TABLE OF CONTENTS
- 6:35 p.m.: Relentless Rats Redux
by Brian David-Marshall
- 4:45 p.m.: In Need of an 8-0 Run
by Brian David-Marshall
- 4:14 p.m.: Side Events
by Brian David-Marshall
- 3:50 p.m.: Lines are Open…Order Now!
by Brian David-Marshall
- 3:28 p.m.: Quick Questions: What's the most exciting card to come back in Tenth Edition?
by Randy Buehler
- 3:00 p.m.: The Over-Underdogs
by Brian David-Marshall
- 2:10 p.m.: We Are the (Draft) Champions
by Brian David-Marshall
- 12:39 p.m.: Lounging Around
by Bill Stark
- 11:44 a.m.: Half and Half
by Bill Stark
- 11:07 a.m.: Teaming With Opportunity
by Bill Stark
Saturday, 11:07 a.m.: Teaming With Opportunity
It seems to happen at every tournament. You work for weeks preparing, you buy an expensive plane ticket, you fly hundreds of miles for your chance to win fame and glory, and inevitably you find yourself stuck paired against your friend and teammate who went through the exact same steps with you to get to where you're at.
U.S. Nationals was no different and as the competitors sat down to their second draft pod of the tournament today, two high-profile pairings stuck out. Former National Team members Luis Scott-Vargas and Paul Cheon were drafting at the same table, as were San Diego Sliver Kids Jacob van Lunen and Chris Lachmann. We had the chance to talk to them about what that was like.
"Sitting next to each other means we can send good signals," said current U.S. National Champion Paul Cheon. "Our colors don't overlap at all." When asked if that meant he wanted to be sitting at the same table as his teammate, though, he added an addendum: "We want to sit at different tables, but if we're at the same table, hopefully we're sitting next to each other."
Chris Lachmann agreed, saying "It would have been beneficial [to sit next to Jacob] because we know how we draft and would have been able to send strong signals." Only a single player, Brandon Scheel, separated the two from one another, but that can make a world of difference.
Why did the pros want to sit next to each other if they were at the same pod? Luis Scott-Vargas explained, "Sitting next to Paul means we're not hating each other late. We had an Imperiosaur come around seventh that I would normally cut. Since I was sitting next to Paul I shipped it." While Paul wasn't in green, he did have the opportunity to choose whether he wanted the card if he was in green, or to cut it from the rest of the table.
How does sitting at a table with your friend affect your chances? Cheon predicted a 2-1 finish for himself, while Vargas felt a 2-1 was a baseline goal with 3-0 a real possibility "Though anything can happen…" he added. Lachmann predicted a 3-0, saying "That's what I need, so it's what I'm predicting," while teammate Van Lunen was more comfortable with his chances: "I'll be real disappointed with this deck not getting a 3-0. It's the best deck I've drafted in weeks."
For these four players, then, being stuck at a table with friends is simply a case of making lemonade out of their lemons…
Saturday, 11:44 a.m.: Half and Half
With the constant need for tech in an ever-changing metagame, it's easy for players at home to forget that half of each Nationals tournament, including the ones running over the course of Magic Weekend in the U.S. and Britain, are Booster Draft. The first draft pod Stateside finished yesterday and when the smoke had cleared, 16 players had managed sparkling 4-0 records at their pods. We spoke with a few of them to get their perspective on the impact of 40 cards at this level.
Grand Prix-Columbus champion Steve Sadin and Grand Prix-St. Louis runner-up Zac Hill felt that the Draft was a key element in their bids for the National Team. Said Zac "My Standard deck is a week old and I haven't tested in a few days. I feel I need to 7-0 the Draft to Top 8." That merited an eye-roll from Sadin, who maintained that everyone wanted to 7-0 the Draft in order to make the single elimination rounds. "I figure if I have a good Limited performance, like X-1, I can Top 8," he added.
Luis Scott-Vargas, a 2007 U.S. Nationals team member, said "Draft is more important than Standard. If you do well in the Draft the final rounds of Standard don't matter as much." Vargas felt that a solid record going into the last rounds of Standard was important, allowing you to draw some of those rounds instead of risking bad matchups. Antonino De Rosa, a former U.S. Nationals Champion, disagreed, claiming Standard was more important for winning the actual tournament as you have to play it during the elimination rounds on Sunday. He added, however, that he liked having Draft in the middle of the day: "Sometimes it's not your day [with a Standard deck] and if I 1-2, I like being able to put the deck aside to draft. By the time I come back to it on Day 2, it may be good again." He clarified what he meant by that, explaining that a deck geared to beat the decks he projected the pros would play might struggle against a large field of amateurs during the first three rounds of competition Friday. After drafting for seven rounds, however, many of the pros De Rosa expects to beat float to the top of the standings, and come the final four rounds of Standard, his deck finally gets to face the matchups he had been hoping for.
Current Nationals champ Paul Cheon, who X-0ed the entire Draft portion last year in addition to this year's first pod, added his thoughts: "Half of the tournament is Draft, and people forget that. A lot of players come in from Regionals with their Standard decks, mostly Constructed players, and 2-1 or 3-0, only to lose in the Draft portion." When asked if he felt pros ever did the same but in the reverse formats he said, "Sometimes, but the pros know to test."
Will these players be able to remain undefeated? Stay tuned to the coverage to find out.
Saturday, 12:39 p.m.: Lounging Around
This weekend isn't called "Magic Weekend" for no reason, and in addition to the U.S. National Championships happening right now, another tournament is taking place: the culmination of this year's Magic Scholarship Series. It almost goes without saying that with every tournament for juniors comes an additional grouping of supporters, the parents.From left: Stan, Barbara, and Jeff, Magic parents.
This year's MSS Championship, like any other, features a Parents' Lounge, and we caught up with a few of these oft-forgotten but oh-so-important parts of the Magic scene. Stan Muszynski is from Tennessee, and is here supporting his son Stan III. He was happy to have been able to take the trip after his son's friend failed to qualify. "He was originally going to come with a friend, but that friend didn't qualify and I didn't want Stan riding the rail system alone from the hotel to the site." Mr. Muszynski was definitely glad Baltimore was cooler this time around; in 2005, the last time Baltimore hosted the Championship, temperatures went as high as 100 degrees!
Barbara Winn is in town from Louisville, Kentucky to support her grandson Tyler. The family's name has certainly paid dividends for the 16-year-old as Barbara said he managed to win $500 in scholarship money last year, despite only having been playing the game for a few years. When I asked the parents if they enjoyed the traveling portion of their youngsters' exploits, Barbara ecstatically exclaimed, "Yes! I volunteered for this 'job!'" Her couchmate Jeff Kronenberger, in town from Cleveland to support his 15 year old son Chris, nodded his head in agreement. "Jeff's been playing for four years so…" He shrugged. Traveling was certainly nothing new for him.
When I asked whether or not their charges ever shirked responsibilities at home in pursuit of their favorite card game, Stan was quick to respond. "It doesn't cause problems. There are a lot of worse things they could be doing and it keeps them out of trouble." Barbara and Jeff nodded in agreement, and Stan added "Plus it's a good social tool for the kids."
Barbara pointed out that the Parents' Lounge allowed her to meet other parents in her situation. "You meet people from all over," she said, while Stan added, "Last year I talked with some folks all the way from Hawai'i!" They also agreed that the Parents' Lounge was a huge relief to have, a space to sit down and relax before hearing reports back on how Stan III, Tyler, and Chris were doing each round.
"It's definitely nice," concluded Stan.
Saturday, 2:10 p.m.: We Are the (Draft) Champions
Seven rounds of Nationals are in the books, and the Standard Draft champions are Jim Davis, Steven Sadin and Brad Nelson. The trio started the events in very different fashion through the first three rounds of Constructed, but they all emerged from the Draft portion in contention for a Top 8 berth.
Jim Davis started the tournament with an 0-3 record and feasted on the lower draft tables to emerge as the highest finishing Limited player among the perfect trio. Draft lists from yesterday are on their way to a landfill somewhere, but we managed to grab the 3-0 decklists from Day 2 before they met the same fate.
Next up was Grand Prix-Columbus winner Steve Sadin. Steve started the tournament at 2-1, and after his 7-0 run sits atop the standings with Thomas Drake as the only two players with 9-1 records. While Steve's blue-black deck from yesterday did not look like anything special, he followed up with a tight little storm deck on Day Two.
Nelson, who hails from North Dakota, was playing in his first premier level event this weekend. Outside of a single PTQ he had barely played outside of FNM tournaments before earning an invite at Regionals. He went 1-2 in the first three rounds but had won 8 matches largely thanks to a sixth-pick Numot in his second draft along with a seventh-pick Dreamscape Artist to make it all come together.
Saturday, 3:00 p.m.: The Over-Underdogs
It's always fun to watch the undefeated players emerge from the Standard portion of Day 1 at Nats and see how they fare in Limited. The conventional wisdom has always been that you get a cluster of Regional winners who have been playing the heck out of the Constructed formats but have not been dedicating as much time to their draft game-a format long seen as being more the province of the Pro community.Thomas Drake did not falter during the Draft portion of the event.
There were 19 players who went 3-0 in the Standard portion on Day 1 and in the back room there was some speculation as to how well they did. I asked Tim Aten to set the over/under line for how many of those 19 players were still in the tournament after seven rounds of draft and he thought for a moment before suggesting 8.5. I thought the number was a little low, and then Tim explained that he thought "in" the tournament meant in contention and not just still playing. He reconsidered a moment and offered a line of 12.5, and Bill Stark quickly took the under.
It didn't matter which way he meant it, because going into Round 11 there were 13 players who started off 3-0 who still had a fighter's chance of making the Top 8 with a 7-3 record or better. Sitting on top of the standings was Thomas Drake-last seen drafting in the Day 1 draft viewer-who dispatched Steve Sadin in Round 11 to become the first lock for the Top 8.
Saturday, 3:28 p.m.: Quick Questions: What's the most exciting card to come back in ?
What's the most exciting card to come back in Tenth Edition?
|Patrick Sullivan:||Mike Turian:||Alan Comer:|
|"The Man-Lands. I thought they were just a relic of the Urza Block era and a power-level never to return. It's very cool to get to play with them again."||"Black-bordered Wrath of God. That was the one card that I could never get in black borders."||"Quirion Dryad!"|
|Antonino De Rosa:||Paul Cheon:||Jon Becker:|
|"March of the Machines."||"Arcanis… Yee-ah!"||"Obviously for me it's Treetop Village. I don't know how good it is but I love playing with that guy. I'm also excited to get to play with my four old DCI promo alt art Incinerate again. They're gorgeous."|
|Steve Sadin:||Pat Chapin:||Gerard Fabiano:|
|"Incinerate. Unfortunately for me my red deck is out there on the highway somewhere. I lent it to my friend Matt Boccio so he could try to grind in with it. He put it on top of his car while he reached into his pocket for his keys. Now it's somewhere out on I-95."||"Mind Stone, although Goblin Lore gets honorable mention as the coolest card I'm not actually going to play with."||"Threaten. Round 3 I have no cards in hand, four lands, and a Gargadon suspended on 4. My opponent plays Angel of Despair. I top-deck a Threaten, sac my lands, and hit him for 14 and the win! Wait, that story's kind of boring … and not even true. Come back later, I'll think up a better one."|
Saturday, 3:50 p.m.: Lines are Open…Order Now!
So we have this bucket that travels from event to event which contains a never ending supply of pens, pads, sharpies, some land for drafting, and the odd draft set. I was rummaging around to find a steno pad for a story I was about to do on the MSS champ from last year when I stumbled across the secret formula for Magic success. The only problem is that we need to get it translated.
Saturday, 4:14 p.m.: Side Events
Magic Weekend is filled with stuff to do all day. In addition to the U.S. Nationals tournament and the Magic Scholarship Series Championship, visitors to the Baltimore Convention Center can find themselves a plethora of other gaming opportunities. The person bringing them those chances? None other than Side Events Manager Steve Port.
Port, a tournament organizer and store owner from the Midwest, has been helping to run Wizards' side events at large events for some time. He pioneered the use of projection technology to post pairings on walls in large scrolling print to cut down on traffic within tournaments, and regularly sees his Pro Tour Qualifiers exceed 150 players back home. This weekend he was all about the side events.
"Our projected numbers were lower than the actual number of people we've seen playing side events so far," he said. When asked to clarify he explained, "At Pro Tour San Diego we had two single-elimination 8-person Standard tournaments fire. Yesterday [Friday] we had 28."
Port wasn't sure there was a specific reason for the increase, though the prize support certainly doesn't hurt.
"Yesterday we gave away a Timetwister, tonight we're giving away a Mox Ruby, and tomorrow we're giving away a Mox Emerald." In the background, a judge's voice over the PA announced sign ups for a Standard event for a laptop computer. "We also gave away a Microsoft Zune last night, and we're giving away another one this weekend."
Steve seemed happy to report that nearly all of the event attendance numbers were up from last year at the Nationals tournament in Atlanta, and it would seem that Magic Weekend is truly living up to its name.
Keep up the good work Steve!
Saturday, 4:45 p.m.: In Need of an 8-0 Run
Last year's JSS Champion Arthur Stewart was looking to make good on the tournament series transformation from Junior Super Series to Magic Super Series. Under the old rules the 17-year old would be ineligible for competition but with the age restriction pushed back to 18 years he came back to defend his crown.
After five rounds he was facing a steep uphill climb with a 2-3 start to his weekend. He was frustrated with his deck choice, a copy of Luis Scott-Vargas and Paul Cheon's OmniChord deck-a green-blue-white deck that can Chord of Calling out Arcanis the Omnipotent at instant speed. While both Paul and Luis have put themselves in a position to make back-to-back Nationals teams-not to mention their friend David Ochoa, who was also in the running - with the deck, Arthur has been frustrated by the build.
"It just doesn't do anything," groaned Arthur. Although he did admit: "I did win every game where I played Arcanis-it is the nuts!"
As for what was doing well in the MSS… Two players who got in through the Open, Brett Blackman and Hunter Coale, were near the top of the field. Brett was piloting a Solar Flare deck, while Hunter was running the Rakdos10 deck that many of the Pros in Nationals were fighting with.
"Hunter is 5-0 with Gerard's list," said Arthur. "I think he is going to win it all. Apparently Project X and Dredge are doing really well too."
I asked Arthur how many more MSS events he had in him and he shrugged, "I could play in two more if I wanted to, but I was really hoping to get a chance to play at Worlds in New York."
Playing in a Pro Tour event would give him Pro status, and he would lose his MSS eligibility. Everyone wants to come to New York and play, but the options for getting there are pretty slim. Short of the Online Qualifier, players need to be Level 3 in the Players Club, qualify through Nationals, or have a high enough rating to get invited. The first two were clearly out for Arthur, so I asked if he had a high enough rating to make the cut.
"Not anymore," he sighed. "Maybe I can go 8-0 from here though."
Saturday, 6:35 p.m.: Redux
George Baboussis is at it again. On Friday we brought you the story of George getting his dreams crushed by an Extirpate when playing the Relentless Rats / Thrumming Stone deck in the first Grinder. It appeared his spirit had been crushed when a group of players gathered to watch George in the last Grinder and see the deck in action. The crowd was sent away disappointed when George led off his match with Stomping Ground and all the Gruulsual suspects.
But George's love of the Rats had not subsided and he felt he had even found an end around the Extirpate problem. He still had his eyes on his pet deck for Nationals. "I have to play the Gruul deck so I can qualify and play Rats at Nats," said the hopeful George on Friday.
Sadly he did not get there, but that has not stopped him from signing up for multiple Standard tournaments. He went 6-2 yesterday with the deck and was off to a 3-1 start on Saturday, drawing quite a throng of Rat fans.
"That deck is bittersweet," said one fan. "I mean, the Rats are awesome but they had Cranial Extraction when they first printed the card and now they have Extirpate."