by Randy Buehler
Round 1 was full of improbable situations and unimaginable plays. It doesn't really make sense to follow one match in this format so I tried my best to collect as many bizarre anecdotes as I could.
The Germans took on the Deadguys in an interesting pair of matches. Dave Price did his best to kill Dirk Baberowski with Swamp Mosquito, but Dirk drew a timely Surge of Strength to and trampled over for the win while he had 8 poison counters. Everyone knew Game 2 was going badly for Price when he complained "What the? Who gets all 4 colors?!" Dirk just smiled and played mark of Fury on his Fugitive Druid again. Price was able to teach the Druid what it feels like to be an evil minion, but Dirk won the match with Dracoplasm shortly thereafter.
Chris Pikula was able to even the series by getting an amazing draw in Game 3 against Kai Budde. After the players traded their turn 3 Pearled Unicorns, Chris dropped a turn 5 Endangered Armodon followed by a turn 6 Wall of Schizophrenia. That's virtually a lock. When Chris used Undercover Disguise to turn his wall into an Elephant of Schizophrenia things just got ugly.
Meanwhile, Brian Hacker actually was able to win a game with Swamp Mosquito. However, Koichiro Maki had all the enchantment removal he needed in games 2 and 3 to foil Hacker's Donate-Forbidden Crypt combo and Maki pulled out the match.
Teammates Darwin Kastle and Dave Humpherys got their match out of the way early as did teammates Gary Wise and Jakub Slemr. Humpherys took out Kastle thanks to mana screw in Game 1 and deck-run in Game 2. Slemr won a marathon Game 1 thanks largely to Share My Pain, which allowed him to throw enchantments at Gary's creatures over and over again, keeping the board clear so he could attack. Slemr won a quick Game 2 with Dracoplasm to sweep the match.
If any card in this environment is "too good", it's probably Dracoplasm. In general, the players all seem to be really enjoying themselves, but there are occasional complaints about Dracoplasm and about how the good cards are double colored and so drawing the right lands is crucial to winning.
Jon Finkel beat down Zvi Mowshowitz rather quickly. Undercover Disguise allowed him to change his Wall of Schizophrenia into a "Gimp" of Schizophrenia and go offensive really quickly in game 2. Jon's "Finkel of Schizophrenia" went beatdown in game 2 and Zvi just shook his head, moaning about how badly he'd built his deck.
Mike Long has been rather quiet this morning, but he is continuing his streak of good Duplicate Limited performances. Last year in Barcelona he was the only player to play blue/white and he went 3-0. The previous year in Rio he did lose once -- to Jakub Slemr -- but in Hong Kong he also went 3-0. Nicolai Herzog was his first victim this year. Long dispatched Nicolai 2-0 mostly on the strength of his blue and white fliers like Carrier Pigeon and Shrieking Drake. He then sweet-talked Nicolai, explaining how he was "so glad to play you in limited. I know you're such a great constructed player." Mike then made arrangements to borrow some cards for this afternoon's Block Party format.
The longest and most bizarre match was the one between Pat Chapin and Steve O'Mahoney-Schwartz. Steve won Game 1, but in Game 2, Pat played a Conspiracy, naming Walls, and then Donated the Conspiracy to Steve! That meant all of Steve's creatures for the rest of the game would be walls. It also killed Steve's Caller of the Hunt (which had been set to "Lords") and Chapin followed up with a Caller of his own (naming Walls, of course). Later in the game Chapin's Forbidden Crypt gave him amazing card selection and allowed him to win game 2. In game 3, though, Steve got a fast Dracoplasm and Pat was unable to come up with an answer.
After round 1 the players broke for lunch and continued to debate how they actually should have built their decks. Some of them went into round 2 planning to completely change their deck for Game 2 no matter who they played against. Some suggested that the format might be more interesting if players weren't allowed to sideboard -- that is, they should be stuck with the deck they built on their own for all three rounds. Some of them would be pretty unhappy to be stuck with what they built, but the suggestion does have some merit and would make an interesting format even more interesting.