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Robert Smith's Cackling Counterpart Wins GP Seattle

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Early reports were mistaken, and it was not, in fact, the legendary front man of The Cure who Top 8'd Grand Prix Seattle. He may have entered the final draft eclipsed by the star power of Pro Tour Amsterdam Champion Paul Rietzl and reigning Player of the Year Owen Turtenwald, but quiet amateur Robert Smith acquitted himself like a pro and walked away a Champion.

Smith posted an 8-1 record during Day 1's sealed deck play, then followed it up with a 5-1 performance at draft. At a table marked by a wealth of powerful decks, Smith assembled a blue-black control deck with an awful lot going for it. The quarterfinals were a massacre, with all four matches ending in quick 2-0 results, and both Turtenwald and Rietzl fell in combat. Smith and his semifinal oppponent Jason Huang both earned qualifications for Pro Tour Avacyn Restored in Barcelona, but Smith's sights were set higher. After splitting the first two games, Huang gambled on a risky seven for the deciding game and paid the price.

Meanwhile in the other bracket, Californian semi-pro Iain Bartolomei was locked up with James Nguyen, whose red-black aggro deck was a favourite to win the event. Bartolomei's blue-white tempo build won the third game on the back of Dearly Departed. He was forced into a third game against Smith, as well. Smith resolved a Geistcatcher's Rig to kill Dungeon Geists, and though it got sidelined by Bonds of Faith, a backbreaking Cackling Counterpart made sure he'd have two more two-for-ones against Bartolomei's many fliers, and the trophy was his.

Congratulations to Robert Smith, Grand Prix Seattle Champion!






Follow live streaming video coverage of Grand Prix Seattle-Tacoma at ggslive.com with Rashad Miller, Brian David-Marshall, Marshall Sutcliffe, and Rusty Kubis.

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Quarterfinals Semifinals Finals Champion
  2 Andrejs Prost Robert Smith
2-0
  3 Robert Smith Robert Smith
2-1
  4 Paul Rietzl Jason Huang
2-0
Robert Smith
2-1
  1 Jason Huang
  6 Henry Romero Iain Bartolomei
2-0
  8 Iain Bartolomei Iain Bartolomei
2-1
  7 Owen Turtenwald James Nguyen
2-0
  5 James Nguyen


EVENT COVERAGE TWITTER

INFORMATION
 1.  Robert Smith $3,500
  2.  Iain Bartolomei $2,300
 3.  Jason Huang $1,500
 4.  James Nguyen $1,500
 5. Andrejs Prost   $1,000
 6. Paul Rietzl   $1,000
 7. Henry Romero   $1,000
 8. Owen Turtenwald   $1,000
Pairings Results Standings
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  • Top 8 - Player Profiles

    by Steve Sadin
  • Name: Paul Rietzl

    Age: 26

    Hometown: Boston, MA (now in Los Angeles)

    Occupation: Executive Recruiter/Headhunter

    Previous Magic Accomplishments:

    3 PT Top 8

    4 GP Top 8

    What was your record in Sealed?: 7-2

    What were the three best cards in your Sealed Deck?

    Daybreak Ranger, Helvault, Spider Spawning

    What decks did you draft, and what were your records with each of them?

    White-Black, 3-0

    Red-Green splash White, 3-0

    What is your favorite Dark Ascension/Innistrad draft archetype?

    Red-Green

    How frequently do you draft on Magic Online?

    Infrequently

    What was the worst card that you played this weekend?

    Ravenous Demon

    Name: James Nguyen

    Age: 25

    Hometown: Salem, Oregon

    Occupation: Student

    Previous Magic Accomplishments:

    What was your record in Sealed?

    8-1

    What were the three best cards in your Sealed Deck?

    Lingering Souls, Beguiler of Wills

    What decks did you draft, and what were your records with each of them?

    Blue-Red Self Mill, 2-1

    White-Black Aggro, 3-0

    What is your favorite Dark Ascension/Innistrad draft archetype?

    Green-White Aggro. You never need any rares or Mythics to win.

    How frequently do you draft on Magic Online?

    10-20 a week

    What was the worst card that you played this weekend?

    Bloodcrazed Neonate

    Name: Andrejs Prost

    Age: 19

    Hometown: Riga, Latvia

    Occupation: Student

    Previous Magic Accomplishments:

    Pro Tour Philadelphia Top 8

    What was your record in Sealed?

    9-0

    What were the three best cards in your Sealed Deck?

    Kessig Cagebreakers, Increasing Savagery, Sturmgeist

    What decks did you draft, and what were your records with each of them?

    Red-Black, 3-0

    Red-Blue Burning Vengeance, 1-0 (before conceding twice).

    What is your favorite Dark Ascension/Innistrad draft archetype?

    Red-Black Aggro

    How frequently do you draft on Magic Online?

    YES

    What was the worst card that you played this weekend?

    Feral Ridgewolf

    Name: Robert Smith

    Age: 21

    Hometown: Canmore, AB

    Occupation: Student

    Previous Magic Accomplishments:

    None

    What was your record in Sealed? 8-1

    What were the three best cards in your Sealed Deck?

    Havengul Lich, Diregraf Captain, Falkenrath Noble

    What decks did you draft, and what were your records with each of them?

    Green-Red splash Black Werewolves, 3-0

    Black-Red Vampires, 2-1

    What is your favorite Dark Ascension/Innistrad draft archetype?

    Green-Red Werewolves

    How frequently do you draft on Magic Online?

    Several times a week

    What was the worst card that you played this weekend?

    Frightful Delusion

    Name: Jason Huang

    Age: 31

    Hometown: San Diego, CA

    Occupation: Head of Marketing for an eCommerce company.

    Previous Magic Accomplishments:

    Top 4 at Grand Prix New Jersey a long time ago.

    What was your record in Sealed? 8-1

    What were the three best cards in your Sealed Deck?

    Devil's Play, Blasphemous Act, Falkenrath Noble

    What decks did you draft, and what were your records with each of them?

    Green-Red Werewolves 3-0

    Green Red Werewolves 2-0-1

    What is your favorite Dark Ascension/Innistrad draft archetype?

    I've only drafted it four times, so I guess Green-Red?

    How frequently do you draft on Magic Online?

    Not at all anymore, unfortunately.

    What was the worst card that you played this weekend?

    Feral Ridgewolf and Furor of the Bitten (out of the sideboard).

    Name: Henry Romero

    Age: 17

    Hometown: Portland, Oregon

    Occupation: High school student

    Previous Magic Accomplishments:

    Recently won a PTQ

    What was your record in Sealed?

    8-1

    What were the three best cards in your Sealed Deck?

    Ghoultree, Moldgraf Monstrosity, Brimstone Volley

    What decks did you draft, and what were your records with each of them?

    Black-White splash Red, 3-0

    Black-White, 1-0-2

    What is your favorite Dark Ascension/Innistrad draft archetype?

    Humans (Black-White, Black-Red, or Red-White)

    How frequently do you draft on Magic Online?

    Maybe once a month

    What was the worst card that you played this weekend?

    Heavy Mattock

    Name: Iain Bartolomei

    Age: 23

    Hometown: Davis, CA

    Occupation: Student

    Previous Magic Accomplishments:

    I beat Michael Hetrick in the finals of a PTQ... twice.

    What was your record in Sealed? 8-1

    What were the three best cards in your Sealed Deck?

    Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, Markov Warlord... That's it.

    What decks did you draft, and what were your records with each of them?

    Blue-Black, 2-1

    Black-Black, 2-0-1

    What is your favorite Dark Ascension/Innistrad draft archetype?

    Blue-Black?

    How frequently do you draft on Magic Online?

    Like once a month, maybe?

    What was the worst card that you played this weekend?

    Trepanation Blade

    Name: Owen Turtenwald

    Age: 22

    Hometown: West Allis

    Occupation: Magician

    Previous Magic Accomplishments:

    Player of the Year, 10 Grand Prix Top 8s

    What was your record in Sealed?

    8-1

    What were the three best cards in your Sealed Deck?

    Bloodline Keeper, Skirsdag High Priest, Slayer of the Wicked

    What decks did you draft, and what were your records with each of them?

    Blue-Black with a 6th Pick Bloodline Keeper, 2-1

    Blue-White, 2-0-1

    What is your favorite Dark Ascension/Innistrad draft archetype?

    How frequently do you draft on Magic Online?

    Once a week tops.

    What was the worst card that you played this weekend?

    Frightful Delusion.

     
  • Top 8 - Decklists

    by Event Coverage Staff















  •  
  • Quarterfinal - Iain Bartolomei vs. Henry Romero

    by Steve Sadin
  • Iain Bartolomei is a longtime grinder who has five PTQ wins under his belt. But despite Bartolomei's proclivity to win qualifiers, he has been unable to come away with the grand prize in any of his three PTQ Top 8s this season.

    But with a Top 8 berth here at Grand Prix Seattle-Tacoma, Bartolomei finds himself a mere match away from a coveted invitation to Pro Tour Avacyn Restored in Barcelona.

    In order to earn that invitation, Iain's going to need to get past Henry Romero – a high school student who recently won his first PTQ (qualifying himself for Pro Tour Avacyn Restored in Barcelona).

    While the up and coming Romero doesn't need to worry about advancing to the semifinals to earn an invitation, he would still love to celebrate his first PTQ win with his first Grand Prix win this weekend.

    "How's your deck?" asked Bartolomei.

    "Ehh, we'll find out. How about yours?" replied Romero.

    "It's the best deck I've drafted all day."

    Game 1

    Bartolomei won the roll, and Romero thought for a bit before keeping his opening hand.

    It soon became clear why Romero had agonized over his keep, as Bartolomei was able to play a Silverchase Fox, Nephalia Seakite, and a Silverclaw Griffin all before Romero had played his first spell.

    Iain Bartolomei

    Dead Weight, into Morkrut Banshee helped even the score a bit – but Bartolomei's Dungeon Geists was more than enough for him to seal the deal against the spell-light Romero.

    Iain Bartolomei 1 – Henry Romero 0

    Game 2

    Romero got off to an early lead in game two with Darkthicket Wolf, Markov Patrician, and a Dead Weight to take out Bartolomei's first creature – a turn four Moon Heron.

    Henry Romero

    But a Silverclaw Griffin, followed by Dearly Departed allowed Bartolomei to stabilize on five life.

    Romero had a Victim of Night sitting in his hand that would have allowed him to win the game if he ever drew a second Swamp, but without the ability to cast his best removal spell, it was only a matter of time before Romero died to a Dungeon Geists, and a Feeling of Dread.

    Iain Bartolomei 2 – Henry Romero 0

     
  • Quarterfinal - Jason Huang vs. Paul Rietzl

    by Josh Bennett
  • Pro Tour Amsterdam champion Paul Rietzl was cautiously optimistic about his deck for the Top 8, calling it good but not great.

    "I think if this had been on Magic Online, I would've drafted a 3-0 deck. Mono-red was out there, I just couldn't bring myself to abandon green early enough. It's different when it's a Top 8."

    His opponent was Jason Huang, who moved with nervous excitement. He had put together a bit of blue-green beatdown.

    Game 1

    In defiance of their decklists, they both staggered off the starting blocks. Huang, on the play, didn't have anything to do until a turn-four Grasp of Phantoms on Rietzl's turn-three Lambholt Elder. Rietzl replayed it without having a fourth land. Huang had a fifth, and a Hollowhenge Beast to go with it.

    Rietzl passed his turn to flip over his Elder. Unfortunately for him, Huang had Snapcaster Mage, flashing back Grasp of Phantoms for a discount. Rietzl took five and offed the Snapcaster at end of turn with Geistflame. He replayed his Elder, and passed again.

    Another hit from the Beast brought Rietzl to ten. Huang restocked with Divination, and locked down the Elder with Claustrophobia. Rietzl drew for his turn and stared in agony at his cards. Eventually, he spent his three mana on Ashmouth Hound and Blazing Torch. Huang hit him to five, and Battleground Geist tightened the noose.

    Finally, a fourth land for Rietzl. He played out Crossway Vampire and gave the Torch to his Ashmouth Hound. Huang didn't bother sending the Beast, he just swung in the air for three, then cast Stitched Drake. Rietzl held back on his mana, but was dead to the incoming attack.

    Huang 1 - Rietzl 0

    Paul Rietzl

    Game 2

    "I think this match might be more important to me than it is to you. I still need to qualify for Barcelona."

    "Well, it's pretty important for me too. I need the points to get to Platinum."

    This time Rietzl was under fire early from Huang's Hamlet Captain and Somberwald Dryad. Without a second mountain he had to pass his third turn with no play, and then spend his fourth searching up the errant land and kiling the Dryad with a pair of Geistflames. Mulch got Huang his fourth land, and Rietzl finally got his Markov Blademaster into play.

    Both were stuck on four land. Huang attacked with Hamlet Captain and Rietzl declined the trade. Huang followed up with Moon Heron, and let the Blademaster through when Rietzl swung in. He took three and the Blademaster grew to 3/3. Rietzl cast Ashmouth Hound, then played and equipped Blazing Torch.

    Grasp of Phantoms sent the Blademaster back home, and Huang hit for five. Rietzl replayed it and passed. Huang sent in the Moon Heron, and Rietzl killed it with the Torch. Huang had a fifth land, however, enabling his Relentless Skaabs. Rietzl went into the tank. Eventually he settled on Lambholt Elder and passing.

    Huang hit with his Skaabs, and Rietzl let it through, falling to five. Next up for Huang was Battleground Geist. It was getting down to the Wire for Rietzl. He summoned Crossway Vampire, stunning the Hamlet Captain, and attacked with his Hound and Blademaster. Huang took it, falling to twelve.

    Jason Huang

    With blood in the water, Huang swung all-out. Elder blocked the Skaabs, Crossway Vampire traded with Hamlet captain, and Rietzl took three down to just two life. Huang followed up with Ulvenwald Bear as a 4/4. Rietzl scrambled to find a way out of things. Another Crossway Vampire stunned the Bear to clear a path for the Blademaster, but Huang had Ambush Viper for the chump. Bonds of Faith on Battleground Geist made sure he wouldn't die the follwing turn, but after that, what? Rietzl looked at one more card, and jokingly slid Balefire Dragon from his hand into the Red Zone. "Attack?" Then he extended his hand in defeat.

    "That ambush viper was kinda deflating. I was trying to set myself up for maximum outs," said Rietzl, then congratulated Huang on qualifying for the Pro Tour.

    Huang was apologetic. "Sorry those games were-"

    Rietzl cut him off "Nah, man, I kept the hands, you know. It was a greedy keep, but if I drew the second mountain for the Blademaster on turn three, I really thought I would take that one."

    Jason Huang defeats Paul Rietzl 2-0

     
  • Semifinal - Jason Huang vs. Robert Smith

    by Josh Bennett
  • After brief mutual congratulations on their qualification for Pro Tour Avacyn Restored in Barcelona, Jason Huang and Robert Smith shuffled up their weapons and got down to the bloody business at hand. Two men enter, one man leaves.

    Game 1

    Huang got on the board quickly with Ambush Viper and Armored Skaab while Smith cast a Think Twice. He untapped and made an Armored Skaab of his own. Huang swung in. The Skaabs bounced off each other and he dropped Smith to sixteen. He played a fourth land and passed. Smith fortified with Moan of the Unhallowed. Huang got big with Relentless Skaabs, but Smith had Claustrophobia at the ready. Huang Mulched into nothing much and passed the turn.

    The stability looked like it suited Smith. He played his sixth land and passed. By contrast, Huang doing the same signalled that he was out of gas. Smith flashed back Think Twice, then cast Forbidden Alchemy. He untapped, played his seventh land and flashed back his Moan.

    Huang finally started drawing action, first Hollowhenge Beast, then Battleground Geist, but he couldn't get through. Worse, Smith seemed to have everything he needed. Geistcatcher's Rig took out the flier. A Highborn Ghoul started to peck at Huang's lifetotal. Huang found Claustrophobia, but it was the third Claustrophobia of the match, locking down Hollowhenge Beast, that really tilted the tables. Suddenly Smith was charging in with a ton of monsters and Huang didn't have profitable blocks. Murder of Crows from Smith was the cherry on top.

    Smith 1 - Huang 0

    Jason Huang

    Game 2

    Huang's opening of Hamlet Captain was stymied by Sensory Deprivation, but he had Deranged Outcast as a follow-up. Smith played Civilised Scholar. Huang Mulched but found no lands, then hit for two, forgetting that he could send the blanked Captain for an extra point of damage.

    Smith looted away an island, then passed with four mana open. Huang played Invisible Stalker and hit for another two. Smith dropped the expected Nephalia Seakite but declined to block. He looted away Geistcatcher's Rig, then swung in with his newly Homicidal Maniac and the Seakite. Huang chuped the 5/1 with his Hamlet Captain, then sacrificed it to put two counters on Invisible Stalker. Lucky for Smith, he had Farbog Boneflinger to get rid of the Deranged Outcast before Huang could juice the Stalker to a 5/5.

    Robert Smith

    It looked like Smith had swung the game. Huang's Stalker brought him to thirteen. Huang put a Relentless Skaabs on the board. If Smith had a way to get rid of them, it would mean another nine damage, and probably the game. He untapped and drew, and for a moment he looked like he had it, but he simply swung out with his creatures. The Skaabs traded with the Maniac and came back as a 5/5. Huang was down to 14. Smith played Chant of the Skifsang on the Skaabs and passed.

    Huang hit for another three, then brought down the hammer: Kessig Cagebreakers. With four creatures in the graveyard, it would only need to attack once. Smith's desperation Forbidden Alchemy failed to turn up anything useful, and he packed up his cards.

    Smith 1 - Huang 1

    It was an anticlimactic third game. Huang kept a one-lander on the draw, needing a forest, stalled on two islands. Smith had a Civilised Scholar and transformed it into Homicidal Maniac, not wanting to give Huang a chance to draw out of it. It came in for five. Huang tried Snapcaster Mage for the trade, but Smith had Tragic Slip. Murder of Crows piled on, and soon Smith was off to the finals.

    Robert Smith defeats Jason Huang 2-1

     
  • Semifinal - James Nguyen vs. Iain Bartolomei

    by Steve Sadin
  • James Nguyen prepared for this event with fellow top 8 competitor Henry Romero, as a part of the Oregon based Draft-PDX group, a draft mailing list that uses the same organizational techniques that Hall of Famer Jon Finkel uses to set up his drafts.

    This preparation seems to have paid off in spades for James, as he has already locked up an invitation, and a free flight to Pro Tour Avacyn Restored in Barcelona – and now finds himself a mere two matches away from bringing a Grand Prix trophy back to Oregon.

    But in order to make it to the finals – he's going to need to beat Iain Bartolomei – a journeyman semi-pro, who earned his first Premier Event Top 8 this weekend.

    Game 1

    Nguyen double mulliganed, but his five card hand was about as good as he could reasonably hope for it to be.

    A Stromkirk Noble, followed by a Stromkirk Captain gave Nguyen a significant early lead. However, a Chapel Geist, and a Smite the Monstrous (which took out the 4/4 Stromkirk Noble) allowed Bartolomei to even the score a bit.

    Nguyen kept the beats coming with an Erdwal Ripper – but a Midnight Guard, and a Bonds of Faith let Bartolomei catch up again.

    Despite having started the game on five cards, Nguyen demonstrated that he still had plenty of gas left in the tank, as an Ashmouth Hound, and a Galvanic Juggernaut allowed him to continue attacking.

    Bartolomei was able to mount an offense of his own thanks to Nephalia Seakite, Moon Heron, and Claustrophobia -- but a Crossway Vampires allowed Nguyen to knock Bartolomei down to four life.

    Bartolomei had to pass his next turn with no plays -- a Faithless Looting set up a big Harvest Pyre, allowed Nguyen to untap his Galvanic Juggernaut and send in a lethal attack.

    James Nguyen 1 – Iain Bartolomei 0

    James Nguyen

    Game 2

    Bartolomei opened on Screeching Skaab, and a Mindshrieker (which traded with a Erdwal Ripper) – but without a third land, he could do little more than attack with his Screeching Skaab for turn after turn.

    Nguyen looked to take out the land-light Bartolomei as quickly as possible with a Galvanic Juggernaut, but a Silent Departure, and a Sensory Deprivation allowed Bartolomei to stem the bleeding.

    Nguyen's Faithless Looting found him a Stromkirk Captain, and after a number of turns without lands – Bartolomei was finally able to cast his Voiceless Spirit.

    Vengeful Vampire looked threatening for a moment, however Bartolomei soon drew the fourth land that he needed to lock down the undying flier with a Dungeon Geists.

    Nguyen flashed back Faithless Looting, and found a second Stromkirk Captain – but he couldn't find a permanent answer for Bartolomei's fliers, and soon found himself desperately looking for any way to survive.

    Nguyen eventually had to use a Traitorous Blood to untap his Vengeful Vampire, hoping that it would be enough to deter Bartolomei from attacking, but a Claustrophobia allowed Bartolomei to even the match at one game apiece.

    James Nguyen 1 – Iain Bartolomei 1

    Iain Bartolomei

    Game 3

    Bartolomei mulliganed, and soon found himself under a ton of pressure from Nguyen's Stromkirk Noble, Ashmouth Hound opener.

    Realizing how much pressure he was under, Bartolomei used a Feeling of Dread to keep Stromkirk Noble at a reasonable size (and save himself some life) before stabilizing with a Chapel Geist, and a Grasp of Phantoms.

    Stromkirk Noble, and Rakish Heir came down for Nguyen, but Bartolomei was able to trump both of them with his Dearly Departed.

    Traitorous Blood allowed Nguyen to borrow his opponent's 5/5 flier, and attack Bartolomei down to 11 – but that would be his last hurrah.

    A Smite the Monstrous dealt with Rakish Heir, and four attacks from Dearly Departed later Bartolomei was off to the finals.

    Iain Bartolomei 2 – James Nguyen 1

     
  • Final - Iain Bartolomei vs. Robert Smith

    by Steve Sadin
  • After 17 rounds of play, a field 1,160 has been cut down to just two: Iain Bartolomei, a California native who is piloting a Blue-White flier deck that features Dungeon Geists, and Dearly Departed -- and Robert Smith, a Canadian playing a controlling Blue-Black deck full of good removal spells.

    Game 1

    Bartolomei mulliganed, and kept a weak hand that left him unable to cast a spell before he played a Silverclaw Griffin on turn five.

    Fortunately for Bartolomei, Smith's draw wasn't all that fast – but Smith still had a Moan of the Unhallowed, a Civilized Scholar, and a Sensory Deprivation to offset Bartolomei's Silverclaw Griffin.

    Bartolomei looked to buy himself some time with a Grasp of Phantoms on Civilized Scholar, Bonds of Faith on a zombie token – but despite having relevant plays, Bartolomei still felt himself falling further and further behind.

    Smith replayed the Civilized Scholar, and Bartolomei chose to free his own Silverclaw Griffin from Sensory Deprivation with Silent Departure – hoping that the 3/2 first striking flier would be enough to hold Smith off.

    Another Sensory Deprivation allowed Smith to once again neutralize Bartolomei's Silverclaw Griffin, and set up an attack with Homicidal Brute, and a zombie token that left Bartolomei on seven life.

    Silent Departure got flashed back, and a Feeling of Dread allowed Bartolomei to get through the turn without taking any damage – but a flashed back Moan of the Unhallowed, and a Farbog Boneflinger allowed Smith to take the first game without breaking a sweat.

    Robert Smith 1 – Iain Bartolomei 0

    Iain Bartolomei

    Game 2

    Bartolomei played a Mindshrieker, and milled a Moon Heron to knock Smith down to 15 before he had played his first spell. Smith tried to put Bartolomei's Mindshrieker out of commission with Claustrophobia, but a Faith's Shield allowed Iain to continue attacking with his pumpable flier.

    After taking a couple more hits, Smith looked to pull ahead with a Civilized Scholar, and a Murder of Crows – but Bartolomei had a Silverclaw Griffin, and a Smite the Monstrous to remain firmly in control of the game.

    A Chant of the Skirsdag on Silverclaw Griffin, and a Claustrophobia on Mindshrieker allowed Smith to breathe for a moment – however that respite wouldn't last for long, as Bartolomei found a Dungeon Geists, and a Nephalia Seakite to force a deciding third game.

    Robert Smith 1 – Iain Bartolomei 1

    Robert Smith

    Game 3

    Bartolomei mulliganed to start the third, and final, game of the match – but he was still able to find a six card hand that was full of answers. Smith's Civilized Scholar got tapped down by Claustrophobia, and his follow up play of Murder of Crows got stuck under a Dungeon Geists.

    As good as Bartolomei's draw was, Smith was still able to go over the top with a Geistcatcher's Rig (which took out Dungeon Geists, and freed his Murder of Crows).

    Smite the Monstrous gave Bartolomei a permanent answer for Murder of Crows, but he still needed to find a way to race, or deal with Smith's Geistcatcher's Rig.

    Bartolomei played a Nephalia Seakite, but he had to bounce it with Saving Grasp when Smith shrank it with a Sensory Deprivation.

    Rather than replay his 2/3 flier, Bartolomei had a Silverclaw Griffin – but that wouldn't spend much time on the board either as a Farbog Boneflinger prompted Bartolomei to once again pick up his only creature with Saving Grasp.

    Bartolomei finally found a Bonds of Faith to take Geistcatcher's Rig out of the equation, but his Nephalia Seakite soon died to a well-timed Tragic Slip.

    Bartolomei recast his Silverclaw Griffin, and Smith wasted no time before shrinking it with Chant of the Skifsang.

    With the game once again approaching a stalemate, Smith played a Civilized Scholar, and Bartolomei hoped to go on the offensive with his replacement Silverclaw Griffin.

    However, Bartolomei's aggressive aspirations were quickly dashed, as Smith used a Cackling Counterparts to copy Geistcatcher's Rig, and take out Bartolomei's 3/2 flier.

    Bartolomei was able to bounce Smith's first Geistcatcher's Rig token with Silent Departure – but he could do nothing but watch as Smith won the tournament by flashing back his Cackling Counterparts to make his third Geistcatcher's Rig of the game.

    Robert Smith defeats Iain Bartolomei in three games to become the Grand Prix Seattle-Tacoma Champion!

     
  • Top 5 Cards of Grand Prix Seattle-Tacoma 2012

    by Josh Bennett
  • #1 - Bloodline Keeper

    If you asked someone what rares they wanted to open in Innistrad / Dark Ascension Sealed Deck, odds are Bloodline Keeper would be on their list. Top 8'er Owen Turtenwald was the Bloodline Keeper poster boy this weekend. Not only did he have it in his sealed pool, but he managed to steer his first draft on Day 2 in such a way that he was the recipient of a SIXTH PICK Bloodline Keeper. I just want you to picture that for a minute. Everyone at the table knows which pack has the Keeper in it, because it is double-faced, and Turtenwald watches as it makes the long circuit around the table, finally ending up in his pile.

    The ability of double-faced cards in general to signal to the table what colors you're drafting is something pros touched on again and again. Given the option, most would happily choose a less-powerful double-faced card. That small bit of public information has made Innistrad / Dark Ascension a much more cooperative draft format than its predecessors.

    #2 - Stromkirk Captain and the Dark Ascension Lords

    In contrast to the relative safety offered by a double-faced pick, these cards are high-risk, high-reward first picks. They not only give your draft a plan, but the games where you draw them early are often devastating. Think about the no-win endgames offered by Direcraf Captain, where your army of zombies is killing the opponent no matter what. Or ask Luis Scott-Vargas how it feels to be on the wrong side of a double-Immerwolf draw. Jon Finkel and Craig Wescoe both held up Drogskol Captain as a card they'd like to hang their draft on.

    Be sure to take a look at semifinalist James Nguyen's Top 8 deck. It's a thing of beauty.

    #3 - Dungeon Geists

    The total package. The removal spell that kills your opponent. Phantom Monster grew up and got mad, and the result is this dreamcrusher. In a format as fast as Innistrad / Dark Ascension Limited, games often come down to race situations, where cards like Moment of Heroism can really shine. The high tempo is the reason why Silent Departure is the premier blue common. But no card reverses a race like Dungeon Geists.

    Finalist Iain Bartolomei's deck is a streamlined tempo machine. Dungeon Geists is the headliner, but so much of his deck is designed to dictate the pace of play. Silent Departure and Feeling of Dread to keep the opponent off-pace. Two Midnight Guards working overtime on offence and defence. Nephalia Seakite to catch the opponent looking. Interestingly, he played eighteen land to make sure he'd be able to afford his high-end spells and expensive flashback costs.

    #4 - Geistcatcher's Rig

    Talking about six-drops in sealed, Owen Turtenwald said "You'll never cut a Geistcatcher's Rig, because if you're winning, you're going to play against a lot of Bloodline Keepers." Luis Scott-Vargas echoed this, saying that in this format you need your six-drops to affect the board right away. But it's not just a sealed deck all-star.

    Champion Robert Smith played just ten creatures in his deck, but he made sure they all counted. The Rig was particularly well-positioned against Bartolomei's air force. Not only a removal spell, but a big body that could fight through Bartolomei's smaller creatures. In the deciding game three of the finals, Bartolomei dropped Dungeon Geists hoping for an early advantage, but Geistcatcher's Rig flipped the script on him, and was the beginning of the end.

    #5 - Cackling Counterpart

    If Smith's Geistcatcher's Rig was backbreaking in game 3, his Cackling Counterpart must've dissolved Bartolomei's skeleton completely. Bartolomei weathered the first volley as best he could, with flashed back Saving Grasp for his flier and Silent Departure for the token, but a third 4/5 Nekrataal is just bananas.

    The fact that it's an instant dovetailed nicely with the rest of Smith's deck. Between Think Twice, Forbidden Alchemy, Tragic Slip, Nephalia Seakite and Undying Evil, Smith is happy to play a reactive game. There's so much value to be had, and Smith's toolbox keeps the enemy guessing. It just goes to show that Innistrad's synergies run very deep.

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