Event Coverage

Grand Prix-Los Angeles has come, and Grand Prix-Los Angeles has gone. A whopping 834 players showed up to kick off the 2009 Pro Tour season with Extended on their mind. At the end of Day 1 it was Hall of Famer Rob Dougherty standing at the top of the field with a flawless 9-0 record. But the fates weren't so kind to him on the second day of play as he fell out of contention.

Some big names didn't fall out of competition. Pro Tour-Berlin champion and apparent Extended guru Luis Scott-Vargas continued his Constructed tear of late earning yet another Top 8 accomplishment for his resume. That comes not long after winning the last Grand Prix held in North America. Two more champions also joined him with Pro Tour-Honolulu winner Mark Herberholz and U.S. National Champion Michael Jacob making the cut to the Top 8. There were a new crew of up and coming players hungry for the title, of course. West Coast representative Mat Marr made the cut playing Faeries. He squared off against Texan Carl Hendrix in the quarters, while Saul Alvarado and Asher Hecht tried their best to wind up with the trophy. Rounding out the Top 8 was Brett Piazza who, like LSV, was playing in back-to-back Grand Prix Top 8s.

In the end, there could be only one. Continuing a streak that may earn him the title of 'best Magic player alive,' Luis Scott-Vargas is your 2009 Grand Prix-Los Angeles champion!

top 8 bracket


(1) Jacob, Michael

(8) Piazza, Brett

(4) Alvarado, Saul

(5) Herberholz, Mark

(2) Hendrix, Carl

(7) Marr, Mat

(3) Scott-Vargas, Luis

(6) Hecht, Asher


Piazza, Brett, 2-0

Alvarado, Saul, 2-0

Marr, Mat, 2-1

Scott-Vargas, Luis, 2-1


Piazza, Brett, 2-0

Scott-Vargas, Luis, 2-0


Scott-Vargas, Luis, 2-0


  • by Dane Young
    Luis Scott-Vargas vs. Brett Piazza
  • by Josh Silvestri
    Mat Marr vs. Luis Scott-Vargas
  • by Dane Young
    Saul Alvarado vs. Brett Piazza
  • by Max McCall
    Mark Herberholz vs. Saul Alvarado
  • by Josh Silvestri
    Michael Jacob vs. Brett Piazza
  • by Bill Stark
    Carl Hendrix vs. Mat Marr
  • by Dane Young
    Luis Scott-Vargas vs. Asher Hecht
  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Top 8: Decklists
  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Top 8: Player Profiles
  • Day 2 Coverage: Tales from the Floor, The Impact of the new GP Policy, Features Matches and more!
    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Day 1 Coverage: Don't miss our exciting coverage of Day 1!
    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Info: Fact Sheet
    by Event Coverage Staff


1. Scott-Vargas, Luis D $3,500
2. Piazza, Brett C $2,300
3. Alvarado, Saul C $1,500
4. Marr, Mat $1,500
5. Jacob, Michael A $1,000
6. Hendrix, Carl P $1,000
7. Herberholz, Mark D $1,000
8. Hecht, Asher M $1,000

pairings, results, standings


15 14 13 12 11 10

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


15 14 13 12 11 10

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


15 14 13 12 11 10

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Top 8 Player profiles

Name: Luis Scott-Vargas

Occupation: Pro Tour Jester

Previous High Finishes (Grand Prix, Pro Tour, Nationals, Other):
1 PT Top 8 (1 win)
2 National Top 8 (1 win)
3 Grand Prix Top 8 (2 wins)

What deck did you play this weekend and why?
TEPS, because Josh Utter-Leyton convinced me it beat everything but Elves. (He was right)

What deck(s) are you hoping to play against in the Top 8?
Anything but Elves or the mirror.

Who, if anyone, did you work with this weekend for the Grand Prix?
GerryT plus local Northern California players

Name: Asher Hecht

Occupation: Student - Part-time big tymer

Previous High Finishes (Grand Prix, Pro Tour, Nationals, Other):

What deck did you play this weekend and why?
U/R Storm / TEPS. I hated most decks in the format and didn't want to play mono-U mirrors. This deck seemed powerful and consistent so it was a clear choice for me.

What deck(s) are you hoping to play against in the Top 8?
Affinity. I played versus Affinity a few times in the swiss and felt pretty ahead. Game 1 is just goldfishing for both decks, but you have Remand to get ahead. I think UR is just faster in the match-up.

Who, if anyone, did you work with this weekend for the Grand Prix?
I got my decklist from Brandon McDoogle and tweaked the sideboard abit. Also, the members or Team Unknown-Stars helped me with my deck and preparation.

Name: Michael Jacob

Occupation: MTG Player

Previous High Finishes (Grand Prix, Pro Tour, Nationals, Other):
GP Austin top 8.
2007 National Team.
2008 National Winner
2008 Team USA Winner.

What deck did you play this weekend and why?
G/B Aggro - Darkblast, Goyf, Blossom and Loam. I knew I wanted to play Darkblast and the rest came after. Brewed it up the night beforehand with Ben Wienburg.

What deck(s) are you hoping to play against in the Top 8?
Don't want to play against Desire, but likely will in the finals if I make it. I think I'm favored against Affinity and Faeries.

Who, if anyone, did you work with this weekend for the Grand Prix?
Team RIW Hobbies, Patrick Chapin, Dan Clark and Manuel Bucher

Name: Mat Marr

Occupation: Oregon League of Conservation Voters Political Organizer, Ashland School Board Chair

Previous High Finishes:
1st player to win PTQ with Doran at Worlds 2007, 31st at U.S. Nationals and Grand Prix Vancouver, Top 100 at Pro Tour Hollywood, won Master on Magic Online last weekend with the same deck.

What deck did you play this weekend and why?
West Coast Fae. Our sideboard wins so many matches. The ability to play creatures with relevant abilities at instant speed is awesome. Riptide Lab is sick. Shackles beats every random deck. I would play it again in a second.

What decks are you hoping to play against in the Top 8?
Mirror, agro, control. TEPS seems bad for me and it is prevalent 9.

Who, if anyone, did you work with this weekend for the Grand Prix?
Alex West and the whole Northwest Magic crew deserver thanks for crafting the deck. I also play a lot on Magic-League. Thanks to everyone there. My girlfriend is a great support during my testing. Michael Jimenez sorts out all the logistics for me and makes it possible. Thanks to Pat Chapin, too, for letting me have the chance to get there.

Name: Carl Hendrix

Occupation: Unemployed / Professional Trader

Previous High Finishes (Grand Prix, Pro Tour, Nationals, Other):

What deck did you play this weekend and why?
Affinity, because it had good matches against most of the field

What deck(s) are you hoping to play against in the Top 8?
Faeries and Burn

Who, if anyone, did you work with this weekend for the Grand Prix?
My friends Thomas & Wes for three weeks straight, testing against Fae, Cloud and Elves.

Name: Saul Alvarado

Occupation: Student

Previous High Finishes (Grand Prix, Pro Tour, Nationals, Other):
Three-time member of the Panamanian National Team.

What deck did you play this weekend and why?
Next Level Blue. I think cards like Cryptic Command and Tarmogoyfs are perfect for the actual metagame, and I hate Faeries and refuse to use 'em!

What deck(s) are you hoping to play against in the Top 8?

Who, if anyone, did you work with this weekend for the Grand Prix?
My teammate Alvarao Nicosis, some people from Panama, and some people from Magic-League.

Name: Mark Herberholz

Occupation: Professional Friend

Previous High Finishes (Grand Prix, Pro Tour, Nationals, Other):
4 PT Top 8s with one win, 3 GP Top 8s, one U.S. Nationals Top 8.

What deck did you play this weekend and why?
Mono Blue Fae. It's the stoneblade.

What deck(s) are you hoping to play against in the Top 8?
People with deck registration errors.

Who, if anyone, did you work with this weekend for the Grand Prix?
Gabe Walls and Ben Rubin.

Name: Brett Piazza

Occupation: Card Dealer

Previous High Finishes (Grand Prix, Pro Tour, Nationals, Other):
Top 8 at GP: Atlanta, Top 16 at GP: Kansas City, and eighteenth at PT: San Diego.

What deck did you play this weekend and why?
Affinity, because Death Cloud wasn't working for me right before the Grand Prix. It's done relatively well for me in the past, and it's pretty good against Wizards. (6-1 against Wizards this weekend.)

What deck(s) are you hoping to play against in the Top 8?

Who, if anyone, did you work with this weekend for the Grand Prix?
Team Warp and Team Unknown Stars as well as a whole slew of Colorado players including my friend Steve Golenda.

Quarterfinals: Luis Scott-Vargas vs. Asher Hecht

by Dane Young

Both of these players battled through over 800 players with their own takes on U/R TEPS. Luis Scott-Vargas showed that he is still on fire after an amazing 2008. This is New York youngster Asher Hecht's first Top 8, but he seemed unfazed by the big names and bright lights surrounding him.

Luis won a crucial die roll and suspended a pair of Lotus Blooms before playing a Flooded Strand and shipping it over to Asher. The kid found an Island and a Ponder. Luis used his Flooded Strand to fetch a tapped Steam Vents before untapping. He didn't draw a second land, so he passed the turn back immediately. Asher had a Wooded Foothills for his turn and used it to pull his own Steam Vents out of his library.

Luis found Cascade Bluffs and again waved the turn over with a hand full of gas. Asher played a Cascade Bluffs of his own before letting Luis resolve both of his Black Lotuses. A grip of rituals and the Lotus Blooms were all it took for an 11-point Mind's Desire with five mana floating and an untapped Cascade Bluffs.

"Well, at least you can win the pool for biggest whiff."

Level 8 Mage Luis Scott-Vargas

The first car out of the gates was Tendrils of Agony, so Asher packed it in.

Scott-Vargas 1, Hecht 0

Asher's first hand wasn't fast enough to win before Luis so he shipped it back. His second hand was four lands, Gigadrowse and Manamorphose. He kept that and Luis kept his opener, so Steam Vents entered play tapped for Asher. Luis led with Dreadship Reef and Asher had an Island. Luis missed his land drop and discarded Peer Through Depths. Asher found a Dreadship Reef and passed while Luis missed again and discarded Ponder with a shake of his head while Asher charged.

Asher found Brain Freeze with a Peer Through Depths and Luis charged his Reef. He immediately used the counter to Ponder but didn't find a land again and discarded Remand. Asher was up to three counters on his Reef and Luis was still stuck on two lands. Pact of Negation hit the bin and Asher Pondered. He drew his card and did some math but didn't like the outcome. Luis found a Lotus Bloom on top of his library and passed back to Asher who was clearly ready to start cranking out spells.

Asher plucked a Remand out of the depths and Peered again. He counted up the numbers on paper to see if he could kill Luis through resistance this turn. There was a pair of Mind's Desires in the five cards, but he took Manamorphose instead, aiming for a huge Brain Freeze this turn.

Welcome to the Top 8, Mr. Hecht.

Gigadrowse tapped the six counters off of his Dreadship Reef and Gigadrowsed both of Luis' lands to lower the resistance. He ran out a couple of rituals and Manamorphoses before Luis asked if he had Brain Freeze and Remand. Asher showed both of them to Luis and they were off to the deciding game.

Scott-Vargas 1, Hecht 1

Luis got to start this game and kept his first hand immediately, as did Asher.

Luis led with Flooded Strand into an untapped Steam Vents and a Ponder. Two lands and a Ponder went back into the deck and the Level 8 Mage ripped a Rite of Flame. Asher used Wooded Foothills to fetch Steam Vents after Luis played Dreadship Reef. A Bloodstained Mire got another Steam Vents in response to Luis' end step Peer Through Depths and Asher Remanded the spell.

Luis skipped playing his third land and passed the turn back to Asher who suspended a Lotus Bloom and played Dreadship Reef. Luis chose to charge his land this time instead of running out Peer Through depths. Luis missed on land again and went to discard. Asher played a Peer of his own for a Manamorphose and Luis' Peer hit the yard.

Asher did nothing on his turn and Luis discarded Desperate Ritual after Asher charged his Reef. Lotus Bloom was down to a single counter and Asher was threatening a ton of mana and a full hand. Realizing this, LSV was forced to act now and resolved two Rite of Flame off of his Steam Vents. Seething Song was hit with Pact of Negation but Luis fought right back with a third Rite of Flame and another Seething Song, both of which resolved. Luis had an untapped Reef with three counters on it and three cards in hand. He removed all of the counters to put RRRRUUUU in his mana pool. He used two of each to cast Peer Through Depths and Brain Freeze for eight copies. He resolved the first seven copies before Remanding the original. Asher Manamorphosed and Remanded the Remand, but Luis had the second copy of Brain Freeze to end it.

Luis Scott-Vargas defeats Asher Hecht 2-1 and moves onto the semifinals.

Quarterfinals: Carl Hendrix vs. Mat Marr

by Bill Stark

"I like this deck," Mat Marr said to his opponent while surveying Hendrix' Affinity list as they sat down to their quarterfinals match. "It was the first deck I ever did well with."

Carl nodded, picking up his Robots for shuffling. "Yeah, it was the first deck I did well with too back in 2005."

After winning the roll, Mat Marr got no love from his deck having to ship his first and second hands to go to just five cards. Against an opponent as aggressive as Carl Hendrix intended to be, Marr was in a world of hurt. He wouldn't have much room to maneuver around Hendrix' Frogmites, Ravagers, and Myr Enforcers.

Could Carl Hendrix hang on with Affinity?

Springleaf Drum and Ornithopter were the opening plays for Carl Hendrix, and his opponent was horrified to drop his second land, only to reveal he had played a Spell Snare on top of his Island instead of the Mutavault he had intended to. Marr berated himself for the play, then scooped up the card and played his actual land.

Unfortunately for Mat, Hendrix had not a two-drop to be countered by Snare, but a Master of Etherium. Marr could do nothing, muttering "This game is basically over." The following turn Mat missed his land drop and Carl exploded with a Thoughtcast into Arcbound Worker and Myr Enforcer. Mat missed his land drop for a second turn, and when Carl moved to attack all-in was forced to chump block with his Mutavault. Hendrix had the trump in Fatal Frenzy which he plopped onto the board targeting his Master and more than lethaling his opponent.

Carl Hendrix 1, Mat Marr 0

"That was definitely the fastest game I've played this weekend." Mat said after the blistering start from his opponent that ended things in under ten minutes.

Marr dropped a Flooded Strand on his first turn, and watched as his opponent opened on Vault of Whispers, Ornithopter, and Arcbound Worker. Mat's Strand was cracked for a Steam Vents, and he agonized over his second turn. Eventually he decided to use Ancient Grudge to blow up his opponent's land saying "I think this is wrong, but I'm not sure."

Carl gave no inclination whether the play impacted his plans or not, instead happily chattering away about the game, nervous energy from being in the Top 8 showing through. Marr stayed on the land destruction path using a Breeding Pool to flashback Ancient Grudge and blow up Hendrix' second artifact land. When a second Ancient Grudge blew up a third land from Carl's board, he quieted down a bit. Engineered Explosives for 0 also opened Mat up to blowing away Carl's Ornithopters, and when Hendrix made his next attack Mat fell to a safe 14.

Engineered Explosives blew up the zero-casting cost artifact creatures just a turn later, and Mat played Academy Ruins to ensure he could keep blowing the world up with EE by returning it to his library whenever he wanted. On just a Blinkmoth Nexus for land, Carl Hendrix had a long hill to climb up. When Mat returned his Explosives to blow up all his opponent's one-casting cost permanents, a Chromatic Star and Arcbound Worker, Carl looked down and out.

Glen Elendra Archmage hit the board for the Faeries deck and went on the offensive, picking up an Umezawa's Jitte in the process. Carl found a third artifact land to get to two mana for a turn, but could only muster a Frogmite that was countered before losing the land to a flashbacked Ancient Grudge. The Archmage hit the red zone for three straight turns unimpeded, picking up a whopping amount of counters on the Umezawa's Jitte. Carl had nothing to defend against the flyer and, facing lethal on the next attack with Umezawa's Jitte pumps, conceded to get to the rubber game.

Carl Hendrix 1, Mat Marr 1

On the play for the third, Carl came out of the gates yet again with an early Springleaf Drum and Frogmite. Mat's first play was a suspended Ancestra Vision, but he didn't hit it until the second turn. That left him with only a single mana up as Carl got to three to play Master of Etherium, unable to counter the gigantic blue monster. Hendrix had even managed to sneak an Arcbound Worker in for "free" as it could immediately recoup the mana spent on it via Springleaf Drum. The turn was a dramatic twist for Mat's chances at staying in the Top 8, and his shoulders definitely sunk a bit.

Or would Mat Marr's Faeries deck rule the day?

He cracked a Flooded Strand for a Steam Vents, falling to 16. If he had an Ancient Grudge, he wasn't in such bad shape though he'd still be facing up to 4 damage a turn thanks to Carl's Frogmite, Arcbound Worker, and a Blinkmoth Nexus hiding amongst his artifact lands. After considering his options for some time, Marr revealed he did have the Ancient Grudge and blew up Hendrix' Master on his own mainphase. Under normal circumstances, the play might have seemed odd, but he had correctly read that Carl was holding one of his sideboarded Delays in hand and waiting a turn would get him the Grudge being countered.

Hendrix bashed for 4, but lost his team to a Firespout from Mat the following turn. Checking to make sure his opponent had only spent red mana for the spell, Carl wisely activated his Blinkmoth Nexus to pick up a free +1/+1 from the Worker. Cranial Plating from Carl got countered by Spellstutter Sprite, and it wasn't looking good for the Texan Affinity player. His opponent had an Ancestral Vision about to resolve, and an Ancient Grudge still in his graveyard.

Soon Mat's board had tripled the number of Spellstutter Sprites on it and he was working full bore on his opponent's life total. Left looking to the top of his library for help, Carl Hendrix' goose looked all but cooked. Mutavault joined Marr's army, and he resolved a Thirst for Knowledge to keep his hand juiced. Carl was able to land an Arcbound Ravager, but Marr revealed a Venser, Shaper Savant to bounce the 1/1 providing him just enough room to swing for lethal.

Matt Marr defeats Carl Hendrix 2-1.

Quarterfinals: Michael Jacob vs. Brett Piazza

by Josh Silvestri

Jacob - "Hey, can you get in the coverage something like this is Michael Jacob from RIW Hobbies in Michigan?"

And that was the word from our sponsors, now on to the games!

Jacob took a mulligan to six and Piazza started with a Vault of Whispers and Arcbound Worker. Jacob then laid Ghost Quarter and "Wastelanded" the Vault. Piazza dropped Blinkmoth Nexus and a Springleaf Drum while cracking with Worker.

Using a sac-land Michael cracked and found an untapped Overgrown Tomb and Thoughtseized Brett dropping to 14. He saw Master of Etherium, Frogmite, Myr Enforcer and Fatal Frenzy, taking the Master. Piazza proceeded to play Tree of Tales, Frogmite, and Myr Enforcer and hit with Worker taking Michael to 13.

Could reigning U.S. Champ Michael Jacob thwart his opponent?

On Michael's third turn, he found a Forest and Bitterblossom attempting to stem some of the bleeding from Brett's many artifact creatures. Piazza laid a second Frogmite, activated his Nexus and swung with the team, coming over for 8 and lowering Jacob to 5 life. Bitterblossom made a token reducing Jacob to 4, and the U.S. National champion tried a 4/5 Tarmogoyf in desperation.

Brett pondered his options before attacking with Enforcer, Frogmite and Worker, leaving one Frogmite back for Springleaf Drum to cast Fatal Frenzy. Despite Jacob's blocks on Enforcer with Goyf and token on Frogmite, nothing could stop Fatal Frenzy on Myr Enforcer for a lethal attack.

Brett Piazza 1, Michael Jacob 0

Both players chose to keep their openers and Jacob led off with a Barren Moor. On the opposing side, Piazza laid Great Furnace and Chromatic Star. Down came a second turn Mutavault and a Bitterblossom for Michael, establishing some early game.

This was met with a burst from Brett who laid a Seat of the Synod and dropped Ravager, Frogmite, and Ornithopter on the table all in one turn. Jacob's side gained a token and went to 19, dropping Twilight Mire and Seal of Primordium.

Piazza laid Arcbound Worker, Blinkmoth Nexus, and Myr Enforcer growing his army even more. A crack of the Chromatic Star allowed for a Thoughtseize aimed at Jacob and he revealed a second Seal, Darkblast, Ravenous Baloth, and Life from the Loam. A crucial moment as it could determine how much damage the Affinity robots could deal before Jacob could get set-up.

Brett took Baloth over the Seal and then swung in with Ravager, Frogmite and Ornithopter. Michael had no blocks and Piazza hit the tank for any potential sacrifices for Ravager pumping. He settled on eating a Worker, placing a counter on both Ravager and his Ornithopter and turning them into a 2/2 and 1/3 respectively.

Or would Brett Piazza's robots prove too much to handle?

Another token pops out and reduced Jacob to 13, a second Seal of Primordium hit the field followed by a quick pass. Piazza topdecked a Cranial Plating and played it, attaching to Ornithopter and then swinging with a team consisting of two Myr Enforcer, Arcbound Ravager, and Ornithopter with attached Plating and Frogmite.

Michael broke one Seal to force any potential Ravager sacrifices and Frogmite grew to a 4/4 as Ravager bit the dust. With only two blockers and facing three 4/4 creatures and an 8/2 Ornithopter, things were looking bleak for Michael Jacob. The Fae tokens blocked Frogmite and Myr Enforcer. Jacob broke the second Seal to kill Plating and only took 5 on the attack going to 8.

A token and Swamp hit the board for Jacob, reducing him to 7 and he simply passed. Piazza ripped another Cranial Plating off the top of his deck and Michael scooped up his cards in disgust at the Affinity draws.

2-0 Brett Piazza

Quarterfinals: Mark Herberholz vs. Saul Alvarado

by Max McCall

"When can you channel Arashi, the Sky Asunder?" wondered Herberholz to the table judge as he thumbed through his opponent's sideboard before the match.

"Anytime," responded Alvarado.

"Been a while..." said Herberholz with a slightly sheepish grin, as he picked up a die. Alvarado won the roll and chose to play.

Both players were satisfied with their opening seven. Alvarado played a Tarmogoyf on turn two. At the end of Alvarado's next turn, Herberholz played Thirst for Knowledge, which resolved, but Alvarado targeted him with Vendilion Clique while Herberholz was tapped out and forced him to put Glen Elendra Archmage on the bottom of his library. For his own turn, Herberholz played a Mutavault and was done.

Could Saul Alvarado beat his seasoned opponent?During Alvarado's upkeep, the man they call Heezy pounced, tapping out for Venser, Shaper Savant and bouncing the 'Goyf. Saul capitalized on the opportunity to resolve Vedalken Shackles, played a land, and said go. His opponent attacked and returned Venser to his hand with Riptide Laboratory before playing Izzet Boilerworks and passing.

Wanting to keep up, Panama native Saul Alvarado attacked and played a devastating Cryptic Command to bounce the Karoo back to Mark's hand. Herberholz was forced to discard a Mana Leak at the end of his own turn, but his hand size did not deter him from casting Thirst for Knowledge at the end of Alvarado's next turn. Alvarado countered it with a second Cryptic Command.

Herberholz played Umezawa's Jitte, hoping to work some counters onto it to push his creatures out of range of Alvarado's Shackles, and said go after replaying Boilerworks. Alvarado played a 6/7 Tarmogoyf, which Herberholz attempted to Snare, but Alvarado had Mana Leak to punch the green monster through.

Alvarado attacked Herberholz down to 1 and played Engineered Explosives with UUW; doing so meant the sunburst would be two but X would be three should Herberholz attempt to counter with Spellstutter Sprite or Spell Snare. Instead, Herberholz Mana Leaked it, and Alvarado suspended two Ancestral Visions before saying go.

During Alvarado's end step, Herberholz replayed Venser, and Alvarado picked up his Vedalken Shackles. Untapping, Herberholz equipped Umezawa's Jitte to the Venser, attacked, and passed the turn.

Alvarado bashed back with Vendilion Clique and Tarmogoyf. Herberholz removed a counter from his Umezawa's Jitte to kill the 3/1 and animated his Mutavault to block the Tarmogoyf, then used Riptide Laboratory to save his creature-land. Alvarado then recast Shackles, with a Spell Snare ready when Herberholz attempted to Mana Leak.

Mounting a comeback, Heezy replayed Mutavault, attacking with Venser and getting an extra two counters on his Umezawa's Jitte, then played Threads of Disloyalty on the Tarmogoyf and moved the equipment over to his new pet.

Alvarado, left without an offense, played Engineered Explosives for UUW again and destroyed the traitorous Tarmogoyf as well as Umezawa's Jitte. Herberholz, nonplussed, gained 6 life, and played a fresh Umezawa's Jitte on his turn, which he equipped to Venser before attacking and saying go.

Alvarado used his Shackles to steal Herberholz's Venser. Herberholz animated his Mutavault, equipped the Umezawa's Jitte to it, and attacked. Alvarado tried to use a Vendilion Clique to block, but Herberholz used Umezawa's Jitte to kill the Clique before blockers and pumped his Mutavault, making the life totals 7 to 5 in Herberholz's favor.

On his next turn, Alvarado's Ancestrals came in, and he pondered his various options briefly before casting a second Vedalken Shackles and a fresh Tarmogoyf and saying go. For his part, Herberholz could only muster a Trinket Mage, fetching an Engineered Explosives to blow up Alvarado's Shackles. Saul untapped and Firespouted away Herberholz's blockers before attacking Herberholz back down to 1 with Tarmogoyf. Alvarado then jumped the gun with a Cryptic Command, using it to bounce Herberholz's Mutavault so that he would be unable to block next turn, but Herberholz just replayed it on his turn. This was irrelevant, though, as Alvarado had another Cryptic to bounce the Mutavault and kill Herberholz with the Tarmogoyf.

Saul Alvarado 1, Mark Herberholz 0

A quick peek between games revealed the players sideboarded as such:

-1 Chrome Mox -3 Umezawa's Jitte -2 Vedalken Shackles -1 Threads of Disloyalty

+2 Negate +1 Glen Elendra Archmage +2 Flashfreeze +1 Annul +1 Academy Ruins

-3 Engineered Explosives -2 Repeal -1 Tarmogoyf -1 Umezawa's Jitte -1 Hallowed Fountain -1 Rude Awakening

+1 Academy Ruins +2 Ancient Grudge +3 Arashi, the Sky Asunder +2 Kitchen Finks +1 Firespout

Or would Pro Tour champion Mark Herberholz return to the champion's stage?Again Herberholz chose to play and both players kept their initial seven. Alvarado suspended Ancestral Vision on turn one, but Herberholz missed his third land drop and was forced to play Engineered Explosives for zero and Repeal it during Alvarado's end step in order to draw a land. Herberholz got there with Riptide Laboratory, but Alvarado played Vendilion Clique while Herberholz was tapped for Repeal and sent a Spellstutter Sprite to the bottom to protect his impending Ancestral.

Mark could only play his Lab and say go, attempting a Thirst for Knowledge during Alvarado's end step that was Mana Leaked. After playing a Seat of the Synod, Herberholz was again forced to pass with no action, and he did not contest Alvarado's Ancestral when it came in. Both players continued making land drops for a few turns while Alvarado's Clique whittled away at Herberholz's life total. Finally, Herberholz attempted a Vendilion Clique of his own to remove the pesky Faerie with Negate at the ready for Alvarado's Cryptic Command, but conceded after Alvarado Spell Snared the Negate.

Saul Alvarado defeats Mark Herberholz 2-0.

Semifinals: Saul Alvarado vs. Brett Piazza

by Dane Young

Saul Alvarado flew here from Panama and made sure he got his money's worth. He has masterfully piloted his U/G Faeries brew right into the semifinals against Colorado's Brett Piazza. This is Piazza's second straight high-level Top 8. He arrived on the scene in Grand Prix - Atlanta last year and is hoping to make this his breakout year.

Brett won an important roll and chose to keep a hand of Tree of Tales, Seat of the Synod, Cranial Plating, Ornithopter, Springleaf Drum, Myr Enforcer and Blinkmoth Nexus. He had a second turn Myr Enforcer thanks to the Drum and Ornithopter after Saul only had a land.

"That's going to go all the way."
"That's going to kill me."

Saul made a second land and Mana Leaked a Master of Etherium. Myr Enforcer rumbled in for a chunk and Saul played a tapped Hallowed Fountain. Brett was allowed to find Inspiration from a Thoughtcast not once, but twice, and all Saul could do was grimace. Brett tried to move in for the kill with Arcbound Ravager, but Saul had Spell Snare to counter it. Myr Enforcer battled again and Brett made a free Frogmite before passing the turn.

Saul was down to 9 after playing an untapped Breeding Pool, representing either Venser, Shaper Savant or Cryptic Command. Brett went into the tank to find a way around both spells and finally declared his attack step. Cryptic Command tapped his team and he chose not to fight with his Blinkmoth Nexus, deciding to set up the board for next turn with Arcbound Worker and Cranial Plating equipped firmly on his Ornithopter.

Brett Piazza

Brett was allowed to send his team into the red zone the next turn and Fatal Frenzy was all she wrote after Saul went for Vendilion Clique.

Piazza 1, Alvarado 0

Both players sideboarded and shuffled in silence before Saul chose to mulligan a hand that contained four lands and two Vendilion Cliques. He found a six card hand containing Island, Mana Leak, Echoing Truth, Vendilion Clique, Flooded Grove and Vedalken Shackles and chose to keep. Brett shipped his first hand back and kept his six as well.

Saul led with his Island and Brett played Arcbound Worker off of Vault of Whispers. Saul found a second Island to power up the looming Shackles while Brett sent the Worker over and got a Cranial PlatingMana Leaked.

Umezawa's Jitte was the next card off for Saul. He played his Flooded Grove and passed the turn. Brett went for another Arcbound Worker, a Frogmite and an Ornithopter before getting in for another damage. Vendilion Clique sent Ancient Grudge to the bottom Brett let out an "oh God," as he realized what Saul was holding.

Saul missed on the fourth land he needed to get his Umezawa's Jitte up and running, so he just sent his Ornithopter over for 3. Brett found a Chromatic Star to Thoughtcast with and played Springleaf Drum before serving for 4.

Saul Alvarado

Saul peeled Miren, the Moaning Well and Brett was not happy to see an active Umezawa's Jitte. He sent his team across without playing his Master of Etherium, instead deciding to trade his Frogmite for the counters on Umezawa's Jitte and Terror the Clique. Saul played draw go and Brett ran out his Master of Etherium. Vendilion Clique cycled a Vedalken Shackles to the bottom of Saul's deck and he suited up the flying legend to get in for more damage.

Brett exploded with a free Myr Enforcer and an Arcbound Ravager which gave Saul much to think about. Saul was on 8 and extended the hand as the metallic fairy godmother allowed Brett to grow his Ornithopter to Epic Proportions.

Brett Piazza defeats Saul Alvarado 2-0.

Semifinals: Mat Marr vs. Luis Scott-Vargas

by Josh Silvestri

Our semifinals include one of the hottest players in the game at the moment in Luis Scott-Vargas piloting the breakout deck of the tournament, TEPS. His opponent from Southern Oregon, Mat Marr, is playing the most popular deck in the tournament, Faeries. In a matchup we can expect to see more of as the season progresses, we'll get to see a good example of how things play out between two solid players.

While the two were studying each other's decklists, a little bit of conversation was had:

LSV - 'So was Rune Snag better than Mana Leak?'
Mat - 'No.'
LSV - 'Heh. Story behind that?'
Mat - 'Well funny version or real version? Guess it's the same, I couldn't find any.'

So now you know.

Luis won the die roll and chose to play, his first seven only having one land and no other draw or search, he shipped it back for greener pastures. While shuffling the two made some small talk about UC Davis and the general area, giving off a casual vibe despite playing for thousands of dollars.

Mat Marr tries to take the Faerie hordes to the Finals.His next six were acceptable and he kept, then came a turn one Steam Vents into Ponder - shuffle; the draw added a Lotus Bloom to his hand which he immediately suspended. That was met by an Ancestral Vision suspension from his Faeries opponent. Land-go from Vargas was met by a land-go from Mat. LSV powered up his Dreadship Reef on end-step and then drew and passed. Mat drew, played a land and then laid a Vendilion Clique on end-step when Luis tapped out to put a counter on Reef. He saw Electrolyze, two Tendrils of Agony, Desperate Ritual and a Remand.

Mat - "Wow... that's not great for me."

Clique placed Electrolyze on the bottom of his library, and Luis snagged a Reef off the Clique draw. Luis took his turn, and it promised to be a big one. Bloom unsuspended, Luis drew Ponder and found a Mind's Desire. Vargas then dropped Desperate Ritual, unloaded Reef for the necessary mana and played Desire for four.

The Desire flipped Remand, Rite of Flame, Remand and a Steam Vents. At that point, Luis decided his best plan was to play Rite of Flame and Remand it back to his hand, netting a card and saving the otherwise dead Rite of Flame. He then played a Steam Vents untapped, replayed the Rite and used his second Remand off Desire to net another card.

Mat untapped and took another counter off Visions, just one turn from coming off suspend. For the rest of his turn, Marr swung with Vendillion Clique for 3, taking Vargas to 13. Mat then laid Academy Ruins and main-phased Venser, Shaper Savant on his opponent's Dreadship Reef.

Vargas drew and suspended a Bloom. Mat's Visions came off suspend and ate a Remand which resolved stopping Marr's only card draw. Mat decided to crack back with the team of Clique, Venser and Mutavault, knocking Luis to 6. He then played Flooded Strand and re-suspended Visions, leaving two mana open to counter.

Vargas untapped and made Ponder, leaving him with only Steam Vents and Dreadship Reef for open mana, while facing down lethal the following turn. Vargas went into the tank, drew Electrolyze and played a Polluted Delta. On Marr's upkeep, LSV cracked his fetch for Island and played Electrolyze, targeting Vendilion Clique and Mat, it resolved making totals 19-5 in Mat's favor. Marr activated Mutavault and attacked with that and Venser, knocking LSV to 1.

Luis drew for his turn and was forced to go off into four open mana against a control deck. He began with Rite of Flame which was met with Spellstutter Sprite. In response, Luis Manamorphosed which resolved and created BB so Luis could play a Tendrils for 8 after the other two spells resolved. That brought Vargas back to 9 life.

Mat cracked for 5 and then passed the turn. Luis's Bloom came into play and he dropped yet another Ponder. Peer through Depths hit and found Rite of Flame, at which point Marr scooped 'em up with Luis having lethal storm and Tendrils in hand.

Luis Scott-Vargas 1, Mat Marr 0

Mat simply laid a land and a Chrome Mox, imprinting Spell Snare and ending the first turn. Luis started with Vents, suspend Lotus Bloom, go. His second turn was a mirror of the first with a land and a second Lotus Bloom

Luis Scott-Vargas tries to win back-to-back Grand Prixs.On his third turn, Mat played Riptide Lab and passed sparking the first real action of the game. On end step, Luis played Peer Through Depths and found a Seething Song. Marr did nothing but draw and pass, which was met by another Peer on end-step from Luis. Using Rune Snag Marr countered the second copy of the arcane spell, keeping Luis from digging further into his deck. Vargas untapped and Bloom came into play, with no other action. Mat also went draw-go. The second Bloom came off suspend, leaving Luis with two land and two Lotus Bloom. It was time for the big one.

The action started with a Seething Song off a cracked Bloom for red. A second Rune Snag by Mat was aimed at the Song. In response to the Snag, Luis cracked his second Bloom for blue, then played Desperate Ritual which was met by Spell Snare. Luis used the opening to play Pact of Negation targeting the original Rune Snag. After that the stack resolved, with Seething Song hitting play and Luis with UU RRRRR in his pool and seven storm. Manamorphose was then played, making BB, followed by an Electrolyze to drop Mat down to 18 and generate the lethal ninth storm for Luis Tendrils.

Luis Scott-Vargas defeats Mat Marr 2-0.

Finals: Luis Scott-Vargas vs. Brett Piazza

by Dane Young

This final matchup promises to be an all-out race as neither player can afford to let their opponents go off for a ton of damage. Brett Piazza is fighting for his first Grand Prix victory in his second straight American Grand Prix. Luis Scott-Vargas is trying to one-up him by winning back-to-back American Grand Prix.

Luis kept his hand immediately and led off with Island and Sleight of Hand into double Lotus Bloom. Brett had a Great Furnace and Arcbound Worker while Luis laid a Polluted Delta. The Worker got in for a point and Cranial Plating hit the table as Brett tried to figure out the fastest way to kill LSV.

Luis passed a with no plays on his next turn and Brett pantsed up the Worker after playing a second Seat and Cranial Plating. Luis fell to 12.

Old hat for LSV.

"I'm going to be really surprised if you survive this turn," Luis chuckled as he ritualed and Black Lotused his way to a 7 point Mind's Desire. "I don't even think it's possible to whiff," he said, revealing his hand of Mind's Desire and Tendrils of Agony. Brett reached for his board when Luis found some rituals waiting for him in the Desire window.

"It's those die rolls," Brett mused as he would have killed Luis with his draw had he won the roll.

Scott-Vargas 1, Piazza 0

Brett went to five while Luis pored over three lands, Rite of Flame, Shattering Spree, Remand and Peer Through Depths. Not explosive, but very good in this matchup (especially with his opponent down to five cards).

Brett led with Great Furnace and Springleaf Drum while Luis played some lands. Frogmite and Cranial Plating found their way onto the board the next turn. Luis shrugged and used Rite of Flame to power up a four-point Shattering Spree, leaving just Cranial Plating on the board for Brett.

Brett hopes his fairy godmother will help him race past LSV.

Brett had a Tree of Tales and Luis found his Mind's Desire off of Peer Through Depths. Luis kept making lands while Brett played another Cranial Plating. Luis cycled Remand through an Ornithopter which came right back in and picked up both hats.

Luis counted the damage and decided to go to 5 after the Ornithopter connected. His Remand put Atog back into Brett's hand and it was time for the fireworks to start.

LSV ritualed out a relatively small Desire. 4 cards rolled off and Luis left two black mana in his pool thanks to Manamorphose. Ponder, Ponder, Peer Through Depths and Rite of Flame awaited LSV and things were looking grim for Brett as Luis had a second Mind's Desire in hand. He wouldn't need it as more rituals and a Shattering Spree powered up the lethal Tendrils of Agony.

Luis Scott-Vargas defeats Brett Piazza 2-0 and is the Grand Prix - Los Angeles champion!