Pro Tour–Honolulu Blog: Day 1

Posted in Event Coverage on June 5, 2009

By Wizards of the Coast

Welcome to Pro Tour–Honolulu! The crack reporting squad of Bill Stark, Rich Hagon, Tim Willoughby, Tom LaPille, and Craig Gibson are combing the halls of the Hawaii Convention Center for all the inside information.

 

Table of contents

  • 12:16 p.m. – Suit Up Honolulu?
    by Tim Willoughby
  • 11:35 a.m. – Borderline Crazy
    by Tim Willoughby
  • 10:31 a.m. – Round 1 Quick Hits
    by Tom LaPille
  • 9:55 a.m. – Elves Chance It in Paradise
    by Tim Willoughby

Blog

Friday, June 5, 9:55 a.m. – Elves Chance It in Paradise

by Tim Willoughby

LCQ players wait for their next round to start.Most Last Chance Qualifiers at Pro Tours are pretty well packed with hopefuls looking to sneak their way onto the Pro Tour, at the final possible moment. These tend to be those who are pretty local, or who have travelled at low cost.

Getting to Hawaii isn’t necessarily cheap. There is plenty to recommend a jaunt out to the islands, though, and that brought more than the typical number of players who are happy to take a break on the beach if that final shot missed.

In total, four players made it into the Pro Tour through tight play in the Standard LCQs. See if you can spot a common theme from their deck lists ….

Gabriel Carlton-Barnes

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Robert Gildec

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Brett Blackman

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James Bishop

Download Arena Decklist
 

Yup. That’s a lot of Elves. It seems that the Standard format is far from solved. After the week of Cascade Swans, and the week of Faeries, not to mention all that time that Black-White Tokens was the best deck, now we see Elves taking all the slots at the last minute here in Honolulu. While these lucky four will now be battling with Block Constructed decks for the rest of the weekend, I think it’s safe to say that there is now another big contender for the Austin PTQ season. This is a deck that Tomoharu Saito and Shuhei Nakamura have been championing for the last couple of Grand Prix, but now there are the results to back it up.

Friday, June 5, 10:31 a.m. – Round 1 Quick Hits

by Tom LaPille

Going into this Pro Tour, the only data we had about Shards of Alara Block Constructed came from the Magic Online Championship Series, where the top finishers were a sea of similar Jund decks. This raised some concerns about how robust the format was. Was Jund the only deck in the format? A quick walk around the tables in Round 1 shows that the best we had players in the world have answered that question with a resounding no. There is plenty of innovation going on. Here's a quick peek at interesting things that a few notable players are doing.

Tomoharu Saito brought a green-white attack deck for this weekend. Many players' attacks have been stopped by Wall of Denial this tournament, but Saito was not one of them. Thanks to a stack of Noble Hierarch s that a Ranger of Eos helped assemble, Saito forced his opponent to pile both a Wall of Denial and a Sprouting Thrinax in front of a 7/7 Thornling that eventually killed both of the blockers and still damaged the opponent. The Elspeth, Knight-Errant and Behemoth Sledge in Saito's graveyard hinted at how much more brutal that Thornling 's attack could have been.

Thornling
Behemoth Sledge

When I walked up to Gabriel Nassif's match, he had a Sharuum the Hegemon in play next to a Glassdust Hulk . His opponent tapped down to a single land, leaving Gabe free to execute his master stroke. He played a second Sharuum, looped them infinitely in and out of play thanks to Sharuum's comes-into-play trigger, then attacked with an arbitrarily large and unblockable Hulk. While he packed up his cards, I caught a glance of Protomatter Powder and Sphinx Summoner , two cards that undoubtedly will help him assemble his Sharuum combination many more times this weekend.

Sharuum the Hegemon
Glassdust Hulk

We showed you a picture of Brian Kibler on the Twitter feed earlier, but his choice of deck is just as unconventional as his choice of attire. When I saw him this round, he had just finished converting a pile of Mistvein Borderpost s and Fieldmist Borderpost s into Thopters with Thopter Foundry to accompany his Esper Stormblade in a flying assault. His Ethersworn Canonist had to stay home due to a blocker, but still did its job of keeping his opponent's cascade spells from producing free spells.

Thopter Foundry
Ethersworn Canonist

As I returned to my computer, I walked two players sitting next to each other who both had Noble Hierarch , Sprouting Thrinax , and Sedraxis Specter in play on turn three. It's clear that we have only scratched the surface of the variety that is here this weekend. Stay tuned for more!

Friday, June 5, 11:35 a.m. – Borderline Crazy

by Tim Willoughby

In the Arena in Round 2, of a possible six, there were three Pro Tour Hall of Fame members. In those sorts of circumstances, it was hard for me not to find myself railbirding on Jon Finkel playing against Jelger Wiegersma. Wiegersma, who is well used to island living, sported a deep tan, and was comfortable in the Arena in shorts and a loose t-shirt, with no shoes.

Finkel admitted that he too liked the island lifestyle, and had been lured to Honolulu as much by the location as by the magical cards.

The match itself between these two great pros was a little abortive, due to mana issues experienced by Finkel, but one interesting point of note was the way that the Borderpost cycle is working in the format. Wiegersma, with a very aggressive Esper deck sporting Glaze Fiend and friends, gets a lot of value from his Borderposts, which pump the flyers, and Master of Etherium , before eventually becoming food for Thopter Foundry to get in a few final points of damage.

Fieldmist Borderpost
Thopter Foundry

On the other side of the board, Finkel's aggressive Jund deck utilised borderposts to set up Jund Hackblade attacking in on turn two. However, it is dangerous to look at Borderposts quite like Invasion tap-lands. In Game 2 of their quick fight, Finkel found himself short on mana when he kept a hand including a Borderpost and Savage Lands as its mana sources. Without a basic land to bounce, his gamble did not pay off, and he was soon destroyed by a large Master of Etherium , thanks to the many Borderposts on Wiegersma's side of the table.

Veinfire Borderpost
Jund Hackblade

The Borderposts have also been used by some players to keep Exotic Orchard on the opposing side of the board from being too overpoweringly effective. By keeping lands off the board, Exotic Orchard can be effectively neutered, without harming the colours available to oneself.

A final point of note about the Borderpost cycle is quite what they do to Maelstrom Pulse . When the spell first came out, a few players seemed a little saddened not to be able to use the spell to hit lands. Given its ability to hit multiple permanents, that was never going to be reasonable, but Vindicate had obviously made some players greedy. Block Constructed is the place where that greed gets to pay off. Maelstrom Pulse can quite happily off a few Borderposts in one go, which in this complicated colour-intensive format could be a killer.

Friday, June 5, 12:16 p.m. – Suit Up Honolulu?

by Tim Willoughby

In a format where Broodmate Dragon s have been ruling the skies thus far, it seemed that the original dragon-master Brian Kibler’s return was aptly timed. Having been lured by the exotic location, Kibler took down a PTQ with a deck sporting, of all things, Cabal Interrogator. Now that he’s here, Brian has a whole new style. Somehow, the trademark flowery shirts and headphones didn’t seem appropriate for Brian coming here where everybody seems to be rocking that look.

Having seen the “suit up for Berlin“ campaign, Brian is the latest pro player to be seen on the Tour in a suit, and not a swimsuit either. Kibler, being Kibler, has done it in his own special way.

“I was on Rodeo Drive with a couple of friends, and we walked into Bernini’s. When I saw this suit, not only did I know that I needed to have it in my life, but also that I would have to wear it to this Pro Tour.”

Having got the white suit, Brian also invested in shoes, waistcoat, belt, the works. He also spent a bit of time on the Block Constructed format, having been a while off the tour. With Ben Rubin, he’s put together “a hot little brew” that he hopes to be able to fight off the “ Bloodbraid Elf ” metagame that he’d been expecting in the format.

In a room where Jelger Wiegersma is running hot enough to eschew wearing shoes, Kibler seemed unconcerned about the temperature concerns of wearing a full suit. Kibler is in his comfort zone, and at the time of writing is on winning form.

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