Day 1 Wrap-up

Posted in Feature

By Randy Buehler

The Ken Ho All-Stars led after Day 1

164 teams competed on day 1 of Grand Prix Columbus. Pro Tour champions, Grand Prix champions, and thousands of PT points were in the house. After 7 rounds, only the Ken Ho All Stars had a perfect record. Ken Ho, Lan Ho and Dan Clegg have been friends for years and they've only drafted together once. Clegg has been having a great season so far, including his first two Pro Tour Top 8's (the team PT as a member of Rolled Up Aces along with Barcelona), a couple Grand Prix Top 8s, and a win last weekend in Taipei as a member of AlphaBetaUnlimited.com. Lan Ho is a long-time PT occasionally and a very popular character. Ken Ho is in second place in the current Rookie of the Year race and a good finish here could put him in position to make a run at Lawrence Creech at Worlds.

Lurking just one match win behind them are a lot of familiar names. Matt Vienneau has already won two Invasion-block Limited Grand Prixs this season and he's teamed up with long-time playtest partner (and two time Canadian national champion) Gary Krakower along with Mike Pustilnik to try to win this one. Vienneau and Krakower teamed up with Dave Price for last year's team season, but Price spurned them this year so he, Chris Pikula, and Tony Tsai could reunite as Team Deadguy. Vienneau's "The Ancient Kavus" got their revenge in round 6 when they eliminated Team Deadguy from the event.

Antoine Ruel, Olivier Ruel, and Raphael Levy made the trip from France to North America for Worlds a week and a half early so they could play this Grand Prix. They're making the most of their opportunity (or making the least of it if they were hoping to get some sightseeing in) as they went to bed Saturday night in 4th. Right behind them, and desperately seeking an invitation to the Pro Tour, are Brian Hacker, Gab Tsang, and Ben Rubin (playing as "Dynasty"). The trend of familiar names in new lineups continued throughout the Top 10 with Huey, Brock, and Linde (Billy Jensen, Brock Parker, and Matt Linde); A Little too Sick (Kyle Rose, Kamiel Cornelissen, Eric Froehlich); The Hubbsucker Proxy (Brian Hubble, Brian Selden, Peter Szigeti), and Thanks Craig and Seth (Adrian Sullivan, Brian Davis, and James Bradley).

The Ancient Kavus

The teams in the second 10 need to get very hot tomorrow, but a 3-0 record could catapult any one of them into the Final Four. The teams most likely to pull off this run are probably Your Move Games (PT champions Darwin Kastle, Dave Humpherys, and Rob Dougherty) and AlphaBetaUnlimited.com. ABU has put up two firsts and a second so far this GP season and their lineup for this weekend is Chris Benafel, Dave Williams, and Maher. Ever brash, Williams assured me after the final standings were put up on Saturday evening that he and Benafel had this format all figured out and they were sure to 3-0.

Although a lot of good teams advanced to Sunday, there were also quite a number of name players who would get to sleep in on Sunday and then show up to draft: Jon Finkel and Team Antarctica wound up 22nd, just missing the tiebreaker lottery to see which one 5-2 team would get to advance. Defending PT champs Potato Nation dropped after picking up their second loss - in round 6 to Huey, Brock, and Linde. The European Alliance - another group of guys who made the trip here for Worlds a little early (Kai Budde, Sigurd Eskeland, and Patrick Mello) - also dropped after picking up their second loss in round 6.

Many teams feel into the same pattern when building their sealed decks. The most popular strategy, by far, was to play black-red (occasionally with a splash of blue, but more typically an aggressive two-color deck), blue-white (with a splash of either black or red for removal or occasionally green for gold cards that were just too good not to play), and 3 to 5-color green. The green builds differed radically. Some teams liked to build it aggressively, putting in as many "bears" as possible. That strategy has worked through the Invasion-block season, but with the introduction of Apocalypse it ay be that the days of the bears are over. A lot of players are whispering that bears suck and the format is all about fat creatures now. The more successful green decks appeared to be the rainbow decks full of bombs. These 5-color greens spend the early turns setting up and accelerating their mana base with Fertile Ground, Harrow, and even Primal Growth and then windmill all the great gold cards that didn't fit into anybody else's deck. Interestingly, blue-white control seems to have the advantage over green "bear" decks, but 5-color green has the edge over blue-white. This bit of knowledge may not be well understood, but it could prove crucial to lining up the matchups during the team Rochester draft on Sunday.

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