Round 4: A New Look for New Jersey: Craig Krempels vs. Alex Lieberman

Posted in Event Coverage on August 12, 2005

By Brian David-Marshall

Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.

TOGIT ain't what it used to be. The team's ascendancy to a superpower is very much rooted in U.S. Nationals history when a young New Jersey college student came back form studying at Carnegie Mellon University with a newfound understanding of the game to his friends back at The Only Game in Town in Somerville, N.J. The year was 2001 and Eugene Harvey and Osyp Lebedowicz - both very much unknown quantities at the time - drove down to Florida and grinded into the Nationals with a Fires deck called $42 Ticket.

Eugene ended up making the U.S. National team that year and helped to forge a relationship between the dominant CMU squad and the nascent group of TOGIT players. It was not soon thereafter that the team became known as CMU/TOGIT and was one of the most powerful thinktanks in the game for several years.

The Seven Kings lasted all of one event, PT-London.

Eventually the CMU was dropped from the team name as Eugene finished school and pretty much everyone worth a damn at CMU got a job at Wizards of the Coast. TOGIT remained one of the dominant teams with the leadership of Osyp and Eugene. Players on that squad included Jon Sonne, Craig Krempels, Adam Horvath, Pat Sullivan, Gerard Fabiano, Antonino DeRosa, and Josh Ravitz (among many others).

During the past season, the team swelled to supersquad status as players from around the world - Sam Gomersall, Rich Hoaen, Jeroen Remie and the other Dutchies, and Mark Herberholz all joined forces to tackle block constructed for Pro Tour-Philadelphia. By the time London rolled around, not only had the lineup changed again but so had the name.

Osyp, Josh, Gerard, Antonino, Alex Leiberman, Billy Postlethwait, and John Fiorillo splintered off from the unwieldy supersquad list to become the Seven Kings, although now they are the Six Kings because Josh has left the team. And it turns out that former TOGIT store owner Pat Sullivan and Kate Stavola worked with Tim Aten and Taking Back Sunday for this event.

With that long winded history taken care of, it's time to focus on the match between two 3-0 players that at different points in time have worked with Osyp on a team. Craig Krempels is the reigning U.S. Nationals Champion and has long been a source of humorous sound bites for TOGIT beat reporters. He found himself preparing for this event without a real team for the first time in years.

"I worked with Eugene and Sonne pretty much but we don't really have a team name - I guess you could call us the Six-Assed Donkey," said Krempels.

Alex Lieberman was crowned a king through his friendship with DeRosa and the Florida native earned his stripes in Minnesota when he won the Grand Prix a couple of weeks back. There does not appear to be any enmity between to two squads since Alex reminded Craig, "I came over with Gerard and tested with you guys, don't you remember?"

Krempels switched to blue in Betrayers.

"Oh yeah, I guess I do."

Both players came into this round with 3-0 records and were playing blue decks, although neither one of them started out drafting blue as both switched into during Betrayers. Alex was mostly white with a touch of red when he opened up a Jetting Glasskite. He quickly flicked his red cards to the bottom of his stack and went blue. He was rewarded with another Jetting Glasskite, two Ninja of the Deep Hours, and a Glasskite of the shimmering variety.

Craig started out black-white and did not abandon his white cards until the fourth pick in Betrayers when he was greeted with Higure, the Still Wind. He had already taken an Okiba-Gang Shinobi and he never looked back.

Game 1

Alex came out of the blocks fast with Devoted Retainer. Craig put out a Shape Shifter which caused Alex to stop and puzzle out the stack. Eventually he worked it out that Craig could not block.

"You figured it out!"

Alex followed up with Sensei Golden Tail and Craig made a Rainshaper. The reigning U.S. Champ tried to kill the Sensei with his two-drop but Otherworldly Journey only made him bigger - with a 1/1 friend to boot, thanks to a spliced Spiritual Visit.

Alex Lieberman swarmed over for the win in Game 1.

Craig bounced the Samurai with a Mistblade Shinobi and replayed the flier. Alex's Devoted Retainer turned out to be Ninja of Deep Hours but things looked pretty good for Krempels on the next turn when Craig announced "Cow" as he played Cloudhoof Kirin.

Alex's deck was quite saucy though and after taking one hit from the flying cow - and conscripting his own air force with a Shimmering Glasskite - he began to take control of the game. Lieberman sent the cow back from whence it came with Kiri-Onna. He reinforced next turn with Jetting Glasskite - which prompted a friendly growl from the champ.

Craig tried to find away to target the 4/4 flier after realizing that his Rainshaper could only target his own creatures.

"I guess that would be too good," he admitted.

Finally he burnt a Veil of Secrecy so he could enchant the flier with Freed from the Real. Alex bounced the Cloudhoof with Phantom Wings and swarmed in with everyone. He added two more creatures to the board and Craig threw in the towel.

Game 2

Alex's first-turn Teardrop Kami was held at bay by Floodbringer. Craig followed up with Nezumi Ronin and morphed it into Higure, the Still Wind fetching up Mistblade Shinobi. I don't know about you but I have never won a game when my opponent put Higure into play on turn four but Alex did not seem to be sweating. He tapped Higure with his Teardrop on the next turn and fogged the ninjas on the next with Mending Hands. He untapped and played Jetting Glasskite who went to work on Craig's life with little fear of being bounced.

Despite his unblockable ninjas, Craig was falling behind in the race. When Alex played a second Jetting Glasskite, Craig dropped his cards on the table and reached for the results slip wondering if there was anything he could have done differently, "I mean, c'mon!"

Seven Kings 2, Six-Assed Donkeys 0

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