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Calcano Triumphant with Aberrant Delver Deck!

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His friends laughed at him. Then they begged him. "Calcano," they said, "you need a win! You have to play a good deck, you can't play that blue-red Delver deck!" Christian Calcano would have none of it. He started the weekend 11-0, and comfortably drew into Top 8 in the final round. First he cruised past Josh Utter-Leyton in the quarterfinals, then edged out victory in a nailbiting semifinals against Rick Stout.

That meant he would face the former Player of the Year Brad Nelson in the finals. Nelson hadn't had an easy road on Sunday. Coming in at just 7-2, he rattled off six straight wins to earn his spot in the Top 8. His deck was the other oddball story of the tournament, a mono-blue Grand Architect deck designed by Nick Spagnolo. He took no prisoners in the Top 8, crushing first Ben Friedman and then Stephen Bishop before sitting down against Calcano.

It didn't take long. Calcano's tempo game of Vapor Snags, cheap threats and Runechanter's Pike came out ahead of Nelson's Batterskull in the first game, and then in the second an early flipped Delver backed by Mana Leak and Runechanter's Pike made short work of Nelson. Calcano had done it. He had broken his Grand Prix curse. Congratulations to Christian Calcano, Grand Prix Minneapolis Champion!




Quarterfinals   Semifinals   Finals   Champion
1 Rick Stout   Rick Stout
2-1
       
8 Jerret Schultz   Christian Calcano
2-1
       
4 Christian Calcano   Christian Calcano
2-0
  Christian Calcano
2-0
5 Josh Utter-Leyton    
       
2 Brad Nelson   Brad Nelson
2-0
7 Ben Friedman   Brad Nelson
2-0
       
3 Taylor Laehn   Stephen Bishop
2-0
6 Stephen Bishop    









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EVENT COVERAGE TWITTER

INFORMATION
 1.  Christian Calcano $3,500
 2.  Brad Nelson $2,300
 3.  Rick Stout $1,500
 4.  Stephen Bishop $1,500
 5.  Taylor Laehn $1,000
 6.  Josh Utter-Leyton $1,000
 7.  Ben Friedman $1,000
 8.  Jerret Schultz $1,000
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  • Top 8
    Player Profiles
    by Josh Bennett

Jerret Schultz

Age: 23
Hometown: Milwaukee, WI
Occupation: Business Student


Previous Magic Accomplishments:
No real tournament success, but I've judged about 15 Grand Prix.

What deck did you play and why:
Solar Flare, my friends used all their Huntmasters so I couldn't borrow any.

In hindsight, would you change anything:
A couple of the sideboard slots. Consecrated Sphinx was pretty bad.

Did any cards or decks surprise you this weekend:
Blade Splicer was absurd.

If you could add the Avacyn Restored Miracle mechanic to any card in your deck, what would it be:
Sun Titan

Christian Calcano

Age: 23
Hometown: New York
Occupation: Yui-senpai Fan Club!


Previous Magic Accomplishments:
15th Worlds 2010 and made Silver last season in the Player's Club!!!

What deck did you play and why:
Blue-Red Delver, because it's fun!

In hindsight, would you change anything:
Nah, all my cards saw action this weekend and were awesome.

Did any cards or decks surprise you this weekend:
My own!!!!!

If you could add the Avacyn Restored Miracle mechanic to any card in your deck, what would it be:
Ponder, with Miracle cost R.

Josh Utter-Leyton

Age: 26
Hometown: Rohnert Park, CA
Occupation: Software Engineer


Previous Magic Accomplishments:
3 PT Top 8s, 3 GP Top 8s, US National Champion

What deck did you play and why:
Honorable Delver. It's what I knew the best and I didn't have time to prepare at all.

In hindsight, would you change anything:
Nope.

Did any cards or decks surprise you this weekend:
3 Sulfur Falls Blue-Red Delver.

If you could add the Avacyn Restored Miracle mechanic to any card in your deck, what would it be:
Lingering Souls

Stephen Bishop

Age: 26
Hometown: Winnipeg, MB
Occupation: Human Resources Administrator


Previous Magic Accomplishments:
This is my first relevant Magic accomplishment.

What deck did you play and why:
Wolf Run Ramp. I wanted to pick a deck that I could test extensively online that wouldn't easily fall out of tier 1 or 1.5. Wolf Run felt like the best deck, so I went for it.

In hindsight, would you change anything:
I would cut Ratchet Bomb from the board and add the third Ancient Grudge.

Did any cards or decks surprise you this weekend:
There were a couple of Human builds that I hadn't seen before. Blue-White and White-Red were surprisingly difficult matches.

If you could add the Avacyn Restored Miracle mechanic to any card in your deck, what would it be:
Primeval Titan.

Rick Stout

Age: 31
Hometown: Springfield, IL
Occupation: Gamer / Card Dealer


Previous Magic Accomplishments:
PT Austin competitor. Day 2 Salt Lake 2012. Played in over 1200 sanctioned events.

What deck did you play and why:
Blue-White Humans - It's the best deck in Standard.

In hindsight, would you change anything:
I would potentially cut Mass Appeal and Lawkeeper.

Did any cards or decks surprise you this weekend:
Nope.

If you could add the Avacyn Restored Miracle mechanic to any card in your deck, what would it be:
Island.

Taylor Leahn

Age: 24
Hometown: Green Bay, WI
Occupation: Taxidermist


Previous Magic Accomplishments:
T32 PT Paris. 1st place Gnome Games 9th Edition Release Tournament

What deck did you play and why:
Pike Delver, because Sam Karls and Brett Yost told me to play some blue cards for once.

In hindsight, would you change anything:
More Feast Swords.

Did any cards or decks surprise you this weekend:
Zombie Pod

If you could add the Avacyn Restored Miracle mechanic to any card in your deck, what would it be:
Runechanter's Pike.

Ben Friedman

Age: 19
Hometown: Baltimore
Occupation: Reid Duke's Sidekick


Previous Magic Accomplishments:
Hanging out with Jarvis Yu in Barcelona

What deck did you play and why:
Matt Costa told me to play Delver. Why would I play anything else?

In hindsight, would you change anything:
I'd get sweet Korean Lands from my friend Branch Staton and have my chums Dave Heilker and Kurt Spiess sign my Ponders.

Did any cards or decks surprise you this weekend:
Reid Duke's 3-3 split of Think Twice and Desperate Ravings with no 4-ofs in his deck.

If you could add the Avacyn Restored Miracle mechanic to any card in your deck, what would it be:
Consecrated Sphinx.

Brad Nelson

Age: 25 for 8 more hours.
Hometown: Bismarck
Occupation: Star City Games Pro Player


Previous Magic Accomplishments:
Player of the Year, 2nd PT Amsterdam.

What deck did you play and why:
Mono-Blue Architect because the format is very bad against Wurmcoil Engine and clones.

In hindsight, would you change anything:
Merfolk Looter and about half my sideboard is garbage. That's what you get when you play a brew last minute.

Did any cards or decks surprise you this weekend:
Vapor Snag is busted when your Wurms win games.

If you could add the Avacyn Restored Miracle mechanic to any card in your deck, what would it be:
Island.

  • Top 8 Decklists
    by Event Coverage Staff

Josh Utter-Leyton (Top 8)
Grand Prix Minneapolis 2012 (Standard)


Brad Nelson (Top 8)
Grand Prix Minneapolis 2012 (Standard)


Jerret Schultz (Top 8)
Grand Prix Minneapolis 2012 (Standard)



Stephen Bishop (Top 8)
Grand Prix Minneapolis 2012 (Standard)



  • Quarterfinals Round-Up
    by Marc Calderaro

Rick Stout (UW Humans) vs. Jerret Schultz (Esper Control)

As Stout looked over the decklist he mused, "Is this your deck? This is sick." Jerret Schultz thanked him, agreed, and the two shuffled up for game one.

Game 1

Stout was pretty mad that he had to go to five cards then was stuck on two land. This game started with tokens from both sides. Rick Stout had two Gather the Townfolks to get some aggression going, but a Dead Weight took out his Champion of the Parish before it became a real threat.

Then Schultz made four Lingering Souls tokens. After all the tokens got wiped away, a Sun Titan came and returned Dead Weight to kill the only board presence Stout had, a non-flipped Delver of Secrets. That, combined with the five-card started and the two-land board, made Stout ready for game two.

Jerret Schultz 1 – 0 Rick Stout

Rick Stout

Game 2

Stout came back with a vengeance this game. He blazed out of the gates with two Delver of Secrets that flipped on turn three thanks to a Pondered Gather the Townsfolk – which also came down and made two Humans. Schultz was quickly at 13, then 7, then 1. Stout had one Delver of Secrets left and a Gideon's Lawkeeper alongside his Gathered tokens.

"I'm on borrowed time, aren't I? It's only a matter of time before you draw something that just kills me?"

It took many turns, but after about six or seven blanks, Stout drew the anything that could clinch the 20-1 lead he had held for way too long.

Jerret Schultz 1 – 1 Rick Stout

Jerret Schultz

Game 3

Delver of Secrets came out turn one from Stout. Schultz tried to hit it with a a dead Weight, but the Mental Misstep was ready. He then fipped the Delver on his upkeep.

"Whoa. Mental Misstep and the flip? I'm dead."

"Maybe," Stout said as he laid Delver of Secrets numbers two and three. "I really hope these flip next turn."

Schultz said, "I disagree," as he laid down a Ratchet Bomb. The Bomb was definitely going to take out at least one Delver, but if he flips into Insects all of them would be gone. It was 18-9 when Schultz caught up by casting a Blade Splicer and a Phantasmal Image copying the Insectile Aberration.

This game went back and forth and back and forth. It was 14-6 in Stout's favor, but he couldn't figure out how to get the last damage through. Schultz had the Sun Titan to wipe away all his problems, but he couldn't get the sixth land.

"Ok, don't mess this up, Rick." Stout surveyed the board, sighed, and turned his creatures sideways. Schultz was ok going down to one life, so he didn't block. Stout breathed a huge sigh of relief and flashed a Mutagenic Growth. Schultz had no response, and he Top 8 trip had ended.

Rick Stout came from down a game and no advanced to the semi-finals!

Rick Stout 2 – Jerret Schultz

Stephen Bishop (Wolf Run Ramp) vs. Taylor Laehn (UW Delver)

Stephen Bishop

Game 1

This game was what happens when you underestimate Inferno Titan. Pros have been belittling it during the weekend, but if you can Whipflare away Geist of Saint Traft and a Merfolk Looter to make way for those big monsters, Vapor Snag will only buy you some time.

Inferno Titan #1 was held up by Dungeon Geists, but Inferno Titan #2 took that out. After that, it was all big red fatties.

Stephen Bishop 1 – 0 Taylor Laehn

Taylor Laehn

Game 2

The early game between these two decks is a fun little mini-game. The early Delver of Secrets flipped, but was about to eat a Whipflare. Laehn saved it with a Mutagenic Growth, but a Devil's Play was able to eventually able to end the early mini-game and the Delver of Secrets shipped to the graveyard.

After that, we entered the Ramp-mid-game portion, after which Bishop cast a Primeval Titan that was promptly caught in a Vapor Snag. The problem with the Snag solution in this position, of course, is that Bishop still gets the lands, and he still gets to play it again and get more lands.

Throughout this time, Laehn was digging, and pinging with a Snapcaster Mage. He was ahead 18-14 for a while. But that was about the most pressure he was able to muster past to two giant titans. The Primeval Titan was joined by his buddy Inferno Titan, and his buddy, 1/1 flying Inkmoth Nexus. Together, they all banded together to take away the last bits of life Taylor Laehn had in him.

He fought hard to get here, but it would be Stephen Bishop who would advance to the semifinals. Congrats to Stephen!

Stephen Bishop 2 – 0 Taylor Laehn

Ben Friedman (UW Delver) vs. Brad Nelson (Mono-U Architect)

Brad Nelson

Game 1

Was pretty fast in Brad Nelson's favor. He got a quick Gitaxian Probe and Merfolk Looter. Though Ben Friedman's start was solid with Geist of Saint Traft and Sword of War and Peace, but before long, Nelson had two Grand Architects, a Phyrexian Metamorph pretending to be a Grand Architect and a Phantasmal Image also playing pretender. Brad didn't even need the Wurmcoil Engine that hit a Vapor Snag. His 4/6 Blue beatsticks did it all on their own.

Brad Nelson 1 – 0 Ben Friedman

Ben Friedman

Game 2

This game was awesome. Firstly, Brad Nelson kept a no-land hand on the play. It was greedy and caused the crowd to cheer, gather around and start snapping photos. It had all the makings necessary, even the Gitaxian Probe for a free extra card, but no land. Of course Brad Nelson got there in the Top 8.

He had to stave off a turn-two Insectile Aberration, which he did with Ratchet Bomb aplomb. Then he had to fight off two Swords. A Sword of Feast and Famine and a Sword of War and Peace. Again, aplomb was used with another Ratchet Bomb.

Throughout this, Nelson was picking away at Friedman's life total. First it was 11-20, then 5-14, then 5-5. When the last creature of Friedman's (with both Swords on it) was wiped away, it was clear for Brad Nelson's double Grand Architect to take down Friedman and advance Brad to the semi-finals.

Brad Nelson 2 – 0 Ben Friedman

  • Quarterfinals
    Christian Calcano vs. Josh Utter-Leyton
    by Josh Bennett

Both Christian Calcano and Josh Utter-Leyton were all business as they shuffled up for the quarterfinals, drawing strength and focus from the music flowing into their earbuds.

Game 1

Calcano led with island and Ponder, keeping the cards on top. After Utter-Leyton played Seachrome Coast and Delver, he used Thought Scour to get rid of island and Devil's Play, then added mountain to his board and cleared off the Delver with Pillar of Flame. Utter-Leyton paid two life for Gitaxian Probe and Calcano flipped over his hand - Snapcaster Mage, Invisible Stalker, island, Vapor Snag and Bonfire the Damned. Utter-Leyton played a second land and an Honor of the Pure, then passed.

Calcano continued to rig his draws with a Snapcaster Mage on Ponder. Utter-Leyton's Geist of Saint Traft hit play as a 3/3, a potential problem for Calcano. On his upkeep, he again got rid of unwanted cards with a second Snapcaster Mage on Thought Scour. He added Sulfur Falls and Delver of Secrets to his board and waited for Utter-Leyton's attack.

Christian Calcano

The Geist crashed in, bringing an Angel along for the ride. Calcano took a minute before doubling up his Snapcaster Mages on the Geist to kill it. Utter-Leyton went even bigger with Hero of Bladehold. A Ponder on top of Calcano's deck flipped his Delver into Insectile Aberration, and he cast it, keeping the cards. He paid two life for Gitaxian Probe, revealing two Darkslick Shores and Snapcaster Mage in Utter-Leyton's hand. Vapor Snag sent the Hero back to join them, and he hit and played a second Delver of Secrets

Utter-Leyton replayed his Hero. Calcano's turn was slightly busier. A Ponder on top flipped his Insectile Aberration, then he played Ponder and another Gitaxian Probe (seeing Utter-Leyton had drawn Geist of Saint Traft) and finally Snapcastered Vapor Snag. Utter-Leyton was soon down to just seven life. With no way to stop the air force and a Bonfire of the Damned in Calcano's hand, they were soon on to game two.

Christian Calcano 1 - Josh Utter-Leyton 0

Game 2

Calcano had to send back his opening hand, saying with a laugh "Too many Sulfur Falls," and getting a chuckle out of the crowd. He'd taken some ribbing this weekend for only playing three in his deck. He kept his six. He played island and Gitaxian Probe, revealing Utter-Leyton's hand of Geist of Saint Traft, Dismember, Phantasmal Image, Lingering Souls, Gut Shot and island. The hand had one obvious shortcoming: a lack of white mana.

Utter-Leyton Probed right back. Seeing two islands, a mountain, Mana Leak, Vapor Snag and Bonfire of the Damned. He played the island to go with Darkslick Shores in play and passed. Calcano dropped mountain and passed. Utter-Leyton slowly drew his card and betrayed no emotion as he passed, stuck on two land.

Josh Utter-Leyton

They played a bit of draw-go, this benefitting Calcano because Utter-Leyton was unable to find a third land. He offered a Ponder to Calcano's Mana Leak, and Calcano accepted. Calcano untapped and Pondered unhindered. Still more draw-go. Utter-Leyton discarded Lingering Souls while Calcano amassed land. The next turn he played another Gitaxian Probe and saw that Calcano's hand had improved: Bonfire of the Damned, Consecrated Sphinx, Gitaxian Probe, Vapor Snag and island. Having seen the Sphinx, Utter-Leyton could hardly flash back his Lingering Souls. He obliged to keep Mana Leak open, and discarded a second Lingering Souls.

Calcano Probed and saw Utter-Leyton's grip of Geist of Saint Traft, Snapcaster Mage, Phantasmal Image, Gut Shot, Dismember and two Mana Leaks, ensuring that neither of them would make a big move. Utter-Leyton flashed in a Snapcaster Mage at end of turn and started swinging, still unable to find a third land. Calcano got his first threat on the board, a Delver of Secrets. Utter-Leyton thought briefly about how best to kill it, before settling on Dismember, paying two life. Another attack for two, and finally, a second Darkslick Shores. Calcano mainphased a Snapcaster Mage, which was allowed, and Pondered. Gitaxian Probe revealed no surprises, and he Pondered again. This time Utter-Leyton spent the Mana Leak.

Utter-Leyton attacked with his Snapcaster and Calcano declined the trade. Glacial Fortress joined Utter-Leyton's side and he was free to flash back Lingering Souls with Mana Leak open. Calcano went for Bonfire for one. Utter-Leyton saved his Snapcaster Mage with Vapor Snag. After Calcano attacked, the life totals were twelve apiece. Lastly he tapped out for Dungeon Geists.

This development put Utter-Leyton in the tank. He emerged with a plan to Gut Shot the Snapcaster Mage and copy Dungeon Geists with his Phantasmal Image, locking it down, while still keeping two mana up for Mana Leak. Calcano played his eighth land and was clear to play Zealous Conscripts, popping the Phantasmal Image and hitting for three. Utter-Leyton flashed back Lingering Souls, played a tapped Seachrome Coast, and passed.

Calcano Thought Scoured himself, then Vapor Snagged one of the tokens and attacked. Utter-Leyton flashed in Snapcaster, tagging Gut Shot and chumped both. This desperation move opened the door for Calcano's Consecrated Sphinx. Though Gut Shot finished off the Conscripts, the Sphinx fully gassed up Calcano's hand, and Utter-Leyton was soon conceding.

Christian Calcano defeats Josh Utter-Leyton 2-0

  • Semifinals
    Stephen Bishop (Wolf Run Ramp) vs. Brad Nelson (Mono-U Architect)
    by Marc Calderaro

Stephen Bishop has made it this far, and that's impressive. This is Bishop's fourth Grand Prix he's attended, and the Semifinals is by far the furthest he's gotten. Now he's here; he's qualified for Pro Tour Return to Ravnica; he's sitting across from Brad Nelson. All he has to do now is beat Brad. Seems easy enough. I mean, it's not like he was Player of Year or anything crazy like that, right?

Brad Nelson was talking about the large Wurmcoil Engine-shaped hole in the metagame this weekend and it looks like he'd successfully exploited it. Nelson said he feared for anyone playing this deck next week, but for this week, it was perfect.

Good luck Stephen Bishop; you just might need it. Nelson is picturing a Wurmcoil Engine-shaped hole in your face right now.

Game 1

Brad Nelson went first and made a Merfolk Looter and then a Grand Architect. Steven Bishop responded with a Sphere of Suns into a Devil's Play for three, killing the mana-making machine. Bishop followed up with a Solemn Simulacrum and bumped his mana count to six. Unsurprisingly, a Primeval Titan followed.

Nelson was also not surprised by this either, and used a Phyrexian Metamorph to make a Titan copy, then Pondered away the junk that was on the top of his library. With his one untapped Island, he let the Primeval Titan and Solemn attack him, but used Vapor Snag to return the Titan, then blocked the small 2/2 robot. Bishop was ahead 20-16.

With all Nelson's looting with two Merfolk Looters, he had finally picked up a beater worthy of copying with his awaiting Phantasmal Image. It was a Wurmcoil Engine. And though the artifact was generally a windmill slam, OMG-game-over move in other matchups, Wolf Run Ramp had the unique ability to match its creature power without breaking a sweat. Nelson thought a bit before sending in his Metamorph Titan into the red zone, garnering two lands in the process. By this point Nelson had three Buried Ruins, two Ghost Quarters and four Islands. He used more Merfolk Looting, then put down the Wurmcoil Engine, leaving one Island untapped. It was 14-16 in Nelson's favor.

Bishop tanked for a bit, then said, "All right, let's try this." He tapped six mana and cast Inferno Titan. Together with the subsequent Devil's Play for three, the red cards took down the Wurmcoil and left two 3/3 Wurms. Bishop then tapped out to Slagstorm those away.

Brad Nelson

The board that was left was Inferno Titan vs. Phyrexian Metamorph copying a Primeval Titan. The score had changed only slightly at 13-16.

But Nelson had the trump. He had two Clone effects. He used them both to copy Inferno Titan, taking it out, Bishop's lone blocker, and Nelson got in there for six damage. Nelson then used his two Ghost Quarters to take out both of Bishop's Kessig Wolf Runs and passed the turn with eighteen power of creatures on the board.

Bishop breathed out, wiped the sweat from his brow, untapped, and drew for his turn. He had thirteen mana on the field, and said out loud, "What is my out here?"

He tanked for another thirty seconds before he deciding there was no out, and he scooped up his cards.

Brad Nelson 1 – 0 Stephen Bishop

"That game would've been so much easier if you didn't just cast Devil's Play on that Grand Architect." Brad laughed.

Game 2

This second game would be much easier Brad with or without Devil's Play, because Bishop had to mulligan to five. On the play. And Brad's first play of Gitaxian Probe revealed Bishop's Beast Within, Rampant Growth and two more colorless land to join the Inkmoth Nexus already on the field.

Bishop drew the Copperline Gorge, but declined to play it, instead playing the second Inkmoth Nexus. He decided to go all-in on the poison plan, and took Nelson to 4 poison counters in just a few turns.

Stephen Bishop

For a while it looked like Bishop had aggression on his side, but his plan had a glaring fault – not killing Grand Architect within the millisecond of it hitting the battlefield. Nelson untapped and cast a Wurmcoil Engine, then copied it with a Phantasmal Image. Bishop sunk to 8 life when the two Engines attacked next turn, along with the Architect and a Snapcaster Mage. Bishop had three flying infectors, but Nelson was only on 5 poison, and there didn't seem to be time.

One flyer went in with mana untapped to spare and the land was hit with a Vapor Snag. "Hm. Don't really know how to get there now. I was kind of crossing my fingers that you didn't have that card." Bishop passed the turn to Nelson, who swung with the team. Even with an Ancient Grudge cast and re-cast taking out a Wurm and a spawn, Nelson still had enough for lethal damage.

After some tough mulligans Stephen Bishop exits the Top 8, but not before qualifying for his first ever Pro Tour. Brad Nelson, on the other hand, advances to the Finals.

Brad Nelson 2 – 0 Stephen Bishop

  • Semifinals
    Christian Calcano vs. Rick Stout
    by Josh Bennett

The two were a study in contrast: Calcano, focused and quiet, Stout, laid-back and chatty. The event had worn heavy on both of them, but now they were just two matches away from hoisting the trophy.

Game 1

Stout pulled up a no-lander and promptly shipped it back. Calcano stayed on seven. His six were no better. When he five had lands, they were off. He led with Seachrome Coast and watched Calcano Ponder and shuffle. He followed up with Gather the Townsfolk.

Calcano paid two life for Gitaxian Probe and saw that Stout had drawn up a jewel of a five-carder. He still had a second Gather, an island, and a Geist of Saint Traft. Calcano Pondered and shuffled, then played Sulfur Falls and killed a token with Pillar of Flame. Stout hit for one and played his Geist. Calcano summoned Delver of Secrets and Invisible Stalker to his side.

Stout drew and tanked for a moment, then swung out. Calcano declined to block. Stout played a fourth land and Gathered again. Calcano untapped and his eyes briefly lit up as he revealed the top card of his library: A Bonfire of the Damned, flipping his Delver and threatening to kill Stout's board. Unfortunately for him, Stout's deck had been equally kind and served up the lone Negate in his deck.

Things got worse for Calcano on the following turn when Stout drew Ponder and cast it.

"Keep things fair and shuffle?" asked Calcano

"Oh no, no I'm going to do something very unfair," replied Stout.

It was another singleton: Mass Appeal to draw three. He played plains and attacked again. Insectile Aberration ate the Geist of Saint Traft, and Vapor Snag saved damage from the Angel token, but Calcano was down to seven. Stout played Champion of the Parish and passed.

Calcano had Incinerate for the Champion, but could find no other action as Stout's three creatures took him down bit by bit, taking a game that seemed over before it began.

Stout 1 - Calcano 0

Christian Calcano

Game 2

Calcano led out with Sulfur Falls. Stout considered his first play, and went with island and Delver of Secrets. Calcano untapped, paid two life to Gut Shot it away, then played Grim Lavamancer. Stout played plains and Gut Shotted right back, and fretted over whether to make a play or hold up his mana. He chose the latter.

Calcano went for Invisible Stalker and it resolved. Stout played his third land and a Champion of the Parish, then passed. A Gitaxian Probe from Calcano unmasked him. He was holding Flashfreeze, Sword of War and Peace, Snapcaster Mage and Gut Shot. Calcano then Pondered and kept the cards. He played Desolate Lighthouse, hit for one and passed.

Stout hit for one, then tapped three to play Sword of War and Peace. It resolved. Calcano tried a Ponder and Stout hemmed and hawed before letting it go. Calcano kept the cards. He played a fifth land, hit with Stalker and passed.

"Well, I guess this is the turn," said Stout. He tapped one for Delver of Secrets, growing his Champion of the Parish. Then he went to equip his Champion of the Parish. Calcano interrupted him with Vapor Snag, but he had Mental Misstep to stop that. Unfortunately for him, Calcano had Snapcaster Mage to snag again, sending the Champion home. Stout paid two life to Gut Shot the Snapcaster and passed the turn.

Calcano drew his top card and flipped it over: Bonfire of the Damned for four. Add a hit from the Stalker and Stout was down to six. He untapped and played a Delver of Secrets, choosing to hold his mana open rather than equip it. Calcano went for Ponder, but Stout had Snapcaster Mage on Mental Misstep to stop it, falling to four, then three from the Stalker.

Now Stout was faced with a decision: Should he equip and risk getting Vapor Snagged, or try to play around it. He chose the latter, attacking for three, then playing Champion of the Parish and Seachrome Cost, sitting on two open mana. Calcano looted away Inferno Titan, then untapped and Pondered. The cards were duds, so he shuffled and drew a fresh one. Phantasmal Image copied Invisible Stalker, and now Stout was one turn away from death.

Stout untapped and peeked at his top card for Delver of Secrets: Timely Reinforcements. Calcano put it succinctly: "That's a big game."

Still he had a big decision ahead of him. Calcano had one card in hand. What was it? How should he spend his four mana? Was it Vapor Snag? Equipping would mean death in that case. He agonized over the decision, then sent his creatures in unequipped. Calcano turned over his last card: Combust, targetting Insectile Aberration. He had weathered the storm, for a turn.

Stout cast his Timely up to 8 life and passed. Calcano untapped, then looted away Sulfur Falls. He paid mana to cycle Gitaxian Probe, seeing the Flashfreeze again, and hit for one, leaving the Phantasmal Image back. The lifetotals were eleven to seven. Stout gave his Champion the Sword and attacked. The Image chumped and Calcano took two from Snapcaster. Stout passed the turn.

Calcano had drawn another good one: Snapcaster Mage. He flashed back his Ponder and kept his cards. One from the Stalker brought Stout to just six. Stout tried to hit again, but Ponder had given Calcano Vapor Snag on the Champion. Calcano was down to seven. Stout replayed his Champion and equipped.

But Calcano wasn't done yet. Another Snapcaster was waiting for him, rebuying the Vapor Snag and clearing a path to do three more, leaving Stout at one life and dead to the Invisible Stalker. Stout drew his next card, and conceded.

Stout 1 - Calcano 1

Rick Stout

Game 3

Brad Nelson leaned in, having watched the second game intently, knowing he would face the winner of this match. He said to me "I don't want to play Calcano. The man can't have a bad draw step in his life."

Stout started with a pair of lands. Calcano played Gitaxian Probe on turn two, revealing a pair of Mutagenic Growths, plains, Moorland Haunt, Snapcaster Mage and Geist of Saint Traft. It was a beating of a hand. Calcano added mountain to his board and passed. Stout wasted no time getting his Geist of Saint Traft in play. Calcano drew and thought for a moment, before Snapcastering his Probe to see the Ponder Stout had drawn. He added Sulfur Falls and passed.

Stout Pondered and kept the cards, then swung in. Calcano blocked the Geist of Saint Traft with his Snapcaster. Stout naturally made the save with his Growth, and Calcano kept the damage down with Vapor Snag on the Angel token. Stout added Champion of the Parish to his board and passed. Calcano played Desolate Lighthouse and locked down the Champion with Dungeon Geists.

The Geist of Saint Traft hit again, and Calcano declined to block, taking six. Stout cast Gather the Townsfolk, further cluttering the board, and passed. Calcano tapepd two for Runechanter's Pike, then passed the turn with three mana open, refusing to equip.

Stout bashed in, and naturally, Calcano had effects. Snapcaster Mage came down, giving flashback to Vapor Snag. He blocked Geist with his Snapcaster and a Human token with the Dungeon Geists. Stout cast a Mutagenic Growth from hand to save his Geist of Saint Traft, then went back for seconds with a Snapcaster of his own, targetting the blocked token. That forced Calcano to use his Snag on it. When the dust settled, Calcano was down to five. Stout passed the turn.

Calcano struggled against the tide of creatures. He played Invisible Stalker and gave it the Pike, passing the turn with two mana open. Again Stout's army crashed in. Calcano had another Vapor Snag for the Angel token. His now 2/1 First Striking Stalker blocked the Geist of Saint Traft, and Dungeon Geists blocked Snapcaster Mage. Another Snapcaster from Stout, flashing back the second Mutagenic Growth to save the Geist, and he still had mana left for Moorland Haunt. It was looking dire for Calcano, who stood now at just four life.

Calcano drew and sighed heavily. He counted once and twice, then passed with seven mana open. Stout made a token at end of turn, then untapped. Calcano stopped him in his upkeep. "I have effects."

He activated Desolate Lighthouse with three mana leftover, slowly peeking at the card, then flipping it up. It was Bonfire of the Damned. The crowd went nuts.

He wasn't out of the woods yet, however. Stout's board was clear and he was down to seven, but he still had Moorland Haunt and a lot of fuel. Also if Calcano lost his Dungeon Geists he would have to contend with the Champion of the Parish.

His deck was kind. Frost Titan off the top locked down Moorland Haunt. Stout made a token. Unfortunately, that meant he was at parity with creatures, and couldn't get anything out of his Timely Reinforcements in hand. Stout played a Delver and passed. Calcano attacked unequipped, locking down the token with the Frost Titan's ability, forcing Stout to chump the Titan with his Delver, and taking him to four. Parity, to keep the Timely Reinforcements at bay.

Now Stout's back was against the wall. His Moorland Haunt was free for a turn, and he cast Geist of Saint Traft with Haunt activation up. Unfortunately Calcano's deck was in a giving mood, serving up Phantasmal Image, copying Frost Titan and locking the Haunt. Stout used it, but now the Dungeon Geists had Runechanter's Pike, and the incoming Frost Titan left Stout with just one blocker against two lethal attackers. He shook his head, and admitted defeat with a fistbump.

Christian Calcano defeats Rick Stout 2-1

"What a sideboard! I'm going to get Crushed?! Literally?!" Brad Nelson was quite vocal when he looked over Christian Calcano's decklist. "I have to worry about sideboard after the first match. I can't look at it now." The 15-card monstrosity was certainly a sight to behold. Nelson couldn't even comprehend the maindeck yet, let alone the sideboard. But Nelson was one to talk? He brought a silly deck of his own and put up just as good results.

Brad Nelson

"Can you explain the three Sulfur Falls before we play, please?" Nelson needed something to help him explain how he had to play against this exact deck, which looked like such a bad match-up to him that was going to rob him of this Grand Prix title.

"Man, I need turn-one red. And that one Koth of the Hammer has gotten there this weekend. I had one Mountain in play and an emblem. Got there." Calcano smiled. He'd been smiling for the last two days.

Nothing can stop Christian Calcano right now. He's running too hot. This is his first Grand Prix Top 8. He's broken his Grand Prix streak. No longer has Calcano made seven Day 2s without finishing in the money. He won the last round with a miracle Bonfire of the Damned of a Desolate Lighthouse on the last possible turn. He's a phenom. He's unstoppable.

"How did you win with this list? Did you just become the master of Magic overnight?"

"It's a miracle." Calcano was still smiling.

Game 1

Nelson started off with a Ponder, and shuffled the top away. Calcano took a look at the hand with a Gitaxian Probe and then had a Ponder of his own. Nelson's hand was: Wurmcoil Engine, Batterskull, Vapor Snag, Ponder, Spellskite and Ghost Quarter. Nelson top-decked a Gitaxian Probe and did the same right back – Probe into Ponder. Nelson also found a second Island and played it. Calcano revealed Ponder, Runechanter's Pike, Snapcaster Mage, Vapor Snag, Island, Island, Sulfur Falls.

Pondering shenanigans continued for a couple turns, sometimes with a Snapcaster Mage, sometimes not, and if you didn't know any better, you'd think these decks were mirrors of each other. However, they couldn't be more different. And after the players finished sculpting their hands, we were about to see how.

Nelson cast a Spellskite, then copied it with a Phyrexian Metamorph. Calcano put on some gas by flipping a Delver of Secrets into an Insectile Aberration (thanks to one of infinite Ponders), then cast and equipped a Runechanter's Pike to his Snapcaster Mage giving +2/+0 and First Strike and swung in with both. After a Vapor Snag nabbing the Insect, the scores became 17-12 in Calcano's favor. But Nelson spent his next turn winding up for a big swing with a Batterskull. Calcano had at least one Vapor Snag (revealed off the Delver), but he couldn't stave it the big equipment forever.

Calcano continued the pressure with the Mage getting in for another 5 (17-6), and Nelson had to start clawing back. He equipped his Spellskite with a Batterskull and swung for the fences. Calcano had the Vapor Snag and the Snapcaster Mage, and tanked to figure out the right way to play the cards. He cast the Mage which pulled a "Well, that's good," from Nelson. Calcano used the first now-with-flashback Vapor Snag to get the Spellskite that wasn't attacking. Then on his turn, he used the second one on the Batterskull'd one.

Calcano could sense the end in Nelson's tone of voice when he said, "All right," and swung in for the win. Nelson took lethal damage and packed up for game two.

Calcano was one game away from his destiny. And if he had to take down a Player of the Year to do it, he was going to do it.

"All right. Now let me see that decklist." It was time for Nelson to figure out Calcano's sideboard.

Christian Calcano 1 – 0 Brad Nelson

It's important to note that all weekend Calcano talked about how excited he was to hear other Pros disparage his list. He took what he a list he knew was good, and he was disproving all the haters. The first thing that Brad Nelson said to the New Yorker when he sat down was something negative about his deck. But here he was, and he was one game away. And Nelson could do nothing but shake his head in disbelief that he was going to get steamrolled by a sideboard with one of everything.

Game 2

Nelson decided he'd help Calcano and mulliganed away his opener. Calcano cast and flipped a Delver of Secrets in short order and took the score to 18-17.

Moving fast, Nelson tried to copy it with a Phyrexian Metamorph, but Calcano was having none of that. One of his two sideboard Mana Leaks allowed him to keep on the 3/2 flying pressure. It was 18-12 when the Runechanter's Pike came down and was grabbed by the Insect. Nelson went down to 6.

It was now or never. Brad Nelson, former Player of the Year was yet to resolve a spell this game. Nelson had to do it now. He needed something, anything. Another Clone or Vapor Snag would do it.

Nelson drew for his turn, then extended his hand.

Destiny had been fulfilled; it was futile to resist. Christian Calcano was just along for the ride. And he's had a huge smile on his face the whole time.

Christian Calcano 2 – 0 Brandon Nelson

Christian Calcano is your Grand Prix Minneapolis champion!

  • The Top 5 Cards of Grand Prix Minneapolis
    by Marc Calderaro and Josh Bennett

5. Sword of War and Peace

Red-Green Aggro was out in force this weekend, and turn-two Swords were handing out matching pairs of smiles and frowns. Unfortunately, being the most popular deck also means being the most expected, and as the weekend went on, more and more of the Red-Green menace fell to the wayside. Not a single copy of it made Top 8, but even then Swords showed up in the hands of Delvers of Secrets.

4. Bonfire of the Damned

Bonfire of the Damned
It seemed like everyone was hedging their bets when it came to this discounted Plague Wind, rarely playing more than a couple copies, but all weekend long it was doing work. Even at full price, a Bonfire for one or two is backbreaking against some decks, and when you miracle it, just stand back. It was a miracle finish for Christian Calcano in the semifinals, when he managed to loot into it with just enough mana left over to clear Rick Stout's board, causing the crowd to go wild.

3. Phyrexian Metamorph/Phantasmal Image

Phyrexian Metamorph
The versatility of this card is amazing. It showed up in decks of all stripes and performed wonders in all of them. Though only four copies of Phyrexian Metamorph showed up in the Top 8, it was all over the place. And Phantasmal Image put up 15 copies across the Top 8. Birthing Pod decks loved copying everything from Titans to Geralf's Messengers to Falkenrath Aristocrats to Hero of the Bladeholds, and on and on and on. These two also often copied the number two card.

2. Wurmcoil Engine

Wurmcoil Engine
There was a 6/6 hole in the metagame, and Brad Nelson plugged that hole with style. The Grand Architect deck had it's strongest finish this weekend, and in style. This was the deck's centerpiece that would be ramped into, thanks to Grand Architect, and copied, thanks to Phyrexian Metamorph and Phantasmal Image. Only Terminus was in the position to hand over this deck's head on a silver platter, and there was a grand total of zero copies of Terminus in the Top 8. Like Brad said, this card will be no good when people expect it, but this weekend, no one expected it.

1. Delver of Secrets

Delver of Secrets
The boogeyman of the format still somehow managed to surprise everyone. It was underrepresented in the first day, and overrepresented in the second day. And was present in three distinct archetypes in the Top 8 (perhaps even four depending on how fine you split hairs). The card asks you for relatively little in the deck building for a very large pay-off. The card fought through all the Whipflare, all the Bonfire of the Damned, all the Terminus, all the Day of Judgments and showed what just what a couple Flying Men could do.
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