Welcome to Hollywood! The crack reporting squad of Nate Price, Bill Stark, Josh Bennett, Ted Knutson, Dane Young, and Craig Gibson are combing the halls of the Hyatt Regency Century City for all the inside information.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- 10:47 a.m. - LCQ Decklists
by Bill Stark
- 11:02 a.m. - Roll It!
by Ted Knutson
- 3:05 p.m. - Dealer Talk
by Dane Young
- 3:15 p.m. - Chatting up the LCQ
by Bill Stark
- 3:45p.m. - Following Up Success
by Nate Price
- 4:51p.m. - Thoughts on the Format
by Dane Young
- 5:35p.m. - Dave Williams’s Bling Bling Elementals
by Bill Stark
- 6:15p.m. - My Favorite Top-Table Cards
by Josh Bennett
Friday, May 23: 10:47 a.m. - LCQ Decklists
When 358 Last-Chance Qualifier hopefuls sat down Thursday afternoon, they knew they had a long day ahead. After 10 rounds, these four players had survived to move on to the main event. We'll be checking in on their progress later today, but for now here's a look at the decks that got them here.
Friday, May 23: 11:02 a.m. - Roll It!
Los Angeles, California. This city holds a lot of history from Pro Tours past. The first time we were here—way back in ‘96—Shawn Regnier dropped the Hammer on Tight Tommy Guevin. A year later, the Tour was back, with the Finnish Lex Luthor, Tommi Hovi, defeating David Mills in the finals, to take home one of his two Pro Tour trophies. A total of six Pro Tour champions have been crowned here, with legends like Hovi, Ruel, and O’Mahoney-Schwarz earning Magic‘s greatest reward in sites around the city of angels.
This time around, the Pro Tour is straight chillin’ in Hollywood. Riding around the glitzy streets in a cab will get you a view of tremendously expensive real estate, the most expensive and beautiful cars money can buy (I particularly liked the Maserati Quattroporte that pulled up next to me at our hotel), and gorgeous women. Lots of them. Everywhere. Make no mistake, Hollywood is great people-watching.
But honestly folks, who cares about swanky real estate, super cars, and people-watching when there is Magic to be played?
"But Teddy Card Game," you ask, "What should we care about?"
How about the format? It’s Standard, and a field far more diverse than the online metagame would have led you to believe. You’ll see action from Elves, red-green, Fish, mono-red, and yes, Faeries at the very least this weekend. Early word off the street says the menace of the fae will have a hard time combating the hate this weekend, but time will tell if that rumor carries any weight. (See also: Monsieur Canali, Affinity, Columbus 2005.)
How about the legends? Jon Finkel, Zvi Mowshowitz, Alan Comer, and all of Your Move Game (including Dave "Da Hump" Humpherys) are here doing battle. Living legends Gabriel Nassif, Tomoharu Saito, Kenji Tsumura, the Ruel brothers, Mark Herberholz, and so many more are also slinging spells in pursuit of fat sacks of cash and Magic glory.
How about the deck builders? Mad Hatter Patrick "The Innovator" Chapin leads the way this weekend, with his teammates hoping he can continue his incredible streak of format-breaking decks. Zvi Mowshowitz and Alan Comer teamed up with the New York youth movement (Steve Sadin, Sliver Kids Chris Lachmann and Jacob Van Lunen) this time around to come up with two different decks they think have a shot at dominating. (Jonathan Magic is also playing their deck.) On the Japanese side, Tomoharu Saito is bound to have some clever take on the format, and while fan favorite Tsuyoshi Fujita is not present, his deck is, piloted by Pro Tour–Prague champion Takuya Osawa among others.
What else can you expect this weekend? Well, I don’t know. That’s why we’re here, you know, to watch the Magic unfold. Stay with us all weekend long and you’ll see the bleeding edge of Standard technology, all the highs and lows from the feature match area, great video and pod cast coverage, and tons of goofy photos at the very least.
Meanwhile, I’m going to try and get my brain to stop playing Weezer’s Beverly Hills on a repeat loop, something I haven’t been able to do since I got off the plane.
Friday, May 23: 3:05 p.m. - Dealer Talk
Friday, May 23: 10:43 a.m. - Dealer Talk
by Dane Young
Just past the giant Gleemax and registration desk lays a cornucopia of information.
The dealer booths at any Magic event are the lifeblood of tournament players. Without them, many decks would be incomplete. As players scramble for cards, whether they are for a Pro Tour, a Qualifier, or just to pad the collection, the dealers are the place to go.
This weekend's Pro Tour-Hollywood is Standard Constructed, but the Pro Tour Qualifiers going on in the public events area are Lorwyn / Shadowmoor Block Constructed, which provides an interesting tension where popular purchases are concerned.
Bitterblossom, for example, was a hot seller on Thursday, as players in both the Last Chance Qualifier and the Pro Tour (both Standard Constructed) were looking to fill out their Faerie decks (along with Elves and other archetypes). On Friday, however, the dealers were disappointed to find that Bitterblossom was not selling.
According to Michelle Cove of Gamingetc.com, the best sellers were red and green cards, namely Fire-Lit Thicket, Primal Command, Murderous Redcap, Spitebellows, Fulminator Mage, and Kitchen Finks. Cove's booth sold over 50 copies of the persistent Ouphe.
While all the Shadowmoor hybrid lands sold well, Fire-Lit Thicket lapped the field.
"If people had [Fire-Lit Thicket], they could have sold them for any price," Cove said.
It also appears that there's a sleeper hit to be found, at least for a few players who bought Furystoke Giant in bunches of 16 and 8 copies at a time. Is this the new "tech" on (and in) the block?
Despite the popular sales of red and green cards, the PTQ field looked diverse. Red-green and Faeries decks were prevalent, with Goblins, multiple color combinations of Kithkin, midrange black-green, and aggressive green-white decks rounding out the field.
One deck to note was the five-color Elementals control deck, which utilizes handfuls of rare Lorwyn and Shadowmoor lands (think Auntie's Hovel, Fire-Lit Thicket, Graven Cairns, and Reflecting Pool), Fulminator Mage, Spitebellows, and Murderous Redcap. The deck tries to make favorable trades and find ways to gain card advantage through interactions such as Mulldrifter or Shriekmaw and Makeshift Mannequin. Against control, Fulminator Mage curves nicely into Makeshift Mannequin, while aggressive decks frown at Murderous Redcap and Shriekmaw.
One thing is certain: this PTQ season is going to be an interesting one... and the last set in the block isn't even out yet!
Friday, May 23: 3:15pm - Chatting up the LCQ
Nearly 400 players came into Pro Tour-Hollywood weekend unqualified to play the big event and took their chances in the Last Chance Qualifier, but only four were the lucky (and tired) ones who snagged the final spots and earn the right to wake up early for competition Friday. The four players, playing a variety of decks and hailing from a variety of locations, took the time to sit down with the coverage crew and chat about LCQing, their hopes for the Pro Tour, and who exactly they were.
Italian Filippo Kratter has a plane to catch. Filippo Kratter hails from Sappada, Italy (near Venice) and happened to be in the States on a snowboarding trip. He managed to earn his slot on the back of the scourge of Standard, Faeries. "I tested on Magic Online and felt it had a very good chance." Was he concerned about the mirror match at all? "I have Thoughtseize and Damnation in the sideboard," he replied, shrugging. The Italian hadn't planned on attending the Pro Tour, but when he realized his flight home to Italy left from Los Angeles he figured he would take the opportunity to show up and play before heading home. One problem: his flight was scheduled to leave at 9:30 p.m. on Friday night, the first day of the Pro Tour. Said Kratter, "I played the LCQ assuming I could change my ticket if I needed to. I'm not sure if that will work though." When asked if he worried the other four members of the LCQ Top 8 might be upset with him if he had to drop to catch a flight, robbing them of their chance to play, he said, "I would understand, but I'm going to try to get a new ticket. I need to go call American Airlines right now!"
Mauricio Blanca probably had one of the shortest trips to the tournament site todayThe other Faeries player to make the Top 4 was Long Beach, California native Mauricio Blanca. He had managed to get through to the first day of Pro Tour competition with two of the techier additions to Faeries sideboards this weekend: Fledgling Mawcor and Murderous Redcap. The Mawcor has been seeing play as a solution to the Faeries mirror match, but Shadowmoor insert Murderous Redcap has only recently picked up steam as a response to Magus of the Moon. Because Faeries plays very few basics, often just 4 Islands, the Magus has been causing problems for fans of the fae. Redcap, however, provides the perfect solution, utilizing the Magus's own effect to play the Redcap in the first place. With all the Faerie player's nonbasic lands functioning as Mountains, he or she can easily pay red mana to play the Redcap. And if there isn't a Magus in play? Those hybrid symbols allow the player to play it for .
When asked whether Mauricio planned on changing his deck from the LCQ to the Pro Tour, he said "I changed the deck to reflect the difference in play between the two events. There were hardly any Faerie mirrors at the LCQ, but I expect them to be more common at the Pro Tour." This is just the second Pro Tour for Blanca, who conveniently works just five minutes' drive from the tournament venue. He also confessed he hadn't done much preparation for the event at all, claiming just a Friday Night Magic tournament as preparation before showing up Thursday. He made up the difference, he says, by staying up until 5:30 a.m. testing with fellow card slingers he met on site. Was he concerned that would lead to fatigue affecting his play at the Pro Tour? "Yeah, a little bit."
Matt Sperling shows his (school) colorsThe final two members of the LCQ Top 8 were James Gates and Matt Sperling, players fortunate enough to have tested with one another prior to the Pro Tour. That didn't mean they were playing the same deck, however. Matt had opted for a Green-White Ramp special that many prominent Californians appeared to be favoring at the event. James, on the other hand, opted for an anti-control build of Merfolk. Unfortunately it didn't look like the gamble had paid off for Gates, as he had stumbled early to an inauspicious 0-2 start.
"I didn't change anything, but I would if I could now," the UCLA student explained, lamenting his deck's performance. "I would definitely cut the two Oblivion Rings in the sideboard." When asked what he would put in over them he simply muttered, "Not sure." This was the second Pro Tour for Gates, though he has managed to qualify for eight previously. He credited a number of things for keeping him from those events, but one can imagine he's excited to be playing this weekend, even if things didn't start as strongly as he had hoped.
His testing partner Matt, with his Green-White Ramp list, had done a little bit better, picking up a win headed into Round 3. How did he feel about his deck from the LCQ? "Wrath of God turned out to be bad against the red decks, so I cut one for a Kitchen Finks, which is really good against them. I also wanted another Guttural Response, which is good against Faeries." Still, he admitted, the Faeries matchup isn't favorable. Walking into the event with a bad matchup against the section of the metagame everyone was talking about might seem a bit foolhardy, but Sperling pointed out he had spoken with some prominent pros and felt comfortable with the matchup (he even went so far as to cite Paul Cheon, Luis Scott-Vargas, Mark Herberholz, Gabriel Nassif, and Patrick Chapin as testing partners).
With a long day ahead of them after their ten-round marathon march to qualified slots last night, you can bet all four of these competitors will be a little rough around the edges through Friday. It seems safe to bet, however, that they're all happy to have earned their precious spots for competing in the big event.
Friday, May 23: 3:45pm - Following up Success
As a little project for myself, and more honestly as an attempt to further familiarize myself with the names and faces I need to be aware of for these events, I did a little research and catalogued the players who have shown a fair amount of success in Constructed events in recent history. Succeeding at a high level in Constructed is not an easy task. Formats have started to become more wide open, allowing players a plethora of options for decks to play, which, while leading to a varied format, makes many players’ lives hell. Many decks in a format, means many decks to prepare for. Coming into a Constructed Pro Tour without full knowledge of the decks in the format is like bringing brass knuckles to a gunfight—if you get lucky, you can win, but you have to dodge a lot of bullets to get there.
Sam Stein has been on a Constructed roll since last year. First he took his black/green deck to a 5-0 record during the Standard portion of last year’s World Championship. Then, he followed that up with a Top 8 in Extended at Pro Tour Valencia. Admittedly, he has put in less work for this tournament than he has in the past. "I haven’t been playing Magic as much as I used to. I decided to play Faeries, and felt comfortable with it." 1-2 after Round 3, Sam has gotten off to a slow start. "I’ve run into a few bad matchups. I played a game against a red deck where I didn’t deal him a single damage. That’s just not a fun matchup." Remi Fortier, who was the winner in Valencia, is also struggling at 1-2 with his Faerie deck, while Kenji Tsumura, who recently made Top 8 at GP–Shizuoka, has driven his fae to a 2-1 start.
We’ve already touched on Christoph Huber’s black-green deck in an earlier feature match. Elves have been a fairly persistent deck in the Standard metagame throughout the qualifier season, and Shadowmoor has changed the deck relatively little. Kitchen Finks is the most notable addition, and it’s been quite the beating thus far. Life gain plus persist equals problems for every type of deck. Huber’s Worlds Top 8 was on the back of his perfect record in Standard, during which he played a green-black planeswalker deck that features many of the same cards. The format has changed, but his success has not, as he is currently sitting at 2-1.
Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, Mr. "I win Constructed tournaments" himself, has brought an interesting little number to play today. He, the Ruels, and Manuel Bucher are piloting a five-color control deck designed not by Wafo-Tapa, as you’d expect, but rather by the Swiss Bouchard. As the deck was described to me, it "draws some cards, kills anything important that hits play, draws some more cards, and then kills your opponent." I might be the biggest fan of five-color control decks in the world, and when I heard about this deck I had to watch it run. At first I was a little disappointed that it didn’t seem to be running Gaea’s Blessing, but after I saw the sick things the deck can do with Primal Command, I decided not to complain. Apparently, they’ve managed to strike gold. Wafo-Tapa and Bouchard are sitting at 3-0, and the Ruels are both sitting at 2-1.
Akira Asahara is the last player I dropped in on. All he had to do was update the version of Reveillark that he piloted to a Quarterfinals finish at Grand Prix–Shizuoka. His familiarity with the deck and its various matchups has brought him to a 3-0 start to this weekend. This goes to show that playing a deck you are familiar with and tuning it as the format changes is a recipe for success in any new format.
Friday, May 23: 4:51 p.m. – Thoughts on the Format
A mid-day chat with some of the regular characters on the professional Magic scene revealed a few insights to the Standard format.
Reigning United States national champion Luis Scott-Vargas decided to play an aggressive green-white deck this weekend. Expecting a format full of Faeries and anti-Faeries decks, Luis decided that he was happy being a coin-flip against Faeries—because that’s the best any deck can really do—while punishing opponents who chose to play something that beat Faeries (such as mono-red and red-green aggressive decks).
He was surprised to see as many Reveillark decks as he has, “because it can’t really beat Faeries.” Nonetheless, he didn’t mind losing to the one he played against because he doesn’t expect to have to play it again. Luis has three wins after five rounds.
Zack Hall displays the price of failure Zack Hall, who lost to teammate Ben Lundquist in the top four of Grand Prix Vancouver this past Extended season (in the 75-card blue-green ‘Tron mirror), decided to play Faeries with three Thoughtseize in the main.
Wearing a yellow blouse with white dots (his reward for losing to Lundquist in Vancouver), Zack said his team expected 30 to 40 percent Faeries, along with red decks, Elves and Doran decks, to comprise the majority of the field. Of the twelve members on his playtest team, two decided to play Elves, two went with red decks, and the other eight played Faeries, a concession to the power of the little flying pests. He also thinks the Faerie mirror match is more skill-intensive than most people think— unless someone has Bitterblossom and the other person doesn’t—and that aggressive mulligan decisions give him the edge there.
Zack singled out a deck that he thinks “will probably win the tournament,” as he described a four- or five-color deck containing Cloudthresher, Firespout, Mulldrifter and Mannequin, among other things, played by Manuel Bucher. Zack has four wins after five rounds, needing one more win to secure a spot in the second day.
Level 8 Hall of Famer Raphael Levy also decided to play Faeries this weekend. He wasn’t surprised at the decks that have shown up this weekend, expecting Faeries, black-green elves, red decks and some Reveillark decks to make up the field. He was surprised, however, that there aren’t more Faeries around.
Raph, at three wins after five rounds, had one more thing to say: “Greg & Kik, vous e’tes nac.”
Finally, a round five feature match was ended by repeated haymakers from a surprise guest. Japanese superstar Akira Asahara, playing a Reveillark variation, was facing off against Pro Tour–San Diego champion Chris Lachmann, playing a red-green midrange deck. In Game 3, Lachmann resolved a turn-three Primal Command (with the help of Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves), Temporal Springing Asahara’s Reflecting Pool, leaving him with just Grove of the Burnwillows and Wall of Roots, and tutoring up... Shivan Dragon?!
Chris’s face lit up as he placed the iconic old-school beater (whose inclusion in the deck came from none other than Hall of Famer Zvi Mowshowitz). Can’t you just imagine the looks on the faces of the audience?
The loss of Reflecting Pool stunted any chance for Asahara to set up any defenses before the dragon arrived. One smash for 6 damage followed by another for 7 was enough for Asahara to throw in the towel. Chalk one up for the old guys!
Chris gleefully talked about how his team came up with the deck and their thoughts on the format. They expected Faeries, aggressive red and red-green decks, and Elves. They configured their main deck to beat Faeries and red-green, using Llanowar Elves and Birds of Paradise to ramp up to bombs such as Deus of Calamity, Countryside Crusher and Chameleon Colossus, while having Firespout in the sideboard to clean up against Faeries and red decks. A pair of Primal Commands in the sideboard not only does a lot of work in the red matchups, but tutors up singleton sideboard copies of Cloudthresher and Shivan Dragon.
Another interesting card in their deck is Magus of the Moon. With a turn-one Llanowar Elves or Birds of Paradise, a second-turn Magus against Faeries can often steal the game almost immediately. It is also no slouch against the rest of the format, which is rife with non-basic lands.
He was surprised to see so much Reveillark, thinking it would be unpopular because of its matchup against Faeries. Nonetheless he is happy with his deck choice. Chris has four wins after five rounds, needing one more to secure his spot in the second day.
Friday, May 23: 5:35 p.m. – Dave Williams’s Bling Bling Elementals
Ahhh, my eyes!Hollywood is famous for being the home of the stars, and the Pro Tour is no stranger to the phenomenon, with many of the game’s biggest names out in force to play Standard. One name which is sure to catch the eye of many at home is David Williams. The world-class Magic player is not only battling for the chance at taking home the crown, but doing so in style with a completely foil Standard deck. You read that right: every single card in his deck is foil.
But that’s not all. Not only are all the cards in his deck foil, but every single card he owns from the Standard environment is of the shiny variety. For the same price many might spend on a car Dave managed to take home foil playsets of everything legal in the format. “I was going to just buy regular play sets, but it wasn’t much more to buy foil so I figured...” the former Worlds Top 8 competitor explained. Pro Tour–Honolulu Champion Mark Herberholz chimed in, “Sometimes you’ve just got to be blingin’!”
And the deck? Williams credited its design to former Magic Invitational winner Mike Long and Long’s testing partner David Mills. It centers around an Elementals theme and plays a few cards that are sure to raise some eyebrows: Spawnwrithe and Vigor. The 6/6 in particular has posed problems to many of the other creature decks in the format as they struggle to trade profitably for Dave’s other creatures, only to find all the damage dealt prevented and turned into +1/+1 counters. How was the deck holding up in tournament play? “1-3,” Williams admitted, a bit sheepishly.
Will we be seeing David soon at any other events? “Berlin and Worlds. Well, probably Berlin, but Worlds for sure. Memphis? BBQ and music? I love Magic!”
Friday, May 23: 6:15 p.m. – My Favorite Top-Table Cards
During Round 4 I took a quick survey of the top forty or so tables to see if there were any exciting or interesting cards that turned up. Here are some of the highlights.
Ah, the white Damnation. Don’t know if you remember this card, but they kept making it, even when no one was playing it. Now there’s all these decks that like to spill creatures into the red zone, and here comes Wrath of God, ready to wipe the board clean like Ben Kingsley teaching chess. Black-green midrange, red-green aggro, and Doran are out in abundance, so the forgotten sorcery could be poised to shine this weekend.
And while we’re talking about Plains, there are a couple of (brave? misinformed? genius?) players throwing down with the aggro deck of Pro Tours past, White Weenie. Specifically, Kithkin, whose Pride can understudy for Bitterblossom and occasionally lead to serious routs.
If you’re in the market for a big hitting stick, you could do far worse than a Deus of Calamity. Overshadowed by Oversoul of Dusk, the Deus’s big trampling body can be quite cruel when backed up by the standard instant burn. The red-green decks have the accelerants to make this fellow show up early for the party, and heaven forbid you get to drop a Deus when your opponent has no blockers.
Looks like someone opened the Time Tunnel from last year’s Standard. As the Faeries decks metagame more for the mirror, they tend in the direction of pure control decks, and this is the extreme extension of that line. Teferi? Don’t mind if I do. Has the metagame shifted far enough that this could break out?
This one’s been gutting players in draft since his release, but now it’s hitting the big time. It makes an awful lot of damage on turn three, and unlike some lords I can think of, its bonuses stick around. The other big plus is that any opponent who loses to it probably feels really bad.
Target player spends two turns looking fondly at his graveyard. “Oh, the hurt I was going to put on you,” he says. Bonus points if he’s unlucky enough to pull two land off the top and has to shuffle them around like he has something. I know it sounds like fantasy land, but it’s backbreaking against the midrange decks out here this weekend looking to feast on aggro decks.
Extended Art Terror
True, it still can’t hit Chameleon Colossus, but it just looks so fine.