Geneva Dreamin’

Posted in The Week That Was on October 20, 2006

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.

Greetings from Kobe, Japan!

As you are reading this, the penultimate Pro event of the 2006 season should be getting into full swing. The format for Pro Tour-Kobe is Time Spiral Booster Draft. The Top 8 of the current PTQ season for Pro Tour-Geneva is also Time Spiral draft and I had a chance to get into one of those PTQs last weekend. The plan was to … you know … win the whole thing and then report back on the draft for this week’s column. I picked up my second loss – locking me out of Top 8 contention – and I begrudgingly interviewed the winner in my stead.

PT-Geneva Season Off and Running
The first qualifiers for the 2007 Pro Tour season are under way. Polish up your Time Spiral Sealed Deck and Booster Draft skills and find a PTQ near you, and you could win a ticket to Switzerland.

Actually, I was very happy for the winner. Mark Schmit is a regular in the Neutral Ground scene and a fixture at our Tuesday evening drafts. He is also the creator of DraftCap, a program which allows players to record their Magic Online drafts. You may have seen this referenced in Rich Hoaen’s regular Star City column “Drafting with Rich.” Mark cruised through the Swiss with his Sealed Deck build that relied on green for the creature base and dipped into red and black for removal.

“This was only my second sealed pool in the format,” recalled Schmit. “It took me a while to come to my final build. Green was the only color I had that provided real creature depth, so I just started laying out other colors with that. I actually dismissed the black at first because of its lack of creatures, but eventually brought it back on the strength of its support spells. Of course the real strength of my pool came from my three top-end bombs – two Firemaw Kavus and a Kaervek. Due to the ample color-fixing – one each of Prismatic Lens, Terramorphic Expanse, Greenseeker and Fungal Reaches – I was easily able to run a red splash in my green/black deck without sacrificing much consistency. While you could probably make a passable deck focusing on other colors, I was very happy with the build I used in the Swiss.”

Mark’s final record in the Swiss was 6-1 with his only loss coming at the hands of Rich Fein. Rich is another Neutral Ground regular and he made the Top 8 with a sliver-rich sealed deck. The tournament was especially noteworthy because of the ‘time-shifted’ nature of the participants. The tournament would have hardly been out of place during Tempest block with players who have been attending events in New York since I ran my first tournament in the winter of 1994.

The most notable ‘reprinted’ players were two of Neutral Ground’s finest – Steve O’Mahoney-Schwartz and Zvi Mowshowitz. For many players, the sight of living legends such as Steve and Zvi could be somewhat intimidating and Mark was relieved to have dodged those musket balls.

“Thankfully I managed to avoid pretty much all of them,” he laughed. “Though from the sound of it, a lot of 'name' players kept running into one another every round.”

I have had a substantial amount of success in the Tuesday evening drafts with five-color slivers and Mark went into the draft with an eye out for any of the key cards in the archetype (look for more on drafting slivers next week in Limited Information), but failing that he planned to go either white or blue. His feeling was that not only were those the strongest colors, but they were the ones with which he had experienced the most success. He decided on his course of action as soon as he tore open that first pack.

“I don't remember most of the cards,” Mark explained as he tried to recreate the contents of that pack. “I do remember quickly narrowing it down to Sporesower Thallid, Amrou Seekers, and Looter il-Kor. As much as I like 4-mana 4/4s, I eventually dismissed Sporesower in favor of the smaller guys. I debated a bit and eventually took the Seekers, because I knew I needed to go 3-0, and felt that going for heavy white beatdown was my best shot – assuming the other drafters weren't yet aware of the color's strength.”

He toyed with red and green cards in the first pack – even picking up a Thornscape Battlemage that would require both colors to be worth the pick – but he ended extremely focused on white.

“There were a lot of good green cards coming around late, but I just kept picking white cards over them,” he shrugged. “In the second pack those two colors dried up entirely, which was fine because by that time there was a lot of white coming instead. The drafter to my right went blue/black, while the one to my left predictably ended up in green/red.”

Mark ended up going mono-white. The strategy is an interesting one in this format since cards such as Ivory Giant and Gaze of Justice are only good in a predominantly white deck and you can long-range them around the table.

Mark Schmit – Winner

Download Arena Decklist

Ivory Giant
“The best part about the deck is that it curves out extremely well,” Mark explained. “I won a number of games in which I simply went 2-drop, 3-drop, 2-drop/2-drop and kept swinging in. However, if the opponent can throw up some quick defenses, it becomes much more vulnerable. The deck I faced in the finals did this by playing Thallid Shell-Dwellers on turn 2 and 3 almost every game, basically stopping my aggressive deck in its tracks. Between those and the Penumbra Spiders, the games became a lot more drawn out and my non-evasive guys quickly became outclassed. Also, Sulfurous Blast is an absolute wrecking ball against the strategy, so some sort of protection such as Pentarch Ward or even D'Avenant Healer is highly recommended.”

Mark was not terribly impressed with the Gaze of Justice but found that the other mono-white rewarding card was an MVP.

“I was actually very surprised when a Gaze of Justice in pack one didn't come back around, because I've found it to be only mediocre even in base-white decks. I had one copy in my deck, and I first-picked it reluctantly out of an extremely weak third pack; there were just no other white cards at all. The Giant is fantastic in the mono-white deck (or with Cloudchaser Kestrel), and if you suspend him on turn one and then curve out, he usually means game over on turn six or soon after.”

Mark was excited about the opportunity to draft this format in Geneva in the early part of 2007 but was a little sad that Time Spiral sealed deck was off his menu for the immediate future: “It's so much more enjoyable for sealed deck building to have more close-calls and sideboard options. I'm actually going to miss going to PTQs this season.”

Five Questions with Sam Feeley

You might not know Sam Feeley – a 19-year old aspiring Magic Pro and college student from Gainesville, Florida – but you will likely be hearing a lot about him and an initiative called “The Pledge” in the coming weeks. Sam is trying to convince as many Grand Prix New Jersey participants as possible to pledge 10 percent of their winnings and appearance fees to cancer research as a way of honoring his uncle Tim Doughtie, who recently passed away from pancreatic cancer.

Tim Doughtie

1. Can you tell people a little bit about your uncle and The Pledge?

Sam: In one word - badass. He was the first adult I felt I could truly connect with, as we shared an offbeat sense of humor, a love for Dr. Pepper and homemade beef jerky, and what really tied me to him in his later years – an interest in Magic. He even told me AFTER he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that he could attend GP-New Jersey if he was well enough. My only complaint about Tim is how often I got to see him – other than the occasional family gathering (my dad's second wedding, my stepmom's 60th birthday, etc.), I only saw him for one week every two years. I could go on and on about him, but to see what influence he had on the community, please visit his obituary from the Hilton Head Island, SC newspaper The Island Packet.

The fundraiser is simple. I request that all attendees of Grand Prix-New Jersey commit 10 percent of their cash winnings and Players Club appearance fees (hint-hint, all you Level 5 and 6 players) to cancer research. Medical research already gets lots of media attention, especially the great strides made in the last couple of years for cancer treatment. Sadly, there is still much work to be done in order to make all cancers – especially pancreatic cancer, one of the least survivable forms of cancer known and the cause of Tim's death – treatable, and perhaps, curable. I'm sure some Magic players are aware of the facts, and some may have had relatives who have, had, or died of cancer. I hope this effort will spread that message to those fortunate enough not to have experienced these problems.

2. Do you have any financial goals in terms of money raised/pledged at this event?

Sam: Again, I'm looking for 10 percent of the combined cash winnings and appearance fees at Grand Prix-New Jersey. If all money finishers commit, and if all Level 5 and 6 players show up and commit, we're looking at around $3,000 from one weekend. Of course, that's just from winnings. If players who don't finish in the money donate out of their pockets that will definitely help.

Sam Feeley hopes all players will donate a portion of their winnings at GP-New Jersey.

3. What has the reaction been from the tournament organizer?

Sam: This is the best part. [Glen Friedman of] Gray Matter Conventions, the organizer of GP-New Jersey, informed me that they will match all contributions at the tournament DOLLAR FOR DOLLAR. So if we raise the $3,000 I hope for, Gray Matter will pitch in another $3,000. Do the math – $6,000!

4. Is there any specific place you would like donations to be made?

Sam: I already have two causes in mind – the American Cancer Society and the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research. I will certainly not limit donations to those organizations, however. If anyone has any other similar groups in mind, I will certainly look into them.

5. Why Grand Prix-New Jersey?

Sam: I chose Grand Prix-New Jersey because it is the first large-scale event that I will be attending since Tim's passing. I considered doing this for Florida Champs, but I felt I needed just a bit more time to get everything organized. Additionally, I don't think it would make much sense to try this exclusively at FNM, because despite the loyal following it gets, the message would be among only 16 or so local players, as opposed to a couple hundred players from all over the country – and hopefully, the world.

Firestarter: Hidden Gems in Time Spiral

What cards do you expect to have breakout performances this weekend? The Time Spiral draft format is still quite young and everyone’s pick orders seem to be in flux once you get past Strangling Soot. Are there any hidden gems – think Drake Familiar in Ravnica Block – that are waiting to be exploited on the game’s biggest stage this weekend? Share your secret tech in the forums so you can prove you said it here first!

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