Grand-Prix Sydney: Day 1 Coverage

Posted in Event Coverage on October 9, 2010

By Wizards of the Coast


Saturday, 10:13 a.m. – Grand Prix Trial Decklists

by Ray "blisterguy" Walkinshaw and Pip Hunn

When day one has 8 rounds, getting three free wins to start your day on the right foot is a huge advantage. Or the left foot, if you're that way inclined. The following players battled through the "Grinders" yesterday to win themselves the much coveted three byes.

James Larsen-Scott

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Ge Chen

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Dale Wright

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Jeff Merrick

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Barry Diwell

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Isaac Egan

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Mohd Hafiz Mokhtaruddin

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Michael Dao

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Paul Van Der Werk

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Yi-Fei Ruan

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Tom Stoddart

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Saturday, October 9: 9:56a.m. – Building a Sealed Deck with Martin Juza

by Pip Hunn

Martin Juza, twice Czech National Champion and twice PT Top 8 finisher, sat down fresh off a win at GP: Portland and was keen to double up again. Heading into Sealed construction, Juza professed a preference to play R/W, and wanted to run as many artifacts as possible.

While Juza was doing deck registration, he had to pass a foil Geth, Lord of the Vault and an Elspeth Tirel , much to his disappointment. "I nearly got it back in the deck swap", he sighed. The Magic Gods smiled upon Juza, though, as he spread out his pool on the table and saw something shiny peeking up at him. Something shiny and Mythic. A shiny Molten-Tail Masticore , even!


"Well, that can go in the ‘playable' pile", smiled Juza. The Masticore was joined by a pair of Darksteel Axe s as Juza scanned for bombs. After sorting through his cards, Juza instantly picked Red as his primary color. His pool laden with removal and some of the best creatures in the format, Juza's curve topped out with Kuldotha Phoenix and a Barrage Ogre . The other colours didn't have the immediate appeal of Red, so Juza laid out his artifacts and assembled a curve. A panoply of Myr looked up at him beseechingly. "My friends will yell at me if I don't play all the Myr", Juza shrugged, helpless against their metallic pleas. Luckily his Axes would make them more impressive later in the game. A solid selection of mid-curve artifacts almost played themselves, as a pair of Rust Tick s and a Mimic Vat solidified Juza's deck.

"This format is so hard to build, because there are so many good colorless cards. You have to end up cutting playable cards to try and push a strategy."

Juza started looking for a second colour. Green and Black were both quickly discarded. White held Juza's attention for a moment, with evasive creatures and the highly-rated Arrest on offer. Then Juza spotted a forgotten pile.

"Oh, wait, there's Blue."

There was Blue indeed. A Riddlesmith and Trinket Mage ratcheted up the power level, as the Mage could tutor up one of the Darksteel Axe s. Juza got happier the more he looked over his deck. He started shuffling cards around, pairing up the synergies out loud. "Ok, this goes with this, and these two work together..." With his pool saturated with strong cards, Juza's strategy was to rely on increasing the utility of as many combinations as possible. Eventually, he sorted out a deck where most of his smaller drops would be usable later in the game to power up his bombs and finishers. Myr would get fed to the Ogre. The Riddlesmith will enable the Phoenix. Trinket Mage and Bloodshot Trainee both take make wielding a Darksteel Axe (or two!) increasingly profitable. Good times seemingly lay ahead.

Eventually, Juza declared he was happy with the lines of cards in front of him and went to count his playables. At 31, it was time for some cutting. One ruthless "These are the cards it's illegal NOT to play" sweep later, Juza looked at a more manageable 21 cards. Deciding on the final two took up most of the remaining twenty minutes of deckbuilding, as Juza played out scenario after scenario in his mind. Happy to take his time making the hard calls, Juza waited for the one-minute call to decide and mark out his decklist. Done, he shuffled through some sideboarding options. "It's almost unfair, the amount of good cards I have to leave out."

Happy with his deck, Juza headed off to test, taking advantage of his 3 rounds of byes.

Saturday, October 9: 10:01a.m. – Building a Sealed Deck with Brian Kibler

by Ray "blisterguy" Walkinshaw

Brian Kibler, soon to be inducted into the Magic Hall of Fame, managed to get the deck he registered back to play with.

"So I've already had time to think about how to build it," he admitted, fanning out two normal Myr, a Palladium Myr and a Steel Hellkite .

"The first thing I look at: is it a poison? Five poison cards, so no. There's a few good non-poison Green cards, though. I have a lot of good metalcraft stuff," he realized as he leafed through the rest of his pool.

"I think one of the most important things to remember is that you're building a sealed deck, not a draft deck. Draft is pretty fast, but sealed is different, so you need ways of dealing with bombs. My Red has four removal cards, so I know that I want that. Green has Engulfing Slagwurm , which is very hard to kill, and two Carapace Forger . White has three Auriok Sunchaser , an Arrest and Dispense Justice , but I'm not sure it gives me enough ways to win the late game. Blue and Black doesn't have enough."

"The Slagwurm is too slow in draft, but could dominate in sealed. I would draft quite a few cards over Steel Hellkite , but not in sealed. Argentum Armor is a maybe. It's just too slow, 12 mana is a lot to spend before you get something out of it, and I have enough top end stuff already. White/Red gives me the most options to deal with bombs, but Green/Red gives me more bombs."

CAPTION: Brian Kibler agonizes over the last few spots.

Undecided on his second color, he laid out what he had settled on so far; 14 Artifacts and 4 Red cards. "I definitely want 17 lands if I'm playing Green, and I think I'm playing Green. I like large non-Artifact creatures, which is a big draw for Green. There's not a lot of removal in the set that can deal with something big that's not an Artifact."

With only 4 spots left, he was forced to decide which of the Green cards would make it, and which would be on bench duty. The Slagwurm was in, as was an Acid Web Spider . "This guy is very, very good, he's exactly the right size to stop most things." The last two spots were being argued over by a Molder Beast and a pair of Carapace Forger s. From here, the decisions got harder. Kibler wanted to play all three, but that meant cutting an Artifact. Cutting an Artifact hurt the playability of the Forgers. The Artifact in question was Rusted Relic . "It's great in that it helps itself, but it can be turned off quite easily, and if I'm cutting an Artifact, that becomes more likely." In the end, he opted for a single Carapace Forger . He then cut the Relic for a Flameborn Hellion . "This guy is definitely able to get the job done."

"I like to draw in sealed and draft. Play against Poison/Infect, and draw against Metalcraft. Poison can get you too quickly if you're not careful, but with Metalcraft decks, if you're not drawing, you can easily fall short on actually getting metalcraft active."

Saturday, 11:21 a.m. – Round 2: Quick Questions

by Ray "blisterguy" Walkinshaw and Pip Hunn

What is the best common in Scars of Mirrodin sealed?

John-Paul Kelly " Corpse Cur in the right deck" Brian Kibler " Galvanic Blast or Silver Myr "
Kazuya Mitamura "Any form of removal." Jeremy Neeman " Tumble Magnet "
David Ochoa " Arrest " Tomoharu Saito " Arrest "

Feature Match Round 3 - Gene Brumby vs. Scott Richards

by Pip Hun

Scott Richards is the current New Zealand National Champion, and is the reigning Latin American Champion as well. Some might cast aspersions by pointing out that the Regional Championships stopped being held several years ago, but Reigning is Reigning. Gene Brumby has been on New Zealand's National Team several times, and has played at several Pro Tours. Between the two of them, they hold the two highest Lifetime Pro Points records for New Zealanders. Now they're over in a real country, battling for glory amongst their natural rivals, the Australians.

'Hi, I'm Gene, pleased to meet you. Are we playing the mirror match? Blue/Red, maybe?"

Gene laid down a thick batter of banter, hoping a quick coating of chatter would yield up some information. Scott gave out no tasty morsels, though, smilingly tight-lipped as they shuffled up to play.

Scott Richards plays on silently.

Richards began with a Mountain and an Island , with Gene following suit, revealing they had in fact drawn the Blue/Red mirror. Richards led with a Ferrovore . An Auriok Replica from Brumby was liquidized by an Oxidda Scrapmelter , and the Ferrovore began eating away at Brumby's life total. For defense, Brumby mustered a Chimeric Mass for 3. Richards played and equipped a Strider Harness and swung while Brumby was tapped out. Brumby's Darkslick Drake tapped him out again, the Chimeric Mass left useless. Richards attacked again, dropping Brumby to 8. He then played out another Scrap melter, destroying the Mass. A Trinket Mage for Brumby tutored for an answer, and found...

" Sensei's Divining Top ?" Brumby offered, before revealing a Darksteel Axe . He used his final mana to deploy a Vedalken Certarch , although with no Artifacts on his board the 1/1 looked a little outclassed. Richards simply added to his board with a Snapsail Glider , equipped it, and attacked. The Darkslick Drake and the Certarch blocked one of the Scrap melters, and the Trinket Mage traded with the Ferrovore , leaving Brumby with a lone Drake against the Scrap melter and Snapsail Glider . Brumby found a fifth land and summoned a Sky-Eel School , leaving the board more even but hovering on 2 life. Richards only needed a single creature to get through Brumby's defences, but couldn't find it before his attack. Combat left the board with one creature apiece, Richards' 3/3 unable to get past the 2/4 Drake. Brumby played out his Darksteel Axe and a Lumengrid Drake was met with an opposing Darkslick Drake from Richards. Brumby was forced to keep on the defensive on such a low life total.

Richards summoned an Embersmith and then immediately cast a Vulshok Replica , pinging Brumby down to 1 and increasing his army substantially. An attack cleared the board, leaving Brumby only with the Drake on the board, staring down an Embersmith . Happily for him, he had an Arc Trail to stop the Embersmith from turning any Artifact lethal. Brumby rebuilt his board with another Drake and started attacking, the danger of haste from the Strider Harness being outweighed by a need to win the game quickly. Richards was out of threats, the Shatter in his hand unable to deal with the incoming fliers.

Brumby 1 – Richards 0

With an eye for the details, Gene Brumby takes game one.

Both players began with a Myr. Richards followed his up with a Neurok Invisimancer , letting his little robot attack unblocked for one. Brumby matched speed with a Darkslick Drake . Richards' army grew with a Saberclaw Golem . An Invisimancer from Brumby made sure that the clock started ticking for both players. Richard's Golem was Shatter ed, with a follow-up Oxidda Scrapmelter rather desultorily eating Brumby's Iron Myr . Sky-Eel School from Brumby grew his army of fliers, while Richard's ground-pounders struggle to keep up the race. Disperse from Richards bounced the School, trading card advantage for tempo. With the race starting to lean in Richards' favour, Brumby equalised with a Flameborn Hellion , attacking for 7. Richards played a Trigon of Thought , digging for answers against Brumby's larger men. When the top of his deck didn't yield them, Richards scooped up his cards.

Gene Brumby defeats Scott Richards 2 – 0

Saturday, 1:48p.m. – Round 4: Quick Questions

by Ray "blisterguy" Walkinshaw and Pip Hunn

How many artifacts would you like to be playing in your Scars of Mirrodin sealed deck?

Yuuya Watanabe: '15' Luis Scott-Vargas: '15-16'
Aaron Nicastri: 'Infinite!' Shuhei Nakamura: 'Close to 10, Metalcraft needs 15 plus.'
Martin Juza: 'As many as possible.' Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa: '14-15 if Metalcraft, none if Poison'

Feature Match Round 4 - Luis Scott-Vargas vs. Aaron Nicoll

by Pip Hunn

What is there to say about Luis Scott-Vargas that hasn't been said? Back-to-back GP victories, a streak of impressive finishes longer than an EDH decklist, and credits with the development of innovative and powerful decks over the last few seasons. LSV is respected as one of the Titans of Magic, and brings a mean game to the table. Aaron Nicoll has made Top 8 at Australian Nationals, qualified for Worlds on rating, and played at PT San Juan earlier in 2010. He's a regular sight at PTQ Top 8's throughout Australia, religiously hitting the circuit every year.

Nicoll mulliganed to 5, seeing no land in either of his opening hands.

"This will certainly be a quick game", Nicoll promised. LSV powered out a pair of Myr and a Moriok Replica , while Nicoll struggled to find a second land. When he did, his Leaden Myr was killed off by a Contagion Clasp . A Darksteel Axe bolstered LSV's Myr, and a Tumble Magnet tapped down Nicoll's Necropede . With a Carnifex Demon hitting the board for LSV, and Nicoll languishing on two lands, it was time to move on to game 2.

Luis Scott-Vargas is somehow under the impression he can proliferate his opponents mulligans.

Luis Scott-Vargas 1 – Aaron Nicoll 0

Nicoll chose to draw. LSV's Leaden Myr was joined by a Silver Myr , while Nicoll had a Myrsmith and then a Leaden Myr of his own, automata springing up all over the board. LSV looked to the skies with a Lumengrid Drake , while Nicoll cast a Trigon of Corruption , spawning another 1/1. LSV was happy to untap and Volition Reins the powerful artifact, its -1/-1 counters particularly effective against Nicoll's smaller men.

Nicoll summoned a Skinrender and attacked, looking to get damage in where he could. LSV cast a Contagion Clasp to kill the Myrsmith and left his other mana open, threatening an activation of the Trigon of Corruption . Nicoll attacked with his army and when the dust settled, summoned a Steel Hellkite . LSV cast a Necrogen Scudder to block with. Nicoll had a Tumble Magnet to tap the blocker down, and attacked for the win.

Aaron Nicoll 1 – Luis Scott-Vargas 1

Aaron Nicoll pulls the match back to one game apiece.

"I'll draw", said LSV.

"Well, it seemed to work well for you the first time."

Nicoll's words proved to be prophetic, as once again he was forced to mulligan. Luckily, this time it was only to 6. LSV led off with a Myr and followed it up with an Argent Sphinx , which Nicoll's Tumble Magnet seemed less than useful against. Instill Infection from Nicoll took down the Myr, but the Sphinx attacked unhindered. More Myr on both sides of the board joined the game, LSV's Perilous and Nicoll's Leaden. LSV cast a Tumble Magnet of his own, getting himself metalcraft'd. Nicoll was forced to start using up counters on his Tumble Magnet in order to stave off death. Nicoll summoned some Black Coven Vampires and tried to stabilise his dropping life total.

LSV's assault continued, as he played and equipped a Heavy Arbalest to his Perilous Myr . Nicoll couldn't find men to push his assault with, and LSV had an advantage in Tumble Magnet counters. The Arbalest'd Myr took down Nicoll's Leaden Myr , and then a Grand Architect 's mana ability helped re-equip the Arbalest. The Sphinx continued its relentless grinding. Lumengrid Drake from LSV bounced Nicoll's equipment-loaded Myr, and the Arbalest made playing it again seemed moot. Nicoll summoned a Skinrender and suited it up with Bladed Pinions , but LSV had both the Shatter and the fliers to swing for lethal.

Luis Scott-Vargas defeats Aaron Nicoll 2 – 1

Feature Match Round 5 - Luis Scott-Vargas vs. Martin Juza

by Ray 'blisterguy' Walkinshaw

Hot off of his win at Grand Prix Portland last month, Juza was the first to arrive of the many Pros staying with Aaron Nicastri before this event. Luis Scott-Vargas was also staying with Nicastri, so to say these two have played rather a lot of Scars of Mirrodin limited in the last week or two is understating it rather a lot.

Juza got started quickly with a Snapsail Glider and a Rusted Relic , but LSV had a Skinrender for the 2/2, keeping the Relic set to offline a little bit longer. Juza then fetched a Darksteel Axe with a Trinket mage. LSV made a Contagion Clasp , shrinking the Mage and played a Plains to reveal his second color.

Martin Juza: respect the coin, respect it!.

"Where's your Green?" Juza asked. "I'm not playing Green game one," LSV replied, alluding to the fact they'd playtested their decks extensively while their byes ticked down in the early rounds.

A Barrage Ogre and a Saberclaw Golem woke up the Relic, while LSV finished off the Trinket Mage with a second click of the Clasp. An Arrest stopped the Golem, but Juza quickly followed up and swung with a Kuldotha Phoenix . LSV summoned a Plague Stinger and a Blight Mamba (he'd been tricking about the Green, dastardly!) and sat back with his Trigon of Rage up to make them look more threatening on either end of an attack. Juza thought about it for a moment, but then Galvanic Blast 'd the Stinger and sent his Phoenix and Relic in for more blood. LSV dropped to 10, his Skinrender chumping the Relic. Juza then summoned a Bloodshot Trainee , and attacked. LSV looked at the board, before asking "what's your Poison Status?" Both players chuckled, then LSV reached for his sideboard.

Juza 1 – Scott-Vargas 0

"You wanna draw?" Juza asked as they sideboarded.

"What, as in intentionally?"

"No, play or draw!"

"Oh we'll see." LSV quipped. After much shuffling, he admitted he would draw.

"I'm pretty sure you would keep this," Juza laughed, before mulliganing away his hand. He summoned a third turn Bloodshot Trainee with help from a Golden Myr. LSV missed a land drop, but his Silver Myr helped summon a Grand Architect , and then a Leaden Myr . Apparently he had 'boarded out his Green in favor of Old Reliable. Again Juza's Trinket Mage found the Axe, and was joined by the Barrage Ogre . Skinrender took out the Trainee, and an Axe of his own was equipped to a Perilous Myr .

Luis Scott-Vargas laughs in the face of the coin.

"That's pretty good," Juza remarked, as LSV summoned an Argent Sphinx . The life totals 17-13 in LSV's favor. Juza summoned a Rust Tick , but then had his Ogre bounced by a Lumengrid Drake . Looking at the imposing team of opposing flyers, Juza scooped up his cards.

"That was not very close," he commented.

"It was a good draw," LSV agreed.

"I'll draw," Juza opted. LSV shipped his hand back, causing Juza to reveal his. "First three," he said, showing Island , Mountain and Myr "and I was like, yeah!" before revealing the remaining four land as he too sent back his opener.

Juza summoned a Riddlesmith , but lost it to a Leaden Myr accelerated Skinrender . He followed up with a Neurok Invisimancer , while LSV summoned his Sphinx again. This time Juza had a reasonable answer, summoning his foil Molten-Tail Masticore . Pressing his advantage, LSV attacked Juza down to 13 to his 18, before summoning another Myr, as he was also stuck on three land. Juza gave it some thought, before finally sending both his Invisimancer and the Masticore . "12," replied LSV instantly. The Masticore then shot down the Sphinx. LSV had bluffed the mana to protect it, but didn't actually have metalcraft. LSV attacked back for 3 with his Skinrender , and bounced the Masticore with a Neurok Replica . Juza replayed it, but it was bounced yet again when LSV summoned a Gold Myr to give himself metalcraft, then a Lumengrid Drake . The scores now LSV 10, Juza 7.

Again Juza summoned the Masticore , but couldn't decide if he wanted to attack with the Invisimancer nor not, counting LSV's damage potential over and over. In the end, he sent the turn back without attacking. LSV swiftly untapped, Arrest 'd the Masticore and turned his team sideways. Juza could either chump-block the Skinrender and fall to 3, or trade with a Myr and go to 1. Frowning, he eventually chose the 'Render. Juza discarded to his Masticore , then summoned a Perilous Myr with a shake of his head. LSV dropped a second Arrest on the freshly summoned Myr and attacked again. Juza could only offer the hand-shake of defeat.

"Bounce, bounce, removal. There was no way I could beat that," Juza bemoaned.

"I hit runner, runner there," LSV admitted.

Luis Scott-Vargas defeats Martin Juza 2 – 1

Saturday, 3:45p.m. – Round 5: Quick Questions

by Ray "blisterguy" Walkinshaw and Pip Hunn

What color combination would you prefer to play in Scars of Mirrodin sealed?

Tom Raney: 'Red/White.' Yuuya Watanabe: 'Blue/White.'
Kazuya Mitamura: 'Poison!' Scott Richards: 'Blue/White.'
Luis Scott-Vargas: 'Blue/Red.' Cole Swannack: 'Red/White.'

Saturday, 4:28p.m. – Round 6: Hamster Ball

by Ray 'blisterguy' Walkinshaw and Adam Betteridge

While not to take away from the fact there are plenty of things to do within this event, the fact it's being held at Fox Studios means there's plenty to do outside of it as well. Last I saw, resident artist Eric Deschamps was heading off to get lunch with Hasbro reps Wil Chan and Adam Betteridge. When they came back, Adam had taken pictures of this.

From now on, we'll call him Eric Deschamsterball.

Saturday, October 9: 5:01p.m. – Round 6: Tomoharu Saito vs Anatoli Lightfoot

by Pip Hunn

Anatoli Lightfoot won GP: Brisbane in 2007, and has backed that performance up with a solid Australian Magic career, Top 8'ing other Australian GPs and Nationals. Tomoharu Saito has won 4 GP's, was a winning team member at Pro Tour: Charleston, and was Player of the Year in 2007. With a string of other strong finishes to his name, Saito is one of Magic's most recognised names. Oh, and he's going to be inducted into the Magic Hall of Fame at the World Champs later this year. I guess that's important.

Lightfoot led with a Vulshok Replica , matched by Saito's Auriok Replica . Lightfoot followed up with Ghalma's Warden , and Saito kept pace with an off-colour Trigon of Corruption . Lightfoot cast a second Warden and an Origin Spellbomb , leaving himself one artifact off metalcraft. Saito calmly surveyed the army assembling opposite him on the battlefield, then used the Trigon to kill the Vulshok Replica . Lightfoot's men still held the advantage in the field, with two 2/4's staring down Saito's 1/4. Both men swung in, and Saito blocked one, falling to 18. A Glint Hawk post-combat from Lightfoot left Saito's board looking decidedly empty. Saito summoned a Sky-Eel School to stem the bleeding.

Lightfoot cracked his Spellbomb at the end of turn, paying the mana to put an adorable 1/1 Piglet-Myr token into play and draw himself a card. Lightfoot attacked with his team of the Ghalma's Warden s and the Glint Hawk . Saito blocked, killing the Glint Hawk but letting two damage through. Lightfoot's follow-up Arc Trail was an elegant 2-for-1, leaving Saito without any warm bodies on the battlefield. Saito cast an Acid Web spider and a Horizon Spellbomb to try and clog the board. Lightfoot didn't want to ease up on the pressure, though, with a Mimic Vat to ensure any of his creatures lost in combat would still have an impact.

Tomoharu Saito drops the bomb.

Saito untapped and cast a Sunblast Angel , demolishing Lightfoot's tapped army in a dramatic about-face. Lightfoot could only stare at the two giant creatures on Saito's side of the board, shaking his head in frustration as he passed. Saito cast a Revoke Existence on the Mimic Vat , leaving Lightfoot with a sole piglet token on the board versus the impressive Angel and the ground-clogging Spider. Lightfoot couldn't find an answer to the Angel, and the game ended in five short swings.
"I thought I had that one. I guess bombs are nice", Lightfoot said, reaching for his sideboard.

Tomoharu Saito 1 – Anatoli Lightfoot 0

"Look, I've got one too!", smiled Lightfoot, when his turn 3 Koth of the Hammer hit the board with a resounding thud. Saito nodded and glanced at his lone Iron Myr . Saito summoned a Necropede and another Gold Myr , leaving 3 small artifact creatures on the battlefield. Lightfoot used Koth's second ability to power out a fast Darksteel Sentinel , which did an admirable job of protecting the Planeswalker as it built towards the powerful ultimate. Saito was stranded on the back foot, and every piece of defence he tried to muster was matched or answered by Lightfoot. With Koth running rampant, Saito bowed to the inevitable after a few brutal turns.

Anatoli Lightfoot has a bomb of his own.

Anatoli Lightfoot 1 – Tomoharu Saito 1

Saito took his time considering whether to play or draw the deciding game. He eventually chose to draw, and Lightfoot led swiftly out of the gates with a Myr into a Vulshok Replica . Saito dropped his Chimeric Idol for 2, leaving a mana open to activate it if Lightfoot attacked. Lightfoot swung in anyway, and when Saito activated his Idol, Lightfoot killed it with a Grasp of Darkness . Post-combat, he dropped a Mimic Vat , leaving him with three non-lands in play to Saito's none. After no action from his opponent, Lightfoot cast a Tumble Magnet and attacked. Saito summoned a Sky-Eel School and discarded an Arrest , his board nothing but Forest s and Island s. At the end of turn, Lightfoot cast a Galvanic Blast at Saito's head, dropping him to 8. An attack from both of Lightfoot's creatures left Saito dead unless he had a spectacular answer – and he didn't. Lightfoot continued his undefeated run, 6-0 for Day 1 of the GP.

Anatoli Lightfoot 2 – Tomoharu Saito 1

Saturday, October 9: 6:19p.m. – The Harbor House

by Ray "blisterguy" Walkinshaw

In a tradition loosely started with The Beach House at Pro Tour Honolulu in 2006, Pro Magic players can often be found camping out in an apartment or dwelling near the venue as far ahead as a week or two before the event. A frequent traveler while he battled to become the Rookie of the Year in 2008, Aaron Nicastri felt like he had something to give back to all the players who had graciously offered him a place to rest his weary head. Luckily, he happens to be renting an apartment overlooking Darling Harbour (Australian spelling intentional!) near Sydney CBD.

Aaron put out the word that he would be offering beds, sofas, floor space and room to draft as often as wanted, to anyone making the trip to the land down under. Sure enough, he had no shortage of takers, and was soon housing no less than Luis Scott-Vargas, Brian Kibler, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, Martin Juza, Shuhei Nakamura, Kazuya Mitamura and David Ochoa.


Apparently, they've managed to get through something like 22-25 drafts in the last week. As in they can't actually remember the exact number.

While he was here in Australia, PV had expressed interest in interacting with either kangaroos or koalas or both, so I said I'd accompany him (and anyone else up for a day out) to the zoo. I headed over to the apartment on Friday morning to find everyone in various states of undress/sleepwear playing out round one of yet another draft. In the end, LSV triumphed over Shuhei to take first pick of the rares, a tasty Japanese Elspeth Tirel . Between players showering between games and rummaging through the cupboards for breakfast, we were a little late in leaving the apartment on our field trip, but everybody was on board, so it looked like a fun afternoon would be had by all.

The ‘employees' of the Nicastri & Co. Draft Sweatshop.

After ransacking a food court for lunch, we finally wandered across Darling Harbour and headed towards Circular Quay, where we intended to catch the ferry across to Taronga Zoo. Keeping track of the team was difficult at first, but Aaron pointed that if you just yelled "draft!" you'd be surrounded by all eight players in seconds, each clutching a trio of boosters.

We made it to the ferry terminal just after 2pm, and they told us that we'd make it to the zoo just over an hour before closing, which wouldn't be enough time get in some real koala cuddling. It was probably for the best, as PV was now talking about eating kangaroo steaks, which might bring into question his definition of "interacting with animals."

Thankfully, Circular Quay sits right in-between two of Sydney's most iconic landmarks, so we got some pictures of those instead. It looks like the zoo will have to wait until Monday.

Naturally, after this it was off to the venue for more drafting.

Saturday, October 9: 7:03p.m. – Round 8: Dominic Lo vs Shuhei Nakamura

by Pip Hunn

Shuhei Nakamura is a resoundingly successful Magic player. He's won 3 Grand Prix and made the Top 8 of a fistful of PT's, as well as being both Japanese National Champion and Player of the Year in 2009. Dom Lo travelled to neighbouring New Zealand in 2008 and won the Grand Prix in Auckland. While there, he was resoundingly defeated by Nakamura in the Swiss, but had the last laugh, as the Japanese player ended up 9th. Lo has also won ‘an FNM or two'.

Lo went first, but got to three lands before he made any plays, bouncing some equipment to get a Glint Hawk into play. Nakamura accelerated with a Leaden Myr but had nothing on his fourth turn, letting Lo swing in unopposed with the Hawk. Lo followed up with a Chimeric Mass for 4 before passing. Nakamura attacked with his Leaden Myr and then summoned a Blight Mamba .

Dominic Lo double checks.

Lo, unfazed, simply attacked through the air again with his Hawk before summoning a Saberclaw Golem . Nakamura cast a Trigon of Infestation and passed, leaving mana open to regenerate his Mamba if Lo attacked. Lo cast an Accorder's Shield and a Revoke Existence on the Trigon, forcing Nakamura to activate it in response, leaving him open for a turn without regeneration mana for his Mamba. Lo took advantage of the opening and attacked. The token blocked the Chimeric Mass . Lo top-decked a Trigon of Corruption to a chuckle from Nakamura. Lo grinned apologetically as he killed the Mamba, leaving his team unopposed to crash in for the win.

Dom Lo 1 – Shuhei Nakamura 0

Nakamura elected to draw, and Lo led the second game with an Embersmith , which attacked on turn three unopposed. Nakamura summoned a Palladium Myr , threatening massive acceleration on his next turn. Lo sent in his Embersmith , and Nakamura was happy to trade. Lo then summoned a Snapsail Glider and passed. Nakamura had only a Leaden Myr , so Lo was able to get in for an additional two damage. Post-combat, Lo added to his board with a Gold Myr and a Necropede . Nakamura had nothing, while Lo found his Trigon of Infestation again and added it to the board.

Nakamura tried to fight back with a Fume Spitter , which Lo left looking lonely as the Trigon picked off the Leaden Myr . Lo cast a Chimeric Mass for 5 and attacked with his Glider. Nakamura placidly laid another land and passed, prompting Lo to ask what was in his hand. Nakamura simply smiled serenely and waved ‘go'.

Shuhei Nakamura is not liking his chances.

Lo activated his Mass and attacked, only to have his giant monster Shatter ed. Lo followed up with a Saberclaw Golem , which Nakamura countered with a Blight Mamba . Lo was happy to spend a charge counter from his Trigon to kill the Mamba, but when Lo tried another attack, Nakamura had a second Shatter for the Golem. Lo's Glider kept grinding away, taking Nakamura in bite-sized chunks from 14 to 6. Without a third Shatter lurking on the top of his deck, Nakamura's situation looked bleak. The four or five lands he had in hand certainly weren't helping. Nakamura tried some tricks with his Fume Spitter and a Mimic Vat , but Lo had a Shatter of his own, and Nakamura scooped his cards up.

Dom Lo 2 – Shuhei Nakamura 0

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