Magic Weekend Blog

Posted in Event Coverage on July 27, 2007

By Wizards of the Coast


  • 7:00 p.m.: Standard Snapshot
    by Brian David Marshall
  • 3:40 p.m.: They're Coming!
    by Brian David Marshall
  • 2:07 p.m.: Dream Crusher
    by Brian David Marshall
  • 1:20 p.m.: Battle of Berkowitz
    by Brian David Marshall
  • 12:50 p.m.: Same Shirt
    by Brian David Marshall
  • 11:05 a.m.: The Grinders
    by Brian David Marshall
  • 10:25 a.m.: The Ground
    by Brian David Marshall
  • 10:10 a.m.: Grinder or the Ground?
    by Brian David Marshall
  • 9:21 a.m.: Back in the Trenches
    by Brian David Marshall


Friday, 9:21 a.m.: Back in the Trenches

by Brian David Marshall

See you all some other time. They are doing the presentation for the JSS and that means we are just about done here. Thanks to everyone who wrote or IM'd me this weekend to say they liked this new blog feature. I had a blast doing it and I think it is going to become a regular component of event coverage.

That was the last thing I wrote from U.S. Nationals in 2004 when we debuted the new blog element for event coverage. Over the last year I have done very little typing at these events as more and more components have been added to the coverage mix including the Tournament Center updates at Pro Tours. With no such technology being employed this weekend at U.S. Nats I am back behind a keyboard and at the helm of the fourth blog for U.S. Nationals.

I sure hope something funny happens… has anyone seen Osyp?

Friday, 10:10 a.m.: Grinder or the Ground?

by Brian David Marshall

Thursday was Grinder day at U.S. Nationals. The Grinders-short for meatgrinders-are the original Last Chance Qualifiers and are a series of single elimination events that each feed four players into U.S. Nationals. Playing in the grinders is tricky business that has evolved into its own unique metagame over the years. Since the events are single elimination they tend to favor much more direct decks than you might usually find at premier level events. Stabilizing at 1 in Game 3 is not that exciting if the game goes to time, as single elimination events cannot have draws and use life totals to break a tied game situation.

The lineup yesterday included four Standard grinders and one Limited option, which was the second of the day. Negotiating the Limited grinder is tricky according to the well-ground Jon Becker.

"Assuming you have a Standard deck that you are comfortable with, you need to be able to make a pragmatic analysis of your card pool. You open your cards and ask yourself if this is a deck that can go 6-0. If it is not you need to be able to drop after one round and hop into a Standard event while you still have time."

Friday, 10:25 a.m.: The Ground

by Brian David Marshall

Time management is an essential skill although it is not always within your control-you would always rather lose sooner than later in order to get the most opportunities to be a grinder and not the ground. Mike Flores lost in the first round of the very first grinder and hopped into the third grinder of the day. He started that event with a 3-0 record before falling short of the mark in the fourth round-just five minutes after the start of the final grinder of the weekend.

Becker played in that event and must have felt pretty good when his third round opponent played Wild Cantor-not a card that shows up on the Constructed radar very often. It was bad times for Becker, though. He was staring down Enduring Renewal a couple of turns later and his opponent revealed a hand with Grapeshot. The Cantor was a perpetual motion machine to fuel the storm and Becker was banished to side drafts for the remainder of the weekend.

Friday, 11:05 a.m.: The Grinders

by Brian David Marshall

Here are the twenty players who ground out six undefeated rounds on Thursday to take a seat at the 2007 U.S. National Championships:

Grinder #1 (Standard)

Rich Herbert
Wilson Freeman
Paul Jordan (!!!!)
Noah Barnett

Grinder #2 (Limited)

Kellen Abel
Kirolos Adly
Nick Keulmann
Owen Turtenwald

Grinder #3 (Standard)

Daniel Gaster
Stu Somers
Christopher Williams
James Kandebo

Grinder #4 (Standard)

Why yes, Paul Jordan is ready to draft. How could you tell?

Blaine Hatab
Stephen Nagy
Robert Seder
David Sharfman

Grinder #5 (Standard)

Robert Allen
Michael Bennett
Justin Miyashiro
Chris Schafer

Paul Jordan has been coming to Nationals for eleven of the last twelve years, and this qualification marked the first time the New York/New Jersey veteran has had the chance to play in this storied tournament. The former New Jersey State Champion is not someone who is especially comfortable around 60-card decks. The official statkeeper of the FinkelDrafts, Paul was much more excited about the final three rounds of Day 1 than the first three.

"At first I was kind of disappointed that I wouldn't get any packs for winning the grinder," said Paul. "Until I remembered that I would get two sets for drafting."

Friday, 12:50 p.m.: Same Shirt

by Brian David Marshall


Everyone how has played tournament Magic has had this experience. You practice with your friends, fantasize about how well you will all do, and try to keep the mounting excitement as the event approaches from bubbling over only to have your spirits sink when you look at the first round's pairings and see your name opposite your pal's to kick off the event.

It was even worse than that for Alex Lieberman-who made the Top 8 of the 2005 edition of this tournament-who was not only playing against Gerard Fabiano but was wearing an identical outfit and playing a 75-card mirror match. To make matters worse for Alex, he went on to play Antonino DeRosa in the next round in yet another card-for-card mirror match.

On the bright side, Alex must have the tech for the mirror, since he started off the tournament with a 2-0 record.

Friday, 1:20 p.m.: Battle of Berkowitz

by Brian David Marshall

Former U.S. National team member Jordan Berkowitz has not played much Magic lately but could not resist the lure of seeing old friends, slinging some spells, and cashing in his rather high composite rating for an East Coast tournament. Knowing he was coming to the event he dived into Magic Online and began preparing for the draft portion. As for Standard… well, he reverted to a method that has served him well in the past.

Richie Hoaen and Jordan Berkowitz. Wait, isn't Richie Canadian?

About five minutes before the tournament started Jordan arrived at the site and looked for someone to loan him a deck-preferably one that revolved around attacking and lighting things/players on fire-that would not require much preparation. Unfortunately for Jordan the only person with a spare deck was Gabe Walls, who borrowed a copy of the Green-White-Blue Blink deck (which Gabe himself used in the Kentucky Open last week) from an MSS player for his former National teammate.

Jordan, flipping quickly through the deck as pairings were posted, asked: "So what does this card Momentary Blink do?"

Gabe Walls actually just blinked at him in disbelief.

Unfazed, Jordan asked: "So what does this deck lose to?"

Gabe: "Damnation is rough for it…"

Jordan: "What does that do?"

Gabe Walls flashed back the blink.

I caught up with Jordan after the second round as he took his second loss of the tournament.

"In Round 1 I lost to some guy who gained a million life on turn five," said Jordan, which I believe translates to: "I lost to Project X."

He picked up his second match loss after he failed a deck check in Round Two. In order to be ready for the event in time, Gabe Walls registered the deck for him while Jordan sleeved. None of the cards on the deck were missing from the list but some were not clearly identified enough for the judges satisfaction, with entries like "Venser" and "Red Akroma."

"Red Akroma is not clear enough?" asked an incredulous Gabe Walls. "There's a reason I make GerryT register all my decks."

Friday, 2:07 p.m.: Dream Crusher

by Brian David Marshall

Some people just can't stand to let another player have a good time. In Friday's first grinder, a New York area player by name of George Baboussis decided to see how far he could take Tenth Edition in the new Standard. He dusted off his Thrumming Stones, dug around in his binder for Brainspoils so he could transmute for the artifact, and mustered every copy of the recently reprinted Relentless Rats he could find.

In the first round he started to set up the game-winning play that would involve Thrumming out an horde of Rats and hasting them up with Surge of Zeal, only to have his dreams crushed by something scarier for Relentless Rats than a squadron of angry Orkin men…


Friday, 3:40 p.m.: They're Coming!

by Brian David Marshall

Who's coming??

An enormous banner looms over the US Nationals field with a fist bursting through a wall of cards announcing, "They're coming!" Apparently a banner is currently tantalizing convention goers at San Diego Comic Con with the same question. Who exactly are "they"? Where are they coming from? And when will they get here? I caught up with Magic Creative Director Jake Theis to see what I could glean.

"You will find out who 'they' are in Lorwyn," said Jake, choosing his words very carefully before admitting that there would be some information forthcoming prior to the next block's release. "The beginning of the big reveal will actually happen at Gen Con. We're so excited about this big announcement that it is going to spill out across the summer."

"If you look closely enough at the poster you can see a card that we snuck into the poster as a little Easter Egg," Jake teased. When I pointed out that the Easter Egg might not be visible in the photograph what with the angle and the glare he just grinned evilly. "If you want to check it out firsthand and you are in Baltimore or San Diego this weekend, you can look for yourself."

I will admit that I looked up at the banner for awhile but could not find what Jake was talking about. He would not give me any more than that but did promise that "the guy on the other side of that fist is pretty rockin'."

Friday, 7:00 p.m.: Standard Snapshot

by Brian David Marshall

Let's take a quick peek at what Standard looks like right now as seen through the lens of the Magic Scholarship Series Open. Players aged 18 years and younger, without Pro status, vied for an invite to the Magic Scholarship Series, which will be played out tomorrow. There were seven rounds of Standard and everyone with at least 15 points gets to play on Saturday, resulting in 28 players getting a shot to keep playing.

A quick rundown on the archetypes used:

Solar Flare: We have seen this deck kicking around for about a year. The deck has card drawing, board control elements, and reanimation spells to keep their small pool of powerful threats like Angel of Despair and Skeletal Vampire keep on coming back for more.

Project X: Magic Online's dark secret. The deck is too difficult to test online and is often overlooked in the metagame and many players were unprepared to play against this combo deck that debuted at last year's Worlds. The deck loops Saffi and Crypt Champion to gain infinite life off of Essence Warden or makes infinite guys at instant speed with Teysa. Oh yeah, sometimes it just smashes with big stupid elephants.

Green-White-Blue Blink: This is a deck in need of a better name. Gabe Walls took this Gerry Thompson-built version of the increasingly popular Blink decks to the Finals of the Kentucky Open, and it has had an even bigger impact on this year's National Championships than Solar Flare's success online did on last year's Championships.

Blue-White-Red Blink: Blink decks of this color combination have been popular since Shaheen Soorani's BlinkRiders at Worlds last year, but the deck has subtly changed as the year has gone by and does not even feature Avalanche Riders most of the time and is not to be confused with…

BlinkTouch: This deck was popularized by Kyle Sanchez in his weekly column and art exhibit. This features the underutilized Aethermage's Touch to mise out Bogarden Hellkites. The deck was very successful last weekend in Australia and appears to be a popular choice on this side of the globe as well.

Snow White: If you are expecting a roomful of burn and creatures you can't go wrong gaining a ton of life with Martyr of Sands every turn thanks to Proclamation of Rebirth. This was a popular Magic Online deck that was hybridized with the Tron engine by Gabriel Nassif at Worlds last year. Without the Tron to accelerate, players have sped up the deck's life gain engine by adding Enduring Renewal, allowing them to use the Martyr multiple times each turn for just two mana.

BlueSnow: By now these Matryr of Sands decks have barely any snow cards at all, but the label has stuck. Multiple players at this tournament were sporting a tricked out version of Snow White with Aeon Chroniclers and Compulsive Research to keep their hand stocked with the crucial white cards that keep the deck going.

Gruul: Creatures, burn, nuff said.

Rakdos: Creatures, burn, Bob, nuff said.

Dark Confidant

Rakdos10: People thought that players were mad once they started adding Hit // Run to decks with Dark Confidant, but that was nothing compared to this Cali variant which has added Greater Gargadon to the mix, leaving open the possibility for a turn four kill … where you play Bob and flip Gargadons for the next two turns. Of course, if you only flip one you will probably be okay.

Scryb and Force: This was Naoki Shimizu's blue-green deck from Japan's The Finals tournament that accelerates into Spectral Force and keeps it ticking with Scryb Ranger.

AngelFire: The line between Solar Flare, the Blink decks, and the AngelFire decks is getting finer all the time but for the most part these decks are red-white-blue and feature many of the same control elements from the aforementioned archetypes-but top off with a nice fat red X spell.

Blue-Black Pickles: All the control of a Dralnu deck with the combo lock of the Pickles deck-Brine Elemental and Vesuvan Shapeshifter-often played out at instant speed thanks to Teferi.

Zoo: Not sure how they are doing it without Savannah Lions, but Watch Wolf and Lightning Helix are still good apparently.

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