gpsj12

Sperling, Williams, and
Rietzl Win San Jose

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When Teams Returned to Ravnica

A whole world covered in city, and a whole convention center covered in Magic players. GP San Jose delivered an astonishingly vibrant, constantly surprising, wondrous and strange environment that thrilled and delighted in equal measure from the opening salvos of Saturday morning to the titanic tussles of Sunday night.

571 teams found their way here, their hopes and expectations buoyed by a fantastic Pre-Release weekend that saw records smashed around the world. As Return to Ravnica boosters were opened by the truckload, the tales began to pour in - tales of last-ditch victories torn from defeat, tales of Scavenged monstrosities roaming the streets, tales of lightning wins and thunderous losses, all set against a backdrop of friendship and camaraderie that few games can come close to matching.

There aren't many things that beat playing Magic for yourself, but playing Magic for a team is definitely one of them. Just ask Matt Sperling, Paul Rietzl, and David Williams, the ultimate winners of this colossal event. All have previous successes, and Rietzl can boast a Pro Tour title on his mantle. None of them have seen victories sweeter than those this weekend, with Rietzl daring to predict the result for all the world to see days before this incredible gathering.

Whether Azorius, Rakdos, Izzet, Selesnya, or Golgari, every guild contributed to the richness and depth of this fantastic new set. It's hard to convey just how much information revealed itself over the course of this weekend, and yet that information torrent is due to become a raging storm in just a few days, when the best in the world come to Seattle for Pro Tour Return to Ravnica.

For now, though, the Magic world belongs to all the teams who competed here this weekend. A familiar cry, but no less true for all that: At GP San Jose 2012, there were no losers, only winners. Now Europe can look forward to its own team Grand Prix next year, knowing that something very special is on the way.

Congratulations to Matt Sperling, David Williams, and Paul Rietzl, Champions of GP San Jose 2012.




Finals   Champion
Maksym Gryn    
Lucas Siow    
Jamie Naylor   Matt Sperling
vs.   David Williams
Matt Sperling   Paul Rietzl
David Williams    
Paul Rietzl    
 







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EVENT COVERAGE TWITTER

INFORMATION
 1.  Matt Sperling, Paul Rietzl, and David Williams $6,000
 2.  Maksym Gryn, Lucas Siow, and Jamie Naylor $4,500
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  • San Jose Finalist Profiles
    by Event Coverage Staff


  • Lucas Siow

    Age: 26
    Hometown: Toronto, ON Canada
    Occupation: Bank Analyst


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    2nd at Grand Prix Columbus 2012. 2012 Canadian World Magic Cup team member.

    Who are your teammates, and why did you play with them?
    Jamie Naylor and Maksym Gryn. They were the only 2 people willing to travel 3,000 miles and 50 hours with me.

    What color combination did you play in Sealed, and what was your most important card?
    Green-White -- Centaur Healer, and combat tricks. I didn’t play any rares.

    What color combination(s) did you play in your drafts, and what were your most important cards?
    Draft 1 Green-Black-Red Control -- Vraska the UnseenDraft 2 Blue-Red Aggro - Pursuit of FlightDraft 3 Blue White Fliers - Skymarc Roc

    Do you prefer Team Limited, or Team Constructed?

    Team Limited.




    Maksym Gryn

    Age: 22
    Hometown: Toronto
    Occupation: Student


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    I won a match at a Pro Tour, one time.

    Who are your teammates, and why did you play with them?
    I played with Lucas Siow because I asked to team with him before he Top 2’d GP Columbus.And I played with Jamie Naylor because he’s a nice guy.

    What color combination did you play in Sealed, and what was your most important card?
    Mono Wall 5 Color, 8 Rare Control - Axebane Guardian.

    What color combination(s) did you play in your drafts, and what were your most important cards?
    Draft 1 Rakdos - Rix Maadi GuildmageDraft 2 Rakdos - Rix Maadi GuildmageDraft 3 Rakdos - Rix Maadi Guildmage

    Do you prefer Team Limited, or Team Constructed?

    Team Limited




    Jamie Naylor

    Age: 24
    Hometown: Toronto
    Occupation: Student


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    Canadian Nationals Top 4. Provided our team with byes for Grand Prix San Jose via a Grand Prix Trial win.

    Who are your teammates, and why did you play with them?
    Maksym - Because he’s a friend from Toronto.Lucas - Obviously

    What color combination did you play in Sealed, and what was your most important card?
    Rakdos - Augur Spree

    What color combination(s) did you play in your drafts, and what were your most important cards?
    Draft 1 Selesnya - 3x Selesnya CharmDraft 2 Selesnya - none, got carriedDraft 3 Selesnya - none, got carried

    Do you prefer Team Limited, or Team Constructed?

    Limited is more fun, but I’m better at constructed. So… limited.




    David Williams

    Age: 32
    Hometown: Vegas
    Occupation: Poker Player


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    Top 8 Pro Tour Tokyo 2001Top 8 Worlds 2001

    Who are your teammates, and why did you play with them?
    Sperling - Brains; Rietzl - Wild CardAlso because we get along and are great friends. We all have confidence in each other, especially in limited.

    What color combination did you play in Sealed, and what was your most important card?
    Golgari - Daggerdrome Imp

    What color combination(s) did you play in your drafts, and what were your most important cards?
    Draft 1 Selesnya -- Call of the ConclaveDraft 2 Black-Green-White - Korozda GuildmageDraft 3 Izzet - Izzet Charm x3

    Do you prefer Team Limited, or Team Constructed?

    Team Limited!!! YES!




    Paul Rietzl

    Age: 27
    Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
    Occupation: Headhunter


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    Top 16 Pro Tour Boston 2002 (teams).3 Pro Tour Top 8s, 6 Grand Prix Top 8s.

    Who are your teammates, and why did you play with them?
    David Williams - LooksMatt Sperling - Brains

    What color combination did you play in Sealed, and what was your most important card?
    Black-Red-Blue sideboarded into Red-Blue. I built very wrong, my best card was Pursuit of Flight.

    What color combination(s) did you play in your drafts, and what were your most important cards?
    Draft 1 Red-Black-Green - Corpsejack MenaceDraft 2 Rakdos splash green and blue - Lobber CrewDraft 3 Azorious - lost all my matches, no good cards

    Do you prefer Team Limited, or Team Constructed?

    Team Limited by an order of magnitude.




    Matt Sperling

    Age: 29
    Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
    Occupation: Lawyer


    Previous Magic Accomplishments:
    2nd Grand Prix Minneapolis17th Team Pro Tour Boston 2001, Pro Tour Top 16, Pro Tour Top 32.

    Who are your teammates, and why did you play with them?
    Paul Rietzl & Dave Williams. Two of my closest friends who happen to be world class players.

    What color combination did you play in Sealed, and what was your most important card?
    Selesnya - Centaur Token

    What color combination(s) did you play in your drafts, and what were your most important cards?
    Draft 1 Azorious - aggressive detain creaturesDraft 2 Izzet - Pursuit of Flight & Stealer of SecretsDraft 3 Black-Red-Green - Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord

    Do you prefer Team Limited, or Team Constructed?

    Team Limited. Preperation for constructed is not as fun a skill to test as adapting on the fly.




     

  • Finals, Round One – Matt Sperling vs. Jamie Naylor
    by Rich Hagon

  • Both players kept their opening hands, although Sperling took a moment to ponder an opening grip of two Forests in a three color Golgari/Selesnya deck. Naylor began with Izzet Guildgate, presumably sacrificing no tempo here on turn one. Frostburn Weird was turn two as planned, while Sperling found a Swamp to go with a Forest. The Weird attacked for two, joined by Goblin Electromancer. Sperling had an end of turn play, Grisly Salvage giving him plenty of options. Thrill-Kill Assassin went to hand, while Giant Growth and Towering Indrik (plus two land) headed for the graveyard.

    Sperling cast Axebane Guardian, and his mana was working out well. In came Naylor with Electromancer and Weird (which is almost certainly a firm of Izzet lawyers), taking Sperling to 14. The American used his Axebane Guardian to cast Corpsejack Menace, finishing the turn with Golgari Guildgate, again without any tempo loss. Naylor added Splatter Thug, but the game had shifted, and there was no sign of an Unleash counter. Both Thrill-Kill Assassin and Korozda Monitor arrived next turn for Sperling, who was getting full measure from his Axebane Guardian. The Assassin, of course, received a bonus thanks to Corpsejack Menace, confirming the shift towards the American side.


    Vassal Soul came next from Naylor, and that was currently relevant, since it was the only flyer on an increasingly busy battlefield. Sperling sent his Deathtouch Assassin into the red zone, dealing the first damage of the game to Naylor. Zanikev Locust ensured that there would be some flying defense against the Vassal Soul. A second Frostburn Weird continued to clog the table, whilst doing little to tilt the game his way.

    Treasured Find returned Grisly Salvage to hand for Sperling. Dryad Militant joined the board, while the two players continued to pass by each other in the air. The Grisly Salvage eventually gave Sperling a Loxodon Smiter, in a game that was continuing to be all about grind. Thrill-Kill Assassin and Zanikev Locust continued to attack, reducing Naylor to 5. The Canadian seemed unfazed, sending in his Vassal Soul. Sperling cast Eyes in the Skies, which Naylor responded to with Annihilating Fire on the Zanikev Locust. Sperling responded to that with Aerial Predation for his own Locust. In the final play of the sequence, Naylor cast Dispel for the Eyes in the Skies.

    Critically, Zanikev Locust now sat in Sperling's graveyard. Had Annihilating Fire resolved, it would have been exiled, and Scavenge would have been lost. As it was, Scavenge got double value thanks to Corpsejack Menace, and that was enough for Sperling to send everything into the red zone. Both players did the math, and the math meant Corpsejack Menace had done enough.

    Sperling 1 - 0 Naylor

    At this point, Williams was 1-0 up on Siow, while Rietzl and Gryn were tied at 1-1, and by the time Sperling and Naylor were ready to start game two, Siow had equalized against Williams, and Rietzl had claimed the deciding game against Gryn, meaning the Canadians would have to win all three remaining games if they were to claim the round.

    Frostburn Weird faced Centaur's Herald early in game two, with Sperling having started at six cards. Izzet Charm took out the Herald before it could become a full-fledged 3/3, while Frostburn Weird attacked early and often. Faerie Imposter required Naylor to return the Frostburn, but he had the mana to recast it that same turn. When Sperling passed the turn with four mana open, Eyes in the Skies seemed likely, and when that came true Naylor had Dispel to force through six more points of damage. Sperling had nothing on board, and was down to 10 life - Frostburn Weird can do a lot of things for you.

    In came Naylor again. This time it was Sperling ready, with Aerial Predation taking out the Faerie Imposter. Naylor added Gore-House Chainwalker, and of course it gained an Unleash counter. It was still smaller than the new Towering Indrik, but at that point...

    Williams defeated Siow, meaning that the rest of Naylor and Sperling was moot. The players packed up their cards and headed for the second round, with the US team one set away from the title.




     

  • Finals Decklists
    by Event Coverage Staff


  • Jaymie Naylor
    San Jose Grand Prix - Team Limited








     

  • Finals, Round One – David Williams vs. Lucas Siow
    by Steven Sadin

  • Old school American pro David Williams made his last Grand Prix Top 8 over a decade ago. The young Canadian standout Lucas Siow, on the other hand, Top 8'ed the very last Grand Prix that he played in – making it all the way to the finals of Grand Prix Columbus before losing to Jacob Maynard.

    Will David Williams be able to win the third Grand Prix of his career (with some help from his teammates)? Or will Lucas Siow be able to do one better than he did last time?

    Game One

    Williams opened on a Centaur's Herald (which he turned into a 3/3 at the first possible opportunity) while Siow had a Splatter Thug, a Dark Revenant, and a Golgari Keyrune to start things off. A Stab Wound transformed Siow's Splatter Thug from a threat into a liability, but an Augur Spree from Siow was all that he needed to leave the Williams in a tough spot.

    With only his Stab Wound as a viable damage source, and some serious mana problems – Williams needed to draw something fast. Gatecreeper Vine helped Williams get past his mana woes, and a Sluiceway Scorpion, plus a Daggerdome Imp was enough to put Williams into the lead...


    At least until Traitorous Instinct on Sluiceway Scorpion set up an attack that left Williams on a mere 2 life.

    Another Stab Wound took out Siow's Dark Revenant, but it was back again a turn later. However, that turn was all that Williams needed as he was able to use that time to scavenge a pair of +1/+1 counters onto his Daggerdrome Imp.

    The ensuing lifelink attack left Siow at 3, and Williams at a relatively healthy 5 life. Stab Wound knocked Siow down to 1 on his upkeep, and when his draw step failed to deliver the Canadian phenom an out, the players were off to game two.

    David Williams 1 – Lucas Siow 0

    Game Two

    Siow got of to a good start in the second game with a Rakdos Cackler, and a Viashino Racketeer – but Williams had a Drudge Beetle, and a Daggerdrome Imp to keep up.

    Although Williams was able to blunt his opponent's early onslaught– Siow wasn't relenting. Splatter Thug, Dead Revelers, Perilous Shadow, and a well timed Cremate (that prevented Williams from scavenging counters onto his Daggerdrome Imp) put Siow firmly into the driver's seat.

    Slum Reaper allowed Williams to survive for a bit, but Siow still had enough big creatures to knock Dave down to 3.

    Williams hoped that Korozda Guildmage would give him enough blockers to survive...but Siow had an Explosive Impact to even the match at one game apiece.

    David Williams 1 – Lucas Siow 1

    Game Three

    Siow looked to go on the offensive in the third game by unleashing a Rakdos Cackler, and a Splatter Thug – but Williams had an even better start with a Drudge Beetle, a Daggerdrome Imp, and a Lotleth Troll

    So, despite his quick start, Siow had to play his Dead Reveler as a 2/3 just so he could survive.

    "You broke the first rule of Rakdos," exclaimed Williams. "It's always a good sign when they're coming in to block!"


    But the 2/3 would offer Siow little reprieve as Williams simply untapped, discarded Sluiceway Scorpion to his Loleth Troll, and scavenged 2 +1/+1 counters onto his Daggerdrome Imp.

    When Williams attacked again on the following turn, Siow played an Augur Spree that he assumed would kill his opponent's 3/3 Daggerdrome Imp... but Williams had a Savage Surge to allow his flier to not only survive the Auger Spree, but to turn the Rakdos instant into the instrument of his owner's demise.

    Match to Williams, Round 1 to Williams/Sperling/Rietzl.




     

  • Finals, Round One – Paul Rietzl vs. Maksym Gryn
    by AJ Sacher

  • It had been a long weekend, but a great one. Team Limited is not known to be one of the fastest formats, but it is known to be one of the most fun. The always affable Paul Rietzl cordially introduced himself and asked his opponent how his name was spelled.

    "M-A-X....U," Rietzl asked?

    "It's M-A-K-S-Y-M," Gryn spelled out for him.

    "Wow, I wasn't even close," Rietzl laughed.

    Gryn had the choice of play or draw, as his team entered the elimination rounds as the highest seed. He elected to play, as seems to be the standard in the budding format. He kept his hand quickly, but Rietzl looked at his hand with slight disgust and consulted his team. David Williams agreed, and Rietzl went back for six new cards. His second hand was acceptable, and the players waited for the go-ahead to start their match. During the delay, Rietzl asked tongue-in-cheek if Gryn had ever won any Grand Prix before.

    "No, I've never even Day Two'd a Grand Prix before," Gryn admitted. Not a bad run for someone with such little experience. Rietzl, on the other hand, has a bit more experience at the pro level to say the least.

    Game One

    Gryn served up a pair of Plains over the first couple of turns, to which Rietzl returned a Mountain and Swamp. This allowed him to play the first creature of the match, an unleashed Grim Roustabout.

    Gryn's third turn was simply another Plains, while Rietzl smashed in for two before bolstering his board with a Lobber Crew. Gryn dropped into thought. After asking Rietzl how many cards he had in his hand, Gryn simply passed the turn back with three Plains untapped. Did he decide not to use an Avenging Arrow on the unleashed Undead or was it a ruse?

    An Island off of the top of Gryn's deck allowed a Skymark Roc to come into play, but Rietzl had his maindeck Aerial Predation to take care of that, clearing the way for him to attack for two more damage. Gryn tried once again to slow Rietzl down, using a Voidwielder to return the Lobber Crew, but a hasty Dreg Mangler took the defender's place. When the Voidwielder tried to block, Rietzl used a Dynacharge to make sure the large defender was out of the picture permanently.

    Gryn's addition of a Selesnya Sentry didn't seem like that big of a threat, but an Ethereal Armor turned it into a much scarier 4/3 first striker. Rietzl could only replay his Lobber Crew and pass the turn back. The 4/3 Sentry took to the offensive on Gryn's turn, dropping Rietzl from 22 to 18. This was a risky attack, as it seemed racing was a losing proposition from that game state.

    On the following turn, the Dreg Mangler attacked past Gryn's 2/2 only to be struck down on Rietzl's end step by the Avenging Arrow that he had telegraphed earlier. Golgari Longlegs and a 6/4 unleashed Spawn of Rix Maadi may have looked intimidating on other boards, but Gryn's 4/3 first-striking Sentry made Rietzl's completely ineffective. With no attacks, Rietzl's crew could only lob damage in one-point increments.

    With Gryn sieged down to 6 life, Rietzl took pause to see what kind of attacks he could make. Thanks to a scavenged Dreg Mangler, Rietzl's Spawn of Rix Maadi got 3 more +1/+1 counters, making it a perfect target for Gryn's Tristani's Judgment.

    Gryn played a Sunspire Griffin, looking to get some sort of offensive going. Rietzl's Lobber Crew continued to tick away at his life total, and the Pro Tour champion cooly added a Towering Indrik to his board to defend against the new flier. Time was running out, and Gryn seemed to be quite flooded, playing his ninth land. After a quick consultation with his team, Rietzl decided it was safe to attack with all of his creatures to close the game out a turn quicker than otherwise planned.

    Rietzl 1 - Gryn 0

    Game Two

    Both players kept their initial hands with little fanfare. Gryn took the play again, this time kicking things off with a Precinct Captain, remarking, "That's pretty good on turn 2." Rietzl definitely agreed. After taking a hit, he was facing down a token and a New Prahv Guildmage as well. Rietzl missed his third land drop and had to discard. Another turn of taking a substantial beating and having to discard, Rietzl decided that it was time to pick 'em up. While it's never fun to see someone get mana screwed, I can't help but think that Gryn was grinning a little on the inside at the essentially free game win.

    Rietzl 1 - Gryn 1

    Now it was Rietzl's turn to go first. He kept his hand, but Gryn mulliganned. While he shuffled, Rietzl did a number of things:

    • Turned his baseball cap around, from backwards to forward.
    • Complained about the cold.
    • Refused to put on his jacket, which was over his chair.
    • Asked his opponent what part of Canada he was from ("Toronto").
    • Asked if he spoke French ("no").
    • Said that he had some friends from Canada, and that they spoke French. ("...Ok").

    The final game's decisions began on turn three, as Rietzl considered his plays. He considered his options, nearly going to consult his teammates before brushing off the notion. "No, forget it; I'm on my own." He cast a Rakdos Keyrune off of a Transguild Promenade and it seemed like his colors were set. The mana rock accelerated him into an unleashed Spawn of Rix Maadi, dwarfing the Sunspire Griffin of his opponent.

    Rietzl activated his Keyruneand sent it attacking next to a freshly cast Dreg Mangler. Gryn didn't make it to the Finals by having nothing. Four mana later and he was the proud new owner of a Hussar Squad, flashing in to eat the Keyrune. Despite the heroics, a whopping nine damage still came through. As Gryn tried to establish a stake on the board, Rietzl's relentless aggression was backed with the necessary tricks to keep Gryn spinning on his back foot. Falling to a meager 3 life and losing his only blocker to an overloaded Dynacharge, Gryn was looking for a way out. A Voidwielder put the Spawn back into Rietzl's hand and threatened to keep his 3/3 at bay indefinitely, but an Auger Spree to remove the potential blocker allowed a lethal final attack, and the Canadian extended the hand.

    Despite starting significantly after the other two matches and playing all three games, it was the first match of the finals to complete, and put the Americans 1-0 over Canada.

    Paul Rietzl 2 - Maksym Gryn 1




     

  • Finals, Round Two – Paul Rietzl vs. Lucas Siow
    by AJ Sacher

  • Siow played first, as his team got to do in Game One of every match of these finals, but he wasn't really able to take advantage of the implied tempo advantage without any early plays. Rietzl's multicolor deck took the early turns to develop its mana, curving a Rakdos Guildgate into a Transguild Promenade into a Golgari Keyrune, before topping all of that off with an unleashed Spawn of Rix Maadi.

    Siow's first play was a fairly inconspicuous Golgari Decoy, but just when the American team was poking fun of the Mountain standing awkwardly among Siow's board of Golgari colored lands, he played an Island and boomed a Hypersonic Dragon onto the table, tapped and attacking.

    You know what they say: one good turn deserves another. Rietzl had an Auger Spree for the Dragon and a Dynacharged Drainpipe Vermin to trade with the Decoy, taking back the advantage and forcing Gryn to discard. Siow used his second main phase simply to Skullrend Rietzl's last two cards (which I argue should hit Matt Sperling and David Williams as well). He would try to deal with his board next turn.

    After discarding his hand of two lands, Rietzl drew and played another land, activating his Keyrune and attacked for eight, dropping Siow to 6 life. The elusive and rare defensive Rakdos Shred-Freak decided to Pursue Flight, looking to block and trade with the Spawn, but a 6/2 hasted first-striker (stats you do not often see on the same creature) off of the top for Rietzl provided an exciting way to close out the game. On the back of a Minotaur Aggressor, Rietzl locked up the first game of Round 2.

    Paul Rietzl 1 – Lucas Siow 0

    As they shuffled up for game two, Rietzl asked Siow if he had ever seen It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and followed-up with an inquiry as to his team's dynamic: "Who's the looks, who's the brains, and who's the wildcard." Siow's teammates seemed a little reserved and hesitant towards the question, but Siow didn't blink before rattling off the roles: He had Jamie Naylor as the looks, Maksym Gryn as the wildcard, and [obviously] himself as the brains.

    Siow went on the play again, and his Rakdos Shred-Freak took to the offensive this game, but the turn-three Transguild Promenade wasn't the aggressive follow up he was looking for. Meanwhile, Rietzl missed his third land drop for a turn, but recovered nicely with a Chromatic Lantern on the next turn.

    Siow made an interesting play, discarding a Thrill-Kill Assassin to a Viashino Racketeer. An Auger Spree took out Rietzl's Golgari "Daddy" Longlegs, and the beatdown continued with a Pursuit of Flight.

    Lobber Crew and Dreg Mangler looked to try and stabilize Rietzl's board, but a Traitorous Instinct on the 3/3 was a scary moment for the Americans, as Rietzl fell to 1 on the attack. The silver lining of having to take so much damage was that he was able to trade his Golgari Keyrune for the Racketeer, who had completed his Pursuit of Flight, before it took to the skies to finish things.

    With his opponent at 1, the ever-bold Siow told everyone in the feature match area outright that he wanted to Skullrend for the win. Begging his deck for the necessary fifth mana, he missed for a couple of times while Rietzl scrambled, trying to close the game out as soon as possible.

    With the other matches paused, the focus of all six players was directed to the nail-biter at hand. Siow was trying to buy as much time as possible, as each turn that he survived was another chance at drawing a land for the lethal burn/discard spell he claimed was in his hand. Meanwhile, Rietzl was trying to get him dead as quickly as possible for the inverse reason. Talking over the board with his team, he even took the time to consider the possibility that Siow was bluffing and didn't have the Skullrend at all. After thinking it through, the line he took was to play out all of his creatures in the hopes of closing out the game with a giant alpha-strike.

    Siow, who had already shown a sheer defiance toward the concept of a poker face by outright stating the card in his hand that he was trying to use to win the game, openly laughed as he drew, playing a Rakdos Guildgate from the top of his deck.

    One more turn was all he needed.

    Siow tapped out for another blocker and passed the turn, hoping he could see just one more main phase. Rietzl had other ideas. After a quick double check, Rietzl proclaimed that he had it. Lobber Crew gets a bonus shot in thanks to an Auger Spree, taking out a blocker. All of Rietzl's guys hit the red zone, and it added up to "just enough." Siow died with the lethal burn spell going off on his next turn, putting the Americans up a round and a match.

    Paul Rietzl 2 – Lucas Siow 0




     

  • Finals, Round Two – David Williams vs. Jamie Naylor
    by Rich Hagon

  • On the play in game one, Naylor opened on Frostburn Weird, now facing Daggerdrome Imp from the Golgari-based Williams. The Imp attacked, joined by Stonefare Crocodile, while Naylor expanded his early game with Stealer of Secrets, which promptly traded with the Stonefare Crocodile. Naylor replaced his Stealer with Splatter Thug, which he was happy to Unleash. Vassal Soul was next, while Williams had little action going on. (Translation - he was staring at a hand full of land.)

    Another attack, a Runewing, another land for Williams, and that was game.

    Williams 0 - 1 Naylor

    At the other tables, both Sperling and Rietzl led 1-0, with Rietzl then finishing his match with Siow, taking the Americans to the verge of the title.

    Naylor was forced to mulligan repeatedly before game two, finally keepi ng a hand at five that he really wasn't convinced was playable. Williams began with Korozda Guildmage and Golgari Decoy opposite Goblin Electromancer for Naylor. The Canadian Unleashed Splatter Thug, looking to get aggressive. That would be awkward against Corpsejack Menace, which was next for Williams.

    You know things aren't going well when you cast Viashino Racketeer, and then discard Annihilating Fire in search of a land, and that's where Naylor headed next. Chorus of Might from Williams was a horrible blowout, meaning it was hard to see where any semblance of a game plan was going to come from for Naylor.

    Williams 1 - 1 Naylor.

    Meanwhile, Gryn had taken the second game against Sperling, meaning both the remaining matches were all square at 1-1, with the Canadians Gryn and Naylor needing to win to force a deciding set. The Sperling v Gryn match would be up first, meaning that the decider here would either mean everything - or wouldn't happen at all if Sperling won to claim the title for his team.

    ...

    Those three characters above denote a lot of time passing, but Gryn kept the dream alive, winning the decider against Sperling, leading to this...

    Grim Roustabout faced Goblin Electromancer in the early going, with Williams using Stab Wound to take out Stealer of Secrets. Naylor discarded Blustersquall to his Viashino Racketeer, leaving Williams to add Golgari Decoy to the board. With the life totals at 16 each, Naylor opted for Voidwielder to bounce the decoy, sending Williams to 12 in his bid to force a deciding round. Gatecreeper Vine fetched Williams a Plains, while a second Stab Wound of the game saw off Goblin Electromancer.

    Talking of seconds, a second Voidwielder intriguingly returned Gatecreeper Vine to hand, allowing Naylor to drop Williams to nine. With Rogue's Passage amongst his lands, Naylor was looking to ride unblockability to the final few points. He cast Teleportal and attacked, dropping Williams to just two life.

    You know what happened, right?

    Time for a third and deciding set.

    Sperling, Rietzl, Williams 1 - 1 Gryn, Siow, Naylor




     

  • Finals, Round Two – David Williams vs. Maksym Gryn
    by Steven Sadin

  • Williams, and Rietzl were able to win their first rounds – securing the first round of the finals for the Americans before Sperling could even finish his match. But now they're onto the second round of the Finals and the Canadians now find themselves with somewhat more favorable matchups.

    Game One

    Gryn had, what would under normal circumstances, be considered a good start with Keening Apparition, Ethereal Armor, and Azorious Arrester – but Sperling was able to completely overpower him with a Dreg Mangler, a Deadbridge Goliath, and a Corpsejack Menace.

    Voidwielder gave Gryn a glimmer of hope, but a Giant Growth allowed Sperling to take the first game before Gryn was ready to start chump blocking.

    Matt Sperling 1 – Maksym Gryn 0


    Game Two

    Sperling once again had a Dreg Mangler to start hacking away at Gryn's life total, but a Skymark Roc, and a Sunspire Griffin gave Gryn an apparent lead in the race.

    What Gryn didn't know was that Sperling had two Giant Growths in his hand that would allow him to take the game out of nowhere should Gryn allow himself to take a hit that would leave himself at a seemingly healthy 6 life.

    However, Gryn didn't need to dip that low – as a Seller of Songbirds, plus a couple of Ethereal Armors allowed him to even the score while still at a (actually) healthy life total.

    Matt Sperling 1 – Maksym Gryn 1

    Game Three

    Sperling opened on Dryad Militant, Thrill-Kill Assassin, Axebane Guardian all before Gryn had played a single spell. Seller of Songbirds helped Gryn a bit, but he still needed a way to neutralize Sperling's Thrill-Kill Assassin, as well as the Korozda Monitor that the American played on his fourth turn.

    Gryn hoped that a Selesnya Sentry enchanted with Ethereal Armor might stave off Sperling's offenses – but when Sperling brazenly attacked his Korozda Monitor, and Thrill Kill-Assassin into his opponent's 4/3 first striker, Gryn knew that there was a trick coming.

    After consulting with his teammates, Gryn shrugged and put his enchanted Selesnya Sentry in front of his opponent's 3/3. Sperling then used a Golgari Charm to destroy the Ethereal Armor, allowing him to trade his Korozda Monitor for the Selesnya Sentry – an exchange that was "way better" than Gryn was expecting. Not only that, but Sperling forgot to trample over -- saving Gryn a life point, and prompting Paul Rietzl to shake his head.

    Gryn used a pair of Voidwielders to save himself some hits from Sperling's Thrill-Kill Assassin – but these plays just gave Sperling an opening to scavenge his Korozda Monitor to make his Dryad Militant a 5/4, and put Gryn (who had just expended both of his Voidwielders) into a tough spot.

    When Gryn passed his turn with no play, and allowed Sperling to knock him all the way down to 3, it seemed like Sperling had the match (and the tournament) in the bag...

    But when a Sphinx's Revelation for five put Gryn back to 8, and gave him a grip full of spells to work with, things didn't seem so certain any more.

    Gryn tapped out to play a Phantom General, a Sunspire Griffin, and a New Prahv Guildmage on his turn – prompting Sperling to attack with his Dreg Mangler, his 5/4 Dryad Militant, and his Thrill-Kill Assassin.

    A Chorus of Might, and an Aerial Predation allowed Sperling to make some headway – but he couldn't find an opening to get Gryn below 3 life. And from that point on, things just got worse and worse for Sperling as Gryn had plenty of mana to detain all of Sperling's best creatures.

    Ethereal Armor, followed by Precinct Captain made it impossible for Sperling to get in any profitable attacks with the meager creatures that Gryn was willing to leave un-detained.

    A few more turns of New Prahv Guildmage work later, and Maksym Grin had taken the match.

    Maksym Gryn defeats Matt Sperling 2-1 in Round Two of the Finals.




     

  • Finals, Round Three – Paul Rietzl vs. Jamie Naylor
    by Steven Sadin

  • A few minutes earlier, Rietzl had just finished winning his second round. His team was up a round, and up a match – and he just needed either David Williams, or Matt Sperling to win...

    But now things are back to even...

    ...or at least they would have been had Naylor not just received the unfortunate news that his teammate Lucas Siow had received a game loss for presenting a 39 card deck.

    Game One

    Naylor started things off with a Frostburn Weird, and a 3/3 Splatter Thug – but Rietzl was able to quickly catch up with a Lobber Crew, and a Cobblebrute.

    Runewing gave Naylor an evasive threat – but without any substantial pressure, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before he died to the mammoth threats that Rietzl kept playing.

    First a Golgari Longlegs, then a Minotaur Aggressor forced Naylor to cast an unenhanced Blustersquall, followed by a Voidwielder just so he could stay alive for a little while.

    But it turns out that a little while was all that Naylor needed as an Overloaded Teleportal allowed him to take the first game.

    Jamie Naylor 1 – Paul Rietzl 0


    Game Two

    Naylor opened the second game with a Goblin Electromancer, but no third land – while Rietzl went on the offensive with a Dreg Mangler, and a Towering Indrik.

    But before the Naylor could even draw for his fourth turn, he found out that his two teammates had lost – making Paul Rietzl, David Williams, and Matt Sperling your Grand Prix San Jose Champions!




     

  • Finals, Round Three – David Williams vs. Maksym Gryn
    by AJ Sacher

  • In the deciding round of the finals, relative newcomer Maksym Gryn of Canada faced off against the American poker superstar and Pro Tour mainstay, David Williams, as fellow bracelet holder and the Chuck Berry of Magic lingo, Kenny Hsuing, looked on.

    A gigantic advantage throughout the Finals has been the higher seed allowing the Canadian team the option to play first in every match, and Gryn used that advantage to full effect in the first game, leading with a Precinct Captain on turn two. Williams had an answer in a rare of his own: Lotleth Troll. Thinking aloud, Gryn recognized that he could attack and threaten/offer to trade two creatures from Williams's hand for his first-striker. He decided to attack, even before playing a third land, and Williams obliged by pitching two scavenge creatures and eating the 2/2.

    Gryn curved beautifully, following his Precinct Captain with a Security Blockade, Skymark Roc, and a Voidweilder, bouncing the Lotleth Troll, resetting its two +1/+1 counters. Williams is no pushover, though, and he rebuilt, playing a Korozda Monitor before replaying his Troll. He scavenged one of the creatures in his graveyard to keep his Troll out of reach of the Roc's triggered ability.

    Seller of Songbirds looked to turn the race in Gryn's favor with the aid of the Security Blockade, but a Stab Wound on the Skymark Roc not only gave Williams two additional damage each turn but also threatened to take two damage a turn away from Gryn. However, after only one trigger, Gryn used Kami of Ancien---Ronom Unic---Keening Apparition to restore his Phantom Monster to its former glory. The race seemed heavily in Canada's favor.

    Up until that point, this game had been played at a blistering pace (The Americans had flights to catch), but Williams slowed significantly and took the time to survey the board and consider his options. He came out of the tank with a Coursers' Accord, which didn't appear to do much against Gryn's army of fliers. It looked all but lost for Williams facing lethal damage on the next attack, all of it in the air, with a hand of only one card. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, a Swamp off of the top of his deck gave him the eighth mana he needed for the plan he had sculpted the turn before. A Korozda Guildmage gave his Lotleth Troll and a 3/3 both +1/+1 and intimidate, making them unblockable. This allowed him to attack for just enough to kill a shellshocked Gryn through his Security Blockade.

    Someone please explain to me why Guildmages are good. Use complete sentences, show your work.

    David Williams – 1 Maksym Gryn – 0

    After consulting their respective teams, both players chose to keep. Williams' teammate, Paul Rietzl was confused, "Why even ask me? I never mulligan!"

    After keeping a five-land hand with a four- and a five-drop, Williams perfectly curved two through five while Gryn simply played three Islands, discarded, and conceded. There isn't much that can be said about that game, which makes me self-conscious about the length of my write-up. Not every match has to have multiple pages written about it, you know. Some readers even prefer shorter write-ups; it's more comfortable for them. Besides, it doesn't even matter how long the report is; it's about the quality of the writing anyway.

    Ahem.

    Yes.

    So Williams curved out on Gryn, who never got to cast a spell. A sympathetic but relieved Williams then had watch as his teammates held his fate in their hands, while a Gryn that was certainly not grinning had to look on and hope that his buddies could pull it out.

    David Williams – 2 Maksym Gryn – 0




     

  • The Final, Final, Final (Part 3) – Lucas Siow vs. Matt Sperling
    by AJ Sacher

  • 39 cards. That's not 40. You have to have 40. 39 is less, and that meant a very untimely game loss for Lucas Siow. Now a game down before he'd even seen his opening hand, Siow opened with a clunky series of Golgari Guildgate, Transguild Promenade, and a Mountain. Sperling had Thrill-Kill Assassin with a counter, followed by Axebane Guardian. Once Siow had permanents to cast, they were Unleashed Dead Reveler, and a Perilous Shadow. Grisly Salvage for Sperling found only four land and an unexciting Dryad Militant. He took the Forest, then used Treasured Find to return a Plains to hand. With a hand full of solid spells, all he felt he needed was secure mana to cast them.

    Perilous Shadow pumped twice (i.e. +4/+4) to kill off the Axebane Guardian, while Sperling had mana to spend on a creature rather than activations, laying Towering Indrik. Next turn, it was a triple pump that saw Sperling down to 8 life, once again at the cost to Siow of not developing the board. When Sperling got to six mana, he cast Coursers' Accord, generating a pair of 3/3s. He was willing to trade his Towering Indrik for four of Siow's mana next turn, as the Perilous Shadow continued to threaten.

    Sperling looked to do some damage of his own, sending in Thrill-Kill Assassin and both Centaurs. One died to Auger Spree, leaving the score at 9-8 in favor of Siow. The Canadian cast Golgari Decoy and Viashino Racketeer, discarding Splatter Thug to draw something hopefully more useful. Sperling used Eyes in the Skies for a Bird and a Centaur. The American now had three cards in hand, including Deadbridge Goliath and Zanikev Locust, plus a Forest. With Siow tapped out, Sperling sent in his entire team, leaving Siow at a perilous (shadow) one life.

    Talking of Perilous Shadow, though, that's quite a combo with Golgari Decoy, when everything has to block the Decoy. It worked for Siow, and he pumped the Perilous Shadow yet again to take the match into a deciding game 3.

    Williams led Gryn 1-0, while Naylor now led Rietzl 1-0. How costly would that 39th card error be? When Williams took the second game over Gryn, a win for Sperling here would be the end.

    Guildgates led on both sides. Dead Reveler came with a counter from Sperling, while Siow passed after laying his third land. Korozda Monitor was good news for Sperling on turn four, and even more so when Siow didn't lay a fourth land. When Sperling cast Dreg Mangler the end was near. Siow drew, and found no answer - there probably wasn't one anywhere.

    Game, set, match.

    Congratulations to Matt Sperling, Paul Rietzl, and David Williams, Champions of GP San Jose 2012.




     

  • The Top 5 Cards of Grand Prix San Jose
    by Rich Hagon

  • It's easy to look at the super-powerful gold cards, the signature cards from each of the Guilds, and those one-offs that scream quality. That isn't where high level Magic is generally won and lost, however, so this edition of Top 5 Cards is brought to you in association with the five colors of Magic. These cards aren't all showy. Some of them are far from raw power. What they all share, however, is the ability to turn a game in your direction, whether it's early, middle, or late game.



    5. Knightly Valor

    Knightly Valor - A five mana creature enchantment? That can't be right, surely? And yet, game after game, players with access to white mana were running this every time. Why? Because +2+2 turned out to be a big deal. Because in tight races Vigilance turned out to be a big deal. And because a 2/2 with Vigilance was just what you wanted to shore up the defenses against Rakdos. If you were Selesnya, this was good. If you were Azorius, it was better, and if you weren't either, you learned to curse Knightly Valor this weekend.








    4. Voidwielder

    Voidwielder - Just like Knightly Valor, the raw numbers on Voidwielder made people think it couldn't be good. That was a reasonable assumption coming in, given a diet of Unsummon, or Æther Adept, or any number of apparently more efficient bounce effects. R&D knew how to cost this, however, in a set with so many Selesnya tokens running around. Voidwielder is no mere Horned Turtle with a costly bounce effect. Sometimes it's a straight kill spell. Even when it isn't, it's a stealer of turns, a huge tempo swing, and a defensive guy with the Magic number of 4 sitting on the backside. Against Azorius, you knew you were going to face it, and you knew you weren't going to like it.





    3. Pack Rat

    Pack Rat - Anytime a theoretical 1/1 for two mana is the only spell you ever need to cast to win the game, you need to pay attention. Pack Rat doesn't just do that in some games, in the fairytale world of Best Case Scenario Mentality, Pack Rat destroys people almost any time you cast it on turn two and then lay a land on turn three with the Rat still on the battlefield. Like a hideous version of 15 reds in snooker, you get a 1/1, two 2/2s, three 3/3s, four 4/4s, and then generally a jump to six 6/6s at six mana. Nothing in recent Magic history has screamed, 'Kill me! Kill me now!' more loudly than Pack Rat.






    2. Tenement Crasher

    Tenement Crasher - This card may be red, but it's far more at home in Rakdos than Izzet, and it's a good bet that it will find a home in Gruul early next year. It turns out that this format almost always allows you to reach six mana, and alongside Traitorous Instinct this is one of those 'straw that breaks the camel's back' kind of cards. Again, it doesn't sound like it's going to be super-good. It's common, so we shouldn't expect too much. What we get is a ground-pounding finisher in an environment where Haste turns out to really, really matter when it comes to getting the Rakdos job done.







    1. Axebane Guardian

    Axebane Guardian - Remember when green was all about the fixing and the ramp? In that case, you remember today, when Axebane Guardian did sterling work for all kinds of decks. With resources tight on day two, six player drafts led to many three color decks, and Axebane Guardian was the glue that made it all work. Even without fixing, Golgari decks loved the Guardian for ramping them towards their more efficient mid and late game, while comedy jokers the world over rejoiced at the possibilities of Doorkeeper decks. Goodness knows what you'll be able to do with this once Gatecrash turns up. For now, be grateful for the opportunities presented by this and the likes of Lobber Crew and Ogre Jailbreaker. Defenders have never been so sexy.






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