Grand Prix Atlanta 2011 Day 1 Coverage

Posted in Event Coverage on January 22, 2011

By Wizards of the Coast


Saturday, 1:24 p.m. – Grand Prix Goodies

by Brian David-Marshall

Players attending Grand Prix Atlanta got a virtual goodie bag when they signed up to play this weekend. Each player who enters a Grand Prix this season will receive an exclusive foil Maelstrom Pulse with all-new artwork by John Avon. The 1223 players here today were the first to get that card and add it to their decks and/or trade binders.

Another exclusive giveaway for the players in the main event is a deck box that includes the first panel of an 8-part mural by Magic card artist Steve Argyle (of Chandra Ablaze fame). The other seven parts of the mural will be available on deck boxes at the remaining seven North American Grand Prix events on the 2011 schedule. Players who accumulate all eight boxes can line them up side by side to form the full image of a clash between the forces of good and evil. The collaborative effort that has been undertaken by the Tournament Organizers of those events is the brainchild of head honcho Alan Hochman -- who will be giving away the third box in the series when the Grand Prix train pulls into Dallas this April.

Alan Hochman

"We were looking at the North American Grand Prix for 2011 and different ways to help promote them and looking for great ideas to give people a great memento of having been at the Grand Prix," explained Alan about how he and the other Tournament Organizers decided to create the collectible deck box. "We were also excited to make it a real special thing for people who made it to all eight of the Grand Prix."

"It is being given away in different ways by different organizers," Alan continued. "Some of them will be giving it away with the main event and some will be giving it away with side events. If you wind up with all eight of them -- and again only one is available at each event -- it is going to be a really incredible mural. Even if you only get one of them there is still a really cool exclusive piece of art on the side of the box."

Each box is also unique in that it showcases the tournament organizer, the city the event was held in, and a handy Grand Prix schedule on the divider inside the box. Alan went on to talk about some of the different giveaways -- in addition to the deck boxes -- that players will get for attending events.

"Everyone is doing something a little bit different. Some TOs will be giving away sleeves with side events, some will be doing playmats. Wizards is giving everyone who attends a really cool alternate art Maelstrom Pulse created by John Avon," he said. That John Avon illustrated the Grand Prix promo card was of particular interest to Alan. "For Grand Prix Dallas we have Avon coming in and we are doing a playmat with exclusive artwork by him. We also have Steve Argyle who did the deck boxes coming to Grand Prix Dallas."

The 1223 players at this event made it the largest opening event for a Pro Tour season in the history of the game. I asked Alan what he thought that would mean for the attendance numbers at the remaining seven events on the North American schedule.

"It makes it look like we are going to have a huge year. We have two fantastic events that immediately precede a Pro Tour or Worlds -- Grand Prix Pittsburgh and Grand Prix San Diego. I think the largest event of the year will probably be Pittsburgh which takes place right before Pro Tour Philadelphia. Legacy in Providence is going to be incredible. If I had to throw a number out there I would guess that there will be 1800 players there. It is going to be an awesome year."

Feature Match – Round 4: Jonathan Smithers versus Luis Scott-Vargas

by Bill Stark

Luis Scott-Vargas is the type of player who needs little introduction. A Pro Tour champion, perennial runner for title of "best player active," and the managing editor for Magic website ChannelFireball .com, he is one of the top players in the world. His opponent? Jonathan Smithers played in his first Pro Tour at the 2010 World Championships, where he shocked the world by going undefeated with a brand new deck: Steel Artifact, using cards like Memnite and Ornithopter powered by the monster enchantment Tempered Steel . He also had a Grand Prix title to his name and while the quiet Canadian seemed unassuming, Luis was in for a battle if he hoped to earn the win.

On the play, Scott-Vargas opened with Sunken Ruins and Mutavault , hinting at Faeries being his deck choice for the event. His opponent opened on Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle before Scott-Vargas began sending in his creature-land for 2 each turn, but a Knight of the Reliquary from Jon shut down the Mutavault attacks.

A Cultivate for Smithers allowed him to accelerate his manabase, and Luis cast Jace Beleren to draw himself some extra cards. The free card he got wasn't a fifth land drop, however, and he found himself a bit mana light, the menacing Knight of the Reliquary starting to look like a real threat. Using a Thoughtseize , the pro whittled Smithers's hand down before casting Bitterblossom . The tribal enchantment would provide him with a source of blockers for the Knight, but at the cost of a life each turn. That was no way to win, and Scott-Vargas was going to need to come up with a better plan in order to pull the game out.

Cryptic Command hit the stack in an effort to bounce the Knight of the Reliquary , and the powerful rare traded in a Forest from Jonathan's side of the battlefield for a Mountain . With two Valakuts on the battlefield, that gave him exactly enough to start nailing his opponent for damage each time he played a Mountain . Luis used an Inquisition of Kozilek to knock the Knight out of Jonathan's hand, then used Mistbind Clique on Jonathan's upkeep to tap him out of mana for his turn.

Jonathan Smithers

Smithers found his back against the wall, quite a change of pace from the position he had been in just a few short turns prior. The Mistbind and a few Bitterblossom tokens were putting a lot of pressure on his life total, and he no longer had any threats on the battlefield. He attempted to cast Prismatic Omen but had it countered by Spellstutter Sprite . A Bloodbraid Elf cascaded into Rampant Growth , but that spell was ALSO countered by Spellstutter Sprite . Facing down two more attackers from his opponent and without any additional spells he could actually cast, Jonathan conceded.

Luis Scott-Vargas 1, Jonathan Smithers 0

Down a game, Jonathan Smithers set about working on his manabase for the second duel. He cast a series of Explore s and Rampant Growth s to jump out to a lead, but a timely Spell Pierce from his opponent prevented things from getting too out of control. When Jon cast Knight of the Reliquary , the boost proved potentially relevant as it left him with enough mana remaining to pay for a potential Mana Leak out of his opponent.

Instead, Luis Scott-Vargas allowed the Knight to resolve, then used Vendilion Clique on Smithers's draw step to force his opponent to put back a Scapeshift . Jon didn't seem to mind, casting a second Knight of the Reliquary and using a Tectonic Edge to simultaneously pump both of his creatures as well as stunting his opponent's mana growth.

It was a pivotal move. Luis's draw couldn't deal with the missing land drop and inability to counter the early Knight of the Reliquaries, and they quickly rode roughshod over his life total, forcing a third game.

Luis Scott-Vargas 1, Jonathan Smithers 1

Luis Scott-Vargas

It all came down to the final game, and Luis Scott-Vargas had his deck's trademark power start: second-turn Bitterblossom . Jon's reply was Explore , but when he drew his extra card he looked crestfallen. "That hurts," he sighed, passing the turn without taking the opportunity to play his extra land. Luis had no problems making HIS land drop, but Smithers topdecked his third source of mana and promptly dropped it to the battlefield, tapping out to cast Great Sable Stag .

The Stag allowed Jon to keep pace with his opponent's slowly amassing army of Faeries, and a second copy of the 3/3 really allowed him to put a clock on Luis. Jace Beleren gave Scott-Vargas a boost on cards that he desperately needed, but a third copy of Sable Stag from his opponent meant the superpro was still in deep water. He attempted a Mistbind Clique but had the 4/4 immediately exiled by a Path to Exile .

Bloodbraid Elf for his opponent netted a Rampant Growth , but more importantly a 3/2 attacker and when the Elf and three Sable Stags turned sideways Luis had no blockers and was forced to extend his hand in defeat.

Jonathan Smithers 2, Luis Scott-Vargas 1

Saturday, 3:30 p.m. – Grand Prix Atlanta History Lesson

by Brian David-Marshall

Aaron Forsythe tweeted earlier this afternoon about the murderer's row of former Grand Prix Atlanta champions which includes a couple of his former teammates, someone he faced off against in the finals of Pro Tour New York, and one of the all-time greats -- who is still going strong and playing in the feature match area as this is typed.

It seemed like a good opportunity to link to the previous events as we wait to find out who will take their place alongside these four greats of the game.

Coverage has come a long way since the first Grand Prix Atlanta , which was won by eventual Pro Tour Hall of Famer Randy Beuhler. The format was Limited and the attendance was 332 players -- a little more than a quarter of the participants vying for the cash, Pro Points, and Pro Tour invites on the line this weekend.

Aaron Forsythe was doing coverage in 2001 when his teammate Eugene "Eugenius" Harvey won the 377 person event that was an Odyssey Block Limited event using the now extinct Rochester Draft format for Day Two and the Top 8. Eugene faced off against fellow CMUer Andrew Johnson in the finals. The two players sat next to each other during the draft and were very cooperative in the draft. Not only did they stay out of each other's way during the draft but there was at least one instance where Harvey hate drafted a card from Craig Wescoe so that Johnson would be able to pick up a non-basic land he needed for his deck.

The inimitable Josh Bennett was at the helm of the coverage when Grand Prix Atlanta rolled around in 2003. The event was part of Dragon*Con which is a long-running gaming and comic convention that takes place in this town every year. There were 588 players at that event and the format was Standard. Marco Blume racked up multiple Pro Tour wins as a member of Phoenix Foundation but earned the only individual title of his career that weekend. He was playing Mirari's Wake as the lone European against 7 Americans playing -- for the most part -- little red men.

It was another half decade before the Grand Prix train pulled into Atlanta and when it did Luis Scott-Vargas disembarked and scooped up the trophy. The win came just weeks after LSV pulled off his amazing victory at Pro Tour Berlin and solidified his reputation as one of the game's all-time greats. The attendance for that event was a mere 684 players -- a little more than half of what we are whittling down this weekend -- and the coverage duties were handled by Nate Price .

Who will join these four luminaries of the game when all the rounds have been played this weekend? Stay tuned as Bill Stark and I bring you all the coverage throughout.

Feature Match Round 5 - Patrick Chapin (5 Color Control) vs. Adam Yurchick (Faeries)

by Brian David-Marshall

There was no shortage of interesting matches to choose from this round with all the byes long expended and the best players having a chance to cull the chaff in round four. I was hard pressed to find a match with as much success and experience as this one though. Neither Patrick Chapin nor Adam Yurchick need much in the way of introduction but that does not mean I will forgo one.

Both players write regular Magic content -- Chapin for and and Yurchick for -- and have lengthy resumes. Chapin's goes all the way back to the Junior Pro Tour where he notched a Top 8 finish. On the senior circuit he has three Top 8s going as far back as the second Pro Tour in New York (aka Pro Tour Rye) and as recently as the last Pro Tour to actually grace the City That Never Sleeps -- the 2007 World Championships. Interestingly he only has one Top 8 at the Grand Prix level going back a decade to the 2001 season when he reached the finals.

Adam Yurchick is in the discussion for "best player to never Top 8 a Pro Tour" and had a reputation for being somewhat snake-bit in his career. He finished ninth at Pro Tour Hollywood on tiebreakers; he finished second at Nationals in 2009 and was a member of the ill-fated US National team in Rome; and had two second place finishes out of three Grand Prix Top 8s through the first event of the 2010 season in Oakland when he lost to Matt Nass. He finally got to hoist a trophy later in the year when he bested Shaun Rodriguez at Grand Prix Houston.

Adam Yurchick


Game One

"This is so interesting" said Yurchick as he studied his hand. It seemed like it might have been a decision about whether or not he should mulligan but it turned out to be a decision about which land to lead with from his hand. He was deciding between Swamp and Creeping Tar Pit, unsure of what archetype Chapin was running. Disfigure in his opening hand meant he could cripple an aggro deck and he chose to lead with Swamp in the absence of any intel on Chapin's deck.

"I will keep," laughed Chapin. Yurchick had been so deep in thought he did not even see what Chapin was doing with his hand. Chapin led with Vivid Crag. Yurchick played a turn two Bitterblosson and the two players just laid lands and passed until turn four when Adam attacked with his token and it was ambushed by a Plumeveil. When Chapin offered up Wall of Reverence on his own turn it was Mana Leaked.

Yurchick attempted to play a Vendillion Clique but it was Cryptic Commanded by Chapin. The two veterans went briskly about their business, well aware that a Control on Faeries matchup could go long. Table talk was at a minimum and was mostly relegated to how many cards each player had in hand and life totals.

An EOT Esper Charm to draw two cards from Chapin broke the monotony. Chapin laid a seventh land and passed the turn. Yurchick attempted Grasp of Darkness and drew out another Cryptic Command from Chapin. Yurchick tried for Spellstutter Sprite but Chapin had the Mana Leak.

"How many cards?"



"Your turn," the table talk continued as the two fighters temporarily retreated to their corners.

Chapin evoked Mulldrifter and passed the turn. Adam played Mistbind Clique and waited for a resonse from Chapin. The Worlds Finalist thought long and hard before playing Volcanic Fallout. Yurchick championed his enchantment and finished off the Plumeveil that had been holding him at bay with Disfigure allowing him to start swinging with the 4/4 flier. After his attack the life totals were 14 to 12 in Chapin's favor.

Yurchick attempted another Mistbind during Chapin's upkeep. Patrick again took his time to think out his response. He ran his mana through a Mystic Gate so he would have two white mana and played Path to Exile on the Clique in play. "I have one more white mana floating..."

"Oh no," groaned Yurchick.

"Yeah," agreed Patrick. "I have Esper Charm mana."

True to his word, Patrick played Esper Charm to destroy the Bitterblossom and kill the incoming Clique in the process. Adam untapped and played two more copies of Bitterblossom but Patrick had Wurmcoil Engine and although the game lasted a few more turns it was all but over there.

Patrick Chapin - 1 Adam Yurchick - 0

Pat Chapin


Game two

"I shoulda got the read on you," said Yurchick as he and Patrick discussed the decision about which land to play from the start of game one.

"I thought I would play 5 color control for a change," laughed Chapin. "Who would have thought you were playing blue-Black."

Yurchick had a turn two Bitterblossom again but Chapin was able to play turn three and turn four copies of Great Sable Stag. The players quickly eroded away at the other's life total -- although Chapin was getting a little help from Yurchick's enchantment. Yurchick fell to 13 on his upkeep -- Chapin was at 15 -- and he attacked for three. Chapin was "stuck" on four lands and Yurchick but he could do nothing about the 3/3s that were attacking each turn.

The best Yurchick could muster was an upkeep Cryptic Command to tap Chapin's creatures and draw a card. Yurchick went to five from his Blossom only to fall to three during combat when Chapin played Fallout. Yurchick attempted another Cryptic Command on the sane two modes. Chapin tried to Command back but Yurchick had the Mana Leak.

Yurchick fell to two and extended the hand when he could not find anything to keep the Stags at bay for another turn.

Patrick Chapin - 2 Adam Yurchick - 0

Feature - Wheelings and Dealings

by Frank Lepore

With every new format comes new staples and our current Extended is no exception. I made my way around the event hall and surveyed the dealers on what wares were flying out of the case. It turns out that Deglamer (yes, the common) has been nearly impossible to find from any dealer. Some started out with around two hundred in stock and were completely out by round three! Another common that has been climbing in popularity this weekend is War Priest of Thune. While I personally prefer Wispmare for its versatility and defense against the Faeries matchup, the War Priest is just as efficient at combating the plethora of enchantments running rampant in the format from the 'Blossom, to Prismatic Omen to the random Leyline.

While certain mythic rares were undoubtedly popular (Primeval Titan, Wurmcoil Engine and Emrakul to be specific) other cards that were virtually on fire included Linvala, Kitchen Finks, Twilight Mire and Demigod of Revenge.

Linvala, Keeper of Silence
Kitchen Finks
Twilight Mire
Demigod of Revenge

Most dealers lamented not bringing enough cards that tend to fill out the mono-red archetype, cards like Stigma Lasher, Flame Javelin, Smash to Smithereens, Combust and even…wait for it…Chandra's Outrage(!) were in short supply but high demand. Some obscure hits? Realm Razer and Extractor Demon! One bit of surprising tech I ended up being privy to was the sale of Consign to Dreams. Apparently certain players have fancied returning cards like Prismatic Omen to the top of their opponent's library in response to them shuffling such as from a fetch land or, say, a Scapeshift. If Atlanta has proven one thing thus far it's that there is no single deck at the top of the heap and no lack of tech to be discovered.

Chandra's Outrage
Consign to Dream
Extractor Demon
Realm Razer

On the flip side, cards that were being sold left and right by the players themselves were cards like Wargate and Prismatic Omen. While Valakut itself is having a good showing at the Grand Prix, and Prismatic Omen is represented by that, the Omen archetype is clearly on the decline. Additionally, a card that was surprisingly omitted from most dealers' exceptional sales records was Thoughtseize. While it can't be said that Thoughtseize has become less popular over the weekend – with its home in both Jund and Faeries - it certainly wasn't worth mentioning to me.

Feature Match Round 7 - Chris Lachmann (RG Valakut) vs. Brian Kibler (GW)

by Bill Stark

The Grand Prix circuit draws all caliber of player to battle, but in the round 7 feature match that caliber was absolutely as high as it could go: two Pro Tour champions! On the left we had Chris Lachmann, part of the Sliver Twins combo alongside Jake Van Lunen who remain the only Two-Headed Giant Pro Tour champions in the history of the Pro Tour. Across the table from him on the right was newly crowned Hall of Fame member Brian Kibler.

Chris Lachmann

Game 1

The game led off with green two-drops for both players, Fauna Shaman on the Kibler side of the battlefield and Explore for the Lachmann side. Lachmann used his sorcery to play a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle indicating he was playing the deck of the same name. His opponent cast a third-turn Noble Hierarch, but missed his land drop. "Exactly the sort of draw I need to win!" Kibler snickered sarcastically.

Chris's deck continued accelerating, and he used a Cultivate to fetch up a Mountain and a Forest. With a Valakut on the battlefield, he threatened to be lethal very quickly if his opponent didn't hurry up with an offense and strike first. But Kibler's deck wasn't cooperating, struggling to give him the mana he needed to cast the cards in his hand. The lands he did get, however, were Tectonic Edges, and he used one to take out his opponent's Valakut, keeping his head above water.

Reaching five mana, Lachmann cast a Primal Command, targeting his opponent's Murmuring Bosk to return to the top of Kibler's library and to gain life. Brian floated a mana and used it to hunt up a Vengevine from his library with Fauna Shaman. A second Primal Command from Chris after Brian again failed to draw a land seemed to clinch victory for Chris, but he found his opponent unwilling to concede, even after failing to miss a land a third time and passing with only Noble Hierarch and Fauna Shaman on the battlefield.

Kibler used Fauna Shaman to fetch up a second copy of Noble Hierarch, but his opponent responded by using Lightning Bolt to take out the Hierarch. That meant Brian was down to one permanent on the battlefield, a Fauna Shaman, but his deck FINALLY gave him a land: Sunpetal Grove, which entered the battlefield tapped.

When Chris replied by casting a Primal Titan, however, Kibler cried mercy. "Okay, that's enough," he smiled reaching for his sideboard.

Chris Lachmann 1, Brian Kibler 0

Brian Kibler

Game 2

The second game started off in much better fashion for Brian Kibler, who cast a Fauna Shaman and enjoyed having three lands on the third turn, the first time that had been true for him in the match. He followed up his Shaman with a Burrenton Forge-Tender while his opponent used Rampant Growth to build up a lead on mana.

Fauna Shaman went to work for Brian, ditching a Qasali Pridemage to fetch up Knight of the Reliquary. With his opponent tapped out, Lachmann felt safe in casting Harrow, allowing him to Lightning Bolt his opponent's Shaman. Kibler used his Forge-Tender to save it, but like a pro Chris revealed a second copy to finish the job and send the 2/2 Fauna Shaman to the graveyard. Brian cast the Knight of the Reliquary he had fetched up while his opponent continued building his mana, dropping Cultivate and a Kitchen Finks for some defense.

"Am I dead?" Brian Kibler asked rhetorically as he figured out his next turn. He tried to calculate what his opponent could do, but opted to tap out and use his Knight of the Reliquary to generate enough mana to cast Sun Titan. That returned his Fauna Shaman to the battlefield, but left the question open: WAS Brian Kibler dead?

Lachmann drew for the turn, then revealed his cards in hand. They included Rampant Growth and Scapeshift, and Brian did the math. With the Valakut on the battlefield, his opponent could get enough Mountains to go for the throat and Brian found himself dead indeed.

Chris Lachmann 2, Brian Kibler 0

Grand Prix Atlanta Trial Winners

by Frank Lepore

Your winning decks from the Grand Prix Atlanta Trials might look about how you might have expected going into the competitive weekend. Then again they might not as well. If you thought the format was gearing to be dominated by a single deck you might be in for a rude awakening (sans 2/2 lands, however). Jund and Faeries were well represented throughout, along with a spattering of GW Summoning Trap, UW Control and Valakut variants. In fact the only deck that was represented in multiples was Faeries who only occupied three of the ten winning slots! Yes, even our little white friends from yore, the Kithkin, made a winning appearance.

The fancy thing about Byron Juarez's winning Kithkin list however is the splash for one black card: Zealous Persecution. Zealous persecution manages to fill the role of Cunning Sparkmage, Volcanic Fallout, and Peppersmoke, while pumping your own team in the process! This manages to not only give you an edge over decks like Faeries and any deck running mana dorks, but is also advantageous if the mirror match comes up.

If the trials are any indication of how the weekend could shape up, literally anything could happen!

Steven Pearlman -- Jund

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Nate Pease -- GW Summoning Trap

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Andrej Selivra -- Wargate

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Justin O’Keefe -- RG Valakut

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Andrew Hanson -- Faeries

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Matthew Costa -- Faeries

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Mat Ferrando -- UW Control

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Anthony Digiacomo -- Faeries

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Nicholas Shoaf -- RG Valakut

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Byron Juarez -- Kithkin

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Photo Essay – Day 1

by Bill Stark

Here's what the first day of Grand Prix Atlanta looked like around the hall here in Georgia!

Martin Juza and Lucas Blohon (R-L) are two players who traveled all the way from Europe to compete. Juza is a perennial contender for the Player of the Year award, and Lucas has been hot over the past Pro Tour season.

Zaiem Beg, Travis Woo, and Matt Nass enjoy some down time in between rounds. One of the great things about the competitive circuit is getting to see friends from far away while you battle. In this case, Zaiem and Travis of Seattle, Washington get to visit with their fellow alum Matt Nass, who lives in California.

You don't have to play in the Feature Match area to enjoy it. Here a crowd gathers to watch their favorite pros battle one another under the bright lights.

Guest artist Eric Deschamps is happy to sign or sketch for you in between rounds or after you're finished competing for the day. You can even buy his prints and other special offerings for your wall and to show off to your friends.

This collection of friends includes two former Pro Tour champions. They were hanging out and chatting with one another in between rounds.

The crew from broadcasting from Grand Prix Atlanta. From left to right, Patrick Sullivan, Ray Punzalan, and Rashad Miller.

Three players came to this tournament from Japan and a full two-thirds of them are former Players of the Year. That is pretty insane.

Jared Sylva, head judge of the pink flight, counsels fellow judge Nick Sabin about a rules question.

The head judge of the white flight, Jason Lemahieu, knows a critical part of his job is interacting with other judges to help them improve at judging and to ensure the tournament runs smoothly.

The Grand Prix Atlanta tournament organizer Jeff Williams (left) meets with players in between rounds to discuss the day's happenings.

Rules manager Matt Tabak is a special VIP here in Atlanta as the spellslinger. In between your rounds or if you're done playing for the day, he's happy to play against you in your favorite format. Plus, he gives away booster packs and deck boxes!

Grand Prix Atlanta is host to two artists in residence. Mike Bieren joins Eric Deschamps (who is shown previously in this Photo Essay).

The dapper looking Peter Knudson who opted to suit up for Grand Prix Atlanta.

A host of the game's top pros look in on a Vintage funsies match featuring David Ochoa.

Grand Prix Atlanta Trial Stand Outs

by Frank Lepore

The Grand Prix Trials were primarily composed of the following archetypes (in no particular order):

GW Trap
Steel Artifact
RG Valakut

Even though that's a lot of strong archetypes for a format, there are always those decks that end up under the radar. When I saw the following list, the only word that came to mind was, "wow."

Let me back up and clarify that I don't look at the lack of sets in the current Extended as a hindrance. In fact I think that the smaller format offers some of our favorite pet decks from recent months past a second chance. Back from the dead is Marsh Usary's Painter's Servant/Chaotic Backlash Combo. For those unfamiliar with how it works, the deck ends up making every card a certain color via Painter's Servant and then exploits that color via Oversoul of Dusk, Stillmoon Cavalier, and finally Chaotic Backlash which can usually end the game on its own. Despite not winning the Trial that the deck appeared in, it's a refreshing addition to our still-burgeoning Extended format.

Jon Bolding -- Painter’s Servant

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Gavin Verhey's RG shaman deck also made a few appearances in the Trials as well. The deck capitalizes on the fact that several creatures have kinship and all of the creatures share the creature type "shaman." The deck also has runs Fauna Shaman (believe it or not, also a shaman) and can fetch out the singleton Ruinblaster and Masked Admirers if necessary. Other than that the deck can start making wolves early with Wolf-Skull Shamans or power out a turn three Leaf-Crowned Elder via the shaman-specific accelerator in Bosk Banneret. Much like Faeries and Kithkin the deck relies primarily on its immense synergies which include drawing cards, pumping guys and making a ton of tokens. Regardless of how competitive the deck turns out, it definitely looks like a blast to pilot!

Brian Coval -- RG Shaman

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Feature – Watching for Fun and Profit

by Brian David-Marshall

In the earlier piece about the history of Grand Prix tournaments in Atlanta we linked to the "coverage" from the first event in the city back in 1998 which amounted to little more than a link to the final standings and prize money won. Event coverage has come a long way in 13 years and continues to grow and evolve. There is even a burgeoning independent "press corps" that regularly attend these events solely to cover the events and watch the game's best play the game at the highest level. We caught up with three of the people who can regularly be seen lurking around a match of Magic although rarely as a player and asked them who they enjoy watching when the come to a Magic tournament.

The most recent addition to the corp is Megan Holland of Megan has long been the den mother to the Florida Magic community -- a role she took on when she began attending events with her husband Kitt. Her natural tendency to be organized and helpful morphed into her website on which she keeps the most extensive calendar of events for players to reference. She has been traveling to more and more events each season, taking pictures for her website, and reporting back via Twitter @mtgmomdotcom.

Megan Holland

Megan: "I watch Kitt because he is my husband and I love him. You also have your normal Florida players like [Charles] Gindy -- who tends to do well. I like to watch the foreign players when they are here -- Martin Juza, [Gabriel] Nassif when he is around. I also have the girlfriends of some of the players who hit me up on AIM and Twitter so I have to keep them updated which means [Patrick] Chapin and Ben Stark."

Patrick "Trick" Jarret runs the website and has been coming to Grand Prix events for the past several years to get generate content for his weekly video segment that eventually led to him forming his website which features content from an array of players that includes some up and coming young talent. He is a voracious Twitterer and can be followed @mananation.

Trick Jarrett

Trick: "I follow some of the local Orlando guys. Dave Sharfman is probably one of the top ones. I follow the Mananation guys -- the ones who are Mananation and who were Mananation -- Ari Lax, Ali Aintrazi, and Ben Hayes. [Brian] Kibler is, of course one the favorites. I love to see what Conley [Woods] is doing. Most of the big names I keep an eye on but those are the ones I follow the closest. Chapin is up there also.

"Ari got second in Nashville I think that really lit the fire to get there to the top. Ali has been doing really well and is one of my picks to do well. Nick Spagnolo has been doing really well. Those are three of my picks to do well this year. They are not rookies, they have been playing for awhile, but they haven't quite broken through the top tier yet."

Rashad Miller is no stranger to any regular devourer of event coverage. His site has turned on the fire hose of Magic for anyone that wants to watch live games of Magic all weekend from wherever there is a Grand Prix or Open Series going on. There is a link to their page right in the coverage and you can also follow them on Twitter @ggslive.

Rashad Miller

Rashad: "If I have to pick players I usually like watching whatever Conley Woods brings in because it is most likely going to be awesome. I usually like the decks that I get to see -- mostly the ones with Forests. I made so I could look at decks with Forests. That and Conley Woods. If you bring an Elf deck or a deck with Forests you are in. As long as you got some chops -- actually just a chop. One chop."

Feature Match Round 9 – Guillaume Wafo-Tapa vs. Owen Turtenwald

by Brian David-Marshall

The final round of Day One was headlined by a match-up of undefeated players sporting a pair of notorious control decks. Guillaume Wafo-Tapa came to the table with a blinged out Cruel Control deck and an 8-0 record. Owen Turtenwald came armed with a Faeries list he had honed for this event which was also being piloted by a number of notable pros. Owen was also looking to notch the fourth perfect record on Day One of a GP in his career. Each of the previous three times he had pulled that off he had made the Top 8.

Game 1

Guillaume reached right for the ample dice he keeps by his side for Vivid lands and kicked things off with little fanfare. Turtenwald led off with Thoughtsieze and looked over a hand with Cruel Ultimatum, Volcanic Fallout, Cryptic Command, Mana Leak, Wall of Omens, and a land. Owen took the Mana Leak and Wafo had to replenish his inventory with Wall of Omens.

The coast was clear for Owen to stick Bitterblossom. Guillaume played a third land and promptly Esper Charmed to draw two cards while Owen was tapped out. Thoughtsieze was the turn three play from Turtenwald and he saw that Mulldrifter and two lands were cards Wafo had drawn since last he looked at his hand. He took the fallout. An evoked Mulldrifter was Mana Leaked by Turtenwald. He untapped and started attacking Wafo-Tapa with his own borrowed dice.

Guillaume played his fourth land and passed the turn. Turtenwald attempted to Grasp of Darkness the Wall. Guillaume played Cryptic Command to counter it and draw a card. Owen stuck a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and left a card on top of Wafo-Tapa's library to push its loyalty to 5.

Owen attacked for three and Wafo tried an Esper Charm to make Turtenwald discard. Owen flashed in Vendillion Clique in response and pushed the Cruel to the bottom but had to leave a Day of Judgment in hand. Owen played Spellstutter Sprite rather than ditch it. Wafo untapped and cleared the board.

Owen animated his Creeping Tar Pit and attacked for three while he restocked on tokens. Wafo-Tapa played Baneslayer Angel. Owen bounced it and attacked. When Wafo reattempted

the Baneslayer Owen was able to Spellstutter it with a little help from a Mutavault. That was enough for Wafo to reach for the sideboard and move on to game two.

Owen Turtenwald - 1 Guillaume Wafo-Tapa - 0

Owen Turtenwald

Game 2

It was a super quiet match -- eerie even. Wafo is always pretty reserved but Turtenwald is usually able to more than make up for any lack of chattiness in an opponent but the table talk this match was kept to strictly game state and dice borrowing.

Wafo made the first play of the game, a Plumeveil at the end of Owen's turn three. Owen attempted Vendillion Clique during Wafo's upkeep but it was met with Cryptic Command. That cleared the way for Owen to land Jace but Wafo was able to dispatch it with his own copy of the Planeswalker.

The two players returned to their corners and waited for the next round while playing lands and saying "go." There were 9 lands in play on Wafo's side before he decided to come out swinging and he led with a Thoughtsieze which prompted a Spellstutter from Owen. Wafo felt strongly enough to Cryptic Command it. Owen had Command of his own but Wafo had Trump with Mana Leak. Wafo took the other Cryptic Command from Owen and left him two land and Doom Blade.

With Wafo tapped down Owen felt the coast was clear to sneak in two Creeping Tar Pits. Wafo played Cruel Ultimatum and Owen Spell Pierced it. Wafo paid the two mana and Owen pitched his hand into the bin. He was able to undo some of the life gained with his two Tar Pits but only for the time being as Wafo played Baneslayer Angel. Owen animated his two lands and conceded when Wafo showed him the Volcanic Fallout.

Owen Turtenwald - 1 Guillaume Wafo-Tapa - 1

Guillaume Wafo-Tapa

Game 3

Turn two Bitterblossom was the play again from Owen while Wafo had only a tapped Vivid land. Thoughtsieze from Wafo saw Cryptic Command, Mana Leak, Vendillion Clique, and two lands -- he took the Cryptic. Owen drew and played Jace Beleren and promptly pushed the loyalty up to five by having both players draw a card.

Guillaume had no play and passed the turn back to Turtenwald with three lands -- one of which had just come into play tapped. Owen drew a card just for himslef with Jace and then played Thoughtsieze. He saw two Esper Charm, two Baneslayers, Cryptic Command, Cruel Ultimatum, and Volcanic Fallout -- no fourth land. He took the Fallout.

Esper Charm on Owen's upkeep was mana leaked as was Wafo's second one while he still scuffled for that fourth land. Inquisition of Kozilek from Owen revealed Path to Exile, Thoughtsieze, and another Esper Charm had been added to the hand for Wafo. Owen took the Charm. Owen had seven mana to Wafos three and he animated his Tar Pit and attacked but Wafo had drawn Volcanic Fallout. Thoughtsieze from Owen then cleared the Path. With two of Wafo's three vivid lands depleted Owen used two Tectonic to strip his Mystic Gate and Vivid land that still had a counter. With only two lands in play that could only make white mana Wafo extended the hand.

Final result: Owen Turtenwald - 2 Guillaume Wafo-Tapa - 1

It was the fourth time that Owen had swept Day One and if his past performances have been any indication it is highly likely that he will still be playing after the Swiss rounds are over tomorrow.

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