by Corbin HoslerSunday, 5:30 p.m.Oklahoma's Big Boom
by Nate PriceSunday, 5:21 p.m.Lessons Learned
by Corbin HoslerSunday, 4:53 p.m.Draft with Scott Molasky
by Mike RosenbergRound 14 Feature MatchJeremy Bright vs. Timothy Thomason (Draft)
by Nate PriceSunday, 3:25 p.m.Overly Devoted to Devotion
by Corbin HoslerSunday, 1:55 p.m.Quick Hits: Main Board Enchantment Removal?
by Nate PriceRound 11 Feature MatchTrey van Cleave vs. Greg Ogreenc
by Corbin HoslerRound 10 Feature MatchPhu Dao vs. Seth Manfield
by Mike RosenbergSunday, 12:25 p.m.Draft with Seth Manfield
by Nate PriceSunday, 9:00 a.m.Day One Undefeated Decklists
by Event Coverage StaffDay 1 Blog
by Event Coverage StaffInfo: Fact Sheet
Sunday, 9:00 a.m. – Day One Undefeated Decklists
Sunday, 12:25 p.m. – Draft with Seth Manfield
Grand Prix Kansas City Champion Seth Manfield has been actively preparing with his team for Pro Tour Theros. This was especially apparent when we saw many things that both he and teammate Chris Fennell mentioned about the Sealed format being very true. Going in to Pod 1 of Day Two with an 8-1 record, it made sense to see how he would tackle the Theros Booster Draft format as well.
The draft started off great for Manfield, as he opened and picked Polukranos, World Eater. He was, however, shipping some very powerful cards to his left, including Griptide, Voyage's End, and Keepsake Gorgon, though none could rival the power of his green mythic as a first pick from a first pack. Manfield stayed on target with Nessian Courser, followed by Nemesis of Mortals and then Commune with the Gods, a powerful enabler for his third pick and a good way to find his monstrously powerful green creatures.
Feral Invocation, Karametra's Acolyte, and a very late Griptide followed that. Then Satyr Hedonist #1 came around. Followed by #2. Followed by #3. With just one pack, Manfield's deck was already looking like it was in great shape.
The second pack continued to gift Manfield's pile of playables, with a third pick Mistcutter Hydra following his second pick Arbor Colossus and first pick Nessian Asp. Karametra's Acolyte gave him a way to accelerate his monstrosity. After that, Manfield made the interesting decision to choose Boulderfall over Leafcrown Dryad, but found the bestow creature in his sixth pick. Time to Feeds rounded out his second pack, with one of the green removal spells making its way around the table before ending up in Manfield's pile.
The first pick in the third pack had no spells of interest to Manfield, but it did hold a Temple of Mystery to smooth out his mana and draws. Griptide and a second Mistcutter Hydra followed, and then Nylea's Disciple came after that as a way to pad his life total.
In the end, Manfield's draft went very well. His mana was solid, his creatures were big, and it followed a lot of the rules set forth by yesterday's Sealed format. Sorting his cards and building his deck was a breeze, with the only difficult decision being how to trim the deck down, and how many Commune with the Gods to play. He ultimately decided on two, valuing the card's ability to not only make Nemesis of Mortals a cost-efficient threat, but also to help him in finding his plethora of good cards.
But a question was still left lingering: what was going on with that Boulderfall in the second pack?
"This is just the exact deck that Boulderfall is insane in," Manfield explained. "The Satyr Hedonists are able to get that card online, so you're casting it on turn six, sometimes earlier with the Acolytes." Boulderfall's effect is clearly very powerful in a Limited format, giving its user a chance to destroy multiple creatures, and Manfield's deck allowed for him to possibly go down that route. It was, after all, something he and Chris Fennell mentioned pulling off before, even though Boulderfall's applications are generally limited in scope due to its oppressively high mana cost.
In the end, his deck turned out very well, with few huge decisions during the deck building process. Check out the final product below!
Round 10 Feature Match – Phu Dao vs. Seth Manfield
The first round of Day Two featured a rematch between two Day 1 foes. Phu Dao met Seth Manfield in Round 7 on Saturday when both players were undefeated, and it was Manfield who walked away with the win.
Dao rebounded from the loss to finish the first day of competition at 8-1, the same record Manfield had after a loss in Round 8. That set up Manfield, a two-time Grand Prix champion after his victory in Kansas City earlier this year, on a collision course with Dao when they were paired together in the same draft pod.
With both players sitting at 24 points, the winner would keep his Top 8 hopes alive and well while the loser would find himself in a must-win situation going forward.
Both players said green was freely flowing during the draft, and both could have built mono-green decks had they chosen to. As it was, Manfield was splashing blue in order take advantage of a pair of Griptides and Horizon Chimera, while Dao was playing red primarily for Destructive Revelry but also for mana sinks like Ill-Tempered Cyclops, the Hill Giant-with-upside that alongside Nessian Asp ensured that the Grand Prix Houston semifinalist would not run out of things to do with his mana in the late game.
Manfield's deck was packed with objectively more powerful cards, including bomb rares Mistcutter Hydra and Arbor Colossus, while Dao's deck packed value creatures and combat tricks to keep the aggression coming.
Dao won the roll and chose to play, and after both players chose to keep their opening seven things started off innocuously, with creatures trading early while Seth used Commune with the Gods to dig for action in the form of Karametra's Acolyte.
While Manfield was setting up, Dao was forced to slow down thanks to a lack of Mountains on the board. He did have an Unknown Shores to cast his Ill-Tempered Cyclops, but the fact he had to wait an extra turn to do so allowed Manfield to pull ahead thanks to the power of the devotion mechanic.
Choosing to flood the board with creatures and hold a Mistcutter Hydra in reserve, Manfield was able to take advantage of the extra mana his Acolyte provided to cast a fifth-turn Arbor Colossus. He continued to ramp up his loyalty to green on the next turn with Nylea's Disciple, gaining life and building for the decisive turn.
With access to thirteen mana on Manfield's side to just six for Dao, who still hadn't drawn a Mountain to threaten monstrosity on the Cyclops, all Dao could do was lay a Nessian Asp and wait for the final blow.
It soon came, with Manfield killing the Asp one turn and finally playing as a 6/6 the Hydra he had been holding on the next. He attacked with his team, representing mana to activate monstrosity on the Colossus. Rather than throw creatures under the bus to survive for another turn, Dao accepted the inevitable.
"Yeah, I'll just take it all and die," he said as he scooped his cards up for the next game.
Dao again chose to play for the second game, and this time was able to develop his mana properly, curving out with a Satyr Hedonist into a Nessian Courser and taking Manfield to 13 before he even cast a spell.
Having taken a mulligan to six cards and choosing to keep a four-land hand with Miscutter Hydra and the currenty-targetless Artisan's Sorrow, Manfield wasn't able to put up much of a fight when he found several more lands on top of his deck. After Destructive Revelry took out a Leafcrown Dryad to clear the way for Dao the pair were on to a decisive Game 3.
By far the most interactive game of the match, Manfield's blue cards finally made an appearance.
Facing down the Reach of Leafcrown Dryad and a Nessian Asp on Dao's side of the table after missing a land drop, Manfield elected to use Griptide on the attacking Asp to buy time rather than flash in the Horizon Chimera.
Manfield made the best use of that time as he could, playing out creatures to block and try to draw even on the board, but Dao had consecutive combat tricks to keep Manfield on the back foot. Nevertheless, with both players' life totals still at 20, Manfield trotted out a 5/5 Mistcutter Hydra and attacked Dao down to 15 to put himself ahead in the race.
They traded attacks for another turn, with life totals standing at 10 for Dao and 12 for Manfield when he passed the turn with the Hydra back on defense. Rather than attack into seven open mana, Dao instead decided just to cast a Vulpine Goliath and pass the turn instead of trying to force through damage.
"He wasn't developing his board, so there's no reason for me to swing into tricks there," Dao said after the match. "If I just play the 6/5, He has to respond to that."
But the next turn Dao was back on the aggressive plan, choosing to activate monstrosity on his Cyclops to go for the kill rather than the 4/5 Nessian Asp that was being blocked by the 5/5 Hydra. That gave Manfield the opportunity to Griptide the Cyclops and kill the Asp, buying himself a chance to pull out the game with his Chimera.
But it wasn't to be. Dao calmly recast the Cyclops and attacked with it the next turn, activating monstrosity and earning the chump block from Manfield. After one more failed draw step, Manfield extended the handshake and Dao moved to 9-1, avenging his only loss of the tournament in the process.
Round 11 Feature Match – Trey van Cleave vs. Greg Ogreenc
Trey van Cleave is a three time Grand Prix winner and admitted old-school Magic player who has really began to reclaim his stride of old in recent months. Van Cleave has a place in Magic's history that he is less than pleased with, having served a two-year suspension for infamously peeking at a neighbor's draft a decade ago at Grand Prix Boston (often referred to as "the Nosy Goblin"). His opponent this round is having quite a good few months of Magic himself. Greg Ogreenc (pronounced Ogrence) made his Grand Prix Top 8 debut earlier this year in Kansas City, playing the incredibly aggressive Monored Bump list through the Modern field. Neither player is qualified for the upcoming Pro Tour Theros, but they have both managed to gain spots at Pro Tour Born of the Gods in Valencia next year.
"It's kind of hard to make it to all the Grand Prix," Van Cleave said discussing their Pro Tour qualifications, "But after I won my PTQ, I got a lot of support from my local store, Silver Creek Game Shop, in southern Indiana."
This was going to be a matchup of opposing styles of decks, at opposite ends of the velocity spectrum. Van Cleave's rare-laden black/blue deck is fairly controlling, hiding behind cards like Returned Phalanx and Shipwreck Singer to survive early assaults, which are the specialty of Ogreenc's red/white heroic deck. Ogreenc's deck has all of the tools a heroic deck needs to function in this format, from the cheap heroic cards themselves, to the bestow and combat tricks required to turn them on. The general consensus is that the edge in this Limited format lies in the aggressor, but Van Cleave's deck certainly had the tools to contend.
Van Cleave mulliganed to five in the first game, not an auspicious way to start this feature match, especially with both players sitting at 8-2 and on the verge of falling out of Top 8 contention. For his part, Ogreenc showed the openings of an incredibly powerful deck, sporting a Wingsteed Rider and a pair of Observant Alseids to lead his assault.
Van Cleave eventually found himself some defense, holding off Ogreenc's ground troops with a single Returned Phalanx, but he was still a ways behind. When Ogreenc added a Hopeful Eidolon to one of his Alseids, the assault resumed. Van Cleave was at 10 life, and he was facing down a larger army that he could deal with at the time. He could choose to block and trade off the only real defense he had, but that would leave him with nothing between Ogreenc and his life total in turns to come. After a great deal of thought, he decided that the gamble wasn't worth it, simply taking the three damage from the Alseid and keeping his Phalanx for another turn.
His next play of Whip of Erebos revealed why. He was trying to get maximum value out of the lifelink it would provide, hopefully digging himself out of his hole. While the Whip did provide him a temporary glimpse of light, Ogreenc took care to snuff it out quickly, resolving an Evangel of Heliod on his turn for a massive five Soldier tokens. With Van Cleave at 8, even the Whip's lifelink wouldn't save him.
That is, of course, unless he made an arm of his own. Abhorrent Overlord brought him five Harpies to match Ogreenc's five Soldiers. More importantly, they had lifelink thanks to the Whip, providing a massive upswing to Van Cleave's life total. Before attacking, Van Cleave also used the Whip to bring back his dead Blood-Toll Harpy, attacking Ogreenc for a massive sixteen-point life swing, leaving totals narrowly in Ogreenc's favor, 16-15.
Ogreenc cracked back. Nine creatures attacked, including an Akroan Hoplite and a Cavalry Pegasus. It was enough to kill Van Cleave if not for the four Harpies he had left behind. His blocks took out the most important creatures on Ogreenc's side, but still left him with a massive army, much of which was getting through. Ogreenc kept the Hoplite alive, as well, and the Whip's lifelink kept Van Cleave from losing more than one life.
Erebos's Whip helped the Returned Phalanx in Van Cleave's graveyard live up to its name, and he activated both of his Phalanxes and attacked for a massive twelve points of lifelinking damage. Now it was Ogreenc on the fences. As massive as his army was, the lifelink from the Whip and the massive swings from the Demon had put Van Cleave far out of danger and dropped him into it. He tried to battle back with a massive swing from his Hoplite and company, but it still wasn't enough to stop Van Cleave. Van Cleave sacrificed his Overlord to its ability on his turn only to see it return thanks to the Whip, with five more Harpies in tow. It was enough to finish of the wounded Ogreenc, stealing a game from him that seemed utterly in his control. Alone, neither the Whip nor the Overlord would have been enough to pull Van Cleave out of defeat, but the combined powers of his massive rares proved powerful enough.
Van Cleave's start in the second game featured ideal cards to deal with Ogreenc's incredibly aggressive deck: Shipwreck Siren and Wavecrash Triton. Considering that much of Ogreenc's offense in the first game had come through 1/1 tokens, the Siren had the potential to be utterly devastating, while the Triton is an incredibly tough wall to get through.
Ogreenc managed to punch through the Triton using a combination of Dauntless Onslaught and Coordinated Assault, but it was an effective three-for-one. It seemed like an incredibly devastating play for him to have to make, especially considering that the attack left the Siren alive, but in the end, it ended up working in his favor. Keeping a Traveling Philosopher around, he began to enhance it to epic proportions thanks to Observant Alseid and Hopeful Eidolon, dropping Van Cleave to 9 before he was finally able to deal with it thanks to Lash of the Whip. This allowed him to make an absolute army of Soldiers thanks to an Evangel of Heliod with devotion for six.
For his part, Van Cleave had done very little to add to his board. He had a Whip of Erebos, but it was very lonely, as he didn't add another creature to the board for some number of turns, eventually landing a Horizon Scholar. That lack of pressure, or even a reliable source of lifelink, put him incredibly behind and unable to stop Ogreenc's assault, falling in the second game with a mere three minutes left on the clock.
Sitting at 8-2, a draw would help neither player, knocking both out of contention for Top 8. Going into the last game, it appeared that the onus would be on Ogreenc and his highly aggressive deck to steal the win from this match, as Van Cleave's slower, more controlling deck seemed highly unlikely to be able to win in enough time to secure the match.
With judges standing by with an eye on the clock, and a throng of spectators around the table, they began their race against the clock. Ogreenc played like lightning, but his draws were nowhere near as fast as they were in the previous two games. Compounding matters was the Wavecrash Triton on Van Cleave's side, which kept Ogreenc's Two-Headed Cerberus from getting even a sniff of his life. Time was called, and the final turns of the match slipped away. Ogreenc had the potential enhancement to get through for enough damage, but he lacked a way to get through Van Cleave's defenses, or the time to wait for them to falter. Still he tried, tossing an Observant Alseid on his Cerberus and attacking. Van Cleave took the hit, dropping to 14. Ogreenc had one more turn to try and miraculously finish Van Cleave off, but he was going to have to do it through two creatures. A Lash of the Whip, killing his only creature sealed the impossibility of his task. The final turn lapsed, and the match ended in a draw.
Both players laid their hands on the table, both sure that ten more minutes would have clearly meant a victory for them. Yet it was ten minutes they didn't have. In the end, things ended with a draw, leaving them both hoping for a spot in the Top 16, the Top 8 now out of reach.
Sunday, 1:55 p.m. - Quick Hits: Main Deck Enchantment Removal?
Do you like to main deck enchantment removal in Theros Draft?
Sunday, 3:25 p.m. - Overly Devoted to Devotion
In terms of its impact on deck construction, devotion is one of the most interesting mechanics to hit Magic in a while. It places constraints on card evaluation in much the same way that evolve, slivers, and populate have in recent sets. Once you start down the devotion path, it behooves you to skew your picks towards cards that make devotion better. Whether or not this is a good thing is very much up for debate.
In discussing this topic with my coverage compatriot and dailymtg.com Limited Information columnist Marshall Sutcliffe before reaching out to some of the bigger names in the room, we came across a few different ways to approach the idea of drafting devotion.
First, remember that you don't have to be monocolored to show your devotion.
"Just because you are trying to draft a deck centered around devotion doesn't mean that you need to be monocolored," Sutcliffe cautioned. "True, you need to make sure that your permanents are mostly of that color, but you can have your spells be any color you want."
To elaborate on this point, we began to break things down into what the components of an ideal devotion deck would be. First, you've got to deal with the permanents that are going to be in your deck. They are obviously going to be as close to one color as you can get them, as this enhances each of the devotion cards in your deck. It's important to realize that each of the big devotion cards is trying to do something in particular. For example, Gray Merchant of Asphodel drains life and provides a defensive body, which is incredibly good in concert with the other defensive black devotion card, Disciple of Phenax. On the other hand, Fanatic of Mogis, the red devotion card, is built like a finisher, a hefty chunk of damage to finish off wounded opponents. Black wants the late game, red wants the game over quickly.
Understanding what each of the colors is trying to do will help you figure out how you can best support it. That brings us to the second thing we talked about: the supporting spells.
"In decks with heavy devotion, you really want to make sure that your spells are there to support the plan that your devotion color is trying to accomplish," Sutcliffe explained. "Just like each of the colors has its goal and identity for permanents, the have one for spells, as well. It's still early into Theros, so I'm not exactly sure of how to best complement devotions decks, but a color like blue has really good tempo and board control cards, and I have seen it pair really well with a black devotion deck. For the others, I'm not so sure."
And it is admittedly hard to build a devotion deck for colors other than black and green. They are the only colors that have multiple common and uncommon cards with devotion. As such, monoblack and monogreen are the most commonly seen devotion decks in Theros. That said, there is one last wrinkle that can push a drafter into pursuing a singular devotion: the gods themselves.
The God cycle in Theros has some of the most potentially powerful cards Magic has seen.
"If the gods were always on, they would be the most busted cards ever," commented Hall of Famer Ben Stark. "The problem is that they aren't always on."
The devotion requirement for the Gods is a fairly hefty investment. They each come with a static and activated ability, making them still fairly strong even at lower levels of devotion, but they truly shine when they get to be, as Stark put it, "giant, indestructible, impossible to deal with monsters." In a deck that splits its permanents into two colors, it can be incredibly difficult to manifest a God. The best way to ensure that your friendly neighborhood God begins to attack along with his followers is to surround him (or her) by as many of them as you can. Go monocolor.
Unfortunately, this isn't always as easy as it seems, and can sometimes be a trap. In the first pod, I watched Top 25 player Willy Edel open a Heliod, God of the Sun, and get passed an Evangel of Heliod. It looked like it was going to shape up to be a pretty nice draft for him. And then the white dried up. He still grasped at what he could, but he ended up being forced into black, ultimately ending up with more black permanents than white permanents in his deck. Not a good spot for Heliod.
"I do think that forcing devotion is certainly something you can do," Edel said after one of his matches. "I'll admit, the set is still very new so my experience is limited, but forcing a particular devotion seems like a very powerful draft strategy to use. This is especially true for black. All three of the devotion creatures in black are very good cards, so trying to maximize their potential is a very good strategy. For me, I tried to make it work, but the cards simply weren't there for me to have a complete devotion to white. I still ended up with some good chances to utilize my devotion cards, but they weren't the best they could be."
This was certainly true. Edel often found himself casting his Evangel of Heliod with one or two permanents in play, usually netting himself four or five Soldiers in the process. This was good enough for him to win a few of his games, so it wasn't like he was hurt too incredibly badly by his foray into black. But Heliod was another story. He infrequently drew the powerful God, but when he did, it ony turned on once. While the vigilance and stream of creatures was still greatly beneficial to him, an indestructible 5/6 would have ended the game in a flash.
"That's the problem with moving in on devotion early and letting it dictate your draft," Stark warned. "If you try and draft focused around devotion cards early in the draft and find that the color you are trying to draft is dry or being cut off, you end up with a deck full of mediocre cards that are made even more mediocre by the fact that you can't really use them to their fullest. The devotion cards are already weaker than another card would be to make up for their abilities, so if you don't get a great benefit out of them, you just have strictly worse cards in your deck."
To avoid this, Stark advises treating devotion cards the same way that you would a bomb rare early in the draft: don't let them dictate your draft.
"You need to treat those cards like you would any other bomb," he explained. "It is far more important to remain flexible early in the draft, through five or six picks, to make sure that you're able to react to the signals that you're getting. Sometimes, you need to abandon your first pick because you aren't going to be able to draft a deck for it. The same thing applies to cards like the Gods. Sure, you want to put as many cards of their color in the deck to maximize your chance of turning them on, but you don't want to sacrifice your draft to do so. Once it's clear that the color that you want to draft is open, you can start to place a higher value on cards to add to your devotion. If it's clear that you shouldn't be in that color, you have to jump ship."
Much like the Sealed advice gleaned yesterday, the best advice when dealing with the new mechanics of Theros seems to be to simply stick to tried and true Limited methods. Keep yourself open and put yourself into the colors that your neighbors are telling you that you should be in. Once you've done that however, the mechanics of Theros begin to rear their heads. Once you know that the colors needed to achieve your particular goal are available (like building UW heroic or monogreen devotion), you have to alter your card evaluation based on what you are trying to do, just like in any other format.
"Once you know that the color you want to be is open, you can go ahead and start evaluating the cards as they fit into your strategy. Card values certainly change based on how much value they add to the different decks in the format. Devotion's a great example of this. If you have a close choice between two cards, one of which helps your devotion and the other one doesn't, it is sometimes right to take the weaker of the two cards if it helps your devotion. What you lose in raw power of the card you gain back in its contribution to your plan. Heroic is the same way. The cards are of a lower power level than many other cards at their cost, but they gain a lot of value when you put them in the right deck. Chosen by Heliod isn't a particularly great card on its own, but when you have a deck full of heroic guys to turn on, I can't imagine a situation where you wouldn't play it."
It appears at this point that the key to understanding how devotion and really all of the mechanics in Theros impact the value of cards is to understand the mechanics themselves. Each deck is trying to do something different, and the cards in Theros can fluctuate wildly in value based on the cards around them. Mechanics like devotion and heroic reward players for adherence to a particular set of cards, something that you will often need to chase after early in order to reach the critical mass you need to really make the cards shine. But there is always a careful tug-of-war between the desire to go all-in on a strategy and the being allowed to do so by the contents of the packs. You can try and force your way into a deck all you want, but if you are being cut off from the cards you need on both sides, you're going to end up with a deck that is decidedly mediocre. How many of you out there drafted during Scars of Mirrodin block and ran into that problem with metalcraft or infect? The same thing applies here.
That's where Ben Stark's advice comes in. This is a Draft format just like any other. Spend your early picks figuring out where you are and where you are supposed to be. Once you've gotten that fourth pick Nimbus Naiad followed by that fifth pick Battlewise Hoplite, you can be sure that you are going to be rewarded for being a UW heroic deck. If you opened a Daxos of Meletis, congratulations, you are in the right seat. If you opened Purphoros, God of the Forge, then you really need to ask yourself if you think red is open. It's not worth fighting upstream to play your first pick if you are getting a clear signal that you're supposed to be in another deck. Just cut your ties and move on.
Remember: the number one downfall of the tragic hero was hubris.
Round 14 Feature Match - Jeremy Bright vs. Timothy Thomason (Draft)
Jeremy Bright and Timothy Thomason sat down to see who would be moving on to a potential Top 8 finish. The winner of this round will move on to 12-2, vying for a spot in the Top 8 Booster Draft either with a draw (depending on tiebreakers) or a win in the final round. The other moves into 11-3, playing for a chance at cash and some salvaged Pro Points for the round.
Who will move on? Will it be Thomason with his aggressive black-white deck, or Bright with his slow but powerful blue-red deck?
Thomason led off with Calvary Pegasus, while Bright had only Islands and a Mountain. When Thomason followed with an attack from hos winged horse with Agent of the Fates, it immediately was blasted with a Lightning Strike. Coastline Chimera gave Bright some defense, and then it went onto the attack when he followed it with Prescient Chimera. Thomason had a way to delay things though with Ephara's Warden, and Divine Verdict took out the attacking Prescient Chimera. Bright replaced it with another one.
A bestowed Observant Alseid was enchanted to Calvary Pegasus. The Warden tapped Bright's Chimera, and Thomason attacked in, starting the race. Another Observant Alseid came down, this time bestowing its power onto Ephara's Warden. Bright kept pushing, this time with his third Prescient Chimera of the game. Bright put up a fight, but Gods Willing in Thomason's hand ensured his bestowed creatures survived. Lash of the Whip disposed of one of the four toughness Chimeras, and with his squad propelled into the air thanks to Calvary Pegasus, Bright packed things up for a second game.
Thomason led with Tormented Hero, which began early beats and was followed by Calvary Pegasus. Bright however was stalled on only blue mana. He stopped Observant Alseid with Dissolve but took 3 from Thomason's creatures. He found a Mountain on the fourth turn and cast Thassa's Emissary.
Divine Verdict took care of the Emissary, but Bright followed it with Prescient Chimera. Thomason cast Ephara's Warden to lock it down, but Sea God's Revenge put a stop to that plan as Bright used scry to put some cards onto the bottom of his deck. An attack for 3 put him on board. Ephara's Warden was immediately burned off the battlefield by Rage of Purphoros before another attack.
Thomason had a great comeback though with Agent of the Fates and a replayed Calvary Pegasus. Bright sat back and used Mnemonic Wall to bring back Sea God's Revenge. Thomason added Traveling Philosopher to his board before getting hit with the sorcery again. He kept his Agent in play with Gods Willing, forcing Bright to give up his wall, and he replayed his cards on the next turn. Lightning Strike from Bright got rid of the Agent of the Fates before it could do anymore harm, and a second Prescient Chimera gave him some added defense.
However, he was already sitting at 7. A bestowed Observant Alseid forced Bright into trading, and he had no way to attack without opening himself up to a lethal attack. Unfortunately for him, Thomason found Scholar of Athreos to break the standstill, with its activated ability doing the job over two turns.
Bright 0 – Thomason 2
After the match, I confirmed with Bright how many Prescient Chimeras he had. There were three total in the deck, but he noted that his curve was a little high.
"My deck is a little slow," said Bright, in regards to his deck's compilation. While it's got three Prescient Chimeras, perfectly good cards, the curve is a little light early on, and a little light on creatures that can attack.
Sunday, 4:53 p.m. - Draft with Scott Molasky
Sometimes great drafts aren't made by the pick you make, but by the one you don't.
That's how it was for Scott Molasky, who entered Day Two undefeated but left the first draft pod with a 1-2 record and likely needing to 3-0 his final draft to Top 8 the tournament.
The innocuous two-drop creature was far from the most powerful card, but the mana-ramping creature allowed Molasky to get in green while likely putting the drafters to his left in blue. He admitted that it stung a bit when that decision forced him to then take a Leafcrown Dryad over Thassa's Emissary with the next pick, but it was one that would pay off for Molasky as the draft went on.
The next several picks proved that black was open, and Molasky moved in with an Insatiable Harpy, Disciple of Phenax and Baleful Eidolon. Next came the real gift: a sixth-pick Pharika's Mender that cemented Molasky in green-black.
He filled out the rest of the first pack with another Eidolon, a tenth-pick Savage Surge and a gift of a thirteenth pick in Shredding Winds, the kind of high-impact sideboard card that was exactly what his deck needed against fliers.
The second pack started off slow for Molasky, who took a Sylvan Caryatid out of a weak pack and was forced to pass the off-color bomb Celestial Archon with the second pick while picking up a Nemesis of Mortals.
But things improved from there. He picked up a Boon of Erebos, Cavern Lampad and Centaur Battlemaster with his next three picks and rounded out the pack with another Disciple of Phenax and Scourgemark.
Pack 3 is where Molasky's deck came together. He took a Gray Merchant of Asphodel over a Keepsake Gorgon with the first pick, and continued to reel in the green and black cards after successfully cutting those colors in Pack 2. That included another Centaur Battlemaster and Pharika's Mender, as well as a Pharika's Cure and Read the Bones.
"With a deck like this you have to be able to race fliers, which is why I took the Merchant over the Gorgon," Molasky said. "I also like having it when I have multiple Disciples to help with the devotion."
Notably absent from Molasky's draft was the powerful Lash of the Whip or the sometimes-crucial Nessian Asp, neither of which he ever had a chance to pick up, but Molasky was happy with how his deck turned out. With three cards to ramp his mana, he was comfortable with his relatively high curve.
Molasky ended up in the open colors and was rewarded for it. But it wouldn't have happened if not for the restraint he showed with the first pick of the draft.
"There was only one green pick in the pack and nothing to force me into a color," said Molasky, who now has eight Theros drafts to his name. "With two blue cards in that pack, I don't want to put myself in a situation where the player next to you is in the same color as you. I think I made the right decision there."
Sunday, 5:21 p.m. - Lessons Learned
One thing that you learn doing coverage is that every question you come up with is going to have multiple different answers depending on who you talk to. Magic isn't a discrete science, no matter what anyone says. If there actually was a consensus "best deck," everyone would be playing it. If pick orders for Booster Draft were etched in stone, it would be repetitive and boring. Magic isn't a solved game, rather it's a game of observation and opinion.
Opinions vary greatly from one corner of the Magic world to the next. This difference in opinions is one of the reasons that Magic is such a rich game and so much fun to play: you can disagree with people. In Limited, the biggest place that these differences and disagreements rear their heads is in card evaluations. Every time a new set hits the shelves, there are a slew of professional players who put out their reviews of the new set. These invariably contain some purported insight into the quality of the cards in the yet-untested Limited environment. Now, don't get me wrong, these guys are all very good. If LSV says a card is going to be good, I tend to listen until he's proven wrong. But while they're right more often than wrong, they also don't always agree.
The best example of this is something as recent as the release of Theros. Many of the reviewers ended their articles by choosing their top commons for each of the colors, giving prospective drafters something to latch onto. While man of these were similar, the order fluctuated from reviewer to reviewer. Is Griptide better than Nessian Asp? Is Nessian Asp better than Voyaging Satyr? Is Griptide better than Voyage's End? Depending on where you look and who you listen to, the answer you get will likely be different. They all identify these as exceptional cards, but even within the Pro community, there isn't a consensus on their relative order, nor is there likely to be. That's just how Limited works.
Now, these differences in opinions can spread out beyond an individual to playtest groups or stores. People that work together, especially with the joint goal of getting better, often come to a convergence of thought. This deck is the best, this card is better than this card, this color is unplayable in Sealed Deck... These convergent conclusions create guidelines by which the group operates. While this is incredible for getting everyone on the same page, it has the potential to pose some risks.
Take this story, for example. Ben Stark, one of the finest Limited minds on the planet, told me a story earlier today about a misplay that he believed cost him one of his matches, one that completely blindsided him.
He was in a match with an incredibly strong UW heroic deck when he found an opportunity to close the game out and kill his opponent. It wasn't a sure thing, as his opponent could have a trick, but Stark couldn't think of anything that would pose too great a risk for him. After some thought about alternate lines of play, he sent in all four of his creatures to try and seal the game. When his opponent played Breaching Hippocamp and untapped a creature to block, it completely threw Stark for a loop.
"In our play group, none of us even consider Hippocamp remotely playable," he told me wide-eyed. "It honestly never crossed my mind. The play I chose to make was good against Griptide or Voyage's End, cards I thought he might have, but Hippocampus completely wrecked me. To me, it isn't even a real Magic card, so I never thought to consider it. I even had another play I could have made, only attacking with three creatures and going for the kill on the following turn, that would have been only marginally worse if he didn't have Hippocampus and would have been immensely better if he did. If I'd thought that he might have it, I would have made the other play, but I didn't even consider that he might be playing it. I mean, it's a common, so I guess I should have, but since we literally never play it, the thought never even entered my mind."
This example is one of how letting the experiences you have and the biases created by your group's convergent thinking can blind you to the way that the Magic world at large views things. Stark is an incredible player, thus it is understandable for him to think that if there is a card that he deems to be unplayable that it would be unlikely that he would see it. But it's early in the format's lifetime, and most (read: virtually all) of the other players in the world aren't him. As such, the rest of the world may have a different view of things.
In hindsight, Stark admitted that he probably should have considered that others might not have come to the same conclusions as he did, and he's happy he got the mistake out of the way here at the Grand Prix. In fact, that's one of the biggest benefits to Grand Prix for players of all competition levels. At Grand Prix, you get to sample how the rest of the world thinks. You get to see how everyone else views cards, how they choose to use them, and how they choose to react. It's a way to visualize the world outside of the mindsets that you may be used to, and it's invaluable for growing as a player.
"I'll tell you one thing," Stark said in closing. "You know I'm not going to make that same mistake in Dublin."
Sunday, 5:30 p.m. - Oklahoma's Big Boom
Tom Brubeck is no stranger to the tournament scene. The Buffalo Grove, IL native first played a game of Magic: The Gathering nearly twenty years ago, when the game was in its infancy and he found his friends slinging spells at a Cub Scouts meeting.
To his dismay, a few Scryb Sprites were not enough to play a match of Magic, and he quickly set off to find a way to fix that. He found it in his grandfather, who worked at trade shows and was into collectibles. Brubeck convinced him to pick up some Magic cards to take to shows, and after a few weeks the ten-year-old was hooked, surrounding himself with his cardboard pastime.
It's a passion that didn't fade away. Through the years, Brubeck eventually found his way to the competitive scene and began to travel to larger and larger tournaments, from Friday Night Magic to Pro Tour Qualifiers and finally to Grand Prix events.
So, when he decided to come to Oklahoma for the first Sealed Theros Grand Prix of the season, he knew the routine: take a flight, grab a cab from the airport to the hotel and kill some time before the rest of his friends arrived from Chicago.
It wasn't his first Grand Prix experience, but for both Brubeck and those he would later call the fastest friends he's ever made, it was a Grand Prix of firsts.
The idea first came to Sam Davis upon reading a tweet from Hall of Famer and No. 11 Ranked Player Brian Kibler. Davis, who has lived in Oklahoma nearly his entire life, saw the Dragonmaster tweet several weeks ago about looking for someone with whom to split a cab fare, and the seed was planted."I thought, 'Gee, I bet non Hall-of-Famers also might need a ride,'" Davis said. "The airport isn't the closest to downtown and I thought that if I could help, then I should. It's a way to give back to the community."
Already excited for the first Grand Prix to ever come to Oklahoma, Davis saw a chance to put his plan into action. One of the hosts of the popular "Planeswalker Asylum" podcast, Davis put out the call through the cast and social media that he would be giving free rides from the airport to anyone who needed one.
Enter Brubeck. Taking a flight that arrived several hours earlier than the rest of his playgroup in Illinois, he assumed he would have to take a cab alone and entertain himself for the day. Armed with decks to tune and a book to read, he tweeted that he was leaving Chicago O'Hare on his way to Oklahoma City and closed his tweet with the #GPOKC hashtag.
Brubeck said that within minutes, Davis — whom he had never met but had found the tweet through the hashtag — had offered him a ride from the airport. He landed in Oklahoma City and found Davis waiting for him at the baggage claim. The two talked about the Theros format on the half-hour drive, and after arriving at the convention center several other local met up with the pair. They invited Brubeck to lunch and showed him around Oklahoma City's Bricktown entertainment district."I met up with three people I didn't know, but I felt like I had friends as soon as I got off the plane," Brubeck said. "I've been to a bunch of a tournaments before, but this is the first time I've ever had somebody I've never met offer to give me a ride. It says a lot about the people here and the Magic community as a whole."
Brubeck was one of several people who took Davis up on his offer of a free ride. For them, it was a nice gesture and a convenient way to save a cab fare. For Davis, it was just a piece of what he sees as his responsibility to Magic."If nothing else comes from this Grand Prix, I want the people who come here to want to come back here," said Davis, who returned to Magic several years ago after a long hiatus. "I wanted to people to see that from our community here."
..."Here" refers to the state that is often sarcastically called the "hotbed of Magic" by Oklahomans. Sandwiched between major tournament hubs Kansas City and Dallas, Oklahoma has long been passed over for large events, and the locals grew used to regularly driving six-plus hours for a "close" trip.
Like most Magic players, the long car rides didn't deter them, but the lack of opportunity within a reasonable difference did slow the growth of the competitive community.
While some players across the state achieved modest success through the years, things didn't change until one group based out of Wizard's Asylum in Norman began to coordinate local players on a larger level. With support from store owner Bryan Alcorn, the group welcomed anyone in while meeting for regular playtest sessions and sharing cards and car rides.
It's a strategy that has paid dividends in the last few years. Tyler Lytle won Grand Prix San Antonio and made Silver status in the Pro Players Club. Will Craddock won a Star City Games Open Series event, and numerous local players won Pro Tour Qualifiers to get their shot at the Pro Tour.
When Oklahoma City was awarded a Grand Prix, it meant more to this group than just a shorter car ride; it was a validation of the growth of Magic in both size and stature across the state."We are doing some real work here in the wheat," Davis said. "It feels like our community is being recognized. Oklahoma City actually is typically very cheap to fly to and getting a room here is certainly less expensive than in many other areas that Grand Prix have been held. Hopefully people enjoy it."
Despite many players already traveling to Dublin for Pro Tour Theros, 1085 players have certainly been enjoying themselves.
That doesn't just include well-known pros like Paul Reitzl, who commented that all his opponents on the day were "genuinely nice." It also includes players like Lawton's Drew Wiersema, who was unsure about whether or not to attend his first-ever Grand Prix but was ultimately swayed by how close the tournament was. It was a decision that worked out for Wiersema, who said he enjoyed the atmosphere on his way to a 7-1-1 finish on Day One and a berth in Day Two's draft pods.
Whether or not the Grand Prix circuit comes back to Oklahoma any time soon is an open question, but there's at least one person who hopes it does."I would love to be able to help people out by giving them rides again or whatever else I can do," Davis said. "I loved doing it, and if we ever get another big event here, I'll 100 percent be doing it again."