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Grand Prix Santiago 2011 Day 2 Blog

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  • Undefeated Decks List
    by Steve Sadin
  • In most Sealed Deck formats, pro players will gravitate towards black, red, and/or blue as their main colors in large part because that's where the best removal, and evasion creatures can be found. But in Innistrad Sealed, white seems to have established itself as the color to play (and consequently, the color to beat). Four of the six undefeated Sealed Decks from Grand Prix Milan played white as one of their main colors (a 5th deck splashed white), and all four of the undefeated Sealed Decks here at Grand Prix Santiago took advantage of the quality, and depth that white has to offer.

    Why is this?

    Well, this time around black, and red, don't have that many more top-notch removals than white does – and white's evasion creatures are on par with anything you can cast with blue mana.

    Will white continue to dominate during today's drafts?

    Stay tuned to find out!



     

  • Round 10 Feature Match - Rodrigo Soto vs. Martin Lecce
    by Brian David-Marshall
  • Despite the above-the-title star power that has headlined Grand Prix Santiago it was Argentinean Martin Lecce and local player Rodrigo Soto who were the only remaining 9-0 players at the start of the draft rounds. Rodrigo, who was playing in his first real tournament, was passing to Martin in the draft and sent a murmur around the table when he opened Bloodline Keeper in the first pack. Martin had opened Ludevic's Test Subject and both players took their double-faced goodies.

    There was even mure murmuring and harumphing when Lecce opened his Bloodline Keeper in the second pack and took it rather than passing it to Soto. Lecce ended up drafting a 40-card version of Solar Flare with Forbidden Alchemy, various fatties to bring back, and even a pair of Isolated Chapels to make it all hum.

    Game one

    "You will play first," said Soto upon winning the die roll. Both players kept their openers and Soto made the first play with Typhoid Rats. An Armored Skaab from Lecce flipped three lands and Ludevic's Test Subject. Soto played Ghoulraiser and attacked for one with his deathtouch creature.

    Rodrigo Soto

    Martin passed the fourth turn with no play and cast Forbidden Alchemy after Soto tapped out for Moan of the Unhallowed. The instant turned out about as well as Lecce could have drawn up the play in the locker room. He pitched Unburial Rites, a land, and Morkrut Banshee and kept Bloodline Keeper. He played Murder of Crows on his turn.

    Soto sent everyone in on the attack and Lecce ate a token, stymied the Ghoulraiser with Armored Skaab, and took three. He looted with the Crows and pitched Thraben Sentry. He untapped to play Bloodline Keeper and Avacynian Priest. Rodrigo drew his next card and promptly scooped. He was holding a fist full of green cards and only Swamps in play.

    Lecce - 1 Soto - 0

    Game two

    Once again Soto chose to be on the draw. Lecce led off with Traveler's Amulet while the Chilean player had Typhoid Rats. A Forest and Caravan Vigil revelaed the missing color from game one for Soto, who fetched a second Swamp. Martin cracked his Amulet for an Island. The third turn saw another slackerly Ghoulraiser followed by Moan of the Unhallowed. Martin, who could see the game slipping away from him, bought a turn with Feeling of Dread. He was holding Makeshift Mauler and Skaab Goliath but had no graveyard fodder to fuel them.

    He played Morkrut Banshee without turning on morbid and passed the turn only to find himself staring across the table at Bloodline Keeper.

    Lecce drew and played his own Bloodline Keeper but without any other vampires to help him race to five vampires so he could transform the bomb rare he was behind in the race with Soto's threatening to come online a turn earlier. At that point he would be forced to chump block the army of 4/4 fliers and would never be able to catch up -- or he would just be dead. Soto kept mounting his board presence and played another Moan and merely attacked with his Rats.

    Martin Lecce

    Lecce needed his deck to help him and could only say go. He fell to 7 as Soto started to send the team and flashed back his first Moan. Lecce played Avacynian Priest and passed. Rodrigo flashed back his second copy and announced attackers. Martin tapped a zombie and vampire in response with a flashed back Feeling of Dread. Soto simply attacked with his Rat and Martin was happy to put his Priest in the way to power out Makeshift Mauler next turn.

    When Soto attacked with everything a turn later Lecce reached for his sideboard for the rubber game.

    Lecce - 1 Soto - 1

    Game Three

    Lecce put Soto on the play in the rubber game and the Chilean player promptly mulliganed down to five cards. He was still scrappy though and had Typoid Rats wielding a Silver-Inlaid Dagger to sneak in some damage. Lecce played Markov Patrician and traded with the Rat to gain back some life. Lecce deployed Bloodline Keeper on turn four. Soto was still scuffling while Lecce was able to add Makeshift Mauler and Murder of Crows alongside his one-man airforce.

    Final result: Martin Lecce was the only 10-0 player remaining in the event after defeating Rodrigo Soto in three games.

     
  • Sunday, 11:32 a.m. - Sealed Building with Owen Turtenwald

    by Steve Sadin
  • While some players might feel comfortable showing up to a Limited Grand Prix with little to no preparation, current Player of the Year frontrunner Owen Turtenwald wasn't about to fly 12 hour to play in a tournament without practicing extensively for it first. A caffeine fueled week of Sealed Deck release events on Magic Online later, and Owen felt like he was ready to take on all challengers as he worked to create some breathing room for himself in the Player of the Year race.

    Owen Turtenwald

    When he sat down to build his Sealed Deck on Day One, Owen seemed to be extremely focused, however he couldn't help but let out a big smile when he flipped through his pool and found a Bloodline Keeper staring back at him.




    The first thing that Owen Turtenwald did after separating out his unplayable cards, was to lay out all of his remaining blue cards and artifacts. After thumbing through the rest of his pool, it was immediately clear to Turtenwald that blue was going to be his base color since it was so much deeper, and stronger than any of his other options.


    Blue Base
    GP Amsterdam 2011 - Sealed Building with Owen Turtenwald


    The next thing that Turtenwald did was to take a look at a Blue-Black version of the deck, as this would allow him to run his Bloodline Keeper.


    Blue-Black v1.0
    GP Amsterdam 2011 - Sealed Building with Owen Turtenwald


    Owen knew that he would need to cut a spell from this so he could run 18 lands and 40 cards, but before he made that final decision – he put together a Blue-Red version of the deck.



    While his Blue-Red deck didn't have any single card that was on par with Bloodline Keeper, it featured a better curve, and a (seemingly) stronger suite of removal spells including a Brimstone Volley, a Harvest Pyre, and two Geistflames.

    In the end, Turtenwald decided that the Blue-Black version was the way to go.


    Main Deck
    GP Amsterdam 2011 - Sealed Building with Owen Turtenwald


    While Brimstone Volley, and Harvest Pyre are normally far superior to Corpse Lunge, Turtenwald explained that he thought they were going to be functionally very similar for him.

    "My red, and my black removal spells were about the same in my deck thanks to the fact that I have two Armored Skaabs, a Forbidden Alchemy, and two Mindshriekers– and while red would have given me some slightly better individual cards, the black gave me Bloodline Keeper, the ability to flashback Forbidden Alchemy, and access to Nephalia Drownyard."

    Even with a Sulfur Falls in his pool, Turtenwald decided against splashing his red.

    "I figured that I had a lot more to lose than I had to gain by splashing the red. My deck is already pretty good, and I have several double blue spells, a double black spell – so I didn't think it was worth it to risk having color problems. Not only that, but I wouldn't have been able to play Nephalia Drownyard if I splashed the red -- and I think that Nephalia Drownyard is really good in my deck because of all of my removal spells, and (potentially) defensive creatures."

    When asked if the speed of the format affected his deck building decisions, Turtenwald explained that his pool didn't really give him the option.

    "Once I decided to play Blue-Black, pretty much every card in my deck was an auto include – the only real choice that I made was to leave a second Dissipate in my sideboard. I'm not going to do something crazy like leave Makeshift Mauler in my sideboard because I'm worried that the format is too fast."

    Owen felt optimistic about his chances with the deck "I would certainly take this over a random pool."

    Nine rounds later...

    After he finished Day One with an 8-1 Record, I had a chance to talk to Owen again now that he had a full day's worth of play with the deck under his belt.

    Before I could even ask him any questions, Owen explained that he had misbuilt his pool.

    "I wound up boarding in my red every match. My two Geistflames were better than all of my black cards put together.

    My game ones (with the Blue-Black version of the deck) were really difficult for me – I think I want 3-3 in games ones. When I won with the Blue-Black version of the deck, it was because I drew better than my opponent, or because the game went long, and I got to deck him with Nephalia Drownyard. But once I switched to red, I was able to just run my opponents over.

    Plus, a disproportionate number of my opponents had Inquisitor Elite, so that made boarding out my black even better"

    At the beginning of the day, Owen had likened his two Corpse Lunges to his Brimstone Volley, and his Harvest Pyre, while dismissing his Geistflames as being marginal. By the end of the day, he came to the conclusion that he had completely misevaluated his removal spells.

    "Corpse Lunge wound up being really mediocre for me. Even though I had a bunch of ways to put cards in my graveyard, my creatures were so small that it was usually only able to do one or two damage."

    "Geistflame is way better than I gave it credit for when I was building my deck. It kills all the same things that Corpse Lunge kills, and it can deal with early Deranged Assistant, Cloistered Youths, and Vampire Interlopers without setting you way back."

    Instead of Corpse Lunge being about on-par with Brimstone Volley, and Harvest Pyre as Owen had initially anticipated it being, it was a strictly inferior version of Geistflame in his deck. Once he made this connection, it was very clear to Owen why the red version was better.

    "When a single Dissipate is your only all-purpose answer (as it was in Owen's Blue-Black deck), you have to keep mana up on key turns where you want to be developing your board, which really sucks. But once I added Harvest Pyre, and Brimstone Volley to my deck, which were basically Terminates for me, and a Second Dissipate, everything was so much easier for me."

    When asked what other cards in his deck he had changed his valuations of over the course of the day, Owen pointed out Geistcatcher's Rig, Mindshrieker, Sensory Deprivation, and Stitcher's Apprentice.

    "Geistcatcher's Rig exceeded even my lofty expectations. I knew that I was going to play it the second that I saw it was in my pool, but it was just amazing. I easily won every game that I cast it. My Mindshriekers were also pretty amazing for me – every time the game went long, my opponents would just lose if they didn't kill them."

    However Sensory Deprivation, and Stitcher's Apprentice didn't stack up quite as well.

    "Sensory Deprivation, and Stitcher's Apprentice did almost nothing for me. Sensory Deprivation was only good against aggressive decks (which Owen only played against one of) – and while I know that Stitcher's Apprentice can be good in some decks, I just didn't have the right creatures for it."


    Owen’s Revised Decklist
    GP Amsterdam 2011 - Sealed Building with Owen Turtenwald


    Owen was able to finish Day One with only a single loss because he was willing to own up to his mistakes, and board out his Bloodline Keeper (a card that many players would give up a limb for) in order to put together a much more consistent, and powerful, deck.

    Will Owen's pragmatic approach continue to lead to victories during today's drafts?

    Stay tuned to find out!

     
  • Sunday, 11:44 a.m. - Drafting with Martin Juza

    by Brian David-Marshall
  • Martin Juza was one of four players yesterday to go undefeated in the Sealed Deck rounds. The Czech player went 8-0-1 playing a blue-white tempo build with three copies of Chapel Geist. As he sat down for the first draft of the Grand Prix he was looking forward to drafting something with more card selection. He was hoping to get cards like Armored Skaab and Forbidden Alchemy and exerting some control over his games.

    One of the new wrinkles of this draft format has been double-faced cards -- not just mechanically in how they play but in how you draft them as well. Since there is no card back, players can see a card that every other player opens and when they are picked that information is out in the public as well. That information is out there but how players will deal with that information remains to be seen.

    As Martin sat down at his table he groaned, "Dude, I have no idea how to draft. I have only done like 10 drafts. Hopefully going 4-2 should not be that hard."

    Here was the table order for the draft:

    • 1 Martin Lecce
    • 2 Martin Juza
    • 3 Rodrigo Lopez
    • 4 Ronald Lunar
    • 5 Melissa Detora
    • 6 Alessandro Gozzo
    • 7 Dan Brunello
    • 8 Rodrigo Soto

    As the players sifted through pack one both Lecce and Soto quickly took their double faced cards. Lecce, immediately to Juza's right took Ludevic's Test Subject, while Soto slammed Bloodline Keeper. Suddenly plans to be blue-black looked less clear for Juza than before the packs were opened. He flipped through his own pack and saw Essence of the Wild, Blazing Torch, Hanweir Watchkeep, and Butcher's Cleaver. Juza decided to play it safe and take the Cleaver and wait and see what was open.

    Pack two came with Kessig Cagebreakers and Juza took that over another Blazing Torch and Avacyn's Pilgrim -- the only cards he singled out for consideration in that pack. Hamlet Captain was next over the impossibly expensive Moldgraf Monstrosity. He stayed mono-green with Orchard Spirit next before veering into red for a late Rolling Tremblor over an Armored Skaab that he briefly flirted with. There was also a late Rage Thrower that came around but he opted for the cheaper -- a definitely on-color -- Ambush Viper. He was solidly green with his complimentary color still to be determined at the end of pack one.

    There was a murmur -- no talking, just a murmur -- as Lecce opened Bloodline Keeper and chose not to pass it to Soto, who had taken that very card in pack one. Juza, meanwhile was looking through a pack with Kessig Cagebreakers, Harvest Pyre, Cloistered Youth, Forbidden Alchemy, and Moan of the Unhallowed. He quickly took the Cagebreakers. He toyed with choosing Splinterfright in pack two but went with Galvanic Juggernaut instead -- there was also a Travel Preparations in the pack. Blazing Torch and Voiceless Spirit were his subsequent picks -- his first real move toward white cards. He took Villagers of Estwald next with Victim of Night and Unburial Rites notably still in the pack. It looked like both green and white had dried up but then a late surge yielded Avacyn's Pilgrim as well as a tabled Orchard Spirit and Splinterfright.

    At the end of pack two Juza had sixteen cards earmarked for play in his deck and some sitting on his bench. He grinned and flashed the two Kessig Cagebreakers with Splinterfright. Juza immediately regretted his first pick of the third pack when he took Villagers of Estwald over cards like Silver-Inlaid Dagger, Harvest Pyre, Falkenrath Noble, Unburial Rites, Spidery Grasp, and Festerhide Boar. His next pick forced him to choose between Bonds of Faith -- he had no removal if he was going green-white -- or the game breaking Gavony Township. He also considered Avacyn's Pilgrim but chose the land. Darkthicket Wolf was next and then a Pilgrim. He rounded out the pack with a smattering of white fliers.

    Martin Juza's Best White/Green Spread

    "I have too many three drops," moaned Juza as he began to lay out the deck to sort the wheat from the chaff. He looked at the Villagers that he had first picked in the third pack and shook his head. "This pick was such a mistake. I should have taken Silver-Inlaid Dagger there."

    He laid out 22 cards and a Gavony Township: "I am going to play 17 lands because I have the two Pilgrims."

    Juza decides on a 23rd card.

    The cards that were on the sideline were Village Bell-Ringer, Mulch, and Demonmaul Hauberk. He wanted to be able to get creatures into his graveyard for his two Cagebreakers and the latter two could help in that regard. On the other hand, he liked the fact that the Bellringer was a combat trick and added to his Human count for the Hamlet Captain. He would eventually add that card to his pile but later realized he could have gone with 16 lands and played the Mulch there.

     
  • Round 12: Feature Match - Melissa Detora vs. Martin Juza

    by Steve Sadin
  • Melissa Detora came into this match with a 10-1 record, while Martin Juza entered the round as the sole remaining undefeated player in the tournament at 10-0-1.

    Game One

    Juza won the die roll and chose to play first, but had to begin the match with a mulligan.

    Detora started things off with a Stitcher's Apprentice, and a Civilized Scholar while

    Juza opened with four Forests and a Villagers of Estwald (which quickly transformed into the more menacing Howlpack of Estwald because Juza couldn't cast any of the other spells in his hand with only four Forests).

    Civilized Scholar turned into a Homicidal Brute, which promptly attacked Juza down to 15 and a Fortress Crab promised to keep Howlpack of Estwald at bay.

    Juza's Abbey Griffin got trumped by a Stitched Drake, and the European pro's Voiceless Spirit died at the hands of a Geistflame.

    Detora built up her air force with a Moon Heron, and Juza cast a Kessig Cagebreakers which would allow him to win the game in a matter of turns, if he could live through Detora's evasive attacks.

    Melissa Detora

    Detora cast a second Geistflame, and flashed it back to take out Abbey Griffin, before attacking with both of her fliers to knock Juza down to 6.

    Juza put a Butcher's Cleaver on his Kessig Cagebreakers before attacking (making two wolves), gaining six life to put himself back up to a relatively healthy 12, and knocking Detora down to 8.

    Detora looted with her Civilized Scholar, and thought for a moment as she decided between attacking in the air to knock Juza to 6 (at which point she would sacrifice whatever creature blocked the Butcher's Cleavered Kessig Cagebreakers to her Stitcher's Apprentice so that he wouldn't gain any life) – or leaving her creatures back, and mugging Juza's Kessig Cagebreakers if it attacked. After weighing her options, Detora decided to pass the turn.

    Juza attacked with Kessig Cagebreakers, Howlpack of Estwald, and (what became a total of) 4 2/2 Wolf Tokens. Detora chose to block Kessig Cagebreakers with a Moon Heron, before killing it at the end of Juza's turn with her Geistflame – however, Juza had another Kessig Cagebreaker to replace it.

    Detora had no answer for the second Kessig Cagebreakers and consequently died to Juza's army of wolves a turn later.

    Martin Juza 1 – Melissa Detora 0

    Game Two

    Detora chose to play first, and got off to a (relatively) quick start with Deranged Assistant, Moon Heron, and Fortress Crab before Juza had played a creature.

    Juza's turn four Voiceless Spirit picked up a Blazing Torch, and took out Moon Heron a turn later, and an Orchard Spirit gave the European pro a real clock to work with.

    Fortress Crab attacked in, and Juza blocked with his Orchard Spirit – allowing Detora to decimated his board with her freshly drawn Geistflame. With a couple of creatures in his graveyard, Juza was able to cast his Splinterfright – while Detora went to the air with a Stitched Drake.

    Juza cast a Kessig Cagebreakers, which is particularly deadly alongside Splinterfright, and Gavony Township, then followed it up with a second Kessig Cagebreakers a turn later.

    Juza seemed to have the game in hand, at least unless Detora drew something fantastic.

    When Detora drew only a land for her turn, it looked like Juza had the match...

    Martin Juza

    ....until Detora activated her Deranged Assistant and flipped over a Devil's Play -- exactly the card she needed to set up a lethal attack, and force a deciding third game.

    Martin Juza 1 – Melissa Detora 1

    Game Three

    Juza again had a slow start with Mulch, Butcher's Cleaver and Abbey Griffin as his first three plays – allowing Detora to get off to an early lead with Deranged Assistant, Selfless Occulist, Stitched Drake, and a Blazing Torch to take out Juza's Abbey Griffin.

    When Juza cast a Kessig Cagebreakers with four creatures in his graveyard (thanks to Mulch) Detora suddenly found herself in a spot where she needed to topdeck something quickly to get back into the game.

    However, that wasn't to be.

    Kessig Cagebreaker picked up a Butcher's Cleaver, and a couple of attacks (and Gavony Township activations later) Juza had taken the match to move to 11-0-1.

    Final Result Martin Juza 2 – Melissa Detora 1

     
  • Sunday, 12:30 p.m. - Drafting with Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

    by Luis Scott-Vargas
  • With one draft left to go, the players in Pod 2 were competing for two slots in the Top 8, with possibly more based on tiebreakers. The two players in the finals of the draft could presumably draw in at 12-2-1, leaving not much of a margin for error. I covered Paulo Vitor's draft, which was actually only his fourth draft ever in the format. Despite not having many drafts under his belt, PV discussed the format at length with the rest of the team, particularly Ben Stark, with 50 drafts under his belt.

    Ben basically recommended that PV draft either Blue-Black mill yourself or Green-White Aggro, a fact which clearly weighed on PV as he looked at his first pack. After the transform cards were revealed, none of which would go on to be first-picked (they were all common werewolves and the like), PV had basically three real options: Armored Skaab, Battleground Geist, or Midnight Haunting. He could take the Skaab and look to go blue-black, or take the Haunting and aim for green-white, since either of those would be better to build around than the Geist.

    He took the Haunting, likely because it was the best of the three cards, and possibly because it left the pack with just two good blue cards, presenting a better signal. Luckily for him, he was then passed a Gavony Township, which was a windmill slam. Not only was it a great signal, it is one of the best possible cards for the GW deck, particularly with Midnight Haunting. The only downside was that (unknown to PV) the player to his right took Slayer of the Wicked over the Township, so the way wasn't completely clear.

    Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

    His third pack had another Midnight Haunting, an easy pick, and he followed that up with Champion of the Parish, Village Bell-Ringer, and Smite the Monstrous. His first actual green card wasn't until 8th pick, when he took Grizzled Outcasts.

    The second pack wasn't as exciting to begin with, and PV first-picked a Silver-Inlaid Dagger over an off-color Sever the Bloodline or an Urgent Exorcism. He then picked up a Hamlet Captain before facing one of the closer picks in the draft. He had the choice of Avacyn's Pilgrim or Mausoleum Guard, both of which would synergize extremely well with his tokens deck. He ended up taking the Guard, and following that up with an Ambush Viper, another Guard, and a key card for any green-white deck: Travel Preparations. He even picked up a Demonmail Hauberk, which would be a beating with double Midnight Haunting and double Mausoleum Guard.

    Thanks to the Thraben Sentry he passed, PV also became aware that his neighbor was in white (red-white, to be exact), but it was far too late for PV to even consider switching colors. The transform cards definitely provide useful information early in the draft, but with the batches of weak cards opened at this particular table, that information didn't come early enough to really influence any color decisions.

    Pack three was insane, as PV picked, in order:

    Now that is what green-white is looking for. Of the above picks, the Bonds of Faith pick was the closest, as PV took it over Avacynian Priest and Gatstaf Shepherd. The two removal cards (tapper and Bonds) are definitely better, and of the two, Bonds edges out Priest by a small margin. The rest of the pack wasn't as exciting, but that certainly doesn't mean it was bad.



    This draft was actually pretty straightforward. After the first big decision of Midnight Haunting vs. Armored Skaab, PV went right into green-white with Gavony Township and never looked back. Even cut on white, Humans was reasonably open, and green was open from either side. This deck is quite good, and I wouldn't be surprised if PV is able to 2-0 with it and draw into Top 8.

     
  • Sunday, 5:25 p.m. - Gaslamps and Brushstrokes with Steve Prescott

    by Steve Sadin
  • In what ways did your work illustrating cards for Innistrad differ from your work on previous Magic expansions?

    Steve Prescott: Jeremy Jarvis (the lead art director for Magic), made it a point for me to infuse gothic horror themes into all of the pieces that I did for Innistrad. My stuff isn't normally that dark, so it was a bit of an adjustment for me, but I had a lot of fun illustrating cards for this set.

    Steve Prescott showing off the original art for Daybreak Ranger, and Nightfall Predator.

    In sets like Mirrodin, or Ravnica, that have louder, more animated feels to them, I can kind of go crazy with the lighting, and use splashy colors whenever I want to. But in Innistrad I needed to work with actual atmospheric light sources, like full moons, gaslamps, and torches.

    Why do the colors that you use matter so much when you're doing an illustration?

    The short answer is that color has a huge impact on mood.

    Take Berserk for instance – for that, I wanted to use a bunch of insane colors to drive home the idea that the character was really going ballistic and hitting you in the face – but I couldn't just throw in splashes of blue and magenta since loud colors don't exactly have a gothic horror feel to them.

    In order to develop the gothic horror feel that I wanted, I had to use more earth tones, and include more natural light sources, than I usually do. That said, I was still able to work some loud colors into the art for Parallel lives.

    When you sit down to illustrate a new card, what do you feel you need to get right in order for the piece to be a success?

    Most of the stuff I've done for Magic relies heavily on facial expressions. I think that the face sets the mood as much as the physical environment that the characters are in, so I like to make sure that the face accurately depicts the right emotion. Be it pensiveness, fear, or unbridled rage, if you get the face right – the rest really tends to fall into place.

    Which Innistrad illustration did you have the most fun working on?

    Outside of the concept pieces? Ranger's Guile.

    The more painterly a piece is, the better. I like anything where I get to play with big brushstrokes – and Ranger's Guile really gave me an opportunity to go wild, and explore new themes.

    Do you work exclusively with paints, or do you do any of your work digitally?

    I work almost entirely with acrylic paints, except for a brief experimental stage where I upload my completed sketch and try out various color schemes on my computer.

    My favorite piece of concept art for the set -- a chilling illustration depicting a standoff between a werewolf, and an angry mob of villagers – does a great job of capturing the mood of Innistrad. What goes into making a piece of concept art?

    I love doing concepting – all that you're required to do is draw cool stuff, and have fun with other artists, and at that end of the process you've created the foundation for a new world.

    There are several stages of concept art. At first, you're just creating characters, and figuring out what things like Zombie Horrors, and Spirit Knights should look like. But at that point, we needed to start setting the mood for the characters we had designed.

    The piece that you're referring to is what is known as a Concept Scene – our first opportunity to show our characters in action.

    Are there any Magic illustrators whose work you really look forward to seeing?

    There are a lot of people whose work I really enjoy, but the paintings that Mark Zug, Chris Moeller, Jesper Ejsing, Chris Rahn, and Steve Belledin are probably my favorites.

    It's not that I have a bias against digital artists, but it's just so cool for me to see what other people who work within the same medium as me can do.

     
  • Round 13: Feature Match - Owen Turtenwald vs. Martin Juza

    by Luis Scott-Vargas
  • With three rounds left to go, these players found themselves in the envious position of already playing for Top 8.

    Game One

    Owen won the roll, chose to play, and both kept. The first play of the game was Martin's Stitcher's Apprentice, which he followed with a Civilized Scholar. Owen had a turn four Festerhide Boar, which got immediately deprived of its senses, and a turn five Galvanic Juggernaut, which was Dissipated. Meanwhile, Martin was still looting away.

    Martin kicked off his turn five with a main phase Forbidden Alchemy, but no land drop. Owen answered with an Abbey Griffin, and unfortunately for him, more lands. Martin was still on four lands with a mass of cards in hand, though he did add a Vampire Interloper to the board.

    Martin Juza

    After hitting for two, the Abbey Griffin was joined by a Voiceless Spirit and a Silvercoat Fox. The Fox knocked off the Sensory Deprivation, after which Martin Corpse Lunged the Boar. The Scholar got Preyed Upon by the Griffin, again leaving the board in Owen's favor.

    Martin tried to stabilize with Battleground Geist, but it was immediately neutralized by Bonds of Faith.

    On Owen's next attack, a Cackling Counterpart from Martin copied the Geist, and ambushed Voiceless Spirit. Still, Owen had yet another Bonds, as well as a Midnight Haunting at the end of Martin's turn.

    Stitcher's Apprentice was busily sacrificing the useless Battleground Geists, but Martin still was going to lose the race, even after he put Claustrophobia on Owen's Griffin. If he only had either a third Swamp for the Reaper of the Abyss in his hand or the seventh land to flashback Cackling Counterpart, he might have won, but unfortunately he did not.

    Turtenwald - 1 Juza - 0

    Game Two

    Martin chose to draw, possibly thinking of the slow start Owen had game one. He also chose to mulligan, possibly thinking that lands plus spells would be a good combination. He agonized over his six, but decided to keep.

    This time, Owen started on turn two, with a Hamlet Captain, though it was enchanted with Sensory Deprivation. Owen had no turn three play, and his Juggernaut was once again Dissipated. Martin then played his own Juggernaut, and Owen played a Grizzled Outcasts. Martin smashed with the Juggernaut, and had a Village Cannibals to prevent Owen from transforming the Outcasts.

    Owen Turtenwald

    Owen's next turn was a big one, as he had both a Bonds of Faith for the Juggernaut and a Chapel Geist. Martin played a Battleground Geist, but that too was shut down by Bonds. After the Cannibals threw themselves in front of the Grizzled Outcasts, Martin was left pretty far behind.

    Martin did have a Makeshift Mauler, but the 0/2 Hamlet Captain made a suicide attack in order to make the Outcasts a 5/5. Martin blocked the Captain, but took 7 from the Chapel Geist and the Outcasts. Owen kept up the pressure, playing a 5/5 Festerhide Boar postcombat.

    All Martin could muster up was a Claustrophobia for the Boar, and after Owen cast Prey Upon to make the Boar kill the Mauler, Martin extended the hand.

    Final result: Owen Turtenwald defeated Martin Juza two games to zero and now presumably will add a sixth GP Top 8 to his accomplishments for the year.

     
  • Quick Question: Choose Your Weapons

    by Brian David-Marshall
  • Good equipment is always a safe first pick in draft if you want to keep your colors open but which equipment is worth taking and what is best left to rust in the sideboard? We caught up with a handful of players at the tournament site and asked them to rank the top Innistrad equipment in order of pick-worthiness. Here are their options:

    Blazing Torch Butcher's Cleaver
    Cobbled Wings
    Demonmail Hauberk
    Inquisitor's Flail
    Mask of Avacyn
    Runechanter's Pike
    Sharpened Pitchfork
    Silver-Inlaid Dagger
    Trepanation Blade
    Wooden Stake


    Luis Scott-Vargas

    Luis Scott-Vargas: I think Butcher's Cleaver is the best by a pretty wide margin though I would not want to play it in a deck without humans. In a deck with humans it is very, very good. Second best is Blazing Torch. Torch is probably safer. Earlier in the draft you probably want Torch and then later the Cleaver. Then Silver Inlaid Dagger followed by Sharpened Pitchfork. Dagger doesn't even need to be a in a human deck. It is just a good card. I don't really like Trepanation Blade or Inquisitor's Flail. As a rare, Runchanter's Pike is not something you are going to see very often but if you have seven or eight spells it is going to be effective.



    Melissa DeTora

    Melissa DeTora: I would go with Blazing Torch first just because it is removal. I don't like Mask of Avacyn. I really like Cleaver because of the lifelink and I also like Sharpened Pitchfork. I like Trepanation Blade in a blue-white deck with a lot of fliers. Other than that I would not play that card. It has to be the right deck. I take Blazing Torch so high -- I have two in my deck right now and two in the last one. I take that card high I guess.



    arlos Romao

    Carlos Romao: I think Butcher's Cleaver is the first one. Blazing Torch second and Runechanter's Pike third. I prefer Silver-Inlaid Dagger and then Pitchfork.



    Ben Stark

    Ben Stark: Butcher's Cleaver is the best but if you are not human or aggro it won't work. You wouldn't want it in a control deck but if I was faced with a pack of all the equipment I would take that one first. Blazing Torch is second. It is a lot better than it was in Zendikar -- and not just because there are a lot of vampires and zombies. Zendikar was a weird format where everything was a 2/1 that did nothing and if you killed one of their 2/1s it was not that special. In this format there are a lot of utility creatures so Blazing Torch is really good. Mask of Avacyn is not anything special but it is fine. I will always play one in a creature deck. After that I think it is a pretty big drop off. I have not had a chance to play with the Pike but it doesn't sound like it would be very good.

     
  • Round 14: Feature Match - Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa vs. Allison Abe

    by Steve Sadin
  • Allison Abe doesn't travel to a ton of Premier events – having become infamous in his home country of Brazil for the number of Pro Tours that he has qualified for, and skipped – but he has a tendency to make his presence felt when he does show up. With Top 8 finishes at Grand Prix Sao Paulo in 2009, and Grand Prix Gothenburg in 2010, Abe was looking to post a Top 8 finish at a Grand Prix for his third consecutive year.

    The only thing standing in his way? A slightly better known Brazilian player by the name of Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa who could move up to as high as third place in the Player of the Year race if he wins this tournament.

    The winner of this match would need only a draw in the final round to advance to the Top 8, while the loser would probably be left playing for a Top 16 finish.

    Game One

    Abe won the roll and chose to play first, but it was PV who got off to the fast start with a Champion of the Parrish, and an Unruly Mob.

    Abe's Markov Patrician dove headfirst into a Ambush Viper, and his follow up play of Rotting Fensnake died to Slayer of the Wicked.

    Abe tried to rebuild with another Markov Patrician, and a Delver of Secrets – but PV's Travel Preparations (which he cast and flashbacked) forced Abe to double block the incoming 5/4 Slayer of the Wicked with his only two creatures.

    Forbidden Alchemy found Abe a Sever the Bloodline that he could use to take out PV's two remaining creatures -- but by the time he could cast it, and flash it back, it was too late.

    Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa 1 – Allison Abe 0

    Allison Abe

    Game Two

    Abe started game two Deranged Assistant, a Dead Weight to take out PV's Turn two Hamlet Captain, Butcher's Cleaver, and Delver of Secrets all before PV could cast his second spell.

    Midnight Haunting allowed PV to take out the incoming Delver of Secrets, and the Butcher's Cleaver wielding Deranged Assistant – but Abe had a replacement Delver of Secrets at the ready.

    Over the next few turns, the players began trading removal spells for powerful creatures with Tribute to Hunger eating PV's Grizzled Outcast, and a Smite the Monstrous taking out Abe's Insectile Aberration that was equipped with Butcher's Cleaver.

    Midnight Haunting, Mausoleum Guard, and Silver-Inlaid Dagger gave PV some pressure – while Abe began ripping through his deck with multiple copies of Forbidden Alchemy.

    Moon Heron, Moan of the Unhallowed, and Markov's Patrician didn't seem to be much of a match for Slayer of the Wicked, a second Mausoleum Guard, a Prey Upon, and a couple of Ambush Vipers – but a Sever the Bloodline that removed PV's five Spirit tokens, and a Butcher's Cleavered Evil Twin gave Abe exactly enough damage to win the game with 0 cards in his library.

    Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa 1 – Allison Abe 1

    Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

    Game Three

    PV opted to play first for the deciding game.

    Abe opened on a Delver of Secrets, and knowing that PV had (at least) two Ambush Vipers in his deck, chose not to attack on turn two, and simply played out a second Delver of Secrets before passing the turn.

    PV had a Midnight Hauntings, and on his next attack Ambush Viper traded with a Deranged Assistant.

    Manor Skeleton, and a third Delver of Secrets came down for Abe (who had still failed to find an instant or sorcery on top of his deck that he could use to transform his army of 1/1s into 3/2 fliers) – while a second Midnight Haunting, followed by Gavony Township caused Abe to let out an audible sigh as he fell to 8 from PV's attack.

    A Tribute of Hunger bought Abe one more draw step, but that Swamp waiting on top of his deck just wasn't going to cut it.

    Final Result

    Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa 2 – Allison Abe 1

     
  • Round 15: Feature Match - Shuhei Nakamura vs. Carlos Iturra

    by Brian David-Marshall
  • Shuhei Nakamura had an outside shot at making the Top 8 with a win this round but events were conspiring against him off stage to make that a near impossibility. Chilean National Champion David Kaliski was on the verge of a bye into the Top 8 due to a DQ in his pod that had given him a match win against the offending player at the start of the last three rounds. Kaliski -- who actually lost the only round he actually played in draft two -- was one spot higher than Shuhei and had better breakers.

    Had Shuhei known this he could have asked for a draw, which would have locked Chilean player Carlos Iturra into the Top 8. Thinking he had a shot at the Top 8 though, Shuhei had to play. Perhaps "thinking" is too strong a word for the mental state that Shuhei was in at this point. Despite being an elect member of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame, Shuhei has not slowed his travel pace at all and has been in Milan and Brisbane on the previous two weekends -- and he is scheduled to hit Hiroshima this coming weekend.

    He arrived at the tournament site this morning feeling as bad as I have seen any players since Frank Karsten and his bucket in Yokohama several years ago. To make matters worse Nakamura was handed all sorts of treatments this morning by his teammates many of which seemed to have exacerbated his condition instead of improved it. He had sloughed through the day and with a win could still manage to Top 8. Carlos Iturra just wanted to lock up his Top 8 and the invite to Pro Tour Dark Ascension.

    Carlos Iturra

    Game One

    Shuhei led off with Deranged Assistant and suited it up with Spectral Flight on turn two to beat in for three. His air strike was short lived as Iturra played Fiend Hunter. Nakamura had no follow up and Iturra equipped his Hunbter with Cobbled Wings and flew over for one.

    Nakamura shrugged and played Grasp of Phantoms to Time Ebb the Hunter. Iturra was happy to tuck the Hunter in his back pocket for later and played Somberwald Spider. Shuhei passed with no play. Iturra unsheathed his Silver-Inlaid Dagger and dropped his opponent to 15 with an attack in the air.

    Nakamura scooped a couple of turns of nothing later when Iturra added Grizzled Outcasts.

    Nakamura - 0 Iturra - 1

    Game Two

    Nakamura played Geist of Saint Traft on turn three -- milling Selfless Cathar with his Deranged Assistant. Fiend HUnter could only stalk the Assistant, and Nakamura was able to smash in for four while bouncing the Geist off of the Hunter. He played Stitched Drake after combat.

    Grasp of Phantoms made it impossible for Iturra to interact successfully with Nakamura's hexproof legend or his Stitched Drake.

    Shuhei Nakamura

    Game Three

    Shuhei was really showing the effects of his illness this round as he kept a hand with five lands, Butcher's Cleaver, and Grasp of Phantoms. He actually did nothing the entire game other than play those two spells, lots of land, Armored Skaab, Thraban Sentry, and Woodland Sleuth while Iturra played big green creatures ranging from Festerhide Boar and Somberwald Spider to Essence of the Wild.

    Shuhei inquired about the draw as the match was winding down but Iturra just shook his head. Nakamura nodded, extended the hand and rested his head on the table.

    Final result: Carlos Iturra won the final round of the Swiss two games to one and ended up in 5th place in the standings. As it turns out the draw would have still left Nakamura in the same exact spot in the standings -- 17th place with two Pro Points.

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