, from Jersey City. "Me too," Christian Calcano responded, his own home across the river in New York City. And though both these players are locked out of the Top 8, a win gives valuable pro points and a chance, with good breakers, to qualify for another Pro Tour.
Game 1Matt Ferrando
They both mulliganed before settling on 6. An early Fume Spitter attack was blocked by Ferrando's Silver Myr; this confused his opponent. "Cough, sucker," Ferrando said as he placed his Silver Myr in the graveyard. Oh, how I miss camaraderie between east-coast friends. Ferrando followed with a Contagious Nim, then concurrent Neurok Invisimancers to slide the Nim in for 4 poison counters. A Necrogen Scudder and a Barrage Ogre would normally be menacing, but two evaders and a poisonous Zombie were definitely getting the better of Calcano. "I guess I gotta play this," he said as he tapped out for a Mindslaver. Calcano was down to one card when the three attackers crashed in, trading black creature for black creature. Ferrando then cast a Neurok Replica that bounced the Ogre.
"This is the saddest mindslaver in the world," Calcano said as put the Legendary artifact in the 'yard acting as a glorified Fog. At least he recast his Ogre. Ferrando then drew, cast and equipped a Grafted Exoskeleton to an unblockable Invisimancer. He then proceeded to bring the pain. At nine poison counters, Calcano needed an out. It wasn't on the top of his deck.
Christian Calcano 0 – 1 Matt Ferrando
These two clearly play against each other often. Often enough that Calcano answered the phone in the middle of the match, and told his sister, "I'm playing Ferrando; call me later."
Once they finished prepping for the second game, both players kept and mirrored Swamps for two turns. Calcano Shattered a Silver then an Ichorclaw Myr. Two turns later, two creature-starved, sad equipment, Grafted Exoskeleton and Darksteel Axe, faced off against Vulshok Replica and a Corrupted Harvester. The equipment were so sad in fact, that once Calcano cast a Flameborn Hellion and attacked with all three of his high-powered attackers, Ferrando scooped. "Still had all these lands," he muttered and readied for game 3.
Christian Calcano 1 – 1 Matt Ferrando
Game 3Christian Calcano
Fume Spitter meant that, for the third time, Silver Myr died before turn three. A Snapsail Glider, Nihil Spellbomb and Trigon of Corruption were all drafted onto Calcano's team, while a Tumble Magnet, Ichorclaw Myr and Ichor Rats attempted to poison the NYC native. And again, a third game meant a third Grafted Exoskeleton and Ferrando sent the suited-up pack of Rats towards the Snapsail and a new Leaden Myr. Calcano, already at 2 poison counters thought and studied his hand of Mountain, Rusted Relic and Corrupted Harvester before blocking with the Glider.
Calcano laid a 5/5 Relic the next turn, but it was soon a 5/5, tapped Relic – compliments of a two-countered Tumble Magnet. Ichorclaw was grafted a new skeleton, went into red zone, got a Trigon counter, then dealt two counters of his own. After combat, a Plague Stinger came down. "Upgrade!" Ferrando said as he equipped the Exoskeleton to the flier and binned the wounded Myr.
After attacks and a Harvester, it was 8 life to 6 poison counters. Another turn brought another sacrificial upgrade to the Exoskeletal god, and it was a Contagious Nim at the helm of the +2/+2-granting equipment.
Calcano thought he had it in the bag – big creatures and lots of blockers. But yet another Neurok Invisimancer came down. Calcano found himself on the receiving end of his tenth and final poison counter.
But these friends had a plan. Calcano was sitting at 15 Pro points and was really hoping to up his level. "Are you sure you want to kill me?" he pleaded.
"Nah, I just wanted the world to know you could be beat by Neurok Invisimancer." Ferrando smiled and scooped up his cards.
Christian Calcano 2 – 1 Matt Ferrando
Sunday, 7:30 p.m. – Draft #1 Undefeated Decklists
These are your undefeated draft decklists from Pod 1!