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Sunday, 9:25 a.m. - Day 1 Undefeated Decks

by Marc Calderaro


 

Feature Match Round 10 - Conley Woods vs. Morgan Chang

by Marc Calderaro


Blue-Black Control, though a powerful archetype, is not exactly touted as the best one in the format. Black usually likes to be a little more lonesome, and Blue has some well-known buddies is White and Green which it pairs up with quite fine. One might even say they're Soulbound. But here we are, the first feature match of the day, and here's a Blue-Black Control mirror. Both Grand-Prix champion and Worlds Top 8-er Conley Woods, and currently 9-0 Morgan Chang have brought strikingly similar decks against one another.

Both Woods and Chang have two Death Winds; they both lack requisite Butcher Ghouls; they both have large black monsters in which to finish the game (though Woods's is in the form of the five-mana enchantment, Demonic Rising). Though Woods might have the better traditional control deck, as he has a Barter in Blood Morgan's deck lacks, that might be more of a liability in this match-up which will likely be low in the creature count.

Game 1

Both players started alike. Morgan Chang started with a 4/3 flying Demonic Taskmaster, which traded early with Conley Woods's 3/4 flying Fettergeist. The follow-up Searchlight Geist and Wingcrafter gave Woods his first damage of the game, but his bigger action was a turn-five Demonic Rising which immediately made a 5/5 Demon. Chang stuttered for a moment. He simply passed his turn back to the Woods, who had quickly taken control of the game.

After hitting Chang down to 14, Woods ended his turn and made a second Demon; it was pretty gross. Chang's only response was a Renegade Demon that promptly paired with the Wingcrafter, but that was undone just as easily with a Mist Raven from Woods.

The next round of attacks saw Chang sink to 9 and his Searchlight Geist hit the bin hard. Though Chang's deck might be better suited for this mirror, the Demonic Rising was the trump the round. Though he paired a Harvester of Souls with Wingcrafter, Woods had the Bone Splinters waiting and we were on to game two.

Conley Woods 1 – 0 Morgan Chang

"Now at least I know why none of my cards were tabling. I was expecting at least some mediocre picks to come back, but they didn't." Woods remarked as he sideboarded.

Though he had some possible sideboard options maybe none of that would matter, as Woods's opening hand had the Demonic Rising again. Could Chang overcome the large enchantment to remain undefeated?

Morgan Chang

Game 2

Chang started with a Death Wind on Woods's first-turn Wingcrafter. The same Demonic Taskmaster showed up afterwards, and after knocking Woods to 16, Chang cast an Amass the Components to refuel his waning hand.

Woods passed his next turn without a play, but after sinking to 12 from another Taskmaster attack, he cast an end-of-turn Death Wind to take it out and likely have prevented a creature cast from Chang.

Geist Snatch from Chang on a ploy Narstad Scrapper gave Change another attacking unit, but it was swiftly done away with thanks to a Ghoulflesh. Over the next couple turns the board became Chang's Harvester of Souls and a Renegade Demon against Woods's Latch Seeker and the fresh and minty Demonic Rising (with his Demon partner, of course). As Chang handed Woods a token for his Demon, the undefeated player could only chuckle. He cast a Searchlight Geist and passed the turn.

Woods was more than happy to sacrifice his Latch Seeker to a Bone Splinters after dealing Chang three unblockable damage. The card took out the Harvester of Souls, and soon net Woods a second 5/5 Demon. Woods was at 6. (6-14).

Chang traded his 5/3 Demon with a 5/5 Demon, then used Mist Raven and a Geist Snatch to deny Woods of any more board presence...at least, for a turn. A Stern Mentor helped Woods create yet another Demon and survive a little longer.

But it wasn't enough. With three fliers (a Searchlight Geist, a 1/1 Spirit token from Geist Snatch and a Mist Raven), and Woods soon at one life, there was nothing the Pro Tour veteran could do.

And just like that, we were on to the third game of an intense mirror match-up.

Conley Woods 1 – 1 Morgan Chang

Chang had just finished telling me before the round how he didn't feel completely confident in the format, and he just hoped he could do well enough to sail through these six rounds into the Top 8. Sadly, he'd already hit his first road block. If Chang can squeak out this next game, he'll be one of two players remaining at 10-0, but Woods certainly wasn't just going to let him have it.

Conley Woods

Game 3

Or would he?

Woods had to mulligan his first hand. His second hand was not much better, but it would have to do. It was four Swamps, a Necrobite (sideboarded in) and a Fettergeist. He top-decked the Island to play his Fettergeist, but had to hope that would do. All Chang had in the early turns was a Galvanic Alchemist, so Woods was able to knock his opponent from 20 to 17 to 14 before Chang could do anything about it.

And Chang's solution was only a temporary one. A Vanishment, paid for in full, stalled the Efreet-like assault, but with only a 1/4 in play, his offense wasn't enough to truly pressure Woods. Woods was unwilling to play the Fettergeist into the clearly awaiting Geist Snatch, so Chang beat for one a turn uncontested. After Chang missed his seventh-turn land drop, he decided to gamble. He paired his turtle with a Tandem Lookout and swung in. He hoped to hit a land to continue representing Geist Snatch, but he instead hit a Scrapskin Drake and tapped out to play it.

"Gamble didn't pay off, huh?" Woods smiled. He knew his next turn was his opportunity. He cast Elgaud Shieldmate, the anxious Fettergeist (which paired well), and used Ghoulflesh to take out the Lookout, stopping the drawing engine for Chang and creating a nigh-unbeatable board. How could Chang stop the 3/4 Hexproof flyer? And Conley still had the Necrobite in his hand for at least one round of bad blocks for Chang. It was 15-11 for Conley, when Chang found his way out – Conley Woods himself.

Playing quickly to avoid running out of time (these control mirrors tend to go long), Woods absentmindedly drew his card for his turn. Because of the Elgaud Shieldmate, Fettergeist had an upkeep cost of one which Woods had forgotten to pay. Woods didn't let his poker face slip, but this would likely end his hopes for the match.

A few turns later, Woods delayed with Necrobite and took a necrotic bite out of Chang's board, getting a Harvester of Souls. The scores became 13-9 still in his Woods's favor.

The board was looking remarkably blue with a Galvanic Alchemist and Scrapskin Drake for Chang and a Mist Raven and Elgaud Shieldmate for Woods. Chang, undeterred simply cast his second Harvester of Souls (pairing it with the Alchemist) and Woods said, "You have seven cards in your hand? That's a lot."

"Yeah, we spent a lot of turns doing nothing."

That nothing ended when the Drake and the Harvester entered the red zone, and Woods looked at his 13 life then voluntarily sunk to 6. It was 6-9 and Chang gained the lead for the first time this game. After casting a Demonic Taskmaster, he had four creatures to Woods's two. And with only a paltry two cards in his hands (though one of which was a Bone Harvest), Woods had another hill to climb, even though it'd looked like he'd overcame his four Swamp-Fettergeist-Necrobite opening hand.

"All right, let's get this guy countered." Woods cast his Searchlight Geist, the last creature in his hand, representing that it wasn't. Bluffing this one through the counterspell wall might be his last hope.

Chang was not buying it and said, "Cards in hand? One. Ok, successfully baited." He cast the Geist Snatch and gained himself a 1/1 flyer for his trouble.

Bone Splinters traded a Shieldmate for a Harvester of Souls and Demonic Taskmaster demanded the 1/1 Spirit die so he could live. But the writing was on the wall. The Mist Raven jumped in his way as the other two creatures took Woods to 2. This turn would be Woods's last. The Grand Prix champion drew, passed, then saw the incoming monsters and extended his hand.

Morgan Chang 2 – 1 Conley Woods

After losing the first game in the match, Morgan Chang came back to remain undefeated. Conley Woods double-checked that it was his voluntary sacrifice of his Hexproof flyer that lost him the game. It was indeed. Even for one of the best Magic players in the room, sometimes we are our own worst enemy.




 

Sunday, 12:45 p.m. - Draft 1 with Paul Rietzl

by Josh Bennett


At the start of the weekend, an offhand comment from Paul Rietzl caught my attention.

"I think there's still a lot to learn about this format. It's has much higher variance than other formats, and I think that's making some people dismiss it too quickly, especially with M13 right around the corner. Look at a card like Lair Delve. Michael Jacob is a big advocate of that card, and it might be really important to green decks, but we don't know."

Rietzl crossed into Day 2 at 7-2, needing a strong Sunday to make the Top 8. He sat down to a pod of players he didn't recognise, and got to work.

His first pack had three cards he considered: Lightning Prowess, Riot Ringleader, and Devout Chaplain. He took the Prowess. "While Riot Ringleader is more powerful in the right deck, Lightning Prowess goes into more decks."

Paul Rietzl

Next he took Amass the Components from a pack with Nightshade Peddler and Thatchers' Revolt. "Amass is one of the most powerful commons. It was just too early to take Thatchers' Revolt." Next he got Tandem Lookout third in a pack with three other good blue cards. "When I'm at a table with players I don't recognise, I'm going to lean towards drafting blue. I was so happy to see the third-pick Lookout because it validated the Amass pick." Nephalia Smuggler fourth further cemented him in blue.

Fifth pick he got thrown a curve-ball: Cathar's Crusade. "I was surprised to see it there. That card is a bomb. I don't know if it was a difference in card valuation, but to me that's a big signal." Sixth he took Geist Snatch over Defy Death, Guise of Fire and Angelic Armaments. "I actually like Geist Snatch a lot, and particularly with the Smuggler it gave me another way to profit from having mana open on my opponent's turn. A Cloudshift, Spectral Gateguards and a late Ghostly Flicker rounded out the first pack.

Pack 2 brought more good news: Seraph of Dawn in a pack with Moorland Inquisitor, Thraben Valiant, Holy Justiciar and Voice of the Provinces. "Seraph is the card you really want in white, and I thought I had a good chance of tabling one of the two-drops." Next pack was unexciting, with just Crippling Chill for his deck. "It was still a great pickup. I didn't have many threes, and it gave me a way to push into the late game where my deck would be strongest." Pack three gave him a choice: Seraph of Dawn or Into the Void. "This was the inflection point of the draft for me. Up until now there was still a slight chance I would wind up blue-red, in which case I'd really want the Into the Void. Seraph is the better card, and by taking it I fully committed to blue-white."

The next few packs gave Rietzl Alchemist's Apprentice, Righteous Blow, Stern Mentor and another Spectral Gateguards. "I wasn't really worried despite there being only a couple blue or white cards in each pack. The deck was really coming together." Next he took Farbog Explorer over Angelic Wall. "I'm not sure about that pick. The way it wound up, I might be better off with the Wall. It was basically a choice of aggressive versus defensive." Voice of the Provinces tabled, and a late Cathedral Sanctifier completed the pack.

Pack three started off with a gift: Riders of Gavony, one of the most powerful white cards. Next Rietzl took Amass the Components. "I thought I might want another Crippling Chill here, but ultimately Amass is too good." Things really took off when Rietzl collected his third pack: Terminus was there to greet him. When Gryff Vanguard showed up in pack four, he felt like the draft was his to lose. When pack five had Ulvenwald Tracker still in it, he made sure no-one would get to play it against him. "Basically at that point my deck was so good, that Tracker was one of the few cards that could beat me." He didn't even have to give up much to do it. The last surprise was that out of his opening pack, which had seven blue and white cards, Borderland Ranger was somehow among the last six cards. Luckily for Rietzl there was also Galvanic Alchemist. "I don't know what was going on there, but I'm not about to look a gift Horned Turtle in the mouth. The way it worked out I'm not playing the Geist Snatch in the main, but I'll be boarding it in. I've also got a second Ghostly Flicker."




 

Feature Match Round 11 - Josh Bennett

by Josh Bennett


You'd think that three Pro Tour Top 8's would bring a little more recognition, but Brazil's Willy Edel is stuck in the shadow of national treasure Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa. His opponent this round, Jesse Hampton, came into the public eye with a Top 8 at Pro Tour Philadelphia last year.

Game 1

Edel won the right to play first, but Hampton was first on the board with Nearheath Stalker. He followed up with forest and Ulvenwald Tracker, bonding it to the Stalker and drainig Edel for two. Edel played Nettle Swine off a board of two forests, a swamp and an island. Hampton swung in with his 2/1, and Edel quickly blocked, trading his pig for a Zealous Strike.

Edel untapped and played Alchemist's Apprentice. That convinced Hampton to stay back, adding a Goldnight Commander to his squad. Edel went big with Vorstclaw, but Hampton added to his substantial life lead with Goldnight Redeemer, taking to the air. Edel docked him seven with Vorstclaw and further complicated the ground with Lone Revenant.

Hampton's Goldnight Redeemer dropped Edel to fourteen. Hampton had no play. Edel hit back for seven and passed. Ulvenwald Tracker forced him to cash in his Apprentice at end of turn. When Hampton went to attack, Edel was ready with Crippling Chill. The Vorstclaw's relentless work continued, bringing Hampton down to eleven. Despite having nine lands in play, Edel made no play.

Hampton put down Tormentor's Trident and equipped his Nearheath Stalker. Edel reluctantly pushed his Revenant in the way. The two creatures traded and Hampton gained five. He spent his last three mana equipping Goldnight Commander. That gave Edel a window to act around the Ulvenwald Tracker. He hit again with Vorstclaw, putting Hampton to 9, then played Wincrafter and Elgaud Shieldmate, bonding them together.

Hampton was unconcerned. He played Angelic Wall, boosting his team with Goldnight Commander. The Commander and Redeemer swung in, and Edel risked a double-block on the Commander. Unfortunately for him, Hampton had Cloudshift on his Goldnight Redeemer, boosting the Commander's toughness to 4 for the save, and gaining six life in the process. Edel could find no other plays, and they were soon on to game two.

Hampton 1 - Edel 0

Game 2

Hampton opened with Thraben Valiant and Moolight Geist against Edel's Borderland Ranger. Timberland Guide grew the Ranger to a 3/3 and Edel got in a hit. Hampton fired back in the air and upped his defences with Angelic Wall. Wildwood Geist from Edel looked threatening, but Hampton had Defang for it, as well as Angelic Armaments.

When Edel passed a turn with six mana open, it looked good for Hampton. He suited up his Valiant and swung in for six. Human Frailty took care of the Valiant. Hampton played out another Angelic Wall and passed. Edel attacked with both Timberland Guide and Borderland Ranger, and after both the Walls blocked he played his trump card: Ghostly Flicker, freeing his Wildwood Geist and giving Borderland Ranger a second counter to kill the defending Wall.

Hampton equipped his Geist and swung in, leaving Edel at eight, but Edel wasn't through yet. Into the Void cleared a path for a sudden ten damage, and Hampton was down to just six. When Edel Geist Snatched Hampton's Moonlight Geist, the result was clear.

Hampton 1 - Edel 1


Game 3

Hampton chose to draw for the deciding game, prompting a raised eyebrow from Edel. Edel kicked off with a trio of island and a Scrapskin Drake. Hampton played out Tormentor's Trident and Moonlight Geist. Another island and Mist Raven from Edel sent the Geist back home. Hampton replayed it along with ulvenwald Tracker. Edel swung in. Hampton was quick to trade for the Mist Raven.

Next up for Edel was Nettle swine. Goldnight Commander wasn't nearly big enough. Hampton was down to ten, and another Mist Raven on the Commander moved things from bad to worse. Hampton stemmed the bleeding with Defang on Nettle Swine and played Moonlight Geist. Edel swung with only Scrapskin Drake and passed. Hampton replayed the Commander and sighed when Edel showed him an end-of-turn Ghostly flicker on Nettle Swine and Mist Raven. He was forced to double-up on the Swine with both Tracker and Commander. And then Edel played vorstclaw.

Hampton replayed his Moonlight Geist and had a second Defang for Vorstclaw, but Edel soon showed him the second Ghostly Flicker to take the match.

Willy Edel defeats Jesse Hampton 2-1




 

Feature Match Round 12 - Jeremey Schofield vs. Matt Lewis

by Marc Calderaro


Jeremey Schofield, the last undefeated player, took down his remaining opponent Morgan Chang in a tough three-game set last round. His 11-0 run becomes even more impressive when you know that the Edmonton native had only one bye. In fact, Schofield's performance is so impressive, he didn't even believe it himself and now his wife is currently rearranging flights so that he doesn't have to fly back during the Top 8. He'll make that pretty handily if he continues running this hot. His RG Beats deck is pretty unwavering. As Schofield said, "I wanted to build a deck I could play from the neck down." Looking at his list, it's safe to say he achieved that goal.

Matt Lewis, though currently living in Vancouver is in the process of moving to Ottawa. This was going to be a fun little goodbye for him, then he took down a grinder last night and ran hot all day yesterday. His stuff is already in Ottawa awaiting his arrival, and not to be outdone by a flight schedule, Lewis has a going away party tonight in his honor.

It's good to know that both these players have their Magic priorities in line.

Game 1

Matt Lewis's opening hand had Moorland Inquisitor, Nettle Swing and Howlgeist. Jeremey Schofield, trying to make things more difficult for himself, because they've been much too easy so far, mulliganed to five.

Lewis started fast with the Inquisitor, the Swine and a Thraben Valiant which joined. He dropped Schofield to 14 in short order. Schofield built his board with a 2/2 Champion of Lambholt paired with a Trusted Forcemage, but Lewis's new Spectral Gateguards were still able to hold down the fort. A newly vigilant Swine (thanks to the Gateguards of Lewis's forces sunk Schofield lower to 10.

The big pig, playing Order of the Scared Bell quite well posed too much of a threat. Though Schofield had two 3/3s that could barely be blocked, his card deficit was too much to overcome. The Albertan surveyed the board and scooped them up for game two.

Matt Lewis 1 – 0 Jeremey Schofield

Jeremey Schofield

Game 2

Schofield kept a higher-carded hand this game and started with a Nightshade Peddler, a Hanweir Lancer and a Riot Ringleader. I'd say that's a mite better than his previous first turns.

Vessel of Endless Rest and Nettle Swine were Lewis's first plays, but he was under a very strong and very quick onslaught. Before he had played anything else, he already at 8. Though the Nearheath Pilgrim pairing with his pig allowed Lewis to regain some life and knock Schofield down a peg, the green-white player was still clearly on the back foot. And though Schofield was stuck on three land, he was still impressively unrelenting.

This fear caused a bit of a blunder on Lewis's part, as he attacked into the Nightshade Peddler, not realizing it had First Strike (Lancer soul bond Ahoy!). The blunder cost him his 4/3, and though his hard-cast Blessing of Nature made for some formidable blockers, Schofield had a handful of cards he was waiting to use.

Oddly enough, he barely had to use them. There was a convenient Thunderous Wrath on the top of his deck, and with one mana, the Nearheath Pilgrim (and thus life gain) was no more.

There were few spells Schofield needed after that to tie up the match.

Matt Lewis 1 – 1 Jeremey Schofield

Matt Lewis

Game 3

Lewis started this last game a half-turn up and cast the game's first spell with a Borderland Ranger. Schofield's hand was amass with Trusted Forcemage, Thunderous Wrath, Druid's Familiar and Champion of Lambholt; so for Lewis's sake, I hope he'd got the goods as well.

"Well all need a hero; some of us need a champion." Schofield stated has he laid his Lambholt champion, and with the next turn's Druid's Familiar, both green guys got pretty big. Lewis tried his best to keep up with the bigness game, hard-casting a Blessing of Nature on the Borderland Ranger making it a 6/6. The manufactured beast stopped Schofield from attacking for at least a turn and then Lewis attacked the scores to 14-16 in his favor. After combat he cast a Howlgeist, and this Green Red match quickly became about unblockable guys.

Schofield was sick of playing these games and cast both of his Trusted Forcemages in the same turn. The first paired with an Heirs of Stromkirk, and the second remained unattached. These spells made the Champion a 6/6. So pretty much nothing could block for Lewis. The Champion plus the Druid's Familiar (4/4), and Heirs of Stromkirk (3/3) took Lewis to 2.

Though the soon-to-be Ottawan had one more turn and had a ton of damage on the board he didn't have 14. He extended his hand, and as he did, Jeremey Schofield let out a large, audible sigh of relief. Starting out a game behind, he had just reached 12-0. He really hoped his wife was able to change his flight home.

Jeremey Schofield 2 – 1 Matt Lewis

 

Sunday, 3:15 p.m. - Player Spotlight: Morgan Chang

by Marc Calderaro


Many of you might not be familiar with Morgan Chang. I mean, if you're at this tournament you certainly are. Although he's no longer undefeated, he's been staying pretty close to the top of the standings well past halfway into the second day. He rode his Sigarda, Host of Herons to 8-0 on Saturday, and has been battling with his embattled Blue-Black control deck taking down Conley Woods in the process in the first draft pod today.

Morgan is a player I seem to see everywhere. He insists that he doesn't actually stalk me, but whenever I fly into a new city, he's there ready to report to me the sick beats going down. The Queens, New York native has been playing in the New York scene since back in 1994, though, albeit in a much different capacity than he plays now.

"Back then we weren't super-serious. After school we'd just go to Neutral Ground and play and play." He said that though he'd run into the name players who were around, Brian David-Marshall, Chris Pikula, et al., he told me it took a good long while before he was even considered "filler" for a team draft. He chuckled as he told me that; a sure sign of its blatant honesty.

Though he was always go to tournaments and trade, it wasn't really until the Onslaught block, with a version of Mono-White Control he developed with Steve Sadin, that he started to get the taste of tournament blood.

The brew he and the Limited Information writer concocted preyed on the mirror match-up. "We had ten cards for the Mono-White mirror. We'd side out all of the trademark cards, Akroma's Vengeance, Decree of Justice" and then put in a bunch of Mobilizations and Weathered Wayfarers. "We'd constantly hit our Temple of the False God before our opponent," and then ride that advantage to a victory.

This sort of technically minded, resource-managing play is pretty much Morgan's hallmark style. He loves declaring his triggers and being constantly aware of the game state at all times. Talking with some other players at the top tables, they verified this fact. Chang is not shy about calling a judge to make sure game integrity is maintained. He volunteered to me how embarrassed he was when he got a "Failure to Maintain Game State" warning. He was not very happy.

This technical aspect of Morgan is what draws him to decks like Dredge for Legacy. With Grand Prix Atlanta coming up, we talked a bit about what's going on in Legacy at the moment. He says that people mistakenly think Dredge is easy to play and that leads to them play it very poorly. "It's a deck that really rewards knowing exactly what's happening." We talked about different versions of the deck, and how he prefers the builds that have the fetch lands and many Bloodghast. Again, this is likely because those builds require a meticulous maintenance of triggers and state-based effects. As his main aspiration is to qualify for the Pro Tour again (he took a trip to Honolulu for Pro Tour Dark Ascension not too long ago), he's heading to Atlanta with a Legacy deck in hand. Although, if things keep breaking his way, by then he might already be qualified.

Constructed has always been a little better for him because, as he says, "The variables are more controllable and well-known." With a smaller practical card and deck pool, it's easier to know what'll be thrown at you. But it would seem from today, that Limited isn't too far out of his reach either.

As for this the Avacyn Restored limited format specifically, Morgan said it did a good job of surprising him. He told me that like most people, he'd thought he had figure out the format fairly quickly and would blame losses on luck of the pools. But he said that he's really prioritized getting his sealed pools in the hands of other people, and he's learned a lot about how building decks towards or against your own natural play-style can really swing the power of a pool. Sometimes the changes are minimal, but other times they can be quite drastic. I experienced a similar phenomenon when I had the Sealed Exercise with Matt Costa and Brian Kibler. Though they both saw the raw power of a certain color, their builds drastically diverged just because of preference.

Morgan Chang is one of the more affable people I see weekend-in and weekend-out. It's great to see him whenever I do, and it's even better to see him beating the crap out of people. I know that I'll see him at a future event no matter what, but I wouldn't mind if that event were a Pro Tour. And I doubt he would either,




 

Feature Match Round 13 - Brian Wong vs. Ken Tam

by Josh Bennett


Brian Wong is a Seattle player enjoying his first Grand Prix Day 2 after a couple tries in Portland and Tacoma. "I've come close, but I kept losing my win-and-ins." It's a much different story this weekend, with him near the top of the pack at 11-1 with three rounds remaining. This round he faces Ken Tam, a Vancouverite who rarely travels to game. While shuffling up they talked about what a strange draft it had been, with conflicting signals and good cards in all the colors.

Brian Wong

Game 1

Tam won the roll and chose to play. Both were playing blue-white and they matched Thraben Valiants. Tam offered the trade and Wong accepted. Tam's follow-up was Cathedral Sanctifier. Wong's next play of Thraben Lookout was a step ahead. Tam played Midvast Protector and stole a point with his Sanctifier, hoping the 2/3 would hold the ground.

It did, but it was the air that was the problem. Wong had Call to Serve for his Lookout and another Thraben Valiant to turn on the card drawing ability. Tam hit his fifth land and swung out for three. After combat he played Peel from reality on the Lookout and the Sanctifier, then replayed the 1/1. He passed the turn with two open.

Wong replayed his Tandem Lookout, bonding it to his Thraben Valiant, and attacked. Tam was quick to trade away his Sanctifier. Wong replaced his Valiant with Moorland Inquisitor, bonding it to his Lookout. Tam solidified his ground defences with Elgaud Shieldmate, but again Wong was ready to go to the air, this time thanks to Angelic Armaments.

Tam hit with both his 2/3s and passed with six mana open. Wong gave the Angelic Armaments to his Inquisitor and attacked with both it and the Lookout. Tam had been hoping for this, with Ghostly Flicker at the ready to catch the Lookout. Unfortunately for him, Wong had Cloudshift for the save, immediately rebonding to the flying Inquisitor and giving him a free card.

Tam hit back for two but made no further play. Wong hit for four in the air, drawing another card. He feared Geist Snatch, but both Wingcrafter and Farbog Explorer resolved. With no flying defence, and no way to stop the Tandem Lookout, Wong was soon dispatched by Wong's airforce.

Wong 1 - Tam 0

Ken Tam

Game 2

Tam led out with Thraben Valiant and Wong matched with Alchemist's Apprentice. Angelic Armaments from Tam made him decline to attack, saving instead to suit up into a 4/3 flying vigilance. Wong summoned Nearheath Stalker and hit for one with his Apprentice. Tam's plans were undone, however, when he failed to draw a fourth land. He had to pass the turn without a play.

Wong swung in with both his creatures, and now Tam was happy to trade his Valiant for the Nearheath Stalker. Wong stocked up with Amass the Components. Tam finally found a fourth land and played Elgaud Shiledmate. Wong attacked with his Alchemist's Apprentice and Tam wasn't about to lose his creature to a trick. Wong added Farbog Explorer and passed.

Tam equipped his Shieldmate and hit in the air for four. Tam returned fire for three. He had six mana at his disposal. He spent it on Voice of the Provinces. Tam was quick to Defang that threat and swung in the air for four. Wong untapped and drew three off Mass Appeal. He attacked back for four and played an Armaments of his own.

Tam finally found a fifth land and played Gryff Vanguard, soulbonding to his Elgaud Shieldmate. Wong went one better, summoning Deadeye Navigator and soulbonding it to his Voice of the Provinces. Suddely Tam was facing a hypercharged Kjeldoran Outpost. He could only nod in appreciation. "Pret-ty good..."

A Moonsilver Spear gave a glimmer of hope to Tam, but then he attacked with Gryff Vanguard. Wong looked at the two mana Tam had open and wondered what could go wrong. He blocked with his Defanged Voice and blinked it with the Navigator ability. Tam had nothing.

Worse, Tam had left himself with only one blocker. Wong equipped Alchemist's Apprentice with Angelic Armaments and attacked. Tam, forgetting that Navigator is a 5/5, blocked Farbog Explorer. He went to move to damage, and Wong had to inform him that he was dead. Tam's puzzlement turned to horror as he realized what he'd done. After a brief outburst, he extended his hand in defeat, laughing at his mistake.

Brian Wong defeats Ken Tam 2-0




 

Feature Match Round 14 - Marcin Sciesinski vs. Brian Kibler

by Marc Calderaro


Both these players are fighting for their lives. At 33 points, they need to win the next couple to find any hope of a Top 8 in their future.

Marcin Sciesinski, a Polish-born Magic player who currently lives in Ireland was not too happy to be featured this round. "I've had a couple of feature matches before, and I haven't won yet." He gave me a big frown, but only for a second before his natural smile engulfed his face again and he started laughing.

Brian Kibler, no stranger to the feature match arena, has no such streak. Unless you consider winning a whole lot of the time a "streak". Oh. Wait, you do? Ok, well in that case Brian Kibler does have such a streak, but the other way.

Sciesinski's Black-White build features some stunners in Homicidal Seclusion, but Kibler's explosive deck with multiple Thatcher's Revolts had the ability to win out of nowhere. As a win is necessary for these two, we'll see whose mettle is metal.

Brian Kibler

Game 1

After going to Paris, Brian Kibler started off with two Mountains and a Plains into a Moorland Inquisitor. Sciesinski drew first blood with Farbog Explorer who gained a Corpse Trader close beside him. Kibler played an Angel's Tomb and then a Thatcher's Revolt to activate it (to excess) and make the score 15-18 in his favor.

Kibler would have to keep the pressure on because Sciesinski's deck kept coming. A Midvast Protector allowed him to attack again, and then a second time the next turn, taking Kibler to 13, then to 6. The Moorland Inquisitor was long gone and Kibler had two do-nothings on the board at the moment, an Angel's Tomb and a Vigilante Justice. Though both of which could take over the game with the right cards, but after a mulligan, they might just be missing from Kibler's hand.

Of course, ever the showman, Kibler had the second Thatcher's Revolt ready and waiting. The pitchfork-wielders used some Vigilante Justice to take out the Corpse Trader, but after Kibler was took his opponent to 10, he was out of options out of threats, and out of time. With an end-of-turn Human Frailty from Sciesinski on the only blocker remaining, 6 damage was a small amount to be dealt.

After Sciesinski attacked, Kibler uttered, "I'm dead," and scooped up his cards.

Marcin Sciesinski 1 – 0 Brian Kibler

"I kept a six-lander," Sciesinski laughed as the two shuffled up. That did not make Kibler happier.

Game 2

"23," Kibler declared as a Cathedral Sanctifier entered the battlefield. He added Scroll of Avacyn, Moorland Inquisitor, Thraben Vigilant and a Hound of Griselbrand in the concurrent turns.

Though Sciesinski used Human Frailty to take the Inquisitor down, it was clear it would take more than that to defeat the morale of Kibler's team. As all three creatures swung towards Sciesinski, a lonely Corpse Trader blocked the Vigilante, and Sciesinski sunk to 10 in the process.

A Midvast Protector joined the Trader the next turn, but another iteration of Angel's Tomb and Thatcher's Revolt continued to bleed the Polish player more and more. It was 4-23. Things were a bit grim. All Kibler needed was two creatures, and the Angel's Tomb would secure him a victory.

Interestingly, some advantageous blocks and a Death Wind on the Undying Hound later, and Sciesinski started fighting back. Kibler was able to get his opponent to one after casting a Havengul Vampire, but after that, he seemed stuck.

Marcin Sciesinski

Of course, this was only because Kibler didn't have a creature to activate his Angel's Tomb. Surely within a few turns Kibler would just win, right? Kibler went to 20, then to 17, and then, thanks to a Homicidal Seclusion, the Corpse Traders made the scores 7-11. A game that seemed in the bag for Kibler was slowly escaping. What happened?

A Grave Exchange to took out Kibler's lone Vampire. Sciesinski returned his Midvast Protector, ready to slip his creatures by anything Kibler could muster. That mustering gave the Pro Tour winner an Emancipation Angel. Kibler had to win this, right? The 5/5 would do what it was supposed to, right?

Without much effort Sciesinski tapped all his land, cast a Death Wind on the Angel, verified to Kibler that he did indeed tap enough mana, then he swung for the fences.

In a game that seemed an inevitability, Marcin Sciesinski successfully broke his Feature-Match curse, and advances to 36 points.

Marcin Sciesinski 2 – 0 Brian Kibler




 

Sunday, 5:15 p.m. - Quick Questions: Deck Archetype Time Machine

by Marc Calderaro
You found a time machine and you travelled back to the beginning of this format. You have to force one archetype all season. Which one do you choose?


Matt Costa: "Blue-Green. They are the two deepest colors by far, and, well, all the best cards are green." Brian Kibler: "Red-White Humans. Green is too over-drafted and you can’t always get the cards you want. In this deck, you play cards no one else wants."
Tom Martell: "Red-X Humans. I don’t care what color you pair them with, the red Humans are versatile and dangerous." Paul Rietzl: "Blue-White Stern Mentor ."
Brian Kibler: “Wait, you’re going to force an archetype based around an uncommon?!”
Rietzl: "Hey, that’s how I’ll know if it’s good. Don’t worry about it, I’ve got Dreadwaters ."
Brandon Nelson: "Blue-White Humans. You’ve got all the synergy. Nephalia Smuggler, Mist Raven , you get to play Mass Appeal. It’s great." Matthias Hunt: "Wait, do you mean my favorite, or the best?"
Me:"Paul Rietzl just answered 'Blue-White Stern Mentor'"
Hunt:"Oh! Well in that case Mono-White Seraph Sanctuary!"
 

Sunday, 6:15 p.m. - Drafting with Tom Martell

by Marc Calderaro


It was very good to see Tom Martell sitting at a low-numbered pod for his second draft of the day. You see, this is because though Martell has made the second day of these events fourteen times, he said he was yet to 3-0 his first pod. Of course, when he stated that to his table, Brian Kibler immediately jumped all over him, asking, "Wait, so you keep track of those things?!"

"Well, it's not an exact number," Martell defended.

Martell ended up with a fairly strong Red and Green build, but the table was a bit weird getting there, and at times, things looked a bit shaky.

For his first few picks, he took a Falkenrath Executioner, Stonewright, and Kruin Striker. Though he wasn't too happy with the Executioner as his first pick, he said "it was the right pick". There were mediocre cards all around, and many of them were Black. Though he was tempted by the Bone Splinters, Tom said he didn't want to get into a fight over the color, as he knew people downstream would certainly take what was there. Certainly a Demonic Taskmaster would tempt a few willing souls.

Those first picks were pretty good for Tom as he said the archetypes he usually looks to draft are Red-White or Green-Red Humans. His first three could lend themselves to either archetype.

After that, Tom was able to maintain his red for a while testing the waters with a blue and green card here and there. He said the big choice was when he took a Wandering Wolf over an Amass the Components. "I was already beatdown at that point, so why fight it?"

At first, this choice seemed to be a terrible one because although he picked up a Hanweir Lancer and a Druid's Familiar pick one and two out of the next pack, there was literally nothing for him in the next two packs and he ended up taking Bladed Bracers for both pick three and four. Martell was still shaking his head about to me as we talked about it 25 minutes after the draft was over. "I thought everybody to my left was drafting red." He noted that especially because the power drop-off of the packs is so steep, losing early picks like that could spell disaster for a deck.

Though it was a little scary there for a bit, pack three offered a little more fun for him, adding another Riot Ringleader and a couple more Kessig Malcontents (to make a grand total of three). He even picked up a Conjurer's Closet to break the Malcontents even more.

This Malcontents plan really came to a head with a decisive pick fourth in pack three. When given the choice between Hanweir Lancer and a Pillar of Flame, though Tom thought about it for a moment, he quickly decided on the Lancer. "I'm already all-in on the Malcontents plan, and I needed to make sure I had board presence. The Pillar does nothing for your own board." Much of Tom's later picks were made with the mantra "Just kill them". This was mostly because his deck was lacking some of the punch-through cards you really want in Red-Green. There were no Joint Assaults, no Fervent Cathars, even no Timberland Guides.

"Just replaced those two Bladed Bracers with two Timberland Guides and I'd be set." Multiple times throught my discussion with Tom he mentioned the lack of just a few key cards to make the deck shine.

Very interestingly, Martell ended up with two Reforge the Soul which he was kicking around near his main deck. "I got an Amass the Components third to last. If that happened, every blue drafter at the table got their fill of Amass the Components." He continued that Reforge the Soul pretty much destroys a player who plays the blue card-drawer. (In full disclosure, Sharhar Shenhar got an Amass the Components last, showing just how many copies of the cards were in the draft. I estimate around twelve.)

"I'm going to have some trouble if anyone resolves Seraph of Dawn, but if people just durdle around casting Amass the Components, I will destroy them."

His sideboard also allows for some interesting shenanigans. His first run out with the deck, it was against precisely the durdling Amass the Components deck he was hoping for. For game two he sided in Gallows at Willow Hill, his second Reforge the Soul and Conjurer's Closet (for the extra Kessig Malcontents grossness). After a resolved Amass the Components with an empty board, Martell, on turn five, made his opponent discard six cards, including, like infinite Angels. Of course, Tom had only one card left in his hand, so he drew six.

Gallows locked up the game pretty quickly and Tom triumphed in style.

Tom's not exactly thrilled with the final deck, but he said in can certainly pull out some wins. "It's a 2-1 deck, but with subpar draws, it's a easy 0-3...but it can 3-0 too." One thing's for certain, if you like First Strike and damage dealt directly to the face, this is the deck for you.

 

Feature Match Round 15 - Morgan Chang vs. Jeremy Schofield

by Josh Bennett


Coming in to the final round, it looked like the Top 8 was already set. If all of the top four tables ID'd, they would lock up all the berths. Then Jeremy Schofield had to go and ruin the whole plan by wanting to close out with a perfect 15-0. After all, if he won his match, it would open the door for his former roommate Mike Lewis to win and sneak in as the eighth man. All this was bad news for Morgan Chang, who had matched Schofield's record until they clashed in Round 11. It was a chance for vindication.

Game 1

Schofield led out with Nightshade Peddler. Chang answered with Kruin Striker. Schofield summoned Farbog Explorer, soulbonding it to the Peddler and attacked. Chang was happy to trade. What he wasn't happy about was his lack of a third land.

He summoned Moorland Inquisitor and passed. Schofield played his fourth land, hit for two, and passed right back. Chang played Nearheath Stalker and paired it up with his Inquisitor, stealing two life from Schofield. Now Schofield was in no hurry to attack. He played his fifth land and passed. Still no joy for Chang, who had to content himself with Bladed Bracers.

Still Schofield's offence remained anemic. He could muster only a Wandering Wolf with his six land. Finally, a third land for Chang. He chose to spend his mana on an Emancipation Angel, bouncing his Bladed Bracers. Schofield did nothing but draw and pass with four cards in hand. Chang was free to equip his Angel with Bladed Bracers and get in for four.

Schofield's next draw tilted the playing field: Silverblade Paladin. He paired it to his Farbog Explorer and hit for four. Chang returned the favor with his Angel, knocking Schofield to ten, and played Seraph of Dawn.

Schofield thought for a moment, then turned his Silverblade Paladin and Farbog Explorer sideways. Chang confirmed he had five cards in hand and considered his blocks. He put Emancipation Angel in front of Silverblade Paladin. Schofield showed him Joint Assault, killing the Angel and dropping Chang to just eight life.

Chang untapped and gave the Bracers to his Moorland Inquisitor, then attacked with it and his Seraph of Dawn, looking to get some life back. Schofield put the kaibosh on that with Terrifying Presence. Chang passed the turn back, relying on his Inquisitor to save him.

Schofield drew and did some complicated figuring. At the end of it he decided to play out Wildwood Geist and pass. Chang played his sixth land, a second mountain, and drained him for two with Seraph of Dawn. He tapped out for Voice of the Provinces. Schofield took the opportunity to attack with both Wildwood Geist and his doublestriking Explorer. Chang put his 1/1 token in front of the Geist and his Inquisitor in front of the Explorer for the trade. Schofield played his seventh land and Entreated a pair of angels to the battlefield, one of which would enjoy the benefit of doublestrike.

It looked dire for Chang. He played Midvast Protector and pushed through three more damage. Schofield was down to just five life. He passed it back with three mana open. Schofield attacked with Wildwood Geist and the doublestriking Angel. Chang was ready with Thunderbolt. Schofield gave the turn back to him, and suddenly Chang had Angelic Armaments, sending his Stalker to the air and attacking for suddenly lethal damage.

Chang 1 - Schofield 0

Jeremy Schofield

Game 2

Chang was first on the board with Cathedral Sanctifier, and attacked it into Schofield's Thraben Valiant. Schofield obviously declined the trade. Chang played Scroll of Avacyn and passed. Schofield tried to take the game right away with Silverblade Paladin paired to his Valiant, but Righteous Blow from Chang saved him a turn's worth of pain. Chang played a third land and held back.

Schofield added Nightshade Peddler, pairing it with the Paladin, and this time he got through for four. Chang drew, then sacrificed his scroll and played a fourth land. With his remaining three mana he could do nothing. He was forced to chump the Silverblade Paladin and watch as Schofield played Entreat the Angels for one. He untapped and played out Seraph of Dawn. Schofield sent his whole team. Chang crossed his fingers and let it all through. Schofield showed him the Joint Assault.

Chang 1 - Schofield 1

Morgan Chang

Game 3

Schofield had to send back his opening seven, then stayed on six. Chang got on the board quickly with Moorland Inquisitor, but had no follow-up on three plains. Schofield played his third land and still had no play. A fourth plains and a topdecked Nearheath Stalker for Chang, and he swung in for two more. Schofield tried to put a stop to that nonsense with Midvast Protector. Chang played and cycled a Scroll of Avacyn, then played yet another plains and passed.

Schofield was tired of playing small ball. He tapped five for one of the format's biggest beatings: Wolfir Silverheart. His Midvast Protector grew to 6/7 and bashed. Chang took it. He untapped, played a sixth plains and Midvast Protector, sneaking his Nearheath Stalker in for a drain of two life. Schofield untapped and smashed in with his giant creatures. Moorland Inquisitor stepped in front of the Silverheart. Schofield played Nightshade Peddler and passed.

Chang played Emancipation Angel paired with his Stalker, bouncing a land and replaying it. Again Schofield crashed in. Midvast Protector fell by the wayside. Goldnight Redeemer joined up with the Peddler and gave Schofield six more life. Chang drew his card and tried to find a line of play, but all of them came up empty. He extended the hand in defeat.

Jeremy Schofield defeats Morgan Chang 2-1




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