The Fight for First – King of the Hill recap

Posted in Event Coverage on March 13, 2016

By Corbin Hosler

With more than 3,500 players showing up to Grand Prix Washington D.C. to compete in the largest team event in Magic’s history, the fight for the top spot was sure to be tight. While the winning team of last year’s team event in Detroit — Sam Pardee, Matt Nass and Jacob Wilson — began the day at the top of the pile, who would emerge from Day 1 as the King of the Hill?

Pardee and Nass “carried” Wilson to the title in Detroit. Could they do the same in D.C.?

The trio was pleased with their deck construction, turning out two good decks and a solid third option they felt gave them a chance to win every round. After a blazing run in Detroit to win the last North American team event — an event marked by a title despite a poor run that saw Wilson finish the event 1-15 — they planned on repeating in the nation’s capital. So much so, in fact, that when informed that they would begin the day in the King of the Hill seat, they were adamant they wouldn’t be leaving it all day.

They did their best to make good on that promise. Things went exactly according to plan in the first round, as Wilson lost his match but won the round thanks to victories by Pardee and Nass.

The second round didn’t go quite as well — “unfortunately, Jacob won,” Pardee joked — but the trio somehow managed to take the match. The hot start continued, and the defending champs made it all the way through five rounds undefeated, the title defense well on its way.

Things got much more difficult when an all-star team stepped in to challenge the three in Round 6. Pro Tour Top 8 competitor Stephen Mann and teammates Frank Skarren and Alec Nezin — four Grand Prix Top 8 appearances and two wins in between them — awaited. A close match eventually came down to the game between Nezin and Pardee, and when the challengers proved victorious it was time for a new king of the hill.

After that, things turned interesting, and the title passed around. Skarren, Nezin and Mann held onto it for a round by defeating Kyle Brock, Tony Chiarlanza and Matthew Russell, but they were knocked off a round later by Jeff Folinus, James Kandziolka and Stephen Nowakowski, who snuck away with a 2-1 victory to plant themselves firmly at the top.

That set up a final round showdown for the Day 1 title of King of the Hill, with Folinus Kandziolka and Nowakowski squaring off against Devon O’Donnell, Dustin Taylor and Marc O’Connor at Table 1.

Marc O’Connor, Dustin Taylor and teammate Devon O’Donnell squared off with Jeff Folinus, James Kandziolka and Stephen Nowakowski in the final round for the title of King of the Hill.

The round was close from the start, and the teams eventually split matches, leaving it up to the middle table of Kandziolka and Taylor to decide things. A close match that saw a double-Oblivion Strike turn for Kandziolka take control of the match only for Taylor to fight back by finding Sphinx of the Final Word off a Blighted Cataract sacrifice.

In this case, the Sphinx did have the final word, and with the win Taylor sent his team to 9-0 on the day, ensuring that they will enter Sunday as the King of the Hill.

Marc O’Connor, Dustin Taylor and Devon O’Donnell were one of two teams to finish Day 1 undefeated.

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