Grand Prix Seattle Blog: Day 1

Posted in Event Coverage on March 6, 2005

By Wizards of the Coast


Saturday, March 5, 10:57 a.m. - A First Look Around Seattle

A quick spin around the room during round one -- of both tables with zero-bye action and three-bye play-testing -- seems to indicate that the most popular deck choices this weekend are both Grand Prix-Boston carry-overs. Lucas Glavin’s Cephalid Life deck that reached the finals is seemingly everywhere, with Osyp Lebedowicz’s Blue-White Desire deck -- the one that Lucas beat in the quarters of that tournament -- close on its heels.

Brian Kibler is back after a brief Magic hiatus.

Brian Kibler is one of the players with Cephalid Life. He is piloting the version Kamiel used last weekend in Eindhoven, as are most of the players. Kibler -- who has been conspicuously absent from the tournament scene for most of this season -- borrowed the deck before the tournament. It didn’t take long for his deck building juices to start flowing as he regretted not making alterations prior to handing in his decklist. “I wish I had four Meddling Mages in my sideboard so I could side them in against combo decks.”

Kibler will get a chance to put the deck through its paces starting with the third round as he found himself in the unfamiliar position of only having two byes. “First time in something like five years!”

Speaking of players who have been curiously absent from the tournament scene…Aeo Paquette made the trip down from the Vancouver area along with fellow Canadians Jeff Cunningham, Terry Tsang, and Jeff Fung. Of course, even coming to the tournament does not mean Aeo is playing. He decided instead to sleep in and use this weekend as an opportunity to prepare for next week’s Pro Tour. He is teaming with Cunningham and Mark Zajdner, and this weekend will be the first time he looks at the new Betrayers of Kamigawa cards.

Poor Jeff Cunningham. There is a possibility that Mark Zajdner -- who is battling mono -- might not be able to attend Atlanta. That would put him in the position of using the semi-retired Mike Thicke as his team’s third. That would leave Jeff in the position of captaining two players -- albeit incredibly solid players -- who have little to no experience with Kamigawa block Limited.

What has the potential to be a big story this weekend is the presence of almost half a dozen Japanese players who chose to take a detour to Seattle on their way to Boston. Tsuyoshi Fujita, Masahiko Morita, Go Anan (who actually traveled here from Boston), Shuhei Nakamura, and Grand Prix Boston winner Masashi Oiso sauntered into the room where the Grand Prix Trial and early registration was being held, much to the “dismay” of many an American Pro.

Gabe Walls was happy to see his friend but would have been content to wait a week and catch up in Atlanta. "What are they doing here? Why are they trying to 'Shvartsman' our Grand Prix?"

Paul Rietzl was also glum. “I was so excited about this Grand Prix. I was sure I was going to win but now I have no chance.”

The only person who seemed unaffected by the presence of the cadre of Japanese Pros was Antonino De Rosa. “Who cares? I never lose to the Japanese. I am still the only player who has made the Top 8 of a GP in the US, Europe, and Asia!”

“You made a GP Top 8 in Japan?” asked Walls.

“No . . . Singapore.”

Walls walked away in disgust.

Saturday, March 5, 11:45 a.m. - Bad Beat of the Round

Alan Comer and Mike Feuell came over with a report of a pretty bad play during Round Two. An Affinity player attacked with Arcbound Ravager with a Disciple in play and began sacrificing artifacts to drop his opponent to twelve while conveniently getting his Ravager up to a 12/12. The only problem with that was his opponent simply activated his Goblin Welder and made the Affinity player put the Ravager in his bin for a Vault of Whispers.

“That was active?”

Saturday, March 5, 2:16 p.m. - Day One Breakdown

Just as we are getting ready to dive into the three-bye field for the Round Four action, I have finished poring over the deck lists of all 390 competitors on Day One and arrived at the following breakdown of the field. There were exactly 50 different deck archetypes in the field although you could crunch that number down by including all the flavors of Tog (Tog, Gro-a-Tog, Scepter-Tog, etc.) into one category but you are still left with a field that has more viable deck archetypes than decks have sideboard slots to fill.

You can sort of count on playing against Mountains as RDW and Goblins account for almost 20 percent of the field. Rock decks, Desire decks, and Life Decks (both the Cephalid combo and the more traditional versions), Affinity, Aluren, Madness, and Scepter-Chant each check in at better than 5 percent of the field. Below the 5 percent mark are more than 40 different decks, meaning players should expect the unexpected all day today from Rector decks with Form of the Dragon to a Food Chain combo deck that tops out with Tendrils of Agony to Sneak Attack decks with Burning Shoal.

Round four is almost paired so we will be bringing you some actual action shortly, but you can chew on this breakdown while you are waiting.

Goblins - 39 (exactly 10 percent of the field)
Red Deck Wins - 34
Rock - 33
Blue-White Desire - 25
Affinity - 25
Aluren - 22
Madness - 21
Scepter-Chant - 20
Cephalid Life - 19
Reanimator - 17
Life - 13
Reanimation Machine - 13
Tog - 13
White Weenie - 11
Temporary Solution - 10
Scepter-Confinement - 9
Gro-A-Tog - 6
Intruder Alarm - 4
Sneak Attack - 4
Pattern Ghoul - 3
Blue-red Control - 3
Blue-Green Opposition - 3
Welder Control - 3
Green-Red Beats - 2
Draco-Scepter - 2
Fiends - 2
Blue-black Control - 2
Blue-green Control - 2
Elves - 2
Scepter-Tog - 2
Form of the Rector - 2
Kiki-Opposition - 2
Trinity - 1
Hermetic Crab - 1
Black Red Beats - 1
Channel-Desire - 1
Fires - 1
Dark Desire - 1
Cephalid Breakfast - 1
KCI - 1
Scion - 1
Scrambled Eggs - 1
Turbo Land - 1
Red Stick Wins - 1
Food Chain Tendrils - 1
Bringer Control - 1
Draw-Go - 1
Cold Shower - 1
Enchantress - 1
Scepter-Metamorphose - 1

Saturday, March 5, 3:28 p.m. - Round 4: Masashi Oiso vs. Eugene Levin

It seemed only fitting to kick off the feature match action with the man who won the last American Grand Prix. Masashi Oiso and a group of other Japanese players descended on Boston a few weeks ago and the former Rookie of the Year emerged with the trophy. They must have liked the experience because six of them showed up this weekend in Seattle en route to next week's Pro Tour in Atlanta.

Mashashi's opponent this round is no stranger to Grand Prix success himself. Eugene Levin recently reached the finals of Grand Prix Austin before falling to winner Jon Sonne. Levin parlayed that invite into a 46th place money finish in Nagoya. While Oiso was shuffling, he accidentally flashed a Cephalid Illusionist at Eugene who was surprised to learn what the Boston champ was playing.

Masashi Oiso is in Seattle after winning GP-Boston.

"That's funny," confided Levin, "Because I played this deck because Oiso won with it in Boston."

This was a combo matchup with Oiso playing the Cephalid Life combo deck that most of the Japanese players in attendance were favoring -- the same deck he defeated in the finals of GP Boston -- while Levin was playing with the Aluren deck Oiso used to win over the hybridized Life build.

Oiso struggled to find the words to describe why he switched to this deck from Aluren. After thinking for awhile Oiso laughed and simply explained, "This combo is very fast."

Oiso double-mulliganed on the play in the first game. He kept a solid five-card hand and sat back as Levin pitched back his opening seven. Oiso led with Aether Vial while Levin had a Bird of Paradise, which he used to fuel Brainstorm on his second turn. Levin then announced a Cabal Therapy and Oiso sprung into action. He vialed out a Nomad En-Kor and Vampiric Tutored.

Things got . . . interesting when I leaned over and asked the judge to double check the name of the one-drop En-Kor for me. Levin chose to answer the question and Oiso heard "Nomad En-Kor" and assumed Levin was announcing it for Cabal Therapy and flashed his hand -- a lone Daru Spiritualist -- at the American.

The table judge scratched his head and went off to confer with higher powers.

In the end there was no good solution and the judges ruled that since my question was directed at the table judge Levin had "named" Nomad En-Kor. Oiso "revealed" the Daru Spiritualist in his hand and Levin passed the turn rather than flashback the Therapy -- assuming that Oiso had tutored for Illusionist. Oiso had indeed put the squid on top of his deck, Vialed him into play on the next turn, and flipped his deck into his bin. Oiso flashed back Cabal Therapy and named Aluren and hit -- Levin was also holding Vampiric Tutor and Cavern Harpy. Oiso passed the turn.

Eugene Levin ran into the bulldozer named Oiso.

Levin thought for a long time and finally tutored for Solitary Confinement. He played it and left two cards in hand. Oiso flipped through his graveyard and quickly realized that he would lose to decking in two turns.

The second game saw Oiso operate with a full seven cards while Levin went down to six. Oiso made the first play of the game with a Cephalid Illusionist. Levin sensed that he was under enormous pressure and decided to Living Wish for Raven Familiar as opposed to using the Vampiric Tutor in hand. This gave Oiso a clear target for his Cabal Therapy on turn three.

Levin was holding a couple of Tutors and Solitary Confinement when he played a freshly drawn Sakura Tribe Elder. Oiso used his own Living Wish on the third turn to find the notorious Nomad En-Kor and played it but did not set off the combo, preferring to wait until the end of Levin's turn. Levin used one of the Tutor's EOT after sacrificing his Elder. After struggling with what card to choose he finally settled on Living Wish.

Levin played his Solitary Confinement and used the Living Wish to find Genesis. Oiso quickly flipped his deck into his yard and flashed back Ray of Revelation to smoke the enchantment. He also flashed back Krosan Reclamation on two copies of Reanimate. Levin took a quick look through the remainder of Oiso's yard and announced "Alright" to move onto Game 3.

Levin mulliganed for the third time in three games and kept a one-lander on the play as his six-card hand -- it did have two Sakura-Tribe Elders, Aluren, and a Living Wish to get things going assuming the top of his deck yielded land number two. Oiso had no mulligan.

Levin was rewarded for his faith with a Polluted Delta on top of his deck and promptly cracked it to power out the Elder. Oiso gave Levin a Forbidden Orchard token EOT as he Brainstormed off of the rare Champions land. Oiso agonized over which cards to put down from the Brainstorm. The judge urged him to play faster and Oiso complied. He untapped and threw a Shuko into play.

Levin sacrificed his Elder and untapped to play a second one. Oiso gave Levin another 1/1 when he EOT Vampiric Tutored. A second Orchard made a third token and Oiso put out an Illusionist. He milled away all but one card of his library and flashed back Cabal Therapy. Levin thought for awhile -- checking for another Cabal Therapy in Oiso's yard -- before sacrificing his Elder and casting Vampiric Tutor.

With Levin tapped out, Oiso showed Levin the Reanimate in hand and the American player put down his deck and shook Oiso's hand.

Despite Levin's red-blooded roots, the crowd was clearly behind the man many players consider to be the best player in the game today.

"Whoo-hoo! Masashi!" was just one of the cheers offered up from the peanut gallery as they rushed in to shake his hand and pat him on the back.

Saturday, March 5, 4:10 p.m. - Osyp Photo Op of the Day

"Why did I agree to wear this thing? Its kind of embarrassing. Who am I trying to impress anyway? I already won the Invitational ballot."

The hat makes the man.

Osyp found himself paired with Jon Paul Gallina in the fourth round. Both players were 3-1. It seemed fitting that Osyp was tricked out like some Magical Elton John since he has dubbed the Blue-white Desire deck he played in Boston and again this weekend "Crocodile Rock" (that's the name of an Elton John song, for all you young 'uns). Gallina was playing a Fiends deck featured Meddling Mages, Savannah Lions, and Phyrexian Negators.

In the first game Jon Paul came shooting out of the gates with a Savannah Lions and Negator only to have Osyp combo him out on turn three. In the second game Jon Paul played two Mox Diamonds on turn one only to have them Echoing Truthed when Osyp played Island and Chrome Mox on his own turn one. Jon Paul managed to replay them both and cast Meddling Mage naming Snap but it didn't matter as Osyp's card drawing and deck manipulation found him everything he needed while Jon Paul never played a land in Game 2.

Saturday, March 5, 4:45 p.m. - Grand Prix Trial Top 8 Decklists

In the months leading up to a Grand Prix, there are a series of tournaments associated with that specific event known as Grand Prix Trials. Trials mirror the format of the Grand Prix and offer the winner -- in addition to product prizes -- three byes for that Grand Prix. The night before the Grand Prix itself there is also a Grand Prix Trial, but this one offers the three-round byes to the Top 4 finishers.

Friday night's trial had 99 competitors, and when the dust settled at around 4:30 this morning, Mitch Tamblyn, David Head, Brian Faires, and Riki Hayashi all received an additional prize of being able to sleep in to about 11:30 thanks to their three-round passes. Despite the crushing 4:30 a.m. loss and having to show up in less than five hours for the start of play Saturday, Peter Johnson, Brad Pardy, Stewart Toelken, and John Ripley all managed to show up for Round One.

Mitch Tamblyn / Blue-white Desire

Download Arena Decklist

David Head / Temporary Solution

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Brian Faires / Temporary Solution

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Riki Hayashi / Orb Opposition

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Peter Johnson / Orb Opposition

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Brad Pardy / Reanimation Machine

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Stewart Toelken / Blue-White Control

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John Ripley

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Saturday, March 5, 5:53 p.m. - Trials and No Errors

So We Meet Again…

An interesting footnote to the item about the Grand Prix Trial . . . after playing all night in the trial and finally emerging with three byes, Mitchell Tamblyn and Riki Hayashi were paired up against each other in round four. Riki took down Game 1 with a pair of Chalice of the Voids set on two and three.

"There is almost no way I can win that game. I could cast a bunch of spells and let them get countered and then cast Brain Freeze . . . I guess," sighed Tamblyn as he recalled their first game. He evened up the match in Game 2 despite a Chalice for two but Game 3 was the one that was really memorable for Tamblyn.

"Have you ever had one of those games where you just want to scoop because it just seems like you cannot win?"

In the final game, Riki had his deck rocking along at full steam. He had Tamblyn in a crippled position under Orb Opposition lock with four creatures. Tamblyn was just about ready to throw in the towel when he was able to climb over the prison wall with a Turnabout and Rebuild, which he was able to parlay into his Mind's Desire combo.

That led to Tamblyn being one of 25 5-0 players after five rounds. A standings printout -- and swiping the deck folder away from the judges for a few minutes -- reveals the 5-0 archetype field to break down as such (with quite a surprise sitting on top):

Rock - 7
Goblins - 5
Madness - 3
Cephalid-Life - 2
Tog - 2
Affinity - 1
Kiki-Opposition - 1
Temporary Solution - 1
Blue-white Desire - 1
Red Deck Wins - 1
Scepter Chant - 1

Saturday, March 5, 6:47 p.m. - Round Seven: Masashi Oiso vs. Antonino DeRosa

Last night Antonino bragged that he not afraid of playing against the Japanese players. Today he was not as confident. Not only was he playing against Masashi Oiso but he was playing Affinity against Cephalid Life. If Oiso hit his combo there was nothing DeRosa could do about it. His deck relied on one basic path to victory -- deal twenty through some combination of damage and life loss.

Oiso, left, and De Rosa battled in Round 7.

Both players were 5-1 coming into the round and the winner would secure a berth for tomorrow. Oiso lost last round when his tapped out opponent Foiled a Reanimate targeting Sutured Ghoul. DeRosa also lost last round facing off against Temporary Solution. The card that caused him to lose that match?

"Energy Flux."

As the players shuffled up and presented their decks, DeRosa peered at Oiso's deck and asked, "Sixty cards?"

One of the things that many players have been commenting on throughout the tournament is the substantial size of Oiso's deck which, due to his habit of double sleeving, makes his deck tower above the competition -- literally.

As they settled in for the match DeRosa announced, "I'm not going to talk 'cause I'll look like a fool when I get beat. I'm gonna keep quiet for this match."

DeRosa can usually be counted on for a little comic relief so I was disappointed that he was planning on keeping mum but I was pleasantly surprised by Oiso's sly sense of humor. At one point when they were talking about last round's experiences, DeRosa commented to the Japanese player, "Your English is getting better."

Oiso smiled slyly and replied, "Si!"

The first game saw Oiso tutor for a Daru Spiritualist and along with a Nomad En-Kor and Starlit Sanctum he was able to go off on turn three.

"How much life are you gaining?"

"One billion…and eighteen."

That was a life total that far exceeded DeRosa's grasp and they shuffled up for Game 2.

De Rosa mulliganed on the play but kept his next six. Oiso quickly announced, "Keep" to the frustration of DeRosa, "Stop keeping it."

Both players led off with Aether Vials. DeRosa made a couple of Arcbound Workers while nothing much seemed to be happening across the table. Before he made any turn three plays, Antonino DeRosa asked the table judge for the creature types on a number of creatures….

Oiso's deck (right) literally towers over De Rosa's.

Nomad En-Kor? Soldier.

Daru Spiritualist (otherwise known as Dawning Naturalist in DeRosa-speak)? Cleric.

Cephalid Illusionist? Cephalid Wizard.

"Would it have been too much to ask for any of them to be the same?"

Engineered Plague came down naming Soldiers but it didn't matter as Oiso was able to get the combo off with a Spiritualist and Shuko two turns later. DeRosa could only shake his head, "No chance."

Oiso secured a seat for himself on Day Two while DeRosa would be playing for that seat in the next and final round of Day One action.

Saturday, March 5, 8:31 p.m. - Round Eight: Masahiko Morita vs. Gerry Thompson

Paul Rietzl was knocked out of contention for Day Two last round by Morita and he came over to the feature match area to -- hopefully -- watch Gerry Thompson avenge his loss. Neither Gerry or Paul liked the chances for the American player.

Gerry Thompson

"You would much rather be playing me this round," sighed Paul.

"Oh yeah," agreed Thompson. He nodded over at his opponent, "He beat me in San Diego."

Paul shook his head, "He beats me whenever I play him."

They rolled two six-sided dice to see who would go first and when Morita's roll came up 'box cars' both the Americans were incredulous.


Gerry as playing Goblins while Morita was playing Cephalid Life. Morita did not think this was a particularly good match-up for himself as he was concerned about Rishadan Ports and Wastelands -- although he only had to be concerned with the latter in this match-up.

Gerry had to mulligan his first hand and kept his next six. Morita was on the play and led off with Nomad En Kor which Gerry promptly slew with a Mogg Fanatic. Morita restocked on En-Kors thanks to Living Wish. Gerry tapped out to play a Piledriver. Morita had a clear window to play both the En-Kor and a Cephalid Illusionist on turn three and promptly dumped his whole deck into his yard. He flashed back Cabal Therapy and Gerry saved everyone a lot of time by scooping up all three of his cards and looking for answers in his sideboard.

Masahiko Morita

While the players shuffled up for Game 2 Gerry and Paul discussed their teams for Atlanta. Gerry is going to be playing with Mitch Tamblyn and Eugene Levin while Paul is going to be with Dave Humpherys and Gabe Walls -- a team he expected great things from.

"I think we have the tenth best team in the world. I figure it goes Dutchies, Japanese, Japanese, Japanese, Japanese, Japanese, TOGIT, TOGIT, TOGIT, and then us."

Gerry mulliganed and kept his next six leading off with Wooded Foothills but had no turn one play. Morita kept his hand and opened on Shuko. After Gerry tapped out on turn two for a Piledriver, Morita looked at his hand and weighed his options for quite a while. He played the squid and flipped his deck. He used Cabal Therapy on himself to dump the Sutured Ghoul he had just drawn and Gerry scooped.

Paul turned to Gerry and scratched his head, "I think that may have been a slow roll."

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