Grand Prix Atlanta 2008

It's kind of hard to believe that just a couple of weeks ago, we were watching Luis Scott-Vargas hoist his first Pro Tour trophy and here he is again hoisting his second Grand Prix champion trophy. Back-to-back victories are almost inconceivable, and yet LSV has managed to do just that, and even across completely different formats! LSV has proven his skill time and again, and his victory here just cements that he is one of the best all-around players in the world. Luis Scott-Vargas has definitely earned the right to be named the Grand Prix-Atlanta champion!




(1) Gerry Thompson

(8) Brett Piazza

(4) Steven Wolansky

(5) Tomoharu Saitou

(2) Luis Scott-Vargas

(7) Ken Adams

(3) Chris Fennell

(6) Chris Pait


Gerry Thompson, 2-1

Steven Wolansky, 2-1

Luis Scott-Vargas, 2-1

Chris Fennell, 2-0


Gerry Thompson, 2-1

Luis Scott-Vargas, 2-1


Luis Scott-Vargas, 2-0



1. Scott-Vargas, Luis $3,500
2. Thompson, Gerry $2,300
3. Fennell, Chris A $1,500
4. Wolansky, Steven $1,500
5. Piazza, Brett C $1,000
6. Saitou, Tomoharu $1,000
7. Pait, Chris R $1,000
8. Adams, Ken G $1,000

pairings, results, standings


15 14 13 12 11 10

9 8 7 6 5 4 3


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 Draft - Murderer's Row

by Nate Price

I found quite the little alley of talent along one side of the table. Luis Scott-Vargas sandwiched between Gerry Thompson and Steve Wolansky is quite the little murderer's row of players to contend with in this Top 8. When you get players of this caliber so close to one another, you can expect signals to be crisp and decks to be strong.

From the get go, the three of them set themselves in their colors pretty well. Thompson started off with an Oblivion Ring, which was the obvious choice in his pack. Feral Hydra LSV's first pick, but he quickly abandoned it when he noticed the Esper cards coming through Wolansky, who had been selecting Bant cards to go with the Battlegrace Angel he opened. Thompson marked himself as the Naya drafter with his third-pick Wooly Thoctar (his favorite card from the weekend). As the packs continued, it became clear that LSV was in the perfect seat for Esper. Or rather that Wolansky was, but chose to stick to his decision for Bant.

At the end of the pack, Thompson's deck was a little sub-par to start with, but he hadn't really locked himself in as the Naya drafter. He had very few red cards, and would be able to switch to Bant if things started to lean that way. LSV was solidly Esper, but he had picked up a couple of Tri-Lands and might be able to pick up some Grixis cards if he felt the urge. He managed to pick up Big Poppa Sphinx Sovereign early in the pack, as well as some very late Tidehollow Strixes and a Windwright Mage. That's about as clear a signal as you can get that people didn't like Islands. Wolansky had a similar situation to Thompson. He was solidly in white and green, but he wasn't necessarily Bant. The next packs would determine for certain the shards they represented.

These guys might as well form a gang.

Thompson stayed true to the green white cards he had, and when he picked a Ridge Rannet about sixth, it became clear that he meant to stay Naya. He didn't really see any red cards, but he clearly meant to grab them when he could. LSV kept strong with his Esper cards he picked up a bunch of Capsules of both the Courier and Executioner variety, as well as a couple of Sanctum Gargoyles to recur them. Add them to his Spire Gargoyle, and you have a powerful air force. Thanks to his multiple Tri-Lands, he was able to dip into red for a Kederekt Creeper. That showed how powerful the versatility of the lands can be in this format. Wolansky kept his plan alive, just snagging all the best Bant creatures, but especially focusing on the exalted creatures.

Thompson came out of this pack with a few new tricks, such as a Qasali Ambusher, but he was also forced to take a bunch of average cards in positions where LSV was picking up monsters. As you can guess from that, LSV just continued picking up the most unreal cards. His deck got more consistent with the addition of the Capsules and more resilient with the Sanctum Gargoyles. Right now, I'd be hard pressed to find a better two-pack deck at the table. Hell, he may be able to beat what some people make with three with his first two packs. Wolansky's deck got pretty nuts when he was passed an Empyrial Archangel for his second pick from LSV. It made a nice top end for his army of Stewards of Valeron and Sigiled Paladins.


Mayael the Anima
The third pack is what really drove it home. Thompson got a Mayael the Anima and another Qasali Ambusher, as well as some tricks like Naya Charm. His deck really found the pieces to make it a solid competitor in the third pack. LSV just continued to upgrade his average cards to good ones. He started by dipping further into red when he opened Caldera Hellion. He also snagged a Vithian Stinger in the third pack. These cards served the dual purpose of strengthening his deck while weakening Thompson's since he would most certainly windmill them if they reached him. Perhaps the most surprising card he got in the last pack was the fifth pick Shardling Sphinx. At this point, though, it was pretty clear that no one else really had islands, and surely no one else had artifacts. Combine that with the Master of Etherium he got earlier, and his deck had a bazillion rares that everyone wants for their Esper deck. Wolansky finished off strong with a few more exalted creatures and some more combat tricks. His deck has enough speed to win early, and enough exalted to win late if goes that far.

Quarterfinal Roundup

by Nate Price

Gerry Thompson vs. Brett Piazza

The first couple games of this match were fairly one sided one way or the other. For the first game, Gerry got an early 3/3 Wild Nacatl and some exalted creatures to pump it. He had enough removal to make sure that Brett never caught up, and eventually he fell. Brett got his revenge in the second game, though. Brett had all the men in the world while Gerry sat watching Brett beat his face in.

The third game wasn't too much better. A second-turn Sigiled Paladin was eaten by a Fleshbag Marauder that took down a Dregscape Zombie in the process. Gerry used a Naya Charm to get it back, and he quickly replayed it. Gerry added a Rakeclaw Gargantuan to his side to start the push. Brett was stuck without any Mountains, which stranded a bunch of removal in his hand. When Gerry played Titanic Ultimatum to take the game, Brett revealed his unfortunately all-red hand.

Gerry Thompson defeats Brett Piazza 2-1

Luis Scott-Vargas vs. Ken Adams

Luis rolled over Ken in the first game. He managed to get a ridiculous Etherium Sculptor-fueled Master of Etherium in play, and the giant artephile smashed Ken into oblivion. Ken got right back in the next game, though, with a nice series of plays. He had gotten a lot of early aggression against LSV's slower draw, and managed to drop him to six. However, LSV had finally started to get back into it with his Shardling Sphinx, and was now a mere two turns away from killing Ken. Ken drew a Blightning to drop LSV to three. LSV sent his flying team in and dropped Ken to two. Ken drew his card, played a land, and used his Naya Charm to return the Blightning from the bin to finish LSV off. Such a dramatic comeback really awed the crowd, who seemed to rally behind Ken's improbable escape.

One game does not a match make, though, and LSV got a similar steamroll hand to the first game and just ran right over Ken. Ken wasn't completely helpless, though, and used Blightning to end the game, aimed at himself instead of LSV.

Luis Scott-Vargas defeats Ken Adams 2-1

Chris Fennell vs. Chris Pait

This match featured two incredibly close games, and if Fennell hadn't teamed up with another planeswalker, he might not have pulled out the win. Fennell trusted Ajani Vengeant to take control of the board early, but Pait got to use Naya Charm to tap Fennell's men out, allowing an alpha strike to finish the planeswalker off. One down, one to go. Fennell had built up a nice army with Necrogenesis, though, and was able to slowly start to make some pores in Pait's defense. Eventually, the levy broke and Fennell flooded in for the win.

The second game featured an army of Necrogenesis tokens from Fennell that were facing off with a Cavern Thoctar. Fennell never had enough of them in play at once to take it down, but he was able to keep his life total safe. Over a few turns, through a flurry of attacks and removal spells, the board ended up featuring only a Naya Battlemage and a Guardians of Akrasa. Eventually, though, the Ajani Vengeant came back and helped Fennell's team find the promised land of the Semifinals.

Chris Fennell defeats Chris Pait 2-0

Steven Wolansky vs. Tomoharu Saitou

This match was epic. I kind of figured it would be when I saw that these two had the honor (read: unfortunate pairing) of playing each other in the quarters. This was an exalted battle, which is incredibly boring for a good portion of the game since no one really starts to block until there are a few creatures on the board. Then it goes from boring to confusing. Saitou had the early advantage, as his creatures were better and larger natural and consequently even better with exalted. Even still, Wolansky managed to stall the game long enough to get his Empyrial Archangel out.

It didn't look like it would be enough, especially since Saitou had a Rockcaster Platoon in play. However, Saitou couldn't play recklessly. In the early exalted exchange, he had gotten whittled down nearly as bad as Wolansky. Wolansky eventually got a Rockcaster Platoon of his own into play, and the giant rhinotaurs played an important role in deciding the game. The Archangel had knocked Saitou down to five, which was lower than Wolansky. That meant that he couldn't really afford to wait. Saito swung with his team in an attempt to win it, but Wolansky merely had to activate his Platoon twice to clear the skies of the Waveskimmer Aven and Cloudheath Drake. That also dropped Saitou to one, and Saitou's attack only dropped Wolansky to one. Steve just untapped and swung back to take the first game.

The next game had a third-turn Wooly Thoctar for Saitou which threatened to end things fast. Wolansky had his own monster early in the game. Well, kind of. His second turn Manaplasm got some serious action thanks to a Waveskimmer Aven. After the attack, Wolansky led 15-13. Saitou just kept playing monsters, though, and his Rockcaster Platoon came down for the second game. Wolansky kept up with the exalted guys, and his new Akrasan Squire went right alongside his next conditional monster: Knight of the Skyward Eye. Over the next couple turns, Wolansky failed to get anything really effective on the board, and the Thoctar went the distance.

And as you might expect after a titanic battle for the rest of the match, Saitou mulliganned to five and kept a hand that contained one Forest and a Druid of the Anima. He never saw that second land and Wolansky's aggressive draw put him out of his misery quickly. A pretty anticlimactic result to an otherwise great match.

Steven Wolansky defeats Tomoharu Saitou 2-1

Semifinals - Luis Scott-Vargas vs. Chris Fennell

by Nate Price

Luis Scott-Vargas came into this after using his artifact-heavy deck to just roll over Ken Adams in the Quarters. Chris Fennell had a harder road than LSV, but he managed to tie things up nicely on the back of Ajani Vengeant. Would the planeswalker bring out his strength of soul in this match, too?

Yes, the playmat is backwards. No, I won't tell you why.

The first game was pretty quick. LSV got the usual artifact crew into place, but Fennell tried his best to slow him down. A Fleshbag Marauder hit fast an hard, taking an Etherium Sculptor with it, which slowed LSV down a little. A Soul's Fire threw a Mosstodon's power at a freshly cast Tower Gargoyle, and a Resounding Thunder ate a Master of Etherium. He had successfully dealt with all of LSV's biggest threats, and was able to rife a Cavern Thoctar, Wild Nacatl, and a Lightning Helix from Ajani to victory in the first game.

Luis Scott-Vargas 0 - Chris Fennell 1

I have three cards in hand. How many of them are creature type Sphinx?

This game featured a series of Tidehollow Strix recursions using a couple Sanctum Gargoyles that really put Fennell in a bind. He was able to get through for some trample damage with his Mosstodons. Fennell was able to get a few good beats in with his large guys, but LSV was doing some serious damage with his fliers, as well. Things got interesting after LSV played a Sphinx Sovereign. It immediately swung the life totals and threatened to finish Fennell off in a short number of turns. LSV was pretty low by this point, though, and Fennel was desperately trying to find a way to punch through. He decided to attack with his team and then use Jund Charm to Pyroclasm. That forced LSV to nine. He then played Ajani Vengeant and used it to kill the Cloudheath Drake that would have dropped Fennell to three, which would let the Sphinx's ability kill him at the end of LSV's turn. The life gain from the ability also helped push him out of range for the Sphinx for a couple more turns.

It might have been enough, but LSV had an Agony Warp during Fennel's upkeep to kill the Mosstodon and shrink the Wild Nacatl. Fennell visibly deflated when LSV dropped the Agony Warp into play. At this point, he was out of gas, and the Sphinx finished him off in another turn.

Luis Scott-Vargas 1 - Chris Fennell 1

LSV's artifacts proved a rough match for Fennell's big green men.

The final game of this match was decided by LSV's cards being in the right place at the right time. He got the nice Etherium Sculptor, Master of Etherium, Capsules draw again. Fennell had a Necrogenesis to keep some of the pressure off, as well as a Blister Beetle to keep the Vithian Stinger from killing the tokens. Fennell even had a Jund Battlemage to keep the aggression level reasonable. He decided he had to get rid of the Master before it grew too large, and when Luis attacked with it, he stuck his Jund Battlemage in the way and tried to Soul's Fire it with damage on the stack. LSV had an Agony Warp, and Fennell felt a little agony himself. He was able to get a Bloodpyre Elemental on the following turn to finish the Master off, but the damage had been done. Fennell was sitting on a decimated board, and LSV had a couple creatures and more cards in hand. Cloudheath Drake finished the business in the air since Fennell decided to block the ground route with a Mosstodon.

Luis Scott-Vargas 2 - Chris Fennell 1

Semifinals - Gerry Thompson vs. Steven Wolansky

by Nate Price

Both players came in off of matches that had moments of intensity and brilliance, and others of absurd one-sidedness. This match was their chance to play a solid match of Magic without the variance taking a toll.

Thompson started the match with a mulligan, which wasn't a great start for the hope of playing a straightforward game of Magic. He did manage to start out fairly solidly with a Wild Nacatl, which is a shade bigger than the Akrasan Squire that Wolansky managed. He failed to play a second land on the next turn, and decided to send his little tiger in.

"Wow, you're willing to trade? I might do that," Wolansky remarked before eventually declining to block. When Thompson failed to play a second land after combat, Wolansky said, "If you dropped a Plains after combat, you would be a master."

"Or an idiot for missing a point," Thomson countered.

I meant the good kind of idiot.

Eventually, Thompson was able to put a third land into play, and it was the elusive Plains. Wolansky had used his time well, building a small army (pun intended). Thompson used his newfound white mana to make an Oblivion Ring to get rid of the Knight of the Skyward Eye. He also had a Qasali Ambusher to drop in during Wolansky's next attack, though he couldn't block thanks to the double Squire. An Angelic Benediction made Wolansky's men even larger, and Thompson was running out of time. He kept attacking, though, and managed to get Wolansky down to six, evening the score. Wolansky was up, though, and attacked Thompson to a precarious two. When Thompson went for the kill on the following turn, Wolansky had the Bant Charm to counter Thompson's Sigil Blessing.

Gerry Thompson 0 - Steven Wolansky 1

"Who won that match," Wolansky asked as he realized that the Scott-Vargas / Fennell match had finished. When someone told him it was LSV, he whistled. "Man, I hooked him up," Wolansky said. "Yeah, same," Thompson laughed. "I just hoped someone else beat him so I wouldn't have to play him in the finals. Oh well."

The game started out blindingly fast. Wild Nacatl and Sighted-Caste Sorcerer met an Akrasan Squire for Wolansky. Thompson had Plains, Mountain, and Forest in play before he played a Mayael the Anima.

"Didn't get there," Wolansky said as he failed to play a third land to go with his two Plains. Thompson had a massive lead, and Wolansky knew he couldn't do anything about it.

Gerry Thompson 1 - Steven Wolansky 1

"Let's have a nice, clean game of Magic," Wolansky hoped as he shuffled his deck. "Nope. Can't live the dream of a mulligan-free game."

When Thompson mulliganned to six again, Wolansky said, "At least we met the quota." When Thompson decided to toss it back for five, Wolansky went to stop him. "You know you can stop now, right? We've hit the quota." Thompson had a laugh at his expense before emphatically keeping his five-lander.

I only need five.

When he made a Wild Nacatl and a Plains, it became clear why he was much more pleased about his new starting crew. Wolansky got in with an Obelisk of Naya powered Akrasan Squire before Thompson made an exalted creature of his own. His Sigiled Paladin didn't get to get exalted, though, as it swung in alongside the Nacatl to drop Wolansky to eleven. Wolansky had a Knight of the Skyward Eye and a Sighted-Caste Sorcerer to get on the exalted train, and he tried to race Thompson's army. Thompson just continued to play more little men, but Wolansky's mana problems prevented him from getting the extra benefit from his Knight of the White Orchid. When he sent his team in, Wolansky chose to block the 2/2 Nacatl with his Knight of the Skyward eye before it got big. Thompson had the Sigil Blessing to force it through, and Wolansky dropped even lower. Thompson had a Welkin Guide to lift his Druid of the Anima and sent his team for more damage than Wolansky could deal with.

Gerry Thompson 2 - Steven Wolansky 1

Finals - Gerry Thompson vs. Luis Scott-Vargas

by Nate Price

"Thanks for not watching my last match, LSV," Gerry yelled as LSV wandered into the feature match area.

"I heard something about you mulliganing to five," LSV asked?

"You'd know if you watched."

"Seriously, best ever," Gerry said as he looked at his draw. It gave him a Druid of the Anima which filled his mana out for a turn three Mayael the Anima. LSV had a decent draw himself and used an Obelisk of Esper to make a Master of Etherium and a Courier's Capsule.

Gerry was ready for the Master with a Naya Charm, though, to send it down before it could get out of hand. LSV had an upgrade, though, as is fitting with the theme of Esper. A Shardling Sphinx is a tough customer, and it started in on Gerry. All Gerry could do was use a Welkin Guide to life his Druid of the Anima into the sky before sending the team. LSV had an Agony Warp to kill the Guide and shrink the Elf.


LSV took advantage of the clear skies to send his Sphinx and little thopter token in, but Gerry made a flashy Qasali Ambusher to stop the little thopter. "It's like killing two." Gerry managed to get a fatty on the ground with a Yoked Plowbeast. "Moo." LSV had even further air superiority, though, and his Tower Gargoyle threatened to take things up a notch. He also had an Executioner's Capsule. He mentioned being a little worried about a second Ambusher before Gerry played it. LSV had to use his Capsule to kill one. Gerry used a Soul's Fire to kill the Shard Sphinx, but it wasn't enough. Knowing he was dead soon, Gerry just said, "let's go looking," before activating his Mayael

Gerry Thompson 0 - Luis Scott-Vargas 1

LSV lead off fast with an Executioner's Capsule and a Tidehollow Stryx. When LSV attacked in with the Strix on the next turn, Gerry went "whoaw," as he slammed a Qasali Ambusher into play. "No blocks," he said right after which got a laugh from the crowd. Gerry had to use a Soul's Fire to kill other Strix, allowing him to start attacking. LSV chose this as the time to off it with the Capsule, though, and the board was cleared.

Gerry got on board first with a Mosstodon, but LSV rebuilt better with a Sanctum Gargoyle and removal for the Mosstodon in the form of the once-dead Tidehollow Strix. Gerry was unfazed, though, and he sent his Mosstodon in to dance. When LSV telegraphed the second Gargoyle by blocking with the first, Gerry chose to force through some damage by using Sigil Blessing to force through some nice trample damage.

On the verge of a GP/PT back-to-back. Pretty unreal!

LSV had the second Gargoyle, which got back the first. He also had a Vithian Stinger to help kill the Mosstodon if need be. Gerry attacked in again and used a Naya Charm to kill the blocking Strix and gave his Don trample to knock LSV even lower. Things were looking good. That is until LSV used his Stinger and an Infest to clear the board away except for his Gargoyle.

"Couldn't take any chances," LSV said.

He then played his other Gargoyle to return the Executioner's Capsule, intending to use the Goyles to finish things, and the Capsule as insurance. Gerry played a Welkin Guide, which LSV tried to kill with an Agony Warp. Gerry had to keep it alive, though, and he used a Sigil Blessing to make sure it survived. The Goyles knocked him to five after the Capsule finished the Guide off. Gerry had nothing other than a Druid of the Anima next turn, and LSV rode the Gargoyles to the title.

Luis Scott-Vargas defeats Gerry Thompson 2-0 to become the Grand-Prix Atlanta champion!