Grand Prix Minneapolis 2009

It’s been a great weekend here at Grand Prix – Minneapolis. Almost 1,200 players showed up to play in the last Grand Prix of the year, making it one of the three most-attended American Grand Prixes in history.
A lot of star power showed up as a last chance to pick up Pro Points before next weekend’s World Championships in Rome. Current Player of the Year leader Yuuya Watanabe had a solid finish to stay ahead of Martin Juza, Shuuhei Nakamura, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and Luis Scott-Vargas. Watanabe didn’t drop a match on the first day, but couldn’t carry that through to the Top 8.
Those precious slots were filled by eight Americans at the end of the Swiss rounds. Pro Tour – Austin champion Brian Kibler had the most impressive resume going into the final draft, but many of the other members had solid finishes themselves.
In the end it was Zohar Bhagat who piloted his way through a sea of players to take home the title. Congratulations to Grand Prix – Minneapolis champion Zohar Bhagat!



Follow live streaming video coverage of Grand Prix–Minneapolis at with Rashad Miller and Ray Punzalan.


top 8 bracket


(5) Matt Sperling

(1) Owen Turtenwald

(3) Mike Gualtieri

(7) Brad Nelson

(8) Zohar Bhagat

(6) Tom Ross

(2) David Ochoa

(4) Brian Kibler


Matt Sperling, 2-1

Brad Nelson, 2-0

Zohar Bhagat, 2-1

Brian Kibler, 2-0


Matt Sperling, 2-1

Zohar Bhagat, 2-0


Zohar Bhagat, 2-1


  • by Bill Stark
    Matt Sperling vs. Zohar Bhagat
  • by Dane Young
    Matt Sperling vs. Brad Nelson
  • by Kyle Mechler
    Brian Kibler vs. Zohar Bhagat
  • by Kyle Mechler
    David Ochoa vs. Brian Kibler
  • by Bill Stark
    Zohar Bhagat vs. Tom Ross
  • by Bill Stark
    Mike Gualtieri vs. Brad Nelson
  • by Dane Young
    Owen Turtenwald vs. Matt Sperling
  • by Dane Young
    Top 8
    Drafting with Brian Kibler
  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Top 8
  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Top 8
    Player Profiles
  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Day 2: Catch up with coverage of GP Minneapolis Day 2!

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Day 1: Catch up with coverage of GP Minneapolis Day 1!

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Info: Fact Sheet


1. Zohar Bhagat $3,500
2. Matt Sperling $2,300
3. Brian Kibler) $1,500
4. Brad Nelson $1,500
5. Owen Turtenwald $1,000
6. David Ochoa $1,000
7. Mike Gualtieri $1,000
8. Tom Ross $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: Matt Sperling
Hometown (country): USA
Occupation: Attorney, Troutman Sanders, LLP

Record and deck colors in Sealed: 9-0, black-red
Record and deck colors in Draft 1: 2-1, red-green enchant creature
Record and deck colors in Draft 2: 1-0-2 white-blue

What previous Magic accomplishments do you have? (GP day 2, Nationals appearances, Pro Tours, Worlds, etc.)
I’ve played several Pro Tours but have zero Top 8s.

What archetype do you hope to draft?
Whatever is open

Who did you work with to prepare for Grand Prix-Minneapolis?
The Team: Patrick Chapin, Brian Kibler, Michael Jacob, Paul Rietzl, David Williams, Ben Rubin, Gabriel Nassif, Mark Herberholz, and me.

Name: Owen Turtenwald
Hometown (country): Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Occupation: Magic Online

Record and deck colors in Sealed: 9-0, red-black
Record and deck colors in Draft 1: 1-2, blue green
Record and deck colors in Draft 2: 3-0, blue-black

What previous Magic accomplishments do you have? (GP day 2, Nationals appearances, Pro Tours, Worlds, etc.)
Top 32 Pro Tour-Valencia
Top 8 Grand Prix-Columbus
Top 16 Grand Prix-Denver

What archetype do you hope to draft?

Who did you work with to prepare for Grand Prix-Minneapolis?
Tommy Kolowith, Luchas Duchow, Ben Ashman, Zach Hall, and Josh Wludyka. (Also life coaching from Gerard Fabiano.)

Name: Brad Nelson
Hometown (country): Fargo, North Dakota USA
Occupation: True gamer!

Record and deck colors in Sealed: 8-1, red-black
Record and deck colors in Draft 1: 3-0, blue-green
Record and deck colors in Draft 2: 1-0-2, blue-green

What previous Magic accomplishments do you have? (GP day 2, Nationals appearances, Pro Tours, Worlds, etc.)
9th Pro Tour-Honolulu
Top 4 U.S. Nationals

What archetype do you hope to draft?
The best one.

Who did you work with to prepare for Grand Prix-Minneapolis?
Magic Online. My love, my friend, my lifeline!

Name: David Ochoa
Hometown (country): USA
Occupation: Writer,

Record and deck colors in Sealed: 7-2
Record and deck colors in Draft 1: 3-0, red-blue
Record and deck colors in Draft 2: 3-0, white

What previous Magic accomplishments do you have? (GP day 2, Nationals appearances, Pro Tours, Worlds, etc.)
6 Pro Tours, a few Grand Prix Day 2s, a handful of money finishes.

What archetype do you hope to draft?
Something sweet that attacks.

Who did you work with to prepare for Grand Prix-Minneapolis?
Drafting 8-4s on Magic Online.

Name: Zohar Bhagat
Hometown (country): Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Occupation: Student

Record and deck colors in Sealed: 9-0, black-white
Record and deck colors in Draft 1: 2-1, monored
Record and deck colors in Draft 2: 1-1-1, blue-black

What previous Magic accomplishments do you have? (GP day 2, Nationals appearances, Pro Tours, Worlds, etc.)
1 Pro Tour
2 Grand Prix Day 2s

What archetype do you hope to draft?

Who did you work with to prepare for Grand Prix-Minneapolis?
Draft a lot at CMU with Jason Martel, Andres Miguel, and my good friend Ron Kotwica. Swiss Sealed queues on Magic Online.

Name: Mike Gualtieri
Hometown (country): USA
Occupation: Consultant

Record and deck colors in Sealed: 7-2, black-white
Record and deck colors in Draft 1: 3-0, red-white
Record and deck colors in Draft 2: 3-0, black-blue

What previous Magic accomplishments do you have? (GP day 2, Nationals appearances, Pro Tours, Worlds, etc.)
Cruise Qualifier Top 8!

What archetype do you hope to draft?

Who did you work with to prepare for Grand Prix-Minneapolis?
Will Tarbox

Name: Brian Kibler
Hometown (country): San Diego, California
Occupation: Game Designer

Record and deck colors in Sealed: 8-1, blue-red
Record and deck colors in Draft 1: 3-0, white -red
Record and deck colors in Draft 2: 1-0-2, black-red

What previous Magic accomplishments do you have? (GP day 2, Nationals appearances, Pro Tours, Worlds, etc.)
3 Pro Tour Top 8, 1 win
9 Grand Prix Top 8, 2 wins
2 Nationals Top 8, no wins : (

What archetype do you hope to draft?
Very flexible aggressive white-red and black-red are my favorites.

Who did you work with to prepare for Grand Prix-Minneapolis?
The fine denizens of the 8 player draft room on Magic Online.

Name: Tom “The Boss” Ross
Hometown (country): Ruston, Louisiana
Occupation: Video Game Designer

Record and deck colors in Sealed: 8-1, green-blue-red sideboard into green-blue-white
Record and deck colors in Draft 1: 3-0, bad blue-green
Record and deck colors in Draft 2: 1-0-2, good monogreen with Nissa

What previous Magic accomplishments do you have? (GP day 2, Nationals appearances, Pro Tours, Worlds, etc.)
Top 8 Pro Tour-Honolulu 2009
Top 8 Grand Prix-Tampa 2009

What archetype do you hope to draft?
Whatever’s good.

Who did you work with to prepare for Grand Prix-Minneapolis?
Only done two Sealed (the Grand Prixs); learning as I go.

Top 8 – Decklists

by Event Coverage Staff

Mike Gualtieri

Download Arena Decklist

Owen Turtenwald

Download Arena Decklist

Tom Ross

Download Arena Decklist

Brad Nelson

Download Arena Decklist

Matt Sperling

Download Arena Decklist

Zohar Bhagat

Download Arena Decklist

David Ochoa

Download Arena Decklist

Brian Kibler

Download Arena Decklist

Top 8 – Drafting with Brian Kibler

by Dane Young

Brian Kibler entered this All-American Top 8 as the fourth seed. His interest in Black-Red decks has been known since Pro Tour – Austin, which he won, as you may remember. It would be interesting to see if his neighbors would cooperate with him more due to this, or if they would use the information against him and try to force Kibler out of his comfort zone.

The draft started off on the right foot as Brian cracked open Kazuul Warlord. He quickly drafted the powerful rare, but passed Shatterskull Giant, Nimana Sell-Sword and Murasa Pyromancer. It would be a nice gift if any of them made it back.


Kazuul Warlord
Welkin Tern was the best non-Green card in the next pack, so Kibler passed along Turntimber Basilistk, Mold Shambler and Nissa’s Chosen. Bladetusk Boar was a welcome third pick that Kibler surely translated as Red being open, but he had to pass Mind Sludge, Blazing Torch and Magma Rift to take it.

Crypt Ripper fourth made it look like Black was available too, so Kibler settled into his favorite archetype. Blood Seeker came right behind it, followed by the solid Giant Scorpion over Goblin Ruinblaster.

If there were any questions about Black being open, Mind Sludge seventh pick answered them. He took the powerful spell over Guul Draz Vampire and Whiplash Trap and then picked up Slaughter Cry over Bog Tatters.

Molten Ravager, Bloodchief Ascension, Vampire’s Bite, Pillarfield Ox, Unstable Footing and Sunspring Expedition closed out the pack for the Dragonmaster.

Burst Lightning was a great piece of removal that could also go to the dome, but he had to ship a Disfigure for it. Kibler took Bladetusk Boar over Quest for the Gravelord next, and followed it up with Surrakar Marauder to continue the intimidate theme.


Vampire Nighthawk
Soul Stair Expedition over Needlebite Trap and some White cards was a slight disappointment, but a fifth pick Stonework Puma filled out the mana curve better than Hagra Crocodile. Nimana Sell-Sword was taken over Shatterskull Giant to go with his Kazuul Warlord. Zektar Shrine Expedition was next up over Blood Tribute, followed by Goblin Ruinblaster over another Hagra Crocodile.

Makindi Shieldmate, Slaughter Cry, Blade of the Bloodchief, Shieldmate’s Blessing, Demolish and Caller of Gales ended pack two.

Kibler opened a sweet pack with Emeria Angel, Living Tsunami and Hideous End. The removal spell made its way into the pile, but two people would be happy about the great flying creatures coming their way.

Vampire Nighthawk was an amazing second pick and Kibler tried his hardest not to smile at as he found a Halo Hunter waiting for him next. Kibler favored a second Giant Scorpion over Vampire Lacerator, followed by Slaughter Cry and Seismic Shudder. Teetering Peaks was taken over Hagra Crocodile next. Blood Seeker, Molten Ravager, Blood Tribute, Zektar Shrine Expedition, Hedron Crab, Scythe Tiger and Turntimber Grove rounded out the draft for Kibler.

Pack three was a beautiful payoff for Brian, with the best uncommon and one of the best rares in his color coming to him. It definitely seemed like the people passing to him – Matt Sperling on his right and Brad Nelson on his left – cooperated with him. Check back to see if the Dragonmaster can take down Grand Prix – Minneapolis.

Quarterfinals – Owen Turtenwald vs. Matt Sperling

by Dane Young

Owen and Matt shuffled in silence as they prepared for battle. Owen won the roll and chose to play first. Both players kept and Owen led with Kazandu Refuge and Frontier Guide. Matt fired back with Oran-Rief Survivalist and Umara Raptor.

The Survivalist attacked for three and Owen Harrowed away his Kazandu Refuge to replace it with two more Forests. Timbermaw Larva arrived and it was Matt’s turn to Harrow. He cashed in a Forest for an Island and Mountain before casting Tajuru Archer. The now super-sized Raptor and Surivalist smashed in to knock Owen to 10.

Owen TurtenwaldOwen found his beloved Gigantiform and smashed Matt down to 7, chump blocking the incoming Survivalist next turn and falling to 7. Matt picked up two Mountains with Khalni Gem and kicked Into the Roil on the enchanted Timbermaw Larva, emptying Owen’s board.

Owen fought back with Terra Stomper, but fell to 4 after the Umara Raptor took a peck. Territorial Baloth teamed up with the 4/4 Oran-Rief Survivalist to take down the incoming Terra Stomper, and Owen replayed his Timbermaw Larva. Umara Raptor put Owen on 1 and Matt locked added an extra blocker in Greenweaver Druid. Owen drew his card for the turn and scooped.

Sperling 1, Turtenwald 0

Owen chose to play first and both players kept their openers again. Khalni Heart Expedition was the first play of the game from Owen and Matt thought very hard about what to do when Owen cast Harrow on Matt’s end step. Owen’s Swamp was already in the bin and Matt eventually let it resolve. Owen cracked his Expedition as well, ramping up to 6 lands in a hurry.

Timbermaw Larva and Kazandu Refuge landed for Owen and Matt cast his own Harrow to fix the mana in his three-color ally deck. Matt tapped out for Seascape Aerialist and Owen quickly untapped. Timbermaw Larva served up 6 damage and Ruinous Minotaur joined the crew. Matt drew and surveyed the board with his full grip. He decided to strap up his Aerialist with a Savage Silhouette and pass. Timbermaw Larva came across again and Matt blocked. After regeneration, Owen pointed Magma Rift the tapped ally to kill it and then played another Timbermaw Larva.

Stonework Puma was a bit too small to take on Owen’s creatures and Owen flashed the Gigantiform to take the game.

Sperling 1, Turtenwald 1

Matt was finally on the play and both players quickly kept their starting seven. Matt was on the board first with Kor Skyfisher, returning a Plains to his hand.

Matt SperlingOwen had Oran-Rief, the Vastwood and a Forest, and the Skyfisher attacked for two. Matt played an Island instead of the Plains he picked up, perhaps signaling that he had Into the Roil in his hand. Owen played a Mountain and passed the turn. Matt played his Plains and added a second Kor Skyfisher, again returning the Plains. Owen’s Harrow turned a Mountain into a Swamp and a Mountain and he untapped into Geyser Glider.

The Skyfishers took Owen down to 12 life and Stonework Puma paid a visit. Owen laid a land and bashed for 4 in the air before passing the turn with a lot of land untapped. Matt sent his team into the red zone and Unsummoned a Baloth Cage Trap token with Into the Roil before it could block his Stonework Puma. Owen fell to 6, but put Savage Silhouette on the Geyser Glider to bring Matt to 10. He tried to hold the ground with a Territorial Baloth, but Vines of Vastwood on Kor Skyfisher had his number.

Matt Sperling defeats Owen Turtenwald two games to one and moves onto the semifinals

Quarterfinals – Mike Gualtieri vs. Brad Nelson

by Bill Stark

Grand Prix-Minneapolis was down to the final eight players, and the last of them to hail from the home state of Minnesota was Mike Gualtieri. The local, who hails from Minnetonka, worked in the insurance industry and was enjoying his first big finish on the competitive circuit. Brad Nelson, a darkhorse candidate for Rookie of the Year and a player perhaps better known as “FFfreak” from Magic Online, has had a blistering 2009 season. He finished in 9th at Pro Tour-Honolulu before making the Top 8 of U.S. Nationals. Gualtieri had a challenge ahead if he was planning on keeping the title on Minnesota soil.

Brad Nelson looks to continue a strong 2009 in Minneapolis.Brad led with Surrakar Marauder and attempted to get his beatdown on with the 2/1, building it up with a Savage Silhouette. Mike wans’t having it, however, and used Paralyzing Grasp to put an end to the 4/3 intimidator. Nimana Sell-Sword was Nelson’s follow-up, but the 3/3 was trumped by Windrider Eel from Gualtieri. When Brad cast Mind Sludge he nabbed three cards from Mike’s hand and put the Minnesotan in a bad place, Eel or no.

Fortunately for Mike, one of the cards he got to keep was Malakir Bloodwitch and an Umara Raptor off the top a turn later meant he could happily attack Brad to race. Meanwhile Nelson had had no gas after the Mind Sludge, stuck with just the Nimana Sell-Sword though the hardy 3/3 was able to get its beat on keeping the game close. He finally found a Gatekeeper of Malakir to force the Raptor off the battlefield, but Mike just ripped a land to pump his Eel. Brad didn’t seem happy with that, but untapped and dutifully sent in his team. Gualtieri nodded, picking up his pen and moving to mark his life total, but Brad gave pause. He revealed a Vines of Vastwood with a “Kicked?” and Mike did the math. He was dead to the instant out of nowhere despite his flyers.

Brad Nelson 1, Mike Gualtieri 0

Vampire Lacerator let Brad Nelson come quickly out of the gates in the second, but the first-turn Carnophage wannabe was trumped by Mike Gualtieri’s second-turn Vampire Hexmage. Instead of sitting back, however, Mike sent his 2/1 first striker in the following turn and cast Umara Raptor. He looked to be taking the early aggressive lead.

Grazing Gladehart from Brad put a wrench in those plans, particularly considering the fact he had a Khalni Heart Exploration winding up to go off. When he cast Savage Silhouette on his Gladehart, Nelson decided to send the team in setting the scores at 12-11 in his opponent’s favor. Gualtieri had managed to land a Crypt Ripper to go with the rest of his team, however, and was still threatening to swing for considerable amounts of damage each turn.

Mike Gualtieri tries to keep the title in Minnesota.He did exactly that given the next opportunity, dropping Brad to 5 after swinging with his team. Post-combat he cast Hagra Crocodile and passed. Nelson found his third land for the Khalni Heart, jumping from 5 to 11 life thanks to his Gladehart, and then attacked Mike to 6. Post-combat he cast Nimana Sell-Sword, but he was in a tough spot. With the right trick Mike could potentially swing through for lethal.

“What have you got?” Brad asked, slapping the table nervously as he passed the turn.

Mike considered his options, then sent his team sideways. Brad blocked with his Sell-Sword to survive the turn, and post-combat Mike cast Paralyzing Grasp targeting his opponent’s Silhouetted Gladehart. Brad revealed Vines of Vastwood to counter, and Mike nodded his head. His opponent’s board was lethal and he was out of tricks; the Grand Prix-Minneapolis title would be going to an out-of-stater.

Brad Nelson 2, Mike Gualtieri 0

Quarterfinals – Zohar Bhagat vs. Tom Ross

by Bill Stark

Tom Ross had been having a heck of a past few months. As the 2009 Pro Tour season wound to its close, he had managed to Top 8 Pro Tour-Honolulu, follow it up with a Top 8 at Grand Prix-Tampa, and at the very next event managed to Top 8 in Minneapolis. His opponent, a member of the heralded Carnegie Melon University Magic community, was Zohar Bhagat who was in the midst of enjoying his first competitive success on the Top 8 stage.

Tom Ross was on a hot streak.Both players started out aggressively, with Zohar getting Welkin Tern online early. Tom Ross was quick with a Disfigure to put an end to the 2/1 flyer, then cast a Surrakar Marauder, but Zohar was right on his heels with a Cliff Threader and Windrider Eel. Shatterskull Giant for Ross allowed him to continue applying pressure, and when Bhagat cast Umara Raptor, Tom tried to kill it with a kicked Torch Slinger. Instead, Bhagat used Bold Defense to save it.

From there it was all Zohar, who used his unblockable army to get through turn after turn. Thanks to Ross’ Mountains, Cliff Threader was unblockable too and lands kept Windrider Eel pumped to the max. Ross’ Giant and Torch Slinger couldn’t race, even with help from Surrakar Marauder and Ross headed to his sideboard for the second.

Zohar Bhagat 1, Tom Ross 0

Kraken Hatchling for Zohar Bhagat threatened to get in the way of an aggressive Surrakar Marauder start from Tom Ross, but when Bhagat tried to block the 2/1 with his “Wall,” Tom had Vampire’s Bite to take the critter out. He followed up his combat shenanigans with a second Marauder and a Plated Geopede. Zohar fired back with Pillarfield Ox.

Magma Rift from Ross dealt with the Ox, and he began using his Marauders and Geopede to get his beat on. A kicked Aether Figment from Zohar helped slow the bleeding, but Bhagat had to answer Molten Ravager with a Welkin Tern, needing to find some help to draw back to even on the table. A Burst Lightning dealt with the Tern, and Tom found a Torch Slinger which he cast without kicker. The two players seemed to have opposite problems: Bhagat was mana flooded with little action to cast, while his opponent was mana screwed, missing the lands he needed to make his Surrakar Marauders and Plated Geopede fully powered.

Tom finally found a land and attacked with Geopede, but Zohar blocked with his 3/3 Aether Figment. Bold Defense kept the creature around and dealt with the Geopede, and Ross was forced to cast a Shatterskull Giant and simply pass the turn. Bhagat still didn’t have anything, drawing for the turn and passing back.

The Giant rumbled in, and Zohar took 4. Post-combat Tom cast Nimana Sell-Sword and passed. When Bhagat drew another card for the turn and found another blank, he opted to move to the third game, his lonesome Aether Figment outnumbered six to one.

Zohar Bhagat 1, Tom Ross 1

The players squared off with opposing two-drops for the final game of their match, Zohar Bhagat’s Welkin Tern staring down Tom Ross’ Goblin Shortcutter. Bhagat cast an unkicked Kor Sanctifiers to further develop his board, and a first-turn Explorer’s Scope offered the possibility of finding some free lands. Ross passed his third turn without casting anything, then took 4 from his opponent’s return attack.

Not doing much of anything wasn’t going to be a winning game plan for Ross as his opponent cast Merfolk Seastalkers. Tom answered with a four-drop of his own in the form of Hagra Crocodile, but he needed to catch up or risk falling too far behind to stay in things. With the turn back, Bhagat equipped his Welkin Tern with Explorer’s Scope, then bashed with his flyer and the Kor Sanctifiers. His Scope hit a free Plains and he dropped Tom to 11.

Was Grand Prix-Minneapolis going to see the return of CMU as a powerhouse through Zohar Bhagat?Ross attempted to attack back with his Hagra Crocodile but saw it tapped down by Merfolk Seastalkers. Post-combat he cast a kicked Torch Slinger to take care of the Tern, then passed. Zohar sent his Sanctifiers into the red zone and, after considering plays, Ross decided to double block with his Goblin Shortcutter and Torch Slinger. Bhagat cast Whiplash Trap to bounce his opponent’s Hagra Crocodile and Goblin Shortcutter, killing the Slinger and setting his opponent way back on tempo.

Tom tried to rebuild with Obsidian Fireheart, but on eight mana Bhagat simply tapped it on his turn and attacked Tom to 7. If he wanted, he could tap it on his opponent’s turn as well, continuing to out-tempo Ross every step of the way. When Tom moved to attack, he did exactly that leaving Ross to cast a Burst Lightning with kicker to take care of the Seastalkers. He also recast his Goblin Shortcutter.

Running short on time to be ahead, Zohar turned his Sanctifiers sideways and dropped Tom to 5. Post-combat he cast a second copy of Merfolk Seastalkers, a play Tom Ross did not seem happy to see. The Merfolk twin continued locking down Ross’ Fireheart while Goblin Shortcutter did its best at getting its beat on. Sensing a trick, Zohar decided not to block the innocuous 2/1. Ross pulled the trigger on a Vampire’s Bite with kicker, a 10-point life swing netting him 5 and taking 5 from Zohar to put the score at 15-10, still in Bhagat’s favor. Post-combat Tom cast Hagra Crocodile before passing.

With the turn back, Zohar sent his team in to put Ross at 6, then cast a Welkin Tern. He had Ross dead the following turn if Tom didn’t have tricks. Ross moved to attack, but Zohar stopped him by tapping his Crocodile and Fireheart. Ross cast Tuktuk Grunts, leaving him with three creatures untapped to be able to block even through Zohar tapping two of them. Bhagat drew, found an Island, and played it. It was a bit of a surprise considering he had peeked the previous turn with an Explorer’s Scope, but had opted to leave the land on top.

“You left a land on top of your library?” Ross asked.

Zohar shrugged, then turned his team sideways for the win after tapping all blockers.

Zohar Bhagat 2, Tom Ross 1

Quarterfinals – David Ochoa vs. Brian Kibler

by Kyle Mechler

Confusion over the die roll before the match begins keeps things interesting as Brian rolls a 2 and David’s roll sits propped against a playmat between a 3 and a 7. “Reroll it?” Brian teases. David is stunned for a moment, but Brian quickly relents, laughs, and they agree that David will be on the play. After a mulligan to 6 for David, the first game begins.

David Ochoa enjoys some time in the spotlight.>A second turn Blood Seeker from Kibler is the first play in the match, and Stonework Puma on David’s following turn puts him to 19. The 2/2 “ally cat” trades with a hasted Goblin Ruinblaster the next turn to preserve some life as the aggressive deck shifts in to action. Kor Cartographer for Ochoa gets him a Plains, but eventually trades with the Blood Seeker after it gets a boost from Teetering Peaks. The clock begins to wind down on Zektar Shrine Expedition coming online for Brian, as well.

With the pressure mounting, Brian empties David’s hand with a Mind Sludge leaving him with a sole Stonework Puma (his second) on the battlefield. Kibler casts Crypt Ripper which enters the battlefield and attacks past the tapped 2/2. Ochoa draws and casually plays a Kor Sanctifier, nullifying the threat of Zektar Shrine Expedition. The following turns see each player casting their rare red creatures as Brian summons Kazuul Warlord and David begins to race with Hellkite Charger. The dragon threat quickly disappears to Brian’s Hideous End, however, and after Brian plays a Stonework Puma of his own, pumping both his Warlord and a Nimana Sell-Sword, David Ochoa concedes the first game.

Brian Kibler 1, David Ochoa 0

With David again on the play for Game 2 and both players content with their starting seven cards, play begins. The first play of the game is a Kor Aeronaut from David. Brian wastes no time in killing it with Burst Lightning, though, and Ochoa follows up with a Makindi Shieldmate on his third turn. “Wallbreaker!” Brian declares as he makes his third turn play, a Giant Scorpion. Both players make a Stonework Puma and the game seems to stall as both players miss their fourth land drops. David’s lands are all Plains, as well, leaving him unable to cast the red cards in his hand. Kor Cartographer isn’t much help in this regard when he finally finds his fourth land, either.

Top 8ing two Pro Tours in a season is not enough for Brian Kibler.Blood Seeker enters the battlefield for Kibler a turn later and he misses the trigger when Ochoa makes a Piillarfield Ox the following turn. The recent Pro Tour champion makes up for his mistake by casting Vampire Nighthawk. After no play from Ochoa, Halo Hunter is Brian’s next play. Brian refuses to attack, however, perhaps afraid of instants to turn Brian’s combat step in favor of the West Coast player. Just two turns later, Brian has a Nimana Sell-Sword and a Kazuul Warlord, but still is content not to attack, leaving life totals at 20 to 19 in his favor. David finally breaks the stalemate, tapping four Plains to cast Kor Sanctifier with kicker, killing a Stonework Puma. Brian causally catches the Blood Seeker trigger a moment later, and Ochoa follows up with a Journey to Nowhere for the Halo Hunter. With no mana available, David seems to have left a window for Brian to attack. Brian sees the opportunity and turns sideways his Scorpion, Nimana Sell-Sword, and Vampire Nighthawk. “Interesting,” Ochoa comments as he carefully considers how he might block. Four creatures eventually jump in front of the 5/5 Nimana Sell-Sword and Brian is put to work thinking over which creatures will die. Moments later he reveals a Slaughter Cry and a host of blockers are sent to the graveyard. Kibler casts his final card in hand, a Crypt Ripper, and pleads for Ochoa not to cast Day of Judgment.

“Do you have Arrow Volley Trap this time?” Kibler questions aloud while considering what will attack on the following turn. Ochoa is still stuck on only white mana having passed the turn without a play. Kibler sighs and attacks with five creatures. Crypt Ripper and Kazuul Warlord are blocked and with a pump activation on the stack for Crypt Ripper, Ochoa takes advantage of the situation and uses the full force of Arrow-Volley Trap to blast the Shade. A following attack with everything leaves Ochoa at three and short of red mana. Drawing his final card, he concedes.

Brian Kibler defeats David Ochoa, 2-0

Semifinals – Brian Kibler vs. Zohar Bhagat

by Kyle Mechler

The players are given the opportunity to know the full list of cards in their opponents’ deck. In this case, the players opt to simply swap decks rather than review the registration sheets. “There you go,” Brian plops down his deck face up, Mind Sludge showing, “That’s a good one to know.”

“That got to you?!” The players casually and quickly sift through each other’s stack, taking notes. “I assume you mean Emeria Angel?” Brian can’t hear Zohar’s question, though, as he is absorbed with his music. Brian wins the roll and decides to play for the first game, though not before both players mulligan. Brian continues on to five while Zohar is content with six.


Kazuul Warlord
Zohar has the first play of the game with Explorer’s Scope. He follows it up with a suitable carrier for the equipment in AEther Figment. Kibler casts Giant Scorpion on his following turn, and follows it up on the next turn with Vampire Nighthawk. “That’s a nice one to have come off the top!” he declares. Zohar attempts to match his flier with Windrider Eel and finds Emeria Angel the following turn. With Emeria Angel on the battlefield, Nighthawk attacks and the Limited power picks trade. Bhagat has Welkin Tern on the following turn.

Bladetusk Boar and Kazuul Warlord are the next few plays for Brian, but he voices frustration with his inability to block the flying force on the other side of the table. Nimana Sell-Sword makes the Warlord a bit bigger as well, and Zohar blocks the enormous red rare creature with his sole token from Emeria Angel. Just a turn later, Brian attacks with all of his creatures, including a freshly drawn Crypt Ripper, hopeful to break through for the final 8 points of damage. Zohar blocks such that he will end up with one life, however, and Brian’s five life aren’t enough to save him from a few flying Welkin Terns and Windrider Eel that threaten to attack on the following turn.

“Man, that game was close!” Brian sighs as he picks up his cards.

“You almost got me from a mull’ to five!”

Zohar Bhagat 1, Brian Kibler 0

Kibler has to mulligan again, only to six this time, and Bhagat stays at seven.

Zohar opens with a Kraken Hatchling. It attacks on the following turn with an Explorer’s Scope and finds an Island for its owner. Brian has the trump to the attacking 0/4, though, in Giant Scorpion. Windrider Eel shows up a turn early and attacks on the following turn with the Scope and a freshly cast Adventuring Gear. “Oh. That’s 10.” Kibler drops from 20 to 10 in a single turn. “I could just die next turn.” He opines. He casts his Kazuul Warlord again and is forced to watch as his opponent attacks with the potential to win on turn five.

Zohar plays a land making his Windrider Eel a 6/6 and attacks. He slowly peeks at his card and sighs as he’ll have to be content to attack Brian to 4. “You are so unlucky!” Kibler chimes as the crowd laughs. Brian attacks with everything on the following turn but has no answer to the Windrider Eel. Once Zohar shows him that he has his land for the turn, Brian picks up his cards with a smile.


Windrider Eel

Zohar Bhagat defeats Brian Kibler, 2-0.

Semifinals – Matt Sperling vs. Brad Nelson

by Dane Young

The players exchanged decks before the round so that there would be no scouting issues. Both of them managed to make it through the quarterfinals but they were both unhappy with their decks.

Brad won the roll and led off with Nissa’s Chosen while Matt had a Forest and an Island. The Elf Warrior attacked for 2 and Brad charged Khalni Heart Expedition with a Swamp. Matt played another Forest and an Oran-Rief Recluse to shut down the opposing 2/3.

Brad’s Grazing Gladehart added more landfall to the board, gaining 2 with a Forest and putting a second counter on his enchantment. Matt’s spider did stop the beatdown, however, and Matt played Greenweaver Druid.

“I don’t like him,” Brad said.

“He doesn’t like you,” Matt quickly replied.

Matt SperlingA fifth land entered play for Brad and he sent his two creatures into the red zone. Matt put his spider in front of the Gladehart and took 2, falling to 16. Brad passed the turn with all of his lands untapped and Khalni Heart Expedition ready to go.

Matt cashed in a Forest with Harrow, fixing his mana so that he had two Forests, Island and Mountains in play. He used three of them to put Savage Silhouette on Greenweaver Druid, further solidifying his defense.

Brad shrugged and played his sixth land before slamming Rampaging Baloths onto the board. His Khalni Heart Expedition had been saved up just for this spot, but Brad held off on using it. Matt added a Stonework Puma to his board, but passed the turn with a lot of mana available, so Brad declined to crack his enchantment. He played a second Expedition and passed the turn, content to play the long game with his green men.

Matt had a Geyser Glider to start getting some damage in, but Brad found a land to trigger his four toys. He made a 4/4 token and gained 2 life before passing the turn. Matt found a land to give his new friend flying and attacked Brad down to 24. He had no more action, however, so he passed the turn.

Brad went for a kicked Heartstabber Mosquito on the Geyser Glider, but Matt tapped two for Vines of Vastwood with Kicker. Brad passed the turn to Matt, who swatted the offending insect with Tajuru Archer. Brad drew a land and triggered all of his cards again. Matt sent the Glider into the air again, but was falling behind thanks to the Green Mythic.


Rampaging Baloths
Brad gave his Rampaging Baloths a Savage Silhouette and rumbled in with his guys, knocking Matt to 4, but losing some tokens in the process. He was threatening a lot of damage with his regenerating trampler, so Matt had to keep his guys at home.

Brad rumbled in again and Matt made a block to buy some time, but lost a life and a guy in the process. When Brad attacked again, Matt went for Whiplash Trap on the Rampaging Baloths and a token, but Brad had Vines of Vastwood for the kill.

Nelson 1, Sperling 0

Matt switched in a grip of cards for the second game and chose to play first. Both players kept and started off with a couple of lands. Brad beat Matt to the punch with Khalni Heart Expedition on turn two, but Matt had Greenweaver Druid on turn three. Brad whiffed on his third land and Matt went off with Stonework Puma and Kor Skyfisher.

Brad missed on land again and had to discard. Baloth Woodcrasher was enough to get Brad to pack it up.

Nelson 1, Sperling 1

Brad NelsonBrad chose to play first and immediately pitched his opener back. Matt kept his seven and Brad went to five cards. Brad nodded his acceptance of the new batch and led with three straight lands. Matt also had three lands, but no spells and Brad had a turn four Nimana Sell-Sword. Matt ramped up with Harrow, turning an Island into a Plains and Forest to get his mana straightened out.

Territorial Baloth trumped Brad’s creature, but Matt declined to block when Brad sent his man in. Brad added a Heartstabber Mosquito to his team and passed the turn. Matt had a lot to think about on his turn as he looked over his six cards. Kor Skyfisher entered the battlefield and picked up a land to power up Territorial Baloth, who smashed for 6. Khalni Gem picked up two more lands to set the Baloth up for success in the coming turns.

Brad sent his team in again and used Vines of Vastwood on his Mosquito when Kor Skyfisher blocked, taking Matt to 14 with his unblocked Sell-Sword. Vampire Lacerator Matt played a land and Nimbus Wings on his creature, sending it over the top for 7. Brad was on 7 and in trouble. He fell to 6 on upkeep thanks to his bloodsucking creature and left the Mosquito back to block.

Whiplash Trap and a land nixed that plan and Matt Sperling rode his Territorial Baloth into the finals.

Matt Sperling defeats Brad Nelson 2-1.

Finals – Matt Sperling vs. Zohar Bhagat

by Bill Stark

“Not happy to see these...” Zohar Bhagat pointed out to his Finals opponent as they flipped through each other’s decks. As a regular feature of premier level Top 8s, players are allowed to know the contents of their opponent’s decks in the single elimination rounds. Bhagat was pointing at an Oran-Rief Recluse and Tajuru Archer, both of which would be powerful against his plethora of fliers.

Sperling, a lawyer from California, has been a fixture on the Pro Tour throughout his Magic playing career. Zohar Bhagat came from the hallowed stomping grounds of CMU, the school which has bred some of the game’s very best. Could he be the next generation of strong Magic players to come from Carnegie Mellon? The crowd pressed in as the two settled in for their match.

Could Matt Sperling’s Allies carry the day?On the play, Sperling kept his opener, though it was Bhagat who was first on the battlefield with a Kraken Hatchling. Sperling was close right behind with Greenweaver Druid, a creature that stood in sharp contrast to Bhagat’s next turn. The 1/1 Druid represented two land drops in one card while Bhagat missed his third land drop and could only cast Cliff Threader before passing. Matt was all too happy to take the initiative, using his accelerant to cast Territorial Baloth.

Zohar found Explorer’s Scope, casting and equipping it to his Kraken Hatchling. The 0/4 made a suicidal run to the red zone netting him a free land before dying to the Baloth. When Sperling attacked back with the 4/4, Zohar opted not to block. Prior to damage Matt cast Harrow and Bhagat took 10 in a single combat step.

Trying to keep his head above water, Bhagat cast Paralyzing Grasp targeting the Baloth, but his opponent was ready with Vines of Vastwood. Zohar had no other plays, and fell close to death as Matt cast Savage Silhouette targeting his Greenweaver Druid before attacking. Bhagat was forced to chump with Cliff Threader, but when his next chump blocker was an Umara Raptor, Sperling revealed Oran-Rief Recluse in his hand. The “removal spell” would clear the way for Matt’s team to swing for more than lethal, and the players headed to their sideboards.

Matt Sperling 1, Zohar Bhagat 0

It was Matt Sperling’s turn to miss a third land drop in the second game after his start of Oran-Rief Survivalist was countered by Welkin Tern and Reckless Scholar from Zohar Bhagat. Merfolk Seastalkers was Zohar’s four-drop, but it wasn’t going to be a cakewalk as Sperling found himself an Island just in time to cast Tajuru Archer to both pump his Survivalist and blow up his opponent’s Welkin Tern. Bhagat didn’t seem impressed, attacking with his islandwalking Seastalkers before casting his second copy.

Zohar sent both copies of his 2/3 tappers to the red zone, but Sperling had a trick. He cast Harrow, sacrificing his Island. The play would allow him to block the Seastalkers, but Zohar wasn’t about to let that happen. He tapped his opponent’s 3/3 Oran-Rief Survivalist, though he did lose one of the Seastalkers to a block by Tajuru Archer which picked up Vines of Vastwood with kicker. Post-combat he locked the Survivalist down with Paralyzing Grasp.

Matt Sperling began building up his board as he finally started drawing lands. He played a surprise Plains and a Noble Vestige, sideboarded in against his opponent’s flyers. Zohar continued pressing in, trading his Reckless Scholar for the Vestige but knocking his opponent to 7. When he cast a kicked Aether Figment with Merfolk Seastalkers and seven mana, he seemed to be in a good position to race. Matt had managed a Territorial Baloth, but it wasn’t likely to get in if the Seastalkers didn’t want it to. To contribute to the cause, Sperling cast Umara Raptor and Oran-Rief Recluse, but he had had to play an Island allowing his opponent’s Seastalkers to become unblockable again.

That didn’t stop Matt from attempting to attack, and his entire team wound up tapped with Recluse and Raptor getting in to set the score 11-2 in Zohar’s favor. Post-combat he had Whiplash Trap to reset things entirely, bouncing both of Bhagat’s creatures. All of a sudden the tides had turned! Zohar needed a way to build his army back up without succumbing to his opponent’s forces, but had zero creatures on the battlefield with which to do so.

He untapped and cast Paralyzing Grasp on his opponent’s Territorial Baloth, locking down a second creature with his second copy of the card. He still had enough left over to cast Merfolk Seastalkers, which he did, and was lethal once again if Matt had no solution. That was exactly what Matt lacked as he drew his card for the turn, considered his options, then very calmly said “I’ll concede.” The Whiplash Trap simply wasn’t enough.

Matt Sperling 1, Zohar Bhagat 1

For the second game in a row, and the third time in the match between the two players, Matt Sperling missed his third land drop. He had started on Oran-Rief Survivalist, following it up with Ior Ruin Expedition but didn’t have the cards he needed to start charging the blue enchantment. When he finally found a third a turn late, he used it to cast Umara Raptor, pumping his Survivalist.

Or would Zohar Baghat’s flyers do the deed?Zohar used Paralyzing Grasp to lock down his opponent’s Survivalist, then cast Windrider Eel. His follow up was to make his land drop, then bash for 4 before casting Welkin Tern and Cliff Threader. Matt Sperling cast Joraga Bard, but he needed more than a 1/4 to stop his opponent’s army of flyers. An unkicked Oran-Rief Recluse joined the cause for Sperling, but he lost access to his 3/3 Umara Raptor when Bhagat used his second Paralyzing Grasp to lock the creature down.

Ior Ruin Expedition finally found itself with three counters, and Matt cashed it in for two fresh cards. He didn’t have any plays, however, and sent the turn back to his opponent. Zohar found a land and attacked with his 4/4 Windrider Eel to put his opponent to 14. He cast a post-combat Merfolk Seastalkers, but was dismayed to see his opponent use Whiplash Trap to bounce two creatures of his own: Umara Raptor and Deadly Recluse. The 1/3 Spider came back down to blow up Windrider Eel, but Bhagat continued on the warpath using his Seastalkers to tap his opponent’s reach creature and bashing for 4 from Welkin Tern and the Merfolk (thanks to Matt’s Islands).

Sperling was doing his best to stay alive, re-casting Umara Raptor to block some of his opponent’s flyers, but the road was beginning to look long. Bhagat had doubled the number of Welkin Terns he had on the board, but a Noble Vestige from his opponent made the 2/1s less attractive as attackers. Still, with Seastalkers getting in each turn and keeping his opponent from attacking profitably, Zohar was in good shape.

Seascape Aerialist came down for Matt Sperling which merited a flurry of responses from Bhagat who had to use his Seastalkers in response to tap portions of his opponent’s team. Matt attacked for 3, then passed and Zohar moved all in. He cast Whiplash Trap for five mana to bounce his opponent’s Noble Vestige and Umara Raptor. Then he turned his entire team sideways with only Oran-Rief Recluse available to block for Sperling. When he opted to get in front of a Welkin Tern, Bhagat revealed Bold Defense. Matt checked the math and shook his head.

Zohar Bhagat was the Grand Prix-Minneapolis champion!

Zohar Bhagat 2, Matt Sperling 1