Grand-Prix Seattle-Tacoma: Day 2 Archive

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EVENT COVERAGE

 

  • Feature Match: Round 10 – Mike Jacob vs. Willy Edel
    by Rich Hagon
  • The headline for this match is really simple: ‘One deck, many ways to win’. The facts are that the Five Color Bloodbraid deck of Mike Jacob defeated Brazilian Willy Edel with his Elf deck by the odd game in three. If all you want is the result, you can move along. But the way in which the deck performed was both startling and a thing of beauty, because it switched effortlessly between modes. Let’s get to the match, and I’ll explain.

    Willy Edel
    In Game 1, Edel opened up with Putrid Leech and Mutavault beatdown, whilst interestingly opting not to pump the Leech. Jacob had nothing but Vivid lands for four straight turns, using his three untapped mana to make Boggart Ram-Gang, which met Terror. The next chunk of play was defined when Edel cast Thoughtseize to find Cryptic Command, Anathemancer (which he binned) and no less than three copies of Maelstrom Pulse. Edel made a man, Jacob destroyed it. Rinse and repeat. Thing is, this was the game where we saw the deck malfunction. Ram-Gang isn’t meant to be the opening play on the beatdown side. Maelstrom Pulse isn’t meant to be keeping parity whilst watching Mutavaults take away 2 life points a turn. Edel took advantage to cast Profane Command, and when a second Thoughtseize took away Cruel Ultimatum, Imperious Perfect and a Mutavault crashed over for the win.

    So what is Five Color Blood? A struggling Control deck? Let’s move on.

    Edel began the second game aggressively with Wren’s Run Vanquisher into Imperious Perfect, attacking for 4 on turn three. Jacob appeared to be playing the mid-range Control role, as he cast Kitchen Finks on turn three. However, in the space of two turns the game was turned on its head. Bloodbraid Elf Cascaded into free Kitchen Finks, and then turn five Boggart Ram-Gang showed why it was there in the deck. Suddenly, Jacob was attacking with a 3/3 haste and three 3/2s, two of which would come back with Persist and gain him more life. That’s attacking for TWELVE on turn five against an aggressive start on the other side!

    That said, Edel’s Elf deck was decently positioned to assume the new defensive role it had been forced into. Imperious Perfect made a 3/3, and although he was still down to 5, once he untapped he had a serious army. Wren’s Run Vanquisher was a 4/4 Deathtouch, Putrid Leech was a 2/2 that could become a 4/4 at will, and Imperious Perfect was a 2/2 that churned out 2/2s every turn. So what does Five Color Blood do? It becomes a Control deck again. It sits, and waits, and waits. And then it draws a counterspell that says ‘you win the game’, because Cryptic Command taps an entire army of any strength at end of turn. 1-1.

    So what is Five Color Blood? A monstrous beatdown deck? A calculating, squeeze the life out of you Control deck? Let’s move on.

    Mike Jacob
    Game 3 saw Edel make Garruk Wildspeaker on both turns three and four, with Anathemancer functioning as spot removal on turn three for Jacob. The second Garruk started making 3/3s, but we saw the power of Maelstrom Pulse as both tokens were destroyed. With old-fashioned mid-range removal, Jacob had stabilized. That was important, because a stall favors Jacob in so many ways. Maelstrom Pulse can always stop multiples from getting out of hand, whether it’s Beasts from Garruk or Elves from Imperious Perfect. As we saw in Game 2, once there are two mighty armies on board, there’s only one winner, as Cryptic Command does its tap dance to end things.

    And then there’s a third route, a grinding, nasty, stamina-sapping route of incremental card advantage. Bituminous Blast took out the Imperious Perfect, and Cascade was unexciting. Unexciting, but still useful, since Cryptic Command could just be used to draw another card deeper into the deck, and bounce a Garruk token. And then his attack could kill Garruk. Oh wait, Cascade was exciting after all. Suddenly Edel’s plans were in shreds, as if from nowhere a vast array of beaters amassed on Jacob’s side of the board: Ram-Gang, Finks, Leech, Bloodbraid, Anathemancer. Even combat tricks came to party, with Snakeform wrecking any last dwindling hopes of a profitable attack for Edel.

    Jacob 2 Edel 1.

    So what is Five Color Blood? A mid-range Control deck? An all-out kill everything, counter everything, squeeze the life out of you Control deck? A lightning-quick beatdown deck? An incremental card advantage engine? It’s all these things, and more, and that’s why it’s such a blast to watch, and play, and not so much fun to play against.

    So what is Five Color Blood? I’ll leave the last word to Mike Jacob, ‘It’s a deck that plays all the best cards in the Format. You just don’t play a bad card. It’s all Chapin.’

     

  • Feature Match: Round 10 – Nicolay Potovin (Faeries) vs. Steven Birklid (Black/White Tokens)
    by Dave Meeson
  • Steven Birklid defeated Faeries in yesterday’s final round to advance to Day Two undefeated. Russia’s Nicolay Potovin piloted his Faeries deck through nine rounds defeating Simon Lee who was playing EsperLark to close out his perfect Day One.

    Game 1

    Steven Birklid
    Game 1 saw both players start with their common token producer, Bitterblossom, in play churning out 2/2 tokens, Potovin thanks to Scion of Oona, and Birklid via his Glorious Anthem. Potovin won on style points, however, as his 2/2 Raphael Levy tokens have a much stronger pedigree than Birklid’s generic Faerie tokens. Birklid attempted to solidify his position with a Tidehollow Sculler, but when Potovin’s hand revealed a Cryptic Command and two Agony Warps, Birklid could only put up some small resistance as Cryptic Command tapped out his team and allowed Potovin’s token army to swing in unimpeded and put the undefeated Faeries player up a game at 1-0.

    Game 2

    Game 2 did not begin well for Steven Birklid either. Both players mulliganed to 6, but Birklid was forced to go down to four cards before finding a hand that was even remotely acceptable. The situation worsened even further as Potovin’s first play was a Thoughtseize, taking a Kitchen Finks and leaving Birklid with a land and a Path to Exile. Birklid’s Windbrisk Heights on turn two was evidently depressed at the outlook of this match as it reveals only four lands, and the Bitterblossom that came from Potovin on turn two completed the Russian’s ideal opening start. I’ll admit it -- even I was depressed at this point.

    But Bitterblossom is a slow clock, and Potovin was stuck on two lands. He burned two Ponders trying to find a third land, giving Birklid time to find his own Bitterblossom. Both players accumulated tokens without much attacking, with Potovin not being to supplement his side of the table short of a Faerie Conclave. Eventually Potovin attempted to clear out some blockers from the other side of the board, trying to Peppersmoke one of Birklid’s tokens and then another in the same turn, but Birklid had a Path to Exile for both of his tokens, robbing Potovin of extra cards and getting himself up to five mana. Birklid topdecked an important Cloudgoat Ranger, and the big flying shepherd and his little buddies offered some much needed offense and defense, as both players were starting to get low on life thanks to their Bitterblossoms. Potovin got Birklid to 9, but then had to pass a number of turns, unable to break through with enough damage to let Birklid’s Bitterblossom finish the job. Birklid’s Wispmare killed Potovin’s Bitterblossom, robbing him of his source of continuous chump blockers, and the pressure from the Cloudgoat allowed Birklid to eventually swing with his entire team for the win, tying the match at one apiece.

    Game 3

    Both players managed to keep their opening hands for Game 3, ensuring at least a fair fight. Potovin started out with a turn two Bitterblossom again, but Birklid had the Wispmare to evoke on turn two to remove the powerful enchantment. Birklid’s turn-three Spectral Procession got its Ambitions Broken, and a second got Thoughtseized away. Birklid managed to get a turn four Kitchen Finks to stick, but that seemed like a less than ideal way to trigger the two Windbrisk Heights that Birklid had in play.

    Nicolay Potovin
    Potovin, on the other hand, had counters for everything else that Birklid attempted, having three Cryptic Commands in a row to deal with first a Glorious Anthem, then a Cloudgoat Ranger, and thirdly another Kitchen Finks. As the first Finks took bites out of his life, though, Potovin had no way to provide defense, stuck with two Mistbind Cliques in his hand and no Faeries to Champion in sight. Kitchen Finks attacked Potovin down to 5, and finally Potovin was forced to attempt to deal with the Persisting Ouphe: First Infest to take care of its current iteration, and then Peppersmoke to take out the 2/1 version. Birklid effectively countered the Peppersmoke with Zealous Persecution, though, and kept his 2/1 attacker on the board.

    Potovin finally found his eighth land, revealing his Mistbind Clique in hand to get his Secluded Glen untapped.

    Steven Birklid: “I have a feeling there’s some more of those in there.”

    Potovin attempted to chain the Cliques into each other during Birklid’s attack step, but Birklid removed one with a Path to Exile, forcing the other to die. A Glorious Anthem the next turn allowed the Kitchen Finks to become lethal, and Steven Birklid to continue his unbeaten run.

    Final result: Steven Birklid remained perfect, defeating Potovin 2-1.

     

  • Feature Matches: Round 11 – Nicolay Potovin vs. Luis Scott-Vargas & Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa versus Antoine Ruel
    by Rich Hagon
  • Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa
    For LSV, this would be the second straight Faeries mirror to open Day Two. Just a few feet away, a third Faeries deck in the hands of Paulo would face the Five Color Blood deck of Antoine. To put it mildly, Paulo had the answers in Game 1. Part of the point of playing Cascade spells is that it’s very hard to stop both the Cascade and the spell itself. Antoine tried for Bloodbraid Elf into Boggart Ram-Gang, and found both countered sequentially with matching Spellstutter Sprites.

    When Antoine aimed Maelstrom Pulse at a Faerie token, effectively marking them all for death, Paulo had the instant-speed Mistbind Clique to force the fizzle. When Antoine pumped his Putrid Leech to trade with the Mistbind Clique, Paulo had Peppersmoke to turn the Leech into a suboptimal 3/3.

    With Antoine down to 3, he aimed Bituminous Blast at the Mistbind Clique, Cascading into Ajani Vengeant. Spellstutter Sprites again denied the Frenchman satisfaction, and as they shuffled up for Game 2 he said, ‘I can see how you managed so many straight Top 24 Grand Prix!!!’

    Paulo 1 Antoine 0.

    Nicolay Potovin
    Across town, Russian Nicolay Potovin had taken a 1-0 lead over Luis Scott-Vargas. I didn’t see much of the game, but LSV helped me out. ‘I really don’t like the mirror. Turn one Thoughtseize, turn two Bitterblossom...’

    Potovin 1 LSV 0.


    Antoine Ruel
    In Game 2, it was Antoine who had at least some of the answers. Attacking with Anathemancer, it looked as if he would fall victim to a Flashed-out Plumeveil, but Cryptic Command stopped the flying blocker from seeing play. Out of the Sideboard, Paulo had double Flashfreeze to thwart Boggart Ram-Gang and Kitchen Finks. He attempted a second ambushing of Anathemancer with Plumeveil, and although Antoine allowed it to resolve, he didn’t allow it to get as far as blocking, Bituminous Blast sending it packing. The Cascade did nothing for Antoine, with Volcanic Fallout going to the bottom of his library uncast.

    Antoine baited out a Cryptic Command with Putrid Leech, and that left the way clear for him to cast Boggart Ram-Gang unmolested. Puppeteer Clique for Paulo stole Kitchen Finks, sending the Brazilian back up to 10, and when the cheeky black flyer Persisted it took Anathemancer, hurting Antoine badly in the process. Still, Anathemancer dropped Paulo to 3, and the following turn Antoine used Unearth to force a decider.

    Paulo 1 Antoine 1.

    Luis Scott-Vargas
    What of Nicolay Potovin and Luis Scott-Vargas? Neither player had managed the Thoughtseize into Bitterblossom start, but thanks to a mid-game Thoughtseize, Potovin was on the verge of forcing through a Mistbind Clique. From there, LSV was totally on the back foot, a defensive rearguard action complicated further by Potovin drawing Jace Beleren, drawing further ahead on cards just as surely as on life. With LSV down to six, Potovin drew Agony Warp off Jace, and was able to dispense with Scion of Oona. That left the way clear, and the Russian swept the match.

    Nicolay Potovin 2 Luis Scott-Vargas 0.


    That left the concluding game in the trilogy between Paulo and Antoine. I’d like to tell you it was a classic, but that would be a lie. Paulo dominated from the get go. Turn two Bitterblossom set the tone. Kitchen Finks was countered with Spellstutter Sprite, and Anathemancer went down to Cryptic Command. The only monster that got through the counterspell net was Putrid Leech, but Paulo had sideboarded Deathmark to take care of that. Puppeteer Clique stole Anathemancer, doing huge damage to the non-basic deluxe Five Color deck, and a repeat performance a couple of turns later put Antoine to lethal. It’s still early on Day Two, but Paulo is moving closer to yet another top tables result.

    Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa 2 Antoine Ruel 1.

     

  • Sunday, 11:50 a.m. – What Everyone ELSE Is Doing
    by Dave Meeson
  • Brian Kowal
    If you’re NOT one of the 141 players competing for Grand Prix glory, there’s still a ton of Magic to be played here.

    Anyone who’s attended a Grand Prix or followed coverage on the website knows that Day Two usually brings with it a PTQ -- and these PTQs are larger and tougher than the ones you get locally, as GP players with nothing else to do on Day Two and no plane ticket until Monday are still looking for that victory to send them home happy. Today is no different, as 303 players are sitting in the tables at the far side of the convention hall, looking for that plane ticket to Austin, Texas. If you think a field of 303 is daunting and that sitting through nine rounds of Swiss might not be your cup of tea, you also have to take into consideration the fact that the level of competition is higher, that the players might be grumpy after not making Day Two in the GP, AND you might have to face some of these guys: Boat Brew designer Brian Kowal; GP Philadelphia 2008 winner Gerard Fabiano; former R&D member Devin Low; or any number of up-and-coming PT players, like Conley Woods, Josh Utter-Layton, or David Ochoa.

    This is probably not the side event I would be signing up for, personally. I’m much more interested in seeing how many people show up for their opportunity to play Sealed 2-Headed Giant against members of R&D in an unsanctioned event. Players also have a shot to win an XBOX 360 playing Extended, an iPod playing Grand Melee, or a whole bunch of store credit playing Elder Dragon Highlander. A little something for everyone!

     

  • Sunday, 12:35 p.m. – Art versus Art – The Final
    by Rich Hagon
  • Yesterday we took a look at six of the eight artists who are here this weekend to showcase their considerable talents. Between them, Corey Macourek, Chuck Lukacs, Franz Vohwinkel, Mike Dringenberg, rk post, and Anson Maddocks have created the artwork for 335 Magic cards. That’s a lot of industry, dedication and love. But our two finalists comfortably surpass that total. In a moment, the colossal collection of Pete Venters. First, Mark Tedin, who comes in with a weighty 187 cards.

    There’s no doubt that we’re going to have a vast array of powerful spells when we build our Tedin deck. In red, we get to blow people away with Fireball, and give them choices they’d rather not have with Browbeat, a card Tomaharu Saitou used to win a Grand Prix. In blue we get a counterspell monster in the form of Draining Whelk, and ridiculous card advantage in Braingeyser. Yes, he’s been making Magic cards for that long. That means we also get access to Power 9 Timetwister. Oh my, this is shaping up to be sooooo powerful. Ponder helps us find our power cards.

    What about mana? We could do with as much as possible to fuel our Braingeyser and Fireball. Well, we have Mana Drain. We have Mana Crypt. And, we have Mana Vault. Oh wait, and Sol Ring. Quite the collection. The thing is, it would be nice to think we could have some effective creature control. Well, it turns out Tedin has plenty to offer us there too. Predator Flagship may be pretty clunky, but we’re going to get to seven mana pretty quickly. Temporal Adept can deal with something every turn. Tetravus can do all kinds of naughty things with counters. Then we get the big three. No Mercy ensures that nothing will hit us more than once. Plague Boiler gives us the chance to blow up the world, and then we have what is arguably in the top 10 most recognisable and loved cards of all time – Nevinyrral’s Disk. (Incidentally, for those who don’t know, Nevinyrral is a tribute to SF writer Larry Niven).

    Where does our card advantage come from? Jayemdae Tome is a classic, but it isn’t quite in the same league as our next signature card, Necropotence. I suppose we ought to have some way to win too, so how about Juzam Djinn, Lord of the Pit, or even Leviathan? Make no mistake, you bring a tedin deck to the table, and people are gonna cry.

    And that leaves Pete Venters in our battle for artist supremacy. In terms of sheer numbers, he’s out of sight. 275. Two hundred and seventy-five Magic cards have come out of assorted pens and brushes over a staggering career. If Venters had a Shard, there’s no doubt that it would be Grixis. Black, Red and Blue are his signature colors, although that’s not to say that he doesn’t have awesome cards elsewhere, like white’s Holy Day(!) In red, we kick off with Flametongue Kavu, one of the most popular 187 creatures of all time. In Extended, Pyrostatic Pillar has been a mainstay of Sideboards, wrecking players for many years. If Combo is your thing, Venters brings you both Grapeshot, finisher in assorted Storm decks, and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, the kind of card that makes Combo builders break out in a cold sweat. And judges too, for that matter.

    If you feel like moving to green, perhaps you can do something with Survival of the Fittest. Blue gives us extra turns via Time Warp, extra cards via Tidings, and extra oh-look-I’ve-won with Windfall. If we want answers to opposing awkwardness, a card much in evidence here this weekend should do the job – Pithing Needle. Another artifact we might need is Ensnaring Bridge, which sometimes wins games virtually alone.

    But it’s Black where the deck really comes together, and how. Turn one gives us one of the best beaters ever in Carnophage, and outstanding disruption in Duress. For card draw it’s tough to look beyond Phyrexian Arena. Lake of the Dead can generate tons of black mana , and we have Pestilence to keep things clear on board. Tendrils of Agony has been a kill card for some years now, and we might be able to abuse Phyrexian Dreadnought, although not quite as fantastically as the Flash decks in Legacy.

    So now it’s over to you. Whatever you decide to build, make sure you take the time to look at the fabulous artwork that helps make our game the best and most beautiful in the world.

     

  • Sunday, 12:55 p.m. – The Decks of Day Two
    by Brian David-Marshall
  • I have been poring over the decklists since early this morning; breaking down the field and pulling out some interesting decklists to take a closer look at. Here is the metagame breakdown by archetype. The archetypes are ordered by their appearance in the standings at the end of Day One as well as the undefeated Day One decklists. Look for some of the ones with less than perfect records in a subsequent update.

    Deck # Percentage of Field Highest Day One Finish
    5Color Blood 12 8.5% 1st
    Faeries 29 20.5% 2nd
    Black White Tokens 15 10.6% 4th
    Jund Blood 11 7.8% 5th
    Cascade Swans 15 10.6% 7th
    Green White Tokens 7 4.9% 8th
    Kithkin 1 .07% 9th
    Blue-White Lark 2 1.4% 13th
    5Color Control 11 7.8% 15th
    Elves 13 9.2% 16th
    Doran 3 2.1% 20th
    5Color Land Destruction 4 2.8% 21st
    Esper Lark 2 1.4% 23rd
    Red Black Beatdown 5 3.5% 25th
    4Color Blood 2 1.4% 42nd
    Red White Lark 1 .07% 44th
    Tender Lark 1 .07% 72nd
    Merfolk 1 .07% 79th
    Blue White Tokens 2 1.4% 96th
    Bant 3 2.1% 110t


    Faeries
    Nicolay Potovin -- Undefeated day One



     

  • Sunday, 1:25 p.m. – A Come to Garfield Moment
    by Brian David-Marshall
  • Richard Garfield
    You could see a physical shift in the direction of the crowded Greater Tacoma Convention Center as the announcement was made that Magic creator Richard Garfield was going to be setting up to sign autographs. Before the announcements there was a random chaotic flow to the traffic as players checked in on friends, signed up for public events, perused the dealer tables, and queued up to get stuff signed by the studio of artists in attendance. After the announcement there was controlled chaos as all flows of traffic made their way to the queue to meet the man who gave us the game we all love so much.


     
  • Feature Matches: Round 12 – Joel Calafell (Cascade Swans) vs. Gabriel Nassif (Jund Blood)
    by Dave Meeson
  • The Spaniard who shaped our current metagame by winning last weekend’s Grand Prix Barcelona with Cascade Swans, Joel Calafell, was attempting to make it two-in-a-row with the combo deck. To do so, and to continue making his name in this year’s tournament season, he would have to take down PT Kyoto winner and absolute legend of this game, Gabriel Nassif.

    Game 1

    Both players exhibited the sportsmanship and respect they have for each other by shaking hands and wishing each other luck in the matchup.

    Nassif’s game plan was to come out as quickly as possible, and he made a great start of it, playing Putrid Leech and Wren’s Run Vanquisher back-to-back. Calafell dropped a third red-producing land for his third turn, but when no Seismic Assault made itself present, Nassif spent his fourth turn gearing up the pressure with a Bloodbraid Elf that Cascaded into Sygg, River Cutthroat, and Nassif sent his team in with the intention of finishing Calafell off with the next attack step.

    Calafell had other ideas, casting Captured Sunlight to improve his shrinking life total and fetching up a Seismic Assault to stem the flow of creatures coming at his face. He immediately threw a chunk of rock at the Bloodbraid Elf, and two at the Vanquisher; he also took out the Putrid Leech when Nassif tried to pump it on his next turn, and had two more for Sygg when Nassif tried to pump the Merfolk up with counters from a Jund Charm. Safe for the moment, and with an Assault on the board, Calafell had emptied his hand and would still need to find his combo before Nassif could recreate his attack force.

    Calafell’s first draw was a land, and when Nassif summoned a Chameleon Colossus, Calafell drew another land and pointed both of the hunks of real estate at the Colossus. However, he could muster no answer for Bloodbraid Elf that followed it (and the Putrid Leech that it brought along with it), and Nassif smashed the final seven life points from Calafell to go up a game in the match.

    Game 2

    Nassif was looking to play the same game in Game 2, starting out with a Wren’s Run Vanquisher on turn two. Calafell’s third-turn Seismic Assault seemed like an important piece to take down, so Nassif, stuck on two lands, Naturalized the enchantment rather than making a second attacker.

    I wondered, at that time, why Calafell didn’t shoot down the Vanquisher before the Assault went away, and found out in short order as Nassif pointed a Thoughtseize at him. I guess he was wondering too. Calafell’s hand only had one land, which was good because the Vanquisher lived, but bad because it was full of action: Bloodbraid Elf, Bituminous Blast, Primal Command, and Maelstrom Pulse. Nassif went through many mental permutations before settling on the Bituminous Blast. Calafell calmly used the remaining pieces in his hand to first fetch out the Swans of Bryn Argoll using Primal Command (keeping Nassif stuck on two lands by bouncing a Savage Lands to his library), then having Bloodbraid Elf do the dirty work of finding Seismic Assault. Nassif had no options but to pass, andwhen the Swans made their presence known, Nassif attempted to kill it with Nameless Inversion.

    If you have been watching this deck, I think you know what happened next. A lot of “shoot Swans for two” and nodding from Gabriel, who eventually received enough chunks of rock to kill him with Nameless Inversion still on the stack.

    Game 3

    On the play and needing to be as aggressive as possible to race the combo, Nassif thought for a moment on his hand of seven before what seemed like a reluctant keep, while Calafell mulliganed to six. Nassif again opened up with an aggressive two drop, Wren’s Run Vanquisher, but again had no third-turn backup for his marauding attacker. He did have a Bloodbraid Elf on turn four, however, which revealed another Vanquisher to pair the board.

    Calafell had a Bloodbraid Elf of his own on his turn, Cascading past a Swans and another Elf before finally hitting on Maelstrom Pulse! Happy to get a two-for-one with his free card, Calafell pointed it at one of the Vanquishers, taking it and its twin out of the game and leaving the players with matching Bloodbraid Elves. That wouldn’t last long, as Nassif removed Calafell’s blocking Elf with Nameless Inversion and kept the pressure up.

    Now here’s where it gets a little wonky. Calafell, low on life, cast Captured Sunlight to recoup some life and find a combo piece, and flipped over the first Cascade card before Nassif pointed out that he had no white mana available. After discussion with the judge, Calafell instead just hardcast Seismic Assault, pointed a land at the Bloodbraid Elf. Nassif made a Chameleon Colossus to keep up the pressure, but Calafell had the matching Swans of Bryn Argoll for his Seismic Assault, and eventually had enough lands to take the game and the match.

    Final result: Joel Calafell wins 2-1


     
  • Sunday, 1:55 p.m. – Standard Updates to Old Favorites
    by Brian David-Marshall
  • Tomoharu Saito
    Elves was a well represented Day Two archetype for Grand Prix Seattle with just over a dozen players advancing. It was especially popular with the Japanese players in attendance, who with the exception of Yuuya Watanabe, were all playing an updated Green-Black Elves build that took advantage the recent addition of Maelstrom Pulse to the metagame. According to reigning Player of the Year Tomoharu Saito the deck is well positioned against all the decks that finsihed in the Top 4 last weekend with excellent matchups against Black-White tokens, Swans, and Faeries.

    “I think last week’s deck that won is a joke,” said Saito, who won a mirror match against Shuhei in Round 13 and was on a collision course with Joel Calafell and the aforementioned winning list in the penultimate round of Swiss. “I think soon no one will be playing it.” He also felt that his matchup was very good against the 5Color Blood deck that has been tearing up the top tables but he admitted that he did not really have the deck on his radar coming into the event.


    Yann Massicard
    Lurking beneath the Top 8 results from Grand Prix Barcelona was an updated version of Doran, designed and piloted by Tony Martins. Interestingly, he nearly dropped from the event after three rounds but was convinced to stay in by Antoine Ruel since he could still place in the money. The deck also placed another player in the Top 32 and as a result caught the attention of Yann Massicard and Raphael Levy for this event. The deck has served both of them well as they were playing deep into Day Two despite the deck running out of gas for its creator on Day One yesterday.

    He admitted that he is not much of a playtester and could not speak to any of the matchups but Yann, who was a virtual lock for the Top 8 after beating Noah Weil in a round 13/x-1 showdown, liked the deck because even though “all the games are difficult you can win them all.”



     
  • Sunday, 2:15 p.m. – The Coolest Second Head
    by Rich Hagon
  • It’s always intriguing seeing what Two-Headed Giant partnerships develop when Pro players have time on their hands and a tournament to win. Some of the unlikeliest friendships emerge, but on Day Two here in Tacoma we have a new wrinkle to that particular scene. As most of you will know by now, the home of Wizards of the Coast is just up the road, and that means most of the office are here at the event. I’m not sure who came up with the idea, but some bright spark suggested a 2HG with a twist, where lucky players get to play with a member of staff. Now the thing is, just like cards in an expansion, God (or Mark Rosewater and pals, delete as applicable) didn’t create all members of Wizards equal. Here’s the R&D squad:

    Bonny Nadri – Software Architect
    Mark Purvis – Brand Manager
    Mons Johnson – R&D Developer, he of Mons's Goblin Raiders fame
    Tom Jenkot – Visual Designer on magicthegathering.com
    Dave Guskin – Web Developer, largely responsible for the New Gatherer
    Matt Stevens – Visual Designer for Organized Play
    Scott Johns – Editor in Chief of the website, oh, and five times Pro Tour Top 8
    Corey Fellows – Magic Online Developer
    Matt Taback – Magic Online Game Support
    Ken Nagle – Magic Designer
    Erik Lauer – Magic Developer, designer of Pro Tour-winning LauerPotence deck
    Tom laPille – Magic Developer
    Lee Sharpe – Data Analyst for Magic Online and Card Templating
    Jason Radabaugh – Magic Online Game Server Developer
    Kelly Digges – Editor of Magicthegathering.com
    Mike Turian – Magic Developer and Pro Tour Champion
    Graeme Hopkins – Magic Developer
    Ryan Dhuse – Magic Online Development Manager

    Important disclaimer: These may not be the exact job titles of these esteemed folks, so if any are slightly awry, you can kick me in the office next week!

    To be fair, there are some very talented players that you wouldn’t necessarily know about out in the real world beyond Renton. Dave Guskin is a sleeper pick for many in this tournament, since he’s a canny Limited player who often takes opponents unawares. Tom laPille has developed a serious reputation within R&D, and Scott Johns certainly fears him, despite his five Top 8 appearances. I asked Ken Nagle who he wanted to avoid, and he quickly mentioned Mike Turian. ‘The thing is, Magic is a blend of skill and luck. There’s enough skill so that you feel smart when you do the right thing, and enough luck so that you always feel you have a chance.’ So you’re basically saying you hope Turian has mana issues? ‘Sure’.

    Team Age and Treachery
    So who got to play with the stellar Mike Turian, champion of Aggro? Seattle resident Kirby Storbeck, down for a weekend of fun at his local event. ‘He’s just the one I wanted’ he confirms. So with Turian the hot R&D favorite (a phrase you could read multiple ways), how will Kirby keep the former Champion on the straight and narrow. ‘Well, I’m pretty certain we’re the oldest team in the tournament, so I guess we’ll have to get by on a combination of age and treachery.’ Hmm, Age and Treachery, sounds like a good team name....


     
  • Sunday, 2:35 p.m. – Who’s The Figure?
    by Rich Hagon
  • With a great ear for a story, fellow Coverage writer Dave Meeson introduced me to Ryan Day, who had an unusual photo opportunity for us. Ryan takes up the story:

    “I was playing in Regionals in San Jose with a deck that had Rafiq of the Many, Mask of Riddles, and Finest Hour, which is a group that nobody is playing. You can draw four cards, so it’s pretty cool. I did ok at the event, but then traded away almost the entire deck to get the cards for BR. That didn’t go so well, but I got four foil Figure of Destiny. As soon as I got them a little thought occurred to me. I have a Revised Wrath of God, and I was hoping to get it signed by the best player I could find. And then I thought about the Player of the Year Race.”

    LSV....Nassif....Saitou....Nakamura.....that sounds like it adds up to four to me. Here’s the result of Ryan’s run round the builidng in search of the standout candidates for the Race...

    Figures of Destiny


     
  • Feature Matche: Round 14 – Luis Scott-Vargas (Faeries) vs. Owen Turtenwald (Blue-White Reveillark)
    by Dave Meeson
  • Owen: “I’m 4-1 against Faeries. Does that intimidate you?”
    LSV: (pause) “ ... Not really.”

    Luis Scott-Vargas has reason to be nonplussed, with a Pro Tour win (Berlin), GP wins (Los Angeles and Atlanta), and a run to the finals in the last PT (Kyoto) in the last year. Not that Owen is a slouch himself, having made the finals at the Legacy GP in Columbus -- he is considered one of the bright young stars of this game.

    Game 1

    Owen Turtenwald
    The two players forewent the usual “high die roll” to determine who will go first, instead opting for the drama of the coin flip. “Heads!” was LSV’s call, and the coin flipped, spun ... spinning ... spinning ... oh come on ... before finally falling on tails, giving Turtenwald the option in the first game.

    The two were content to play lands and pass back and forth, with the first play of the game coming in the form of LSV’s Jace Beleren. Turtenwald responded with a blank Sower of Temptation, which LSV dispatched with a Terror on his next turn. LSV worked Jace through the motions, and came up with a Broken Ambitions to take care of the second blank Sower on Turtenwald’s side of the board. The two players traded Cryptic Commands over Turtenwald’s Kitchen Finks, and the little Ouphe stuck in play until the next turn, when LSV bounced it with the second half of a Cryptic Command aimed at countering an incoming Reveillark.

    LSV had used one Jace up by this time, and so with the first one off to the graveyard, he summoned a second, and played a Scion of Oona during Turtenwald’s next end step. The Kitchen Finks made a return appearance, only to be dispatched by an Agony Warp and a Peppersmoke from LSV, but the third Sower of Temptation from Turtenwald had a target this time: the Scion of Oona, simultaneously pumping up the Sower and protecting it from removal.

    Now, please bear with me for the next section here, as it got a little convoluted. LSV attempted a Mistbind Clique during Turtenwald’s next combat step, which met a Cryptic Command, but left an opening to resolve a second Scion of Oona for LSV. On his own turn, LSV played a Sower stealing back the original Scion of Oona, and then had another Sower of Temptation (number five of this match) to nab the Reveillark that Turtenwald played on turn eleven.

    Faced with an increasingly large aerial assault force (which included some of his own guys), Turtenwald attempted to evoke a Reveillark to get a few blockers, but was met with Cryptic Command. He managed a third Reveillark as a blocker, but scooped up his cards as LSV began moving all his Faeries in for the kill.

    Game 2

    Luis Scott-Vargas
    LSV’s turn-one Thoughtseize revealed enough to guess the end of the game: Meddling Mage, Negate, Cryptic Command, lands, eating the Negate. Turtenwald’s Meddling Mage named Bitterblossom, but Turtenwald hardly had time to write “Bitterblossom” on a tiny scrap of paper before LSV sent it packing with an Agony Warp. Luckily, Turtenwald had drawn a second Meddling Mage, so he was able to reuse the scrap of paper. Waste not, want not, my grandma used to say. LSV’s only response this time was a main-phase Scion of Oona. Turtenwald followed up his Mage with a Kitchen Finks, but the next attack step found an instantaneous Spellstutter Sprite leaping in front of the Meddling Mage to allow LSV to finally play the Bitterblossom trapped in his hand.

    Turtenwald was unphased by the enchantment, sending in his Kitchen Finks to take LSV to 8 and making a second Kitchen Finks. LSV went to 7 from his Bitterblossom and resolved a Scion of Oona, fighting through a Remove Soul with Broken Ambitions, but this left him tapped out and vulnerable to the Cryptic Command from the original Thoughtseize, which tapped his team and allowed for a lethal-enough double-Finks strike.

    Game 3

    With the match tied at one apiece, LSV opted to play first, landing a turn-two Bitterblossom -- he avoided countermagic, but not Turtenwald’s Wispmare, which killed it on Turtenwald’s second turn. Meddling Mages made up the bulk of the early play, with the first one killed by a Terror and the second countered by a Spellstutter Sprite. Turtenwald was stuck on two land, and with one of them being an Adarkar Wastes, he was doing some serious damage to himself as he played a third Meddling Mage, naming Broken Ambitions.

    LSV’s Thoughtseize revealed the contents of the hand that Turtenwald just couldn’t cast: Sowers, Reveillark, counterspells, and a card I couldn’t see, which LSV helpfully chose to send to the graveyard: Vendilion Clique. LSV kept up the attacks with the Spellstutter Sprite and, when possible, a Faerie Conclave, leaving mana open to counter Turtenwald’s first Sower of Temptation. The second Sower from Turtenwald stole the Spellstutter Sprite, but LSV had a pair of Sowers of his own to put all the creatures on his side of the board and ensure victory.

    LSV 2 Turtenwald 1


     
  • Sunday, 3:28 p.m. – Standard Update...update
    by Brian David-Marshall
  • After Saito’s dismissive comments about the Cascade Swans deck in my previous entry I could not keep myself away from the Feature Match area to watch him face off with Grand Prix Barcelona winner Joel Calafell. Saito, who won two of the last three Grand Prix tournament, had said that he chose his Elves deck for its favorable matchups against popular metagame choices including Joel’s Cascade Swans deck, which he called “a joke”. Both players were sitting on two losses and failure to win this round would eliminate that player from Top 8 contention -- and winning this match would likely set up another elimination match in the final round.

    When I came over the Feature Match area both players had already taken a game from the other and I watched over Saito’s shoulder as he pitched back what would be a perfectly serviceable Elves hand under normal circumstances. Back went a couple of Wren’s Run Vanquishers, an Imperious Perfect, and a removal spell in favor of a six card hand that offered more interaction with the powerful cascade combo deck. The six card hand he kept had one Wren’s Run Vanquisher, Thoughtseize, Pithing Needle, and Terror -- that was more to Saito’s liking. He led off with the Needle naming Seismic Assault and drew a second Thoughtseize to take a pair of Bloodbraid Elf from Calafell leaving the Spanish player land, Bituminious Blast, and two Seismic Assaults.

    With hand disruption and resistance out of the way, Saito played his Wren’s Run Wanquisher and showed off Civic Wayfinder. He played the Wayfinder a couple of turns later after drawing Mutavault as his third land. By now, Calafell had his Blast online and cascade killed the Vanquisher with a bonus Pulse to take out the Needle after Saito played Garruck. Suddenly Saito’s position did not look as solid as it had one turn ago when another Pulse -- played fairly -- took out Garruck. There were not enough lands in Calafell’s hand to deal with the expanding Elf army -- Saito played Llanowar Elf on back to back turns -- and the Terror took out an activated Treetop Village. Another Needle off the top sealed the game for Saito. He would go on to fight another round while Joel Calafell would be hoping his tiebreakers handed him an extra Pro Point in the end.


     
  • Feature Matches: Round 15 – Around The Horn
    by Dave Meeson
  • Sitting on 37 points, the top 4 players will all draw into the Top 8: Russia’s Nicolay Potovin, who finished Day One undefeated playing Faeries; American National Champion Michael Jacob playing the Five-Color Bloodbraid deck; Seattle local and Internet teambuilder Ari Lax, one of the driving forces behind Team Unknown Stars, piloting Faeries; and Frenchman Yann Massicard, who just missed Top 8 at PT Kyoto and is making up for it here, playing Doran.

    That leaves us four matches, eight players on 36 points, who all have to win to make it into the Top 8.

    Paolo Vitor Damo da Rosa (playing Faeries) secured a quick victory against Stan Bessey (playing Five-Color Bloodbraid) to go up a game in their matchup.

    Luis Scott-Vargas rode not one, not two, but eventually THREE Mistbind Cliques to a win in the first game against Hunter Burton, playing Green/White Tokens.

    Travis Clark, playing Green/Black Elves, took advantage of mana problems for his opponent, Seattle local Charles Gendron Dupont, who was stuck on three lands and could muster no offense or defense despite playing Black/Red. Terminate looked pretty useless in his hand facing down Chameleon Colossus.

    In the second game between LSV and Burton, Burton appeared to be in control with not one but two Cloudthreshers, but couldn’t manage to fight through the stream of blockers provided by LSV’s Bitterblossom. LSV took a final attack to go to 1 life, Championed away his Bitterblossom with a Mistbind Clique, and was able to attack for the win and the match. Luis Scott-Vargas defeats Hunter Burton, 2-0, to go on to the Top 8.

    Dupont drew enough land to put up a fight in Game 2, and did so, drawing enough burn and removal to deal with Clark’s creatures and pulling the match into a dead-heat-must-win Game 3.

    Paulo Vitor and Bessey struggled to find threats, countering what little each other drew, before Bessey was able to equalize the match and force Game 3 as well. Their third game was anticlimactic, though, as Paulo assembled a powerful strike force anchored by Mistbind Clique to sweep over for the decisive victory. Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa defeats Stan Bessey, 2-1, to go on to the Top 8.

    The final game between Clark and Dupont was back and forth, trading creatures and removal spells back and forth. Dupont appeared to have the upper hand, knocking Clark to three with an Unearthed Anathemancer, before he ran out of creatures and drew a handful of land. Clark was forced to chump-block with his final offensive weapon, a Ghitu Encampment, in order to survive one more turn -- and draw Incinerate off the top to knock Clark out. Charles Gendron Dupont defeats Travis Clark, 2-1, to go on to the Top 8.


     
  • Feature Match: Round 15 – Ben Lundquist vs Tomaharu Saitou
    by Rich Hagon
  • While Saitou causes a stir wherever he goes, Lundquist has slipped quietly under the radar to this point through the weekend, and now finds himself a win away from the Top 8. The matchup is Faeries for Lundquist and Elves for Saitou, and by Saitou’s estimation that makes him the slight favorite.

    Ben Lundquist
    Lundquist won the die roll and elected to play first. Saitou was first away with Wren’s Run Vanquisher revealing Civic Wayfinder, but Broken Ambitions ensured it wouldn’t see play. Saitou milled away Maelstrom Pulse and three lands, before Lundquist took a look with Thoughtseize, seeing two Civic Wayfinder, Wren’s Run Vanquisher, Garruk Wildspeaker, Nameless Inversion and a land. Garruk joined the growing graveyard as a result. Leaving two land up, Lundquist passed the turn, and that two mana was used to thwart Civic Wayfinder with Remove Soul.

    Still with only three lands to utilize, Lundquist cast Bitterblossom, and left himself open for a turn. Saitou elected to fix his mana with Civic Wayfinder, and passed back. Jace Beleren came down for Lundquist, but even drawing an extra card via the planeswalker failed to deliver more mana. Treetop Village dealt with Jace, and Lundquist was back to looking at the top of his deck for land. That need was compounded when Saitou dropped Putrid Leech.

    Success! A fourth land finally arrived, and Ben began the assault in the air, with a Bitterblossom token venturing into the red zone. Wren’s Run Vanquisher met Spellstutter Sprite, and now Lundquist was starting to assemble a legitimate air force. Agony Warp further improved the situation for the American, with Treetop Village and Civic Wayfinder falling victim during combat.

    Cryptic Command bounced the Putrid Leech in response to Saitou’s Thoughtseize, which then left Lundquist with just a land in hand. Saitou was looking to see how much time he had before being overwhelmed from the skies, and he cast Civic Wayfinder. 3 more damage from the flyers dropped him to 7, and if Lundquist could protect them from Maelstrom Pulse, they would soon be fatal for the Japanese player.

    Saitou tapped four for Garruk Wildspeaker, and couldn’t hide a snort of dismayed amusement as the one card in Ben’s hand turned out to be Cryptic Command. Saitou used his remaining mana to recast the Putrid Leech. Again, three Faeries fluttered by Saitou’s defences, and now he had little time to live, barring something very exciting. In he came with civic Wayfinder, Putrid Leech and Treetop Village against two potential blockers. They chumped both Leech and Wayfinder, and Ben took 3 down to 5.

    This time just a single faerie took off for action, and Saitou dropped to 3. Once inside Saitou’s combat phase, Lundquist ran out a Mistbind Clique, Championing the Bitterblossom that had served its purpose. That was enough for Saitou to sweep them up, and Ben Lundquist was one game away from securing a Home team berth in the Top 8.

    Lundquist 1 – Saitou 0.

    Saitou led off aggressively with Wren’s Run Vanquisher, and added a second following a Thoughtseize that took Flashfreeze from a spell-heavy hand. That got countered by Remove Soul, but Saitou was able to force down Imperious Perfect, and with double Mutavault becoming 3/3 Elves, Lundquist was almost dead in next to no time. Moments later, it was over. Now suspicious minds might be thinking I wandered off for a while there. Nope, that was real-time reporting boys and girls, all done in two minutes flat.

    Lundquist 1 – Saitou 1.

    Tomaharu Saito
    Saitou opened the decider with Thoughtseize, seeing two Cryptic Command, Bitterblossom, Deathmark, Mutavault, and an island. After much thought Deathmark hit the graveyard. Lundquist didn’t draw a black source for Bitterblossom, so played Mutavault and passed. Wresn’s Run Vanquisher resolved, and with still no black, Lundquist could only watch as Saitou charged up his Mutavault and crashed over, adding Llanowar Elves to the pressure.

    Secluded Glen opened up the way for Lundquist to battle with his full arsenal. He activated Mutavault to block, then used his newly-available Agony Warp to mess with the math the way Agony Warp does. Bitterblossom signalled that Ben was ready to try and take control of the decider without leaving Cryptic Command mana up, with Saitou still aware that two sat in his hand. Maelstrom Pulse killed the Bitterblossom, and Mutavault came in again, dropping Lundquist to 11.

    Civic Wayfinder met the first Cryptic Command, and now Treetop Village attacked Lundquist down to 8. Would manlands be the story of this elimination match? Mutavault and Treetop Village again piled in, so Lundquist activated his own Mutavault and looked to trade. However, he had drawn into Scion Of Oona, and that would take his Mutavault beyond the range of Saitou’s. Terror looked to rectify that, but Broken Ambitions was the perfect foil, Lundquist looking happily at a Mistbind Clique on top. Saitou also kept his Nameless Inversion before it was milled away.

    In came the Scion, and in Saitou’s upkeep Lundquist cast the Mistbind Clique, Championing the Scion of Oona. Still Saitou knew that second Cryptic Command was lying in wait, and now Saitou was down to just four life. He drew for the turn, but had no answer, and Lundquist was on his way to the Top 8 elimination matches.

    Ben Lundquist 2 – Tomaharu Saitou 1.

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