by Event Coverage StaffDecklistsDay One Undefeated Decklists
by Marc CalderaroSaturday, 8:10 p.m.Tid-bits and Follow-Ups
by Brian David-MarshallFeature Match Round 9Ben Stark vs. Alex Yatsenko
by Duncan McGregorFeature Match Round 8Jamie Parke vs. Conley Woods
by Brian David-MarshallFeature Match Round 7Gabriel Nassif vs. Nassim Ketita
by Marc CalderaroSaturday, 8:10 p.m.Don’t Call Her “Mother”; It’ll Just Hurt More When You Lose.
by Duncan McGregorSaturday, 7:19 p.m.Sealed Deck Tech: Manuel Bucher
by Duncan McGregorFeature Match Round 6Ruud Warmenhoven vs. Guillaume Wafo-Tapa
by Marc CalderaroSaturday, 6:21 p.m.The Magic Bazaar
by Duncan McGregorSaturday, 5:32 p.m.A Chat with the Head Judge
by Marc CalderaroFeature Match Round 5Yuuya Watanabe vs. Gaudenis Vidugiris
by Brian David-MarshallSaturday, 5:19 p.m.Quick Questions
by Brian David-MarshallFeature Match Round 4Raphael Levy vs. Kazuya Mitamura
by Marc CalderaroSaturday, 2:27 p.m.Grand Prix Trial Undefeated Decklist Profile: Nassim Ketita
by Brian David-MarshallSaturday, 2:05 p.m.Quick Questions
by Brian David-MarshallSaturday, 12:55 p.m.Have You Looked Everywhere?
by Brian David-MarshallSaturday, 12:27 p.m.Happy Birthday Steve Sadin
by Marc CalderaroSaturday, 12:16 p.m.First Impressions of Zendikar (Un)Sealed
by Event Coverage StaffInfo: Fact Sheet
Saturday, 12:16 p.m. – First Impressions of Zendikar (Un)Sealed
Grand Prix-Tampa is barely underway, and without even playing a round, some of the decks are poised to tackle the day.
After taking a survey of the room, it’s pretty clear that Black and Red are the Sealed colors of the day. Many combatants appear to be playing at least one of the color’s removal spells. From Inferno Trap and Burst Lightning to Hideous End, Disfigure and Heartstabber Mosquito. I mean, sure it’s hard not to play a large amount of black when you open up two Marsh Casualties, but I’ve seen multiple, strong players splashing all over for those color’s removal. Even for things like Musara Pyromancer. The double-red commitment is easily worth the aspect of turning half of your dudes into removal spells.
Japanese goliaths, and Player of the Year contenders, Tomohiro Saito and Yuuya Watanabe, received the Red/Black memo loud and clear, packing their decks with removal of both the fiery and the grotesque kind. And though I’d be a bad reporter if I told you just what’s in their decks, let’s just say, they didn’t travel this far to scrub out.
Former US Nationals champion Michael Jacob is sitting pretty with a surfeit of strong black cards as well – though Jacob decided to pair his macabre with intellect rather than passion. There are some great blue cards in the set to clean up after black’s messes.
Brian Kibler – fresh off his first Pro-Tour win last week in Austin – seems poised for another good-looking weekend as well. His pool yielded some great goodies for the American. Even though his quality cards were spread out over a variety of colors (just about everything but white), his green and colorless spells are more than enough to splash for whatever he needs. And don’t forget, folks – Fetchlands aren’t just for Constructed!
Now, I’m not just riding the red and black horse into the sunset. There are plenty of decks without those colors. And if you’re not playing them, perhaps you’re unlucky, or maybe you’re quite lucky indeed. Who needs to disfigure or hideously end your opponents’ creatures, when you can just send them on a Journey to Nowhere? And with the strong ally presence in White, a couple Kazandu Blademaster or Kabira Evangel – aided, of course, by the resident master of Into-the-Battlefield abilities, Kor Skyfisher, and just maybe a Devout Lightcaster – can go a long way to blunting dark and fiery strategies.
Both the Ruels have distinct white flavors in their forty, and Dr. Lach, Chris Lachmann (half of the PT-San Diego super-team, Lach n’ Lunen), has ample reason to be running the color of order and law. In fact, he’s running the least common color combination of White and Green. Because though there are only so many removal spells, there are more enough scary monsters. And we all know the endlessly paraphrased Jamie Wakefield battle cry: It’s the last fatty that kills you!
As the players shuffle for the coming rounds – agonizing over card 22, and just how greedy their splash can be – the stage is set, and the die is cast for the exhilarating marathon that is the first day of a Grand Prix.
Saturday, 12:16 p.m. – Happy Birthday Steve Sadin
Limited Information’s own Steve Sadin turned 21 today and he and a handful of players in the event may be facing an uphill climb as a result. Steve waited until the stroke of midnight last night to properly celebrate crossing the final threshold into adulthood. Joining him in celebration were NY area friends Chris Lachman, Matt Boccio, and Tom Martell as well as some friends from the Pro Tour including U.S. National Champ Charles Gindy and PT Austin winner Brian Kibler. Contributing to the collective dehydration this morning was the fact that Kibler was spending money like he had just won a Pro Tour.
Coverage reporter Marc Calderaro was hanging out with Steve earlier in the evening but decided to part ways around 11pm in order to be well rested for today’s long day of coverage.
“I thought that was the sensible play,” said Marc while explaining his early departure to a group of players.
Charles Gindy, faceplanted on a nearby table, looked up briefly and nodded in painful agreement with Marc’s decision before resuming his 3-bye nap.
Saturday, 12:55 p.m. – Have You Looked Everywhere?
There is always an interesting array of misplaced items at the GP lost and found. From decks to binders to various items of clothing -- I once found a pair of pants -- if a player can lose it you can usually find an example of it on stage near the scorer’s table. One item that will not be showing up there is Martin Juza’s voice. The normally gregarious Czech player is greeting people with a sign apologizing for his subdued demeanor this weekend as he struggles with a cold that everyone here seems to be in various stages of treating. There was not much call to talk while he waited out his three byes and he took advantage of the time to preparing some communication tools.
He did manage to whisper some additional details about his near death experience with an alligator this past week while touring one of Florida’s National Parks with Gaudenis Vidugiris, Shuhei Nakamura, and Kazuya Mitamura. It seems that there were a couple of dozen park-goers, including the aforementioned Magic players, in the vicinity of the alligator. Martin Juza's voice box Apparently there are no predatory animals in Japan that...you know... eat humans because while people were taking pictures from a safe distance a fascinated Shuhei Nakamura approached the reptile. The non-Magic crowd fled in terror while Shuhei’s friends managed to pull him away as he was leaning down to pet it. Had the reigning Player of the Year actually been eaten runner-up Olivier Ruel would have assumed his duties for the remainder of the season.
Saturday, 2:05 p.m. – Quick Questions
What are you looking for when you open a Zendikar Sealed Deck pool?Olivier Ruel: Green -- surprisingly. I think it is the worst color by far in draft but it is the best and most consistent in Sealed. In general I like Allies a lot in Sealed. Even if I have to play three or four colors I don't really mind as long as I have the fixers. ManuelB's deck is a pretty good example. He is playing four colors with Sorrin Marvov and Torch Slinger in a green base and the deck is pretty good. Shuhei Nakamura: Aggro. This format is really aggressive and your creatures only have the advantage when you attack. I like to play an aggressive deck. Cedric Phillips: A black-red beat-the-crap-out-of-you deck. That's it. Black-red, white-red...just some aggressive deck. I don't want any seven mana bombs or any of that crap. I just want to attack them. 18 lands play first. That's it. Luis Scott-Vargas: Black with a lot of removal. Basically any two colors as long has it has a lot of spells. I don't like the creature heavy decks. I like a lot of spells. I think in Sealed all the pieces are not going to be there to build an aggressive deck. Cards like Blood Seeker and Vampire Lacerator get a lot worse, which are normally very decent in Draft. Brian Kibler: A reasonable curve and removal. The format is a lot faster than other Sealed formats and you need to have a deck that can establish a presence on the board pretty quickly.
Saturday, 2:27 p.m. – Grand Prix Trial Undefeated Decklist Profile: Nassim Ketita
Nassim Ketita is no stranger to competitive Magic. He’s made the Day two cut in four Grand Prix events so far (Columbus, Philadelphia, Massachusetts and Boston). And if the name sounds familiar, it’s probably because his 12th place finish in Philly was one of the first high-level performances of the explosive Legacy combo deck Iggy Pop. Last night, Ketita showed himself ready to earn his fifth day two appearance. Plowing down everyone who stood against him in his Grand Prix Trial, Ketita earned himself three coveted byes – a stellar first step to completing the all-important X-2 for the day.
Ketita said he all but breezed through the Trial, thanks to a powerful Sealed pool. He told me that during deck registration, he overheard someone a few tables down going on and on about some ridiculous deck he had opened. Though Ketita didn’t take much note at the time, when he received his deck, the familiar voice (which belonged to Cliff Weixler) ran up to him, pointed right in his face and exclaimed, “You’ve got an awesome deck!” Weixler wasn’t lying.Nassim Ketita
Nassim said that when ripped open the pack and saw Disfigure, Malakir Bloodwitch, Ob Nixilis, the Fallen, and two Hideous End alongside the Gigantiform, Harrow and two Grazing Gladehart, the deck built itself. The triple Spire Barrage made him pause for a second, but without additional red to support the powerful burn spell, there was little to truly consider. He laughed jovially about the Trial itself. “Yeah, a lot of the games were blow-outs, but I never played the Ob Nixilis. I drew it once, but never played it.”
But for Nassim, earning the byes was icing on an already sweet, week-long cake. Part of the Beach House Crew – a group of vacationing Canadians including Rich Hoaen, Duncan McGregor, Nathon Braymore, Ian Woodley, Chris Mason, Mark Acheson, Robb Davis and a very non-Canadian Tim Aten – Nassim and company have been here since Monday, lounging by the swimming pools and anguishing over sealed pools. “We had a great time. We did so many drafts; and you should see our room bill!
The week has helped him feel comfortable in the adventurous format. He feels signaling is the most important aspect of triple Zendikar because it’s easy to wind up short on playable cards if you’re in the wrong color. It’s funny he should say that. Because when I asked what card he’d love to open, he answered with the speed of an echo: “Hellkite Charger!” But he quickly took it back. “You know, actually, I think I’d rather get a Trusty Machete. It’s not as strong, but it’s going in whatever deck I build.”
When I pressed him for his favorite draft archetype, his said the oft-overlooked Mono Green. The only deck that can take full advantage of the Timbermaw Larva, Mono Green has very powerful tools, as long as you’re not fighting for them. “If you can get a couple Primal Bellows, I mean, it’s a one-mana, instant-speed Fireball.”
Nassim Ketita is ready and hunger for his fifth day two, and by the looks of his current sealed deck, I think he can do it. A strong Red-Green deck with a solid curve up to Terra Stomper. Ketita still has to win at least four matches for the day, but thanks to his performance yesterday, that’s three less than most.
Feature Match Round 4 – Raphael Levy vs. Kazuya Mitamura
With their byes receding in the distance round four marked the first round of play for many of the more well-known names in the field. They don’t come much more visible than Hall of Famer Raphael Levy and Pro Tour Honolulu winner Kazuya Mitamura. Raph, who stands poised to pass Jon Finkel on the all-time Pro Points list, has been playing on the Pro Tour since PT Paris in 1997. He has only missed three Pro Tours in all that time and is riding a streak of more than 60 consecutive Pro Tour attended.
Kazuya MitamuraBy contrast, Mitamura has only been playing on the Pro Tour since Prague but he has made the most of his time with three Top 8 appearances -- including his win in Hawaii -- and has 129 lifetime points to his credit. 44 of them have come this season and he is a dark horse in the Player of the Year race at 18 points off the lead and with seven players ahead of him. Still, with five events between now and the handing out of the trophy, anything could happen. There was a lot of ground to be covered and the first step was to get past Levy, who had a potential information advantage on the Japanese player.
“He registered my deck,” said Mitamura. At Sealed Deck events players register a pool of cards that someone else will be playing as a safeguard against cheating. The registered pools are then handed out -- in this case in the same vicinity of the players who registered them -- for players build with. The registration sheets also contain the name of the player registering the deck. Mitamura was hoping that Raph would not remember what cards he might need to play around. “Maybe he will not notice. Secret...secret.”
Mitamura came out fast with Plated Geopede and Tajura Archer while Levy started off on Cliff Threader and Turntimber Basilisk. Mitamura had no bonus for his Geopede on turn four and merely attacked for one. He played Adventuring Gear and passed the turn. Kor Sanctifiers destroyed the equipment but that unleashed four Cobras from the trap Mitamura had set. He cracked back with everyone and when the Sanctifiers blocked the Archers the Japanese player took it out with Vines of the Vastwood.
Levy was pecking away with his Cliff Threader and hoped to hide behind his Basilisk and freshly cast Shepherd of the Lost. Mitamura quickly untapped and attacked with everyone. Levy was already down to 9 and tried to find a block that would let him play around tricks, not die, and keep his meager supply of creatures intact. Mitamura wasn’t playing fancy Magic; he was happy to lose two guys and whittle Levy down to 3. He played a post-combat Geyser Glider and Levy reached for his sideboard.
This format looked every bit as aggressive as advertised as Raph roared back in Game 2 with Steppe Lynx and Oran-Rief Survivalist vs a Plated Geopede for Mitamura. Raph got in for six with Lynx on turn three as he Harrowed up a fourth turn Shepherd of the Lost. Mitamura was already at 10 and quickly they were onto Game 3.
This game bore no resemblance to the first two as both players got off to slow starts. Raph broke the ice with a fourth turn Oracle of Mul Daya on the draw. Mitamura played Geyser Glider but if he was waiting for more mana to play things higher on the curve he lost a land -- Oran-Rief, the Vastwood, no less -- to a kicked Mold Shambler. Raph was able to play multiple spells a turn later but wanted to check with a judge about the trigger for the Baloth Cage Trap -- whether it was just playing artifacts or both artifacts and enchantments that set it off.
“I know he has one in his deck. I listed his deck,” said Raph while the judge went to get the Oracle text of the card. “He listed mine but I don’t know if he noticed.”
Raphael LevyOnce Raph was assured that it was only artifacts he played Shepherd of the Lost and Quest for the Gemblades. Mitamura paid full price EOT for the Baloth Cage Trap he was indeed holding and flew over with Geyser and added Plated Geopede.
Raph played Oran-Rief Survivalist and Stone Puma with a Kabira Evangel sitting on top of his library. The score was 12 to 17 in favor of Mitamura. Levy fell to 8 from the Geyser and Mitamura muscled up with Terra Stomper. Levy gulped, ate a Forest with a second Shambler, and passed the turn. Mitamura sent in the Terra Stomper, Baloth token, and Geyser. “Two cards?” asked Raph. Mitamuras spread two face down cards out in front of himself in reply.
“Thinking.” groaned Levy as he wanted to do a little first strike damage with his Shepherd and then pop his Quest for the Gemblades to make something -- possibly even the Shepherd -- bigger before regular damage got dealt. He was wary of the Vines of Vastwood he had seen earlier in the match. Finally he put Shepherd and Oracle in the way of Geyser. two Shambler and Oran-Rief in front of Stomper. and Stone Puma in front of Baloth.
“First strike?” asked Raph who did not use his Quest to save anyone. When the dust settled Raph had Oracle and a Mold Shambler while Mitamura had the Baloth and the combat shy Geopede. Raph played Ondu Cleric and the Evangel to gain three life and attacked for two with the his Oracle. Mitamura paid retail for four cobra tokens at the end of the turn. He untapped and attacked with everyone without playing a land to grow the ‘Pede. Again Levy agonized about blocking. he seemed sure that the Evangel would jump the Geopede and put Ondu Cleric and Mold Shambler in the way of the Baloth. He popped the Quest and Mitamura was holding the Vines of Vastwood that Raph had been hoping to outlast to make Raph’s Shambler have shroud, which fizzled the effect from the Quest.
Mitamura attacked with all his tokens after Raph played Cliff Threader. Levy blocked two of them and Mitamura all but cleared the board with Seismic Shudder. Raph found Adventuring Gear and equiped his Evangel. Mitamura had a Survivalist wielding a Blazing Torch. Raph chuckled as he top decked Luminarch’s Ascension but his humor was short lived as Mitamura ripped Scute Mob. Raph got in for four vigilant points of damage with his Evangel after he played land and Joraga Bard but the game was over a turn later when Mitamura played Eldrazi Monument.
“I sided in (Seismic Shudder) since you had three mountainwalkers,” said Mitamura as both players revealed that they were aware they were facing the deck they had registered.
After the match Raphael wondered if he could have done anything differently. He also wondered if he had given Mitamura the extra turns he needed to draw into the Vines of Vastwood.
“There was nothing he could do if I get those counters on the Shepherd. Did he have the Vines the whole time?” asked Levy.
I did not see Mitamura’s hand at the end of the game but I asked him at the start of the following round and he confirmed that Raph’s read had been correct. “Yes. I had it the whole time.”
Final result: Kazuya Mitamura - 2 Raphael Levy -1
Saturday, 5:19 p.m. – Quick Questions
What is your favorite movie of all time?Rashad Miller: I guess Shawshank Redemption -- actually I think I like The Game better. It had a big spectrum of emotions and I didn't expect the twist ending. If you can get a twist by me? I am impressed. Antoine Ruel: Fight Club. It is the kind of movie I love. The end is unpredictable. Or maybe Amelie. I saw it and almost cried. Oli went to the cinema to see it twice and cried both times. It is sad and beautiful -- like my last round. Jamie Parke: The Matrix! Not even close. It had consistency, an innovative story, and it was really entertaining. That question is really hard. How do you compare comedies with other movies? I would say South Park is the funniest movie ever but how can you compare that with the Matrix? Kazuya Mitamura: I don't see movies. It's true. Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa: I don't know...I have a few that I really like; Butterfly Effect, A Beautiful Mind, and I really like Contact a lot. Have you seen that one?
Feature Match Round 5 – Yuuya Watanabe vs. Gaudenis Vidugiris
As these two vets stepped up to the feature match arena, Gaudenis Vidugiris quickly cut to the chase. “I heard youre deck is really good.” It seems the rumors of Yuuya Watanabe’s four Hideous Ends had already leaked out – even though Yuuya had only played one round. “Oh, it’s so great!” he answered with a smile.
Gaudenis VidugirisThe two shuffled up and readied for the battle. Vampire Lacerator, Guul Draz Vampire, Punishing Fire, Marsh Casualties and Plated Geopede was enough gas for Watanabe to keep a two-land hand (Swamp and a Mountain), as Sky Ruin Drakes and Welkin Terns speckled Vidugiris’ grip.
The Geopede and a Tern faced off early on, but turn three saw no third land for Watanabe as he timidly hit for one with the first striking landfaller before casting his 2/2 vampire. Vidugiris winced before casting two more Terns and making the scores even at 16 – it’s as if he sensed the Casualties stranded in his opponent’s hand. Yuuya sunk to 15 on his upkeep and still couldn’t find his third land. Clearly frustrated, he sent in his team, including a Guul Draz that traded with Vidugiris’ Reckless Scholar.
Triple sea-bird attacks and a Sky Ruin Drake put Yuuya further back, as he considered Punishing something with [Punishing Fire] fire, but declined, and finally found his third land (a Verdant Catacombs), making the score 8-5 before a Marsh Casualties wiped the Terns away.
A turn later (not a Tern later – three was enough, thank you), the scores were 3-3, and the Lacerator and Geopede (3/3) attacked into a new Kraken Hatchling and the tapped Sky-Ruin Drake. Then, during Gaudenis’ upkeep, sitting precariously at one life, Watanabe dealt him the death-blow. A Hideous End on the 2/5 Flyer. Even though Vidugiris was able to bounce it with Into the Roil, the tempo loss was too much to overcome. And though Watanabe took five turns to find his third land, it came just in time.
Yuuya Watanabe 1, Gaudenis Vidugiris 0
Gaudenis sideboarded out all of his red for black. Wanting the most black creatures possible against those Hideous Ends, Gaudenis knew it could easily mean the difference in the next two games.
Both players again started with good opening spells. Welkin Tern this time answered a turn-one Lacerator (soon equipped with a Blazing Torch – I hope it’s not scared of itself!). An un-kicked Goblin Ruinblaster (it looks so nice in foil) soon hasted into a Vampire Nighthawk as Gaudenis was happy to trade his ‘hawk for the Goblin and the Torch – netting two life in the process.
The curves kept curving with a Crypt Ripper from Vidugiris and a Bladetusk Boar from Watanabe. More two-for-one’s for the Madisonian, as his shade ran head-long into the Boar and Lacerator. The score 20-9 in Vidugiris’ favor, he pressed the attack with an Guul Draz Vampire (now with +2/+1), and traded up for Yuuya’s unkicked Heartstabber Mosquito. Yuuya could only hope Gaudenis would eventually run out of aggression, but when the American calmly cast a Living Tsunami, Watanabe realized he wouldn’t. A draw-step later, it was on to Game 3.
Yuuya Watanabe 1, Gaudenis Vidugiris 1
Vidugiris, knowing that Watanabe was going down to at least six, kept a slow seven cards – four land, Heartstabber Mosquito, Roil Elemental and Crypt Ripper. Watanabe’s shuffling finally ended at five, and he kept a Lacerator, Hideous End, and Inferno Trap, with a Mountain as his only land.
Yuuya WatanabeBy turn five, Watanabe still hadn’t found land number two, and Vidugiris’ first two creatures, Sky-Ruin Drake and Roil Elemental brought the slow but steady beats. The Inferno Trap went off next turn on a new Vampire Nighthawk, and soon land number three brought a Hideous End to the Roil Elemental. Yuuya still had another Trap and another End in his hand, but no creature under four mana; so he waited. Vidugiris was perfectly content with that, as his blue monsters continued to sink the Player-of-the-Year leader further in his chair.
Next turn, Gaudenis cast Crypt Ripper and brought everyone to the red-zone party – even the usually anti-social Giant Scorpion. But the Drake met a terrible end (I always told him he should stop partying). With another land on his draw step, Yuuya pain in full for an Inferno Trap, burning the Ripper to death. Yuuya was finally able to follow with his first creature – a Hagra Crocdile. But at this point, Gaudenis had nine mana, and his Mosquito pierced the croc’s thick hide, going right for the heart.
Yuuya puzzled. Staring down a Scorpion, a Mosquito, a Soul Stair Expedition with two counters, and a life pad showing 15-5, it was an uphill battle for the Kanagawa resident. After a long time in thought, he cast a painful Vampire Lacerator and Magma Rifted the 2/2 flying insect, sacrificing his precious land number five.
Speaking of land, this land-based format has certainly done some odd things to tournament Magic. For example, before Zendikar, it wasn’t often a player would scoop in response to a land drop. But when Vidugiris dropped a Swamp, laying a third counter on his Expedition, Watanabe had had enough. He conceded to Gaudenis and extended his hand.
Yuuya Watanabe 1, Gaudenis Vidugiris 2
Saturday, 5:32 p.m. – A Chat with the Head Judge
Seamus Campbell is no stranger to high-level Magic. While his history doesn’t go back as far as many - his first Grand Prix was Oakland in ‘04 - he has already Head Judged three other Grand Prix, including one in Germany. He may also be familiar to you from his writings for StarCityGames, where he edited their Ask the Judge feature for over two years while including his own writing for their Feature Fridays. His first attempt to sit down for a talk was derailed by tournament demands, as two separate judges whisked him away, but he came back soon enough. The interruptions were appeals, he explained. Every player has the right to appeal any ruling to the head judge if they disagree with it, but in the majority of cases (including both of these) the head judge will uphold the initial ruling. “This staff has a lot of self-confidence,” Seamus mentioned, “and they know when to double-check before giving a ruling.” Zendikar, while populated with a lot of triggers, is not a terribly complicated set from a judging point of view, he explained.
Head Judge Seamus CampbellI asked Seamus if the recent Magic rules changes have caused any problems, but he shook his head no. “Most players coming to competitive events know the rules. Players are used to the responsibilities placed on both players in the match, and are almost always comfortable with what is fixed and what is left alone.” The event itself has also been running well - while there were a few delays due to computer problems, Seamus opined that this event has been running more smoothly than any of the other GPs he was Head Judge for.
I also asked about the judges for this event. The judge team was organized by Unity Entertainment, the tournament organizer, and this was the second year in a row (after last year’s GP Atlanta) that Seamus worked for them. Before Atlanta, they spent a long time discussing the requirements, so Unity was ready for this year’s event. The GP occurring only a week after PT Austin also helped, Seamus explained as several international judges stuck around for the extra week, providing experience to the team and also giving the local volunteers a taste of life on the PT. Australian L3 James Mackay, in particular, is a rare sight at events in this part of the world!
After this, Seamus’ next big event is Worlds in Rome, a mere four weeks away. They are expecting huge turnout at that event, Seamus explained, so in addition to Tampa being an event unto itself, “this is a warmup for potentially, literally, thousands of players.” Worlds in Paris in 2006 shattered all kinds of attendance records, and hopefully Rome will even top that. Without an announced GP schedule for 2010 yet, it’s hard to say where he’ll be after that, but wherever there is Magic, I wouldn’t bet against Seamus being there to keep it fair.
Saturday, 6:21 p.m. – The Magic Bazaar
At Manatee Convention Center this weekend, the tables are huddled closely together, and still take up close to 70% of the hall. But behind a thin black curtain, in a different world, there’s a bazaar. Their tables covered in glass cases lining market-style stands, the Magic vendors showcase a different side of the game. And just like a real marketplace, the people who operate these stores tend to have view of the game that the rest of us don’t always see.
I stopped in for a quick minute to ask about their trends. How had Pro Tour-Austin affected things? What cards just can’t stay in stock? Sure, the new Zendikar lands are a new Extended staple, but what are the cards that you might just be facing at your next FNM?
Each dealer, Pastimes, Strikezone, Dueling Ground, Game Academy, Hot Sauce Games, all deftly avoided the elephant in the room. Only when asked directly did they say, “Well, of course Baneslayer Angel ridiculous.” They feverishly covet the slayer of banes, and constant buy them from anyone willing to give them up. In the same vein, every card in the Vampire deck just flies off the shelves. Specifically, Zendikar vamp, Bloodghast is fantastic. The neo-Nether Shadow is playable across most constructed formats, and the vendors still feel the card’s best use is still to be found. The Malakir Bloodwitch is also a great pairing for the Bloodghast and the rest of the clan. Though with the proven effectiveness of Jund, dealers are wondering if the Vampire clan can properly adapt.
Ob Nixilis has been a constant good seller and Ogre from Toad and Troll feels it’ll stay a competitive card throughout its time in Standard, but some say it’s still yet to break. And to some tournament players’ surprise, Beastmaster Ascension is selling great. As it creates yet another casual iteration of the Kobold deck (5/6 Kobolds? Yes please.)
This last week it’s been easier for dealers to move the combo-licious Punishing Fire and the enchantment du jour, Pyromancer’s Ascension, but they’re left wondering why so many Sphinx of Jwar Isle are yet unmoved. And further on the underrated train, Adam from Hot Sauce Games says he’s been buying up everyone’s Conqueror’s Pledges. “It’s six dudes. C’mon.” And what can I say? The man’s got a point. It is six dudes. C’mon.
Chris over at Strikezone, had seen some peculiar things selling in unusually high numbers. Though I doubt a spike in Day of Judgment and Journey to Nowhere sales would make anyone raise an eyebrow, perhaps Rite of Replication and Sadistic Sacrament will. And back in the Alara block, Christ said that at Pro Tour-Austin the store sold completely out of Thornlings. Interesting indeed. When asked to speculate on the reasons, Chris said that the Rite of Replication is a good control finisher, and Thornling is a good aggro answer to control, but the Sacrament found him at a loss.
Perhaps it’s due to the recent rise in Vintage sales. Zach over at Pastimes said he doesn’t really understand it, but they’ve seen a sharp spike in Vintage staples, including the Power 9. None of the dealers could fully explain why they were suddenly able to move those rare and sought-after items. It could be nothing at all; but only time will tell for certain.
I loved my time in the Magic Bazaar. It always give me another perspective, and a different look at the cardboard we love so much. But, sadly, it was time to leave the safety of the marketplace, and go back to the trenches, with 800 Magic players battling each other to the death.
Feature Match Round 6 – Ruud Warmenhoven vs. Guillaume Wafo-Tapa
The two experienced competitors spent the shuffling period trying to remember the various times that they played in the past. Each kept insisting that the other one beat them in Paris, but neither seemed to think that they had a lifetime edge. Guillaume won the die roll, and unsurprisingly chose to play - this was not a Sealed format slow enough to reward drawing. Ruud hesitated a moment before keeping his hand.
Guillaume let with a turn two Surrakar Marauder. Ruud had a pair of Forests, but no other play. Guillaume swung in and dropped another of the intimidating creatures. Ruud’s third Forest didn’t enable any plays, and after cracking in again Guillaume tripled up on Surrakars thanks to Rite of Replication. Ruud’s fourth Forest cost him a life, thanks to Misty Rainforest, and his Timbermaw Larva was not at its best on defence. Another land from Guillaume let his team swing past anyway, and he dropped another evader in Heartstabber Mosquito. Ruud drew for the turn and then packed it in.
Ruud: “That was a pretty nice draw.”
Guillaume Wafo-TapaTapped lands from both players started Game 2, with Oran-Rief, the Vastwood staring at a Jwar Isle Refuge. Ruud continued the trend with Teetering Peaks, but Guillaume’s Swamp allowed one of his Surrakar Marauders. Ruud dropped a Plains and a Kor Hookmaster to lock down the beater for a turn. Guillaume played a Blazing Torch and suited up the Marauder, but would still have to wait for it to untap. Ruud thought for a while on his turn, long enough for the feature match judge to prompt him, and finally swung in before dropping a Cliff Threader and another Plains. Guillaume cleared his board using the Torch and a kicked Gatekeeper of Malakir.
Ruud refilled with a Bladetusk Boar and a Misty Rainforest, and the two competitors began to attack past each other. Ruud declined to block on his turn, hitting back to put the life totals at 16-16, but his Stonework Puma was Cancelled. Guillaume was now stuck on four land, but Rite of Replication gave him his own copy of the Boar. Not wanting him to be able to block, Ruud fired out another Hookmaster and swung in with his 3/2. Guillaume again missed a land drop, allowing Ruud to trade his Kor for the Surrakar, taking 2 in the process. Guillaume replaced it with a Heartstabber Mosquito.
Ruud’s Boar rumbled in again, dropping Guillaume to 10, and the Misty Rainforest was finally cracked, giving Ruud six mana for a Vastwood Gorger. Guillaume’s two evasion creatures knocked Ruud down to 4, and he cluttered up the board with another Surrakar Marauder and a Kraken Hatchling. Ruud declined to be stopped by them, though - Windborne Charge sent both of his creatures to the air for a lethal counterattack.
Ruud WarmenhovenGuillaume tossed a Blazing Torch onto the battlefield, but neither player had an early play. Ruud had three Plains on his third turn for a Kor Hookmaster, which Guillaume briefly read to make sure it wouldn’t hook itself. He had only land for his fourth turn, but that was better than Ruud, who could only swing in before passing. Sky Ruin Drake hit the table for Guillaume, and Ruud could only draw and shake his head. After some thought, and more than a few annoyed glances at Guillaume’s equipment, he finally tossed Kor Sanctifiers out with no kicker.
Guillaume enhanced his air force with a Windrider Eel, also suiting up the Sky Ruin Drake. Ruud drew for his next turn and grimaced again, commenting “I hate my life,” before dropping a Mountain and a Bladetusk Boar. The Boar was shot down with Blazing Torch at end of turn, and Guillaume tossed down his seventh land to pay the kicker on Sphinx of Lost Truths. The Drake and the Eel swung in, finally damaging Ruud. Ruud cracked back with his two creatures, but when Guillaume blocked his Sanctifiers he could only toss them into the graveyard. His new Mountain apparently didn’t change anything. Guillaume’s flyers continued their assault, with a Surrakar Marauder also making an appearance. Ruud finally drew green mana, a Khalni Gem to allow a Grazing Gladehart and landfall, but by this time his life was too low to survive.
Guillaume Wafo-tapa defeats Ruud Warmenhoven 2-1.
“My draw was so awkward,” Ruud explained after the match, flashing a hand that contained Harrow, Pitfall Trap and Hellkite Charger. With no green mana, he hadn’t been able to either fix his mana or ramp up properly.
Saturday, 7:19 p.m. – Sealed Deck Tech: Manuel Bucher
Manuel is a level 7 member of the Pro Players Club, weekly Magic columnist and a member of the winning Swiss team from the World Team Championships in 2007. While many players this weekend have advocated fast decks with an emphasis on curve, Manuel got off to a 6-0 start with an atypical deck that is splashing Sorrin Markov and a pair of Malakir Gatekeepers. Manuel explained that he likes two color beatdown decks in this format, but “if you get a strong Ally chain, that’s probably the best archetype in the format.” When he received his card pool today, he didn’t immediately jump towards the multicolor version that he ended up with. He started with a blue-black beatdown version, but found that that stopped at 18 cards. He then tried a base black version, splashing both blue and red, but couldn’t get a curve of any kind going. After the green showed him more or less only mana fixing, he took another look at the powerful rare Ally in that color and tried to build around Turntimber Ranger.
Eventually he built the multicolor deck that you can see below - one that has a number of unconventional card choices. Manuel explained that “I tried to not just put in all the most powerful cards, but to actually have a reasonable mana base.” This need for some consistency led him to leave such useful cards as Living Tsunami, Bladetusk Boar and Baloth Cage Trap out of the main deck, despite the large amounts of mana fixing that his pool provided him. The Cage Trap has been seeing some play, though - Manuel has been sideboarding it in for one of the Windrider Eels against aggressive decks to give him an extra blocker. The only other sideboarding he has done, he said, was to swap a Khalni Heart Expedition out for the second Expedition Map against white decks because of Kor Sanctifiers.
While obviously not a card that would fit into his deck, I also took the time to ask Manuel his opinion on a card that I’ve heard several different opinions on -- Adventuring Gear. He opined that it’s a win-more card - with so many of the aggressive creatures already having landfall, it makes your “good” draws - the ones where you are drawing land - better, but doesn’t help the bad draws, and he would rather have something that can help in both cases. At the end of the interview, I asked if he wished he’d built the deck differently, but he said no. “I discussed it with Raphael Levy and the Ruels, and they couldn’t come up with another way to build it.” While not a normal build, it’s been good enough to run him this far, and he should be able to take it into Day 2 with one more win -- although he took a seventh round loss. Here is the deck and all the unused cards. Feel free to dig into it and see what you would have done if you had come to GP Tampa and been given this Sealed Deck pool.
Saturday, 8:10 p.m. – Don’t Call Her “Mother”; It’ll Just Hurt More When You Lose.
Magic is a game of community. It always has been and it always will be. It’s the social aspect of the game that, in the end, everything comes back to. So it’s odd that with so many articles written every day – endless draft-pick disseminations, archetype breakdowns, and post-tournament analyses – there is nary a word written about how the community organizes, and how it all happens behind the scenes, and how it is that these players travel around the globe collecting their trophies and checks. After I talked to local player and organizer Megan Holland, I realized why that’s such a travesty.
I met up with Megan after a tough round seven loss. Sitting now at 5-2, she still has a good shot at Day Two. Megan’s Magic beginnings were humble, as she started simply because her boyfriend (now husband, Kit Holland) was addicted, and she didn’t just want to be a cheerleader. After quickly becoming hooked and indoctrinated into the community, she saw how disorganized some of the talented local players were and her self-diagnosed “Non-Clinical OCD” kicked in. There were so many Pro Tour Qualifiers going on all the time, and Holland wanted to make sure everybody went and everybody had a blast. “If you go to an event by yourself, you can’t have that good of a time,” she said. So she started using social networking sites and local forums to organize everyone into traveling together, staying together and making sure everyone was aware of all the Magic around them – including booking hotels, sending shuttle information; you name it, she did it.
It started by just getting the group to rent a daily condo for a far-off PTQ, but it quickly sprouted into so much more. Soon Grand Prix and Pro Tours trips were being planned by Megan and she helped get everybody on the plane they needed to be on, be at the car-rental place at the right time and that the hotel had the necessary accommodations. When she wasn’t able to get all the information, she contacted Wizards to make sure she had the most updated info to pass to the rest of the community. She also plays the role of chef, preparing pumpkin pie, brownies, and cupcakes for the big events. She’s become so ubiquitous, Pro-Tour champion and Florida local Charles Gindy calls her his “unofficial travel agent.” At Grand Prix – Tampa, in her backyard, she offered to put up a bevy of national and international players, and for the last week, she’s been drafting with the likes of Michael Jacob, Gabriel Nassif and Patrick Chapin.
Though she tried to tell me that she didn’t like the responsibility of all this planning, it’s easy to see how much she thrives on it, and how much she truly enjoys when everyone is feeling their best. She also tries to distant herself as much as she can from her nickname “Mother Megan,” but in the end, she wears it on her sleeve.
I asked her about some of the caveats of placing such obligations on herself. She said that when things go wrong, everybody turns to you. At both GP-Boston, and GP-Kansas City, when plans went awry, everyone turned to Megan to make it better. And, she said also it’s easy to find yourself victim of your own kindness. People can sometimes forget she’s actually a good player. However, like I have to reiterate, I met up with her at table thirty. This woman knows what she’s doing. I think her best Magic tournament story was her Grand Prix Trial win. She was seated next to her husband in the Top 8. “I passed him two Dragons and he passed me two Angels.” Tell me that isn’t awesome.
As for future Magic events, she’s already got her and Kit’s plans for Worlds in Rome ironed out, though they’re yet to qualify. “I can’t wait for next year’s Grand Prix schedule to be released!” She’s busy trying to plan trips around the Magic Cruise and can’t finish them until next year’s full schedule is announced. I have heard a lot of different statements this weekend, but I can honestly say hadn’t heard that.
Megan Holland is an extraordinary part of the Magic. She figured out how she could best help out her community, and she took charge. The local Florida gaming has been gathering steam recently, and it’s hard not to think that at least part of that resurgence is due to the efforts of one woman. Magic thrives because of people like Megan, and it’s a shame we don’t recognize that everyday.
Feature Match Round 7 – Gabriel Nassif vs. Nassim Ketita
Gabriel NassifGabriel Nassif is a clear first ballot Hall of Famer who needs little introduction. Fueled by wins at Pro Tour Kyoto and Grand Prix Chicago, Nassif is right in the thick of the Player of the Year race. His is actually the last non-Japanese player to win that title but without the full suite of remaining events on his travel plans he will need to maximize his results for the rest of the year. His opponent, Nassim Ketita has a handful of solid GP finishes but after a couple of train wreck events found himself needing to earn byes for this event at the GP Trials last night after practicing the format all week in a Florida beach house that included a handful of other Canadian players and Tim Aten.
Also staying in the house was Rich Hoaen who had mentioned the beach house to Gab, who put two and two together when talking with Ketita. “Oh you’re from Canada. Have you been just hanging out and drafting?”
Ketita explained that he had been on the road for the past couple of weeks and was not looking forward to returning to Canada. “I heard it snowed. I am not eager to go back. I was in Austin. I tanked my rating to the point where I had no byes and then I won a GP Trial and had three byes anyway.”
Nissa’s Chosen led the game off for Ketita and he slayed Nassif’s Greenweaver Druid with Punishing Fire. Gab played Harrow on his own turn and summoned Surrekar Marauders. Gab dipped to 14 from the Chosen and was facing Geyser Glider, which he threw a Baloth Woodcrashers in the path of when Ketita did not draw a land to make it fly. Ketita had a post-combat Tuktuk Grunts.
Nassim KetitaKetitia, who had been happy to see the Woodcrashers out of the picture, sighed when Nassif untapped and played Rampaging Baloth.
“His brother,” grinned Nassif.
“That hardly seems fair at all.”
“Nope. It’s not”
Ketita mustered another Tuktuk but had to push his first one in the path of a Baloth token. “I hate trading my guys for your lands.”
“It’s not even trading with my lands,” clucked Gab with a wry smile.
“Romper Stomper,” announced Ketita as he played his Terra Stomper but all that did was ensure that Nassif waited behind his Rampaging Baloth and quietly played out his lands/4/4 tokens.
“Stop playing lands!”
“What are you looking for at this point?” laughed Gab.
“All spells are bad and all lands are bad,” agreed Ketita who eventually fell to Nassif’s superior numbers.
“Wow. That is the first game I have lost so far.”
As the two players shuffled up for the second game GP Boston Top 8 competitor Zac Efland walked away from the other Feature Match after losing to Guillaume Wafo-Tapa and asked Ketita, “Are you American?”
Ketita said that he was not.
“Well, don’t let the French sweep either way!”
“That was very American of him,” observed Tim Aten from the sidelines.
Nassif led off with Surrekar Marauders which did a little work before Ketita’s Tuktuk Grunts slammed in for three. Territorial Baloths met a Hiedous End and Ketita followed up with his own Marauders. Nassif cleared a path with an unkicked Marsh Casualties and then kicked Vampire’s Bite. Next up was a Trusty Machete for Keitita and another Hideous End for Nassif’s Rampaging Baloth. Nassif tried to hide behind Oran-Rief Recluse. He managed to clear the board with another Vampire’s Bite but he was low enough that when Ketita followed up with Bladetusk equipped with the Machete they moved onto Game 3.
“Its a winner,” declared Ketita as he looked at his opening hand.
“I hope not,” admitted Gab who opened up the action with Surrekar Marauders. Ketita played Hellfire Mongrel.
Frontier Guide from Nassif presented little resistance to Ketita suiting up his Wild Mongrel and attacking for 4. Nassif went into the tank and could not decide if he wanted to play his Terretorial Baloths or possibly ramp with with his Frontier Guide. Eventually he decided to attack for three and play the Baloth. He considered blocking the equipped Wild Mongrel but eventually let it pass. Ketita summoned Bog Tatters. Nassif was able to crack back for 8 and with the help of a Heartstab Mosquito he killed Ketita a turn later.
Gabriel Nassif - 2 Nassim Ketita - 1
Feature Match Round 8 – Jamie Parke vs. Conley Woods
Jamie Parke is a long-time pro, having made the Top 8 of Worlds twice, in 1999 and 2008. He has not been able to replicate that success this season, though, and had to skip last week’s PT due to his work. Conley Woods, conversely, has had the best performance of his career earlier this year with his semifinal finish in Honolulu, and has already secured Level 4 Pro status this year. He is looking to up that number before the season-ending revelry in Rome.
Jamie led with two Forests for his Nissa’s Chosen. Conley mirrored the land, but not the creature. The Elf snuck in for two, and Jamie added yet another Forest and a River Boa to his side of the battlefield. Conley had a Swamp and a Grazing Gladehart, but could not yet get back any of his precious life. Jamie attacked him down to 14 and ran out Windrider Eel. Mountain put Conley up to 16 and gave him a Bladetusk Boar, but Jamie played Scalding Tarn, providing a weather forecast of elbows. He swung in with his team, and when Conley didn’t block sent out for an Island, dealing ten damage. He added a Joraga Bard for defence before passing the turn back.
Conley swung back with his Boar and fired a post-combat Burst Lightning at the Chosen. Jamie’s counterattack knocked Conley to 2, and Mold Shambler deprived Conley of red mana. A land drop from Conley put him back up to 4, and Khalni Gem into a Torch Slinger left him able to block all of Jamie’s ground creatures, but the loss of his Mountain meant that he couldn’t kick it up to off the Eel. A Mountain from Jamie made the flyer lethal.
In a bizarre mirror of Game 1, Conley had a turn two Nissa’s Chosen, answered by Jamie’s turn three Gladehart. Conley swung in and played a Gladehart of his own, but Jamie reclaimed the life loss, swung back and dropped a Joraga Bard for defence. Conley had a land of his own - Akoum Refuge, putting him to 21 - and attacked back before dropping Turntimber Basilisk.
Jamie played an Island, eyeing the deathtouch creature carefully before deciding to swing with his Gladehart. Conley refused the trade, and Jamie played an Oran-Rief Recluse. Conley drew and Disfigured the Gladehart, summoning a Hellfire Mongrel before passing. Jamie’s three cards preserved his life total, and he kicked up an AEther Figment.
“Good draw,” Conley commented, dropping the Swamp he’d just ripped onto the battlefield. He swung with his team, forcing the Figment to jump in front of the Basilisk. Jamie tried a double-block to kill the Wild Mongrel, but a second Disfigure saved the Hound and offed the Bard. Jamie regrouped with a Windrider Eel, which traded for the Wild Mongrel on Conley’s next attack. With the board reduced to Nissa’s Chosen and Grazing Gladehart against Oran-Rief Recluse, Conley settled into to swing for two a turn.
Jamie was down to ten before the dynamic changed. He tried a Living Tsunami, but Conley was ready with an Oran-Rief Recluse of his own to kill it. Jamie finally fired a Burst Lightning at Conley’s Gladehart to slow the bleeding. Conley forced through a bit more damage with Teetering Peaks, dropped a Lotus Cobra, and then tried a Punishing Fire to finish off Jamie’s Spider. Jamie kicked up Into the Roil to foil that plan, but left the critter in his hand on his next turn, dropping Nissa’s Chosen and Joraga Bard instead. Conley checked cards in Jamie’s hand (two, one of them the Recluse) before casting a Bladetusk Boar, but Jamie untapped and burned the Boar with an Inferno Trap, also dropping an Umara Raptor. Conley offed it with another Recluse.
Jamie finally replayed the Recluse, but Conley drew a Mold Shambler, targeting Jamie’s lone Mountain. Jamie burned Lotus Cobra in response with Punishing Fire, but had no play on his own turn. Conley’s next turn saw him Hideous End the Bard and swing with everything. Jamie tried a double-block on the Shambler, killing it at the cost of his Chosen, but fell to 1 in the process, and could only shake his head when Conley flashed a Burst Lightning at him for lethal. “That’s all my removal,” he commented as Jamie took one last flip through his graveyard before shuffling up.
Conley led with Kadandu Refuge and Forest, but his Nissa’s Chosen didn’t show up until turn 3. This did leave him the mana to Disfigure Jamie’s turn 3 Umara Raptor, though. Conley dropped a Gladehart on his next turn, but had no fourth land drop. Jamie dropped another Raptor, but declined to block when Conley attacked him, falling to 14. Conley dropped a Lotus Cobra, but again had no land. Jamie swung in with the Bird Ally and, after some thought, played Living Tsunami.
Conley sent the Chosen and the Gladehart into the red zone, giving Jamie pause. He checked his notes from the earlier games, and finally let the attack through with no blocks. Conley indeed had a land for a kicked Torch Slinger on the Raptor, but forgot his other landfall trigger, two life from the Gladehart. Jamie bounced and replayed an Island, also dropping Oran-Rief Survivalist. Conley had another Gladehart, but again no land. Jamie, tidally locked at four mana, had no other play.
Conley swung in on his next turn with the Chosen, both Gladeharts and the Slinger, leaving the Snake at home. Jamie put his Tsunami in front of the Slinger and his Ally traded with a Gladehart. Conley tried for a Blazing Torch after combat, but Jamie Cancelled it. This began a long string of nothing happening on Jamie’s turn, as his deck apparently had a large number of instants. Conley’s Turntimber Basilisk met with a Punishing Fire; Mold Shambler entered the fray for Conley, but Burst Lightning killed the Cobra; then Jamie sent the Mold Shamber back with Into the Roil. Still stuck at four mana, though, he had no answer when Conley finally dug up a Forest for his Turntimber Ranger. Interestingly enough, while Conley forget to gain life off Gladehart again, this time it was the correct play; Jamie had Punishing Fire ready to return if he had. Instead Jamie could only discard, and when Conley played Tuktuk Grunts and sent his team into the red zone, Jamie was finished.
Conley Woods defeats Jamie Parke 2-1
After the match, Jamie was bemoaning not having blocked with the Living Tsunami the turn after he played it. Had he done so, the Slinger would have killed it instead of the Umara Raptor, and Jamie’s mana would have improved. He had also had a window earlier when he could have used Into the Roil to bounce the Tsunami to get to five mana for a Zendikar Farguide; even if he replayed the Tsunami the next turn, having five mana instead of four (and an extra creature) might have made a difference.
Feature Match Round 9 – Ben Stark vs. Alex Yatsenko
Florida native, Ben Stark stood on the brink of his second 9-0 Day One at a Limited GP. His last run was in Boston which propelled him to a Finals finish. The opponent standing in his way was one-time Level 3 Judge Alex Yatsenko who hails from Russia.
Ben StarkSurrekar Marauders -- a ubiquitous play at the top tables sop far this weekend -- led off for Alex.
“Yay! I get to attack,” said Alex when Ben’s turn two land came into play tapped. He played his third land and passed the turn ready with Cancel for Ben’s own Marauders.
There was a little confusion a turn later when Ben offered up Nimana Sell-Sword and asked, “Counter?”
“No,” said Alex.
“Okay,” said Ben as he looked for a coin or bead. “Do you have a counter?”
“No,” said Alex who played Into the Roil to bounce it, making the need for a counter unnecessary -- for the time being anyway. Ben replayed the ally a turn later. All of this interplay served to buy enough time so that when Alex played Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet he was at a relatively high life total.
Ben frowned at the Bloodchief and played a Vastwood Gorger.
“Phhhhp,” said Alex as he tried to recreate the sound of Kalitas sucking all the blood out of a giant woodland creature and outputting a same-sized token. Ben sighed and reached for his sideboard.
“That seven mana guy is pretty good,” sighed Ben.
“If I get to seven mana and if you don’t kill him...he is pretty good,” admitted Alex with a grin.
Vampire Lacerator from Ben Stark was followed up by River Boa. The Boa was bounced with an unkicked Into the Roil. Alex untapped and hasted in for two with Crypt Ripper. River Boa came back down but Ben did not have mana to regenerate. Crypt Ripper got in for four and he fell to 12 -- 11 after the Lacerator ticked down his life total. Umara Raptor joined the Russian player’s side of the table.
Ben played Halo Hunter and laughed: “I had that in my hand last game. I was hoping that guy was a Fallen Angel or something.”
Alex YatsenkoAlex played Stonework Puma and attacked with his team -- pumping his Crypt Ripper when Ben had no blocks. Ben flashed him the Inferno Trap he was holding and the Akoum Refuge in play that would help him clear a lethal path if they wanted to go through with the formality of untapping.
Ben mulliganed a hand with two lands and off-color spells on the draw. He briefly considered keeping but explained that he tended to mulligan more often than most players based on watching one of the best players of all time.
“When I was playing on the Tour -- which was 01 - 04 -- I got to watch Kai play the most,” explained Ben as he shuffled his hand back into the deck. “He seemed to mulligan every game and every hand. Crosby called him the mulligan machine. If a hand is a close decision at all now, I mulligan it.”
Kept his next six and played River Boa on the draw. Alex decided to sit on Cancel rather than Grasp the Boa. Ben attacked for two again and Alex went to five mana. He was able to play an unkicked Marsh Casualties and still have mana for the Cancel -- should it be necessary.
“Is this a game of who can do the least?” asked Ben who was clearly frustrated to not have any of the cheap creatures he had sided in specifically to get under Alex’s countermagic.
Alex offered up Gruz Draal Specter which Ben felled with Disfigure. Alex still had mana up to Cancel a kicked Mold Shambler. He untapped to play Sky Ruin Drake. and then used another Cancel on Vastwood Gorger. Alex was in no rush to push out his Bloodchief and instead equipped the Drake and attacked for 4.
They played a little more Magic but it Ben was out of gas and soon extended the hand.
Alex Yatsenko - 2 Ben Stark - 1
Saturday, 8:10 p.m. – Tid-bits and Follow-Ups
So the first day is over. It’s been full of expected results – like Yuuya Watanabe finishing 8-1 – and unexpected results – like Steve Sadin pulling out a 7-2 finish on his 21st birthday. I walked once more around the arena to review our top stories of the day.
I grabbed Sadin first after his close match with Sam Black and I asked how he was going to celebrate the rest of his special day. He said he was going to have some dinner, enjoy adulthood responsibly, curl up with a nice, warm pillow, and fall asleep. Add a book to that list and that sounds like the best birthday ever.
Nassim Ketita, one of the undefeated Grand Prix Trial competitors from last night also finished with an impressive 7-2 – pulling it out in round 9 to advance. He was all but jumping for joy after sweeping the match in two. That makes Day Two number five for the Canadian Beach Houser.
In a heart-breaking final game, Manuel Bucher lost the last round despite having a Sorin Markov stuffed to the gills with eight loyalty counters, but luckily made it to Day two on tiebreakers at 6-3.
Though Czech pro, Martin Juza had a stellar 8-1 performance on the day, his throat was still feeling terribly. When reached for comment, he said, “.....“.
Madisonian Gaudenis Vidugiris topped off his great first day by taking Guillaume Wafo-Tapa in two straight games. Both players are in for tomorrow, but Gaudenis heads in a match ahead at 9-0, with the Frenchman at 8-1. Gaudenis is one of three undefeated players, along with Jan Ruess and Conley Woods.
Kazuya Mitamura despite losing his last round, made it in on 7-2, so he’s happy. And Tomoharu Saito and Shuuhei Nakamura drew their final round to both make it in with 19 points.
Oh, I also saw this cute, miniscule lizard in the hands impressively large judge, Matthew Thorne. I think it’ll be my Grand Prix mascot; it’s certainly a better one than the alligator that almost bit Nakamura’s hand off. And finally, I still can’t explain the recent peak in sales Rite of Replication or the Power 9. So, good luck with that.
See you tomorrow! Bright, and early.