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2011 U.S. National Championship - Day 1 Blog

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Mark Hornung, 2011 Vintage Champion


Day 3 Coverage
(Including U.S. National Championship Top 8)

Day 2 Coverage
(Including Legacy Championship)

Vintage Championship Results Bracket
Quarterfinals Semifinals Finals Champion
1 Mark Hornung Mark Hornung, 2-1
8 Nick Coss Mark Hornung 2-1
4 Ryan Glackin Ryan Glackin, 2-0 Mark Hornung, 2-1
5 Joseph Brown
2 Paul Mastriano Paul Mastriano, 2-1
7 Rich Shay Stephen Menendian
2-1
3 Stephen Menendian Stephen Menendian
2-0
6 Joseph Bogaard



 

  • Round 1: Feature Match – Ari Lax vs. David Sharfman

    by Nate Price
  • Here in the hallowed halls of the Indianapolis Convention Center, which I say in all seriousness, a great event is taking place. Gen Con, the best four days in gaming have drawn thousands of people together to share their love of gaming. One of the marquee events this year, at least as far as readers of this piece are concerned, is U.S. Nationals. The best players in the United States have come to vie for the chance to represent 'Murrica at Worlds on their home turf, in San Francisco, later this year.

    Game One

    The first round started with a bang, giving us a great matchup between Ari Lax, who has been around the block a fair number of times, with some recent Top 8s at GP Nashville in 2010 and Atlanta earlier this year. His opponent is David Sharfman, who has just cruised this year, winning GP Paris and PT Nagoya earlier this year.

    Ari Lax

    Sharfman started things off with a mulligan, his deck showing him a weak opening hand. Lax started off with an Island, something which was probably going to be a popular first-turn play over the course of the day. Sharfman gave me pause for a moment when he played a Verdant Catacombs, fetching a forest to play a Birds of Paradise. The next few turns were spent building mana, both players avoiding any more commintments to the board. When Sharfman broke the stalemate at the end of Lax's turn for a Deceiver Exarch, the pieces all came together in my head. Lax had a Mana Leak, but it put opened the window. The Birthing Pod that followed from Sharfman immediately upgraded the Birds to a Spellskite, to protect him from a Twin combo from Lax. Considering Lax hadn't played a non-land permanent, and the Mountain he had in play, it seemed a good bet that he was playing the UR version of the Splinter Twin combo deck.

    Sharfman started to use his Pod to great effect over the next turns, playing a Sylvan Ranger which turned into a Sea Gate Oracle.

    "Value," he exclaimed!

    Lax made a Deceiver Exarch on the end of Sharfman's turn, but didn't really have anything to do with it over the next couple of turns. He Ponder ed and Preordain ed to dig for a way to get himself ahead, but other than that did nothing. Sharfman, meanwhile, kept Podding. Oracle turned into Phyrexian Metamorph, and he played a Sylvok Replica as well. Between the Replica and his Spellskite, he looked to be in complete control. An Acidic Slime on the next turn ate Lax's Shrine of Piercing Vision before getting upgraded into a Frost Titan. This massive, and rapidly upgrading army, was facing down a lone Deceiver Exarch. Even it went away as Lax was forced to chump block the rampaging Titan on the following turn. When Sharfman used his Pod to make his Replica into an Entomber Exarch, which prompted Lax to concede rather than reveal his hand.

    Ari Lax 0 – David Sharfman 1

    David Sharfman

    Game Two

    Lax started the second game digging through his deck with a couple of Preordains, which is quickly becoming a hallmark of his games. Intermixed with those, he resolved a free Gitaxian Probe, revealing a Solemn Simulacrum, Frost Titan, Memoricide, and Nature's Claim. When Sharfman tried for the Memoricide, a Mana Leak stopped it cold. Lax made a Shrine of Piercing Vision, leaving one mana up and giving Sharfman a temporary reprieve. He made a Solemn Simulacrum and used a Nature's Claim to end the Shrine, which Lax simply replaced. Sharfman punished Lax's weak draw on the following turn with a Frost Titan, which sealed the match after a couple of attacks.

    Ari Lax 0 – David Sharfman 2


     

  • Round 2: Feature Match – Paul Rietzl vs. Alex West

    by Brian David-Marshall
  • "Morning, gentlemen," I said cheerfully as the two competitors sat down for the second round of the tournament but I was still looking down and getting the camera ready and opening up a blank document and did not see the glum look on either of their faces.

    "You realize that we both lost, right?" sighed Rietzl.

    Both players came into this event with their eyes no doubt on picking up some of the precious Pro Points available at Nationals. With his Finals finish in Paris — and double tabling of Grand Prix Paris at the same time -- Rietzl is within the Top 10 of the Player of the Year race. Additionally with 10 days left for members of the two Pro Tour Hall of Fame committees to submit — or even resubmit — their ballots a National team berth might be the Magic equivalent of shaking hands and kissing babies.

    For Alex the Pro Points are even more important. The Star City Games columnist has not even gotten on the board for the Player of the Year race — the only players listed on the page have 10 or more points so far this season — getting the minimum point payout at each of the first two Pro Tours so far this season.

    When you lose round one of an event like Nationals the hope is that you will get paired with a relatively inexperienced player in the 0-1 bracket and will be able to get back on track. As they walked to the pairings board the last name they wanted to see across from their was one they recognized.

    Paul Rietzl

    "Should I have said 'Mourning gentlemen.'"

    "I haven't won a Constructed match at Nationals since 1999," Rietzl said wryly.

    "Some would say the odds are in your favor," offered Alex who rolled very low on his dice. "You are a favorite to win this die roll..."

    "Tied it," slumped Rietzl who would eventually win the reroll.

    Game One

    Rietzl led off with Porcelain Legionnaire off of a Plains and Inkmoth Nexus — he was playing Tempered Steel. Alex played Spreading Seas on his Plains rather than his Inkmoth Nexus out of respect for the eponymous enchantment. Rietzl added Vault Skirge to his team as well as Glint Hawk Idol. West played Colonnade and passed the turn.

    Rietzl offered up another Idol but it was Mana Leak ed. Rietzl paid to animate the one from the previous turn and attacked for 6. Day of Judgement from West cleared away most of the threats but Rietzl was able to animate both Idol and Nexus and swing in for 2 and 1 before playing another Nexus.

    West's deck was starting to rumble to life as he played an Everflowing Chalice for 1 and Oblivion Ring ed the Idol. Rietzl sighed and went to his back up plan, animating both of the Inkmoths and scratching away. West paid full price for Tezzeret's Gambit and nudged up his Chalice to two counters. Rietzl had Spellskite. He was tight on mana and could only get in for 1 poison counter that turn.

    Rietzl played a second Chalice for 1 and then summoned Consecrated Sphinx. Rietzl frowned at the board but he had a plan. He animated both his Nexi during his upkeep and Dispatch ed the Sphinx before drawing a card. He snuck in for another point of poison. West slowed the infection with Spreading Seas on one of the two Nexi. He played another Gambit for full price and forged another Chalice.

    Rietzl attempted to land Tempered Steel bit it was met with Mana Leak. His Nexus got in for the 6th poison counter. West tapped an Island and a Chalice with three counters on it to Gambit again. He left Colonnade mana up and ORinged the Spellskite but he had to Mana Leak another Tempered Steel on Rietzl's turn. Rietzl was able to get 7th or a 7th poison but — with just a little sweat starting to show on his brow — West finally found a Tectonic Edge. He attacked with two Colonnades and passed.

    Rietzl finally landed a Tempered Steel and followed it with Vault Skirge and Signal Pest. West killed the Inkmoth EOT and untapped to kill everything else with Day of Judgement. He played yet another Tezzeret's Gambit and had his Chalices at 5,4, and 3. Baneslayer Angel was enough for Rietzl to slide the pair of Seas across the table and wrinkled up his face in disgust as he reached for the sideboard.

    Alex West

    Game Two

    Glint Hawk Idol led off for Rietzl and West's Mana Leak on Steel Overseer saved two points of damage with no third land for the Pro Tour Amsterdam champion. West played a pair of Chalices over the next two turns and then went to 16 to pay the Phyrexian mana cost for Gambit and boost them both up with Proliferate in between Rietzl playing Memnite and Signal Pest.

    Rietzl was able to attack for 5 but was still scuffling for mana. Meanwhile, West had all the mana in the world and played Preordain into Baneslayer Angel. He O-Ringed the Idol and then played Angel. Rietzl who had sided out all but one of his Dispatch es shrugged and said okay as he played Signal Pest.

    West attacked for nine and then Spread a Plains and Oust ed a Signal Pest. Rietzl nodded and started to fill out the result slip.

    Final result: Alex West - 2 Paul Rietzl - 0

    "I don't really like the new versions of CawBlade," said West after the match wen asked about his decision to play a blue-white control deck. "Once you are paying full price for Swords I would rather be paying that price on better guys. Everyone keeps teasing me that it is the control deck of a small child. Last round I cast a turn 5 Karn with Cancel backup."


     

  • Round 3: How Can You Beat That Which Does Not Kill? – Kyle Sanchez vs. Orrin Beasley

    by Marc Calderaro
  • "Yo, you a net-decker?" Kyle Sanchez snarked at his opponent. He may have been away from Magic for a while, but he still knew how to toy with an opponent.

    "Maybe," a meeker Orrin Beasley replied.

    "I tell ya, man, there's no pride in Magic anymore." Kyle shook his head disdainfully and shuffled his cards. His unique mill deck had been taking down some unlikely contenders so far, and we'll see how it fairs against Beasley's CawBlade. Sanchez said in his testing with Pro Tour—Hollywood winner Charles Gindy, this match was 80% in his favor. 80% seems pretty darn good. Those are close to Owling Mine numbers, I think.

    But it's time for Kyle Sanchez to put his money where his mouth is.

    Game One

    Sanchez started off with an Island into a Ponder, yielding a nice turn-two Lotus Cobra and a turn-three pre-fetchland Hedron Crab. However, the Crab was promptly Mana Leak ed by Beasley, who spent his own first turns Preordain ing and keeping mana up for said counterspell things. Oblivion Ring, Squadron Hawk, Day of Judgment, Spellskite and a Sword of Feast and Famine lay waiting in Beasley's hand.

    Turn four Sanchez had up 2 Islands, a Forest and a Mountain, and thanks to Lotus Cobra, cast Archive Trap on his opponent.

    "A couple Swords and a Hawk. Not bad." Kyle mused.

    Beasley's Squadron Hawk in-hand came down and searched two buddies, then Beasley laid the Horror artifact creature.

    Sanchez cycled a Visions from Beyond (rather than Ancestral Recalling with it), revealing his desperation, then laid a Jace, Memory Adept, drew a card while casting a free Glimpse the Unthinkable, then shipped his turn. Sword of Feast and Famine came down, equipped, then aided Beasley's attack to make the totals 17-16 in Sanchez's favor. Post-combat, Beasley O-Ring'ed away the opposing Planeswalker. Sanchez had some tricks to foil the Sworded-up bird, but totals still became 9-14. And single digits was not good for Sanchez and his milling compatriots.

    Facing lethal next turn, as more birds and more Swords cluttered Beasley's side, Sanchez drew, sighed, and scooped up his cards.

    Orrin Beasley 1 – 0 Kyle Sanchez


    Orrin Beasley

    Game Two

    Dueling Preordains, and Sanchez followed with a Hedron Crab and a Terramorphic Expanse. Beasley simply held up Mana Leak mana, and caught a second Crab, then swept the O-G Original Crab with an O-B O-blivion Ring.

    Jace, Memory Adept
    A turn or two passed before Kyle cast Into the Roil at the end of Beasley's turn to get his Hedron Crab back in time to have two uncracked fetchlands (an Scalding Tarn and a Misty Rainforest ) in play. After some cracking and some fetching, Beasley got his turn back with 21 cards in his graveyard. He calmly tapped out for a Gideon Jura, and was caught in an Archive Trap at the end of his turn. He had 5 cards in his hand, and only 15 cards left in his library.

    Two Visions from Beyond restocked Sanchez's hand (this time they Recalled), allowing Sanchez to cast Explore, play a Forest and a Misty Rainforest (milling for nine in the process), then two Lotus Cobras and a Preordain. He bottomed two lands, drew an Island, and passed the turn with a Jace, Memory Adept and a third Lotus Cobra alongside the unwanted blue land.

    Gideon was lonely. Sanchez was still at 17 life, and Beasley's library was low. Very low. Jura did what he could. He grabbed a Sword of Feast and Famine and took Sanchez to single digits, but Sanchez's Jace was more than willing to take Beasley's remaining cards and throw them in the trash.

    Orrin Beasley 1 – 1 Kyle Sanchez


    Kyle Sanchez

    Game Three

    These early cyclers are getting a bit predictable, but thankfully, Sanchez fought Beasley's Preordain with a turn-one Hedron Crab, and Beasley decided a Squadron Hawk, searching up for two friends, was a better second-turn play than holding up Mana Leak mana. The library searching allowed Sanchez to Archive Trap for free. This was important because after a Ponder, Sanchez's hand was merely four lands and another Archive Trap. If his Hedron Crab bit the dust, he might have some trouble on his hands.

    It was about to do just that to a Dismember the following turn, but Sanchez had drawn an Into the Roil, like a curly-haired boss, to save it. Beasley's board was three Hawks, and he was able to Mana Leak Kyle's re-cast Hedron Crab. Sanchez was ok with that though; he had another one sitting in his hand, again, like the aforementioned boss.

    Sanchez knew how to play this deck. Every time I got up to count the cards in Beasley's graveyard, he would say the number immediately when I put the deck down.

    "25?" he asked. I nodded.

    Sanchez's various Preordains and Ponders found him more Crabs. One was Oblivion Ring -ed while a Spellskite joined the 1/1 Hawks. Sanchez sunk to 9, milled his opponent with his remaining Crab, then cracked fetchlands to mill some more.

    "You should have 10 cards in your library?"

    "11."

    "Ok. Hm. How many Spell Pierces are in your 'yard?" He silently counted them up. It was clear Sanchez had a plan.

    "On your upkeep, Archive Trap ?" Ah yes, that plan.

    Beasley thought for a moment, then scooped up his cards. It looks like that 80% win rate might not be too skewed after all.

    Kyle Sanchez 2 – 1 Orrin Beasley

    Kyle Sanchez's deck has some really neat tricks up its sleeve, and some that he requested I not reveal this early in the tournament. Stay turned for more on this surprising little deck.




     

  • Friday, 1:30 p.m. – A Quick Look at Vintage

    by Nate Price
  • Ah Vintage, the least understood of Magic's many formats (Chaos Planechase Archenemy Emperor Commander notwithstanding). Vintage has been around for actual ever, but very few people outside of the dedicated community seem to show any interest in it. As the years have passed, players have started to become more and more interested in the older formats. All you have to do is look at the booming popularity of Legacy to see that that is true. Many players have looked down on Vintage as a stagnant, never-changing format filled with broken cards, non-interactive matches, and generally not worth their time to get into.

    Honestly, it's a shame. After years of covering the Vintage Championhips, I've learned how wrong those opinions are. The format is constantly shifting as new cards are added to the mix. Sure, not all of them will be even playable, but every so often, a new superstar comes in and makes waves in the pool, often one you never see coming. The cards are definitely incredibly powerful, but they lend themselves to layers of strategy that don't exist in the other formats. You may think that the Storm mirror match is just going to be a vomit-fest, where someone just dies on the first or second turn with no chance for their opponent to even play Magic, but the matchup is actually highly interactive, with a great deal of ebb and flow, and packed with strategic thinking. It really is a rich format, as its very tight community can tell you, and it's only a matter of time before players start to come around. After all, the negative opinions that players have held about the format are eerie echoes of their problems with Legacy, and we can all see how that turned out.

    So for those of you that have read this far, and would like to learn more about this very interesting format, let's begin by taking a look at what comes together to make Vintage. One of the biggest hallmarks of Vintage is the presence of the powerful older cards. Cards of legend, like the Moxen, Black Lotus, Ancestral Recall, Time Walk, Mishra's Workshop …these are definitely the first things that jump to peoples' minds when you think of Vintage, and with good reason. They are some of the most powerful cards ever printed, and that definitely contributes to the power level of the format as a whole. Up next is an interesting phenomenon that occurs in Vintage and Legacy to a lesser extent. Because of the sheer size of the card pool, there are often cards that will have a very big impact in Vintage that are virtually unplayable in other formats. One of the best examples of this is the card Slash Panther.

    All right, believe me when I say that the first time I heard about this, I just started to laugh, assuming that someone was playing a joke on me. But as they explained it, it really started to make sense. While a player might get mocked mercilessly out of the room were they to play Slash Panther in Standard right now, it fills many important roles in Vintage.

    Phyrexian Metamorph
    The deck it has found a home in is the Mishra's Workshop -based artifact decks that are major players in the Vintage scene. The deck used to run Juggernaut as a kill condition, since a first-turn 5-powered creature tends to end things in short order. Back that up with some disruption in the form of Sphere of Resistance, Thorn of Amethyst, and Tangle Wire and an opponent frequently finds themselves in a world of hurt. When Lodestone Golem was released, the deck got a significant upgrade. After all, what is better than disruption and a fat creature? Disruption on a fat creature.

    Slash Panther is the newest addition to the deck. While a little smaller than its predecessors, it makes up for that in speed. Combined with Phyrexian Metamorph, which is also proving to be a standout across multiple formats, the hasty Panthers are able to do many things that their cousins could not. For example, they kill Jace, the Mind Sculptor immediately (yes, he's even ridiculously good in Vintage). Second, he can actually kill faster than the other two since most players tend to take a little self-inflicted damage in the early turns of the game. All in all, he's just a great versatile addition to the deck. Not exactly the power-level you'd expect from a standout in Vintage, I bet.

    One of the other cool things about Vintage is the fact that there are so many cards that no one can play in other formats because they are too old. These cards only see play in Vintage, and they are just really cool to see in action. Mystic Remora is a good example. This simple little enchantment, while it might be nothing more than average or good were it playable in other formats, is an absolute stud in Vintage. You know those Moxes that seem to be running about? They're spells. How about those other cheap spells that seem to be running about, like Brainstorm, Ponder, Duress, Preordain, Inquisition of Kozilek, Ancestral Recall, Force of Will... I could go on. This card will often draw you an incredible number of cards for an entirely negligible cost. Pretty sexy!

    Right now, taking a look around the Vintage world, the format appears to be pretty open. You are going to see variations on decks running Mishra's Workshop. Some will run the aggressive plan described above, some with Slash Panther and some without. You will also see versions running a control strategy, using Smokestack to keep opponents locked out of the game. There will be a slew of blue-based control decks. Most will be UB, dipping in to find Dark Confidant, Tutors, and discard. Often you'll see them playing Tezzeret the Seeker to abuse with their plethora of artifacts and mana-producers. They will all have Jace, the Mind Sculptor. These decks can really go a number of ways, though setting up a lock with Time Vault and either Tezzeret or Voltaic Key seems to be the most popular. There will definitely be combo decks in the field as well, with the most popular being the storm decks, killing with either Tendrils of Agony or Empty the Warrens, and generating their storm count through either Rituals or Hurkyl's Recall.


    There are definitely aggressive decks in the format as well. One of the more popular versions is a BWG "Hate-Bears" deck. It uses the large number of cheap creatures with embedded abilities that happen to be good against these other strategies to hamper them as they smash their faces in. I'm talking Phyrexian Revoker, Leonin Relic-Warder, Ethersworn Canonist, Aven Mindcensor, and Kataki, War's Wage. These cards lock down a specific element of the opponent's strategy, all the while turning sideways and bringing the game closer to an end. There are the "Fish" variants that run about as well. These run a similar strategy, using cards like Gaddock Teeg, Trygon Predator, and Qasali Pridemage to keep people hemmed down, though they reinforce their little men with a suite of countermagic. On top of that, they often keep their hands stocked through Cold-Eyed Selkie, which is a virtually guaranteed card every turn in this heavy-blue field.

    Other than that, there are the occasional other decks that have made an appearance. People will still play Dredge in every format that the cards are in. They will continue to find ways to cheat creatures into play, either via Oath of Druids, Show and Tell (sometimes both in the same deck), Tinker, or reanimator spells. They will play Painter's Servant and Grindstone to mill a deck out, or maybe even Helm of Obedience if they're feeling really old-school. These are all things that have been around Vintage at one time or another, though their power level in the current format is up for debate. Regardless of how strong they are, they are still decks that you have to be aware exist if you hope to play Vintage.

    Over the rest of the day, I'll be stopping in with some of the players playing some of the more interesting decks in the field, as well as trying to get some insights into the more consistently performing decks. After all, this format is far deeper than most people give it credit for being, and I'd really like to illustrate how that is so.


     

  • Friday, 1:40 p.m. – Day Zero Standard Grinder Winners

    by Marc Calderaro
  • So I know you guys all want this stuff. You know, the winning Standard decklists that got unqualified players qualified for Nationals? Well guess what, I got 'em right here. No big surprises, but Mono Red lists always make me smile. Watch out for a few interesting cards though. There's an Abyssal Persecutor hidden amongst these cards, and a few Gravitational Shift s to boot. Additionally, Pyromancer Ascension rears its head to remind us of the other Blue-Red combo deck running around.

    These guys showed up ready to enjoy the GenCon weekend, and ended up playing in the big show. Pretty sweet, folks.

    Alex Bertoncini
    U.S. Nationals 2011 (Day Zero Standard Grinder Winner)



    Kyle Dembinski
    U.S. Nationals 2011 (Day Zero Standard Grinder Winner)



    Matthew Wood
    U.S. Nationals 2011 (Day Zero Standard Grinder Winner)



    Joshua Hakakian
    U.S. Nationals 2011 (Day Zero Standard Grinder Winner)

    Main Deck

    60 cards

    Halimar Depths
    Island
    Mountain
    Scalding Tarn

    22 lands


    0 creatures

    Burst Lightning
    Gitaxian Probe
    Into the Roil
    Lightning Bolt
    Mana Leak
    Ponder
    Preordain
    Pyromancer Ascension
    See Beyond
    Spell Pierce

    38 other spells

    Sideboard
    Deceiver Exarch
    Dispel
    Pyroclasm
    Splinter Twin

    15 sideboard cards




    Dan Rodemann
    U.S. Nationals 2011 (Day Zero Standard Grinder Winner)



    Dan Rodemann
    U.S. Nationals 2011 (Day Zero Standard Grinder Winner)





    Tim Sussino
    U.S. Nationals 2011 (Day Zero Standard Grinder Winner)



    Shane Campbell
    U.S. Nationals 2011 (Day Zero Standard Grinder Winner)

    Main Deck

    60 cards

    Arid Mesa
    12  Mountain
    Scalding Tarn
    Teetering Peaks

    24 lands

    Ember Hauler
    Goblin Guide
    Grim Lavamancer
    Spikeshot Elder

    16 creatures

    Arc Trail
    Koth of the Hammer
    Lightning Bolt
    Searing Blaze
    Staggershock

    20 other spells

    Sideboard
    Act of Treason
    Dismember
    Ratchet Bomb
    Sword of War and Peace

    15 sideboard cards




    Stephen Neal
    U.S. Nationals 2011 (Day Zero Standard Grinder Winner)

    Main Deck

    60 cards

    Halimar Depths
    Island
    Mountain
    Scalding Tarn

    24 lands

    Deceiver Exarch

    4 creatures

    Burst Lightning
    Gitaxian Probe
    Into the Roil
    Mana Leak
    Ponder
    Preordain
    Pyromancer Ascension
    Splinter Twin

    32 other spells

    Sideboard
    Jace Beleren
    Lightning Bolt
    Pyroclasm
    Spell Pierce

    15 sideboard cards




    Dan Patterson
    U.S. Nationals 2011 (Day Zero Standard Grinder Winner)



    Daniel Samson
    U.S. Nationals 2011 (Day Zero Standard Grinder Winner)





    Brandon Krohm
    U.S. Nationals 2011 (Day Zero Standard Grinder Winner)

    Main Deck

    60 cards

    10  Island
    Mountain
    Scalding Tarn

    22 lands

    Deceiver Exarch
    Spellskite

    6 creatures

    Dispel
    Gitaxian Probe
    Into the Roil
    Ponder
    Preordain
    Shrine of Piercing Vision
    Spell Pierce
    Splinter Twin
    Twisted Image

    32 other spells

    Sideboard
    Combust
    Manic Vandal
    Mental Misstep
    Mutagenic Growth
    Pyroclasm

    15 sideboard cards







     

  • Round 4: Feature Match – Patrick Chapin vs. Dan Jordan

    by Brian David-Marshall
  • Patrick Chapin needs little in the way of introduction and, after nabbing the fourth career PT Top 8 earlier this year in Paris, could be on his way to getting introduced at Worlds as a member of the incoming Hall of Fame class. With two weeks left for ballots to be turned in, a National team berth would be a nifty bit of last minute resume padding.

    He came prepared for the Standard portion of that feat with a RUG Birthing Pod deck designed by him and two-time National team member Michael Jacob. The deck eschewed the Splinter Twin combo that has become popular in the wake of results from Australian Nationals and plays more spells and -- more importantly -- more Inferno Titans.

    Dan Jordan is a relatively new player to high-level competition but has been very successful in that short span. He ground his way onto the Pro Tour last season winning a MTGO qualifier for Amsterdam, where he finished in the Top 16. On the Star City Open Series, the Albany native has racked up three victories. He came to the table with a Twin Pod list inspired by Australian National Champion Aaron Nicoll's winning list. In preparing for this event Jordan talked with Nicoll and the pair did some fine tuning for this weekend.

    Game One

    Ponder kicked off the action for Jordan. "I'll go to nineteen" announced Chapin as he fetched Island with Misty Rainforest and cast Ponder of his own. On the surface the two Birthing Pod lists looked very similar as Jordan cracked his own Rainforest for Lotus Cobra.

    There was no third land for Chapin but he did muster a Birds of Paradise. Jordan played a land that entered the battlefield tapped and took advantage of the blue mana he made with Cobra to play Ponder. He then cast Phantasmal Image copying Cobra.

    Patrick Chapin

    Chapin found his land and played his own Phantasmal Image -- copying Cobra -- and then played his Land into Cunning Sparkmage to take out Jordan's original Cobra. Problem was Jordan still had the copy and a fetch land allowed him to sweep the board with Inferno Titan and Chapin was ready to move onto the second game.

    Patrick Chapin - 0 Dan Jordan - 1

    Game Two

    Patrick shuffled his entire deck into his sideboard and began pulling out the fifteen that were going on the bench. Jordan pulled out his notes and consulted his sideboarding guide that he had prepared from the event. There were more than a few alarmed looks as Jordan consulted his script but it was quickly explained by knowing friends that it was legal to do such things under the current floor rules.

    Chapin shipped back his openers for a fresh six cards that let him get started with Birds of Paradise which allowed for a turn two Sea Gate Oracle to refresh his hand. Jordan came out of the gate more slowly with a tapped land and turn two Preordain. Deceiver Exarch on Chapin's upkeep was his first real play to tap down the Birds. Chapin played Sylvok Replica and patiently passed the turn.

    Solemn Simulacrum for Forest was Jordan's play and Chapin paid two life to Phyrexian Metamorph his Sea Gate Oracle. "Two cards?" asked Jordan. He tapped out to play Urabrask the Hidden. Chapin sent a pair of Sea Gates into the red zone. Jordan put his Exarch and Simulacrum in the path of one. Inferno Titan came down and did three damage to Ubarask. Forked Bolt finished off it and the Solemn that had just taken one from the Oracle

    Jordan played Spellskite and Metamorph. He copied the Titan and took out a trio of elves and birds. Chapin sac'd his Replica and Jordan redirected the ability to his Spellskite with his last open blue mana. Jordan had three cards and Chapin had none -- he drew for his turn. Ponder found Nature's Claim for the Metamorph. Titan attacked and did 12 to Jordan who chose not to chump with his Exarch. He wanted to buy one more turn to rip a Splinter Twin off the top but it was not there and they were onto the rubber game.

    Patrick Chapin - 1 Dan Jordan - 1

    Dan Jordan

    Game Three

    Quick keeps on both sides and Jordan led off with Misty Rainforest into Ponder. it was a nearly Identical turn one from Chapin except he played Preordain. Jordan summoned a pair of Spellskites while Chapin played Birds of Paradise in between. Five points of total life change had occurred and it was entirely from fetch lands as Chapin broke the third in as many turns to power out Vengevine and rumble in for 4.

    Jordan passed the turn only to flash out Deceiver Exarch to tap the Vengevine prior to attacking. Chapin played a fetch land and passed.

    "Cards in hand?" asked Jordan and the answer was five. He offered up Birthing Pod. When it resolved he sacrificed his Exarch for Solemn Simulacrum and a Forest. Chapin had Nature's Claim the Birthing Pod but Jordan dipped briefly to 10 -- and then up to 14 from Claim -- as he redirected it to a Spellskite. He fell back to 10 with no blocks on Vengevine. Chapin sacrificed land number four and number five to play Inferno Titan. He announced two points on Solemn and one on Jordan.

    Jordan fell to 7 as he redirected the two to the Solemn to his Spellskite and went to 5 on his turn to Pod up Urabrask. He went to 4 from a fetch land to play a hasty Inferno Titan and did three to Chapin's Titan and another three when it attacked. The game looked like it was going Jordan's way -- especially with his Spellskite still at the ready but Chapin showed him a pair of Act of Aggressions. He used the first on the Spellskite and then the second one on Urabrask to leave Jordan defenseless against his attack.

    Final result: Patrick Chapin - 2 Dan Jordan - 1


     

  • Friday, 4:30 p.m.: Draft One – Gettin' Sidetracked

    by Marc Calderaro
  • Right now, there are about two and a half pods worth of undefeated players. Going into the first draft, there are a good amount of people sitting at 4-0. Though it's easy to look at the first pod – at Brad Nelson and Luis Scott-Vargas – and call them the frontrunners, there's virtually no difference between Pod 1 and Pod 3. I hovered around the first table to see what Brad and his surrounding drafters had going on in the first M12 draft of the weekend. But as you'll see, I got a little sidetracked.

    Brad started strong with a first pick Sorin's Vengeance. He backed that pick up with a Gravedigger and other solid black. But Alex Smith to his right, also ventured into black from his first couple blue picks and cut some nice black picks from Nelson. Smith went black because to his right, Ali Aintrazi started snaking his blue after starting out in white. Brad didn't mind too much, there were still some good darkly colored pickings in Reassembling Skeleton and the like, and soon Nelson ventured into his own second color, green. After a couple Arachnus Webs, and Rampant Growths Nelson's solid second color was stealing from the person on his right with an aggressive Green-White aggro deck.

    So pretty much, all the players were drafting one color from their neighbor on the left, and one color from the neighbor to their right. It oddly worked out for all of them, and everyone wound up with pretty good – though not really remarkable – decks.

    Brad tried a red splash in pack three with a first-pick Flameblast Dragon and a second-pick Shock, but ultimately decided against it in deck-building because of a late Cudgel Troll, Sutured Ghoul and Overrun obviating the need for a third color.

    Aintrazi wound up with a good U/W deck with seemingly infinite good five-drops: three Chasm Drake, a Djinn of Wishes and a Belltower Sphinx. Wesley Wise, a couple seats down (sitting next to Aintrazi), ended with a good black and red deck that curved out nicely. A couple Child of Night, Duskhunter (along with the appropriate one-drops), two Gorehorn Minotaurs, a Royal Assassin, a Vengeful Pharaoh and a Flameblast Dragon of his own.

    I started to survey Alex Smith's final list. It looked pretty good with a Cemetery Reaper, some Ice Cages, but then I got sidetracked. Sitting next to Smith during deckbuilding was Alex Bertoncini. He started poking me saying, "Hey, hey. Check it out." So, like a good journalist, I checked it out.

    Bertoncini had drafted two Rune-Scarred Demons and two Diabolic Tutors. He smiled sinisterly and said, "I mean I'm going to get tired from all the searching I'll be doing. It's a good thing I have two Fireballs to search for!" I scoured his cards. The pile he'd put together looked totally awesome, but fact-checking showed he didn't have two Fireballs, though. It was a Fireball and a Consume Spirit. See? Good journalist.

    Alex Bertoncini

    "I wish I could play this though." Bertoncini frowned as he showed the Sphinx of Uthuun in his sideboard. What a fun, ridiculous deck. It was totally cooler than these other decks I was looking at. But I'm a good journalist, right? I can stay on track. Stay on target; Stay on target. I was about to get back on the straight and narrow, then I ran into Nate Pease. And all hope was lost. Any semblance of these other standard, solid, if kinda-blah decks swiftly left my brain.

    About Nate Pease's deck: So when you draft Black-Red Bloodthirst, what are you hoping for? Some solid one drops, right? How's three Goblin Fireslingers, two Goblin Arsonists and a Tormented Soul ? Now those are all well and good, but they're actually pretty bad cards if your curve stumbles after that. You need at least a few great two-drops with hopefully one Stormblood Berserker. How about three?! Yup, three highly sought-after uncommons in the two-drop slot (along with two Blood Seekers). And it doesn't stop after that. Pease continues to curve out perfectly with three Bloodrage Vampire, a Blood Ogre, a Vampire Outcast and two Gorehorn Minotaurs. He even grabbed a Doom Blade and some other sweet removal. Pease's last cut was the very solid Bonebreaker Giant for a measly Goblin Piker.

    "I needed to. The giant's too slow."

    Nate Pease

    I swear guys, just because I ditched all the players at the first table to ogle Nate's and Alex's decks doesn't mean I have a short attention span. It just means I know a good story when I see one – like a good journalist. Right?


     

  • Round 5: Feature Match – Michael Jacob vs. David Ochoa

    by Brian David-Marshall
  • "Really," groaned Michael Jacob as he made his way to the feature match area. "No one wants to see this."

    He was very unhappy with the deck he had drafted -- after going 3-1 in the Standard portion with RUG-Pod. For better or worse, when you are one of the most successful U.S. Nationals players in the room you are going to get featured regardless of the quality of your draft deck. Jacob has been on two different National teams. In 2008 he was the National champion and led a team with Sam Black and Paul Cheon to the World Team Championship in Memphis to close out the 2008 season.

    "Am I playing this card?" laughed Jacob at one of his main deck inclusions. "Yes I am. Am I splashing for it? Also, yes."

    His opponent David Ochoa came close to making the National team last season but ended up as the alternate instead. Ochoa is on the short list of top players who have yet to get a Pro Tour Top 8 on their resume. He came close last season with a 12th place finish in Amsterdam. His next Pro Point will be his 100th -- which a Top 16 finish would guarantee him.

    Game One

    "I will draw!" said Jacob without any hesitation when he won the die roll. "Have you been manascrewed yet? Are you due?"

    Ochoa maintained his trademark straight face and Jacob continued his patter about his draft: "I think more than one player at our table was forcing something."

    Ochoa kept his opening hand and Jacob slumped: "There goes my way to win."

    Neither player did anything on this first couple of turns until Ochoa plopped down a Royal Assassin against two Plains.

    "So that is how it is going to be," laughed Jacob, who played a third land and passed the turn. "You know what I have to say to that? Absolutely nothing. How did you know I would be weak to Royal Assassin?"

    Michael Jacob

    Ochoa played Divination and dug into a Distress.

    "You figured me out," said Jacob sheepishly as he laid out a fistful of creatures and Day of Judgment. One of those creatures was Goblin Bangchuckers -- the card he was embarrassed about earlier.

    Jacob drew and played Bonebreaker Giant a turn later and Ochoa came back with Drifting Shade. Over the next few turns Jacob dumped Griffin Sentinel, Benalish Veteran and the Bangchuckers onto the board. Ochoa played Æther Adept and bounced the 'Chuckers.

    "You think I am ever going to win a coin flip?" snorted Jacob.

    Ochoa flew over for 5 with his Drifting Shade and Jacob replayed the Goblin and took another five from the Shade. Jacob untapped and promptly used the Bangchuckers to try and kill the Assassin. Just to be safe, Ochoa used the Assassin in response. True to his word, Jacob lost the flip. Ochoa blocked the Bonebreaker Giant with his Æther Adept. When he played Gravedigger to get the Adept back, that was enough for Jacob to throw in the towel.

    Game Two

    "Was that a first pick?" asked Jacob regarding Ochoa's Royal Assassin.

    "No the guy who was in between us passed it to me," said Ochoa with just a hint of a grin.

    Jacob, who had chosen to draw again, led off with Goblin Arsonist: "My secret tech to beat a Royal Assassin."

    Ochoa played Alluring Siren and blocked the Arsonist at first chance.

    "There goes my out."

    Devouring Swarm came down for Ochoa while Jacob played a second copy of the Arsonist: "Secret technology reveals itself again!"

    Ochoa drew four extra cards over the next two turns with a pair of Divinations sandwiching Jacob's Griffin Sentinel. Ochoa also had Reassembling Skeleton to go along with the Swarm.

    "Your deck is better than mine," frowned Jacob.

    "Slightly," Ochoa deadpanned.

    Bonebreaker Giant came down for Jacob while Ochoa flew over for two and added Drifting Shade. Things were looking good for the straight man in this comedy act. He had air superiority and Reassembling Skeleton to lock up the ground. Then things turned around for the former National Champion when he played Spirit Mantle on the Bonebreaker. Jacob let the card linger in his hand for a second waiting to see if it was going to elicit any response from Ochoa.

    "Yup," was all the California player could say. Jacob attacked with everything. Ochoae blocked the Arsonist with Skeleton and then reassembled it to save the Devouring Swarm. Jacob had Pacifism post combat for the Swarm. The life totals were 10 to 14 in Jacob's favor.

    Ochoa still had the Drifting Shade and took a four point bite out of Jacob's life total. Divine Favor graced the Griffin Sentinel and Jacob went up to 13 -- attacking Ochoa down to three. That was enough to send them to a third game.

    Game Three

    While Jacob was off asking something of a judge Ochoa muttered some expletives about the card Spirit Mantle. He actually had very few cards in his deck to deal with it. There were a couple of counterspells and an Unsummon but none of the Doom Blades you might associate with the Islands and Swamps he was playing.

    "I will play," announced Ochoa, despite Jacob's clear enthusiasm for being on the draw. He had Reassembling Skeleton erected on turn two and Jacob was not happy about it. He played a second turn Arsonist.

    Ochoa attacked for one with the Skeleton and Jacob was clearly surprised. "You have another one?!?"

    Devouring Swarm was actually what was lurking on the other side of the attack step and Jacob nodded: "Oh the nutter butters." He played Griffin Sentinel.

    Ochoa attacked and then cast Drifting Shade.

    David Ochoa

    An "Ugh" announced Jacob's next draw step. He got in for two and had no fourth turn play. Ochoa was hesitant about his next turn and wanted to attack with both fliers, then seemed like he was going to sit back -- not wanting to commit mana to protecting either of them -- and then finally attacking with both. The Shade was blocked by the Griffin and Ochoa pumped once -- then went in the tank before pumping a second time to try and kill it. Ochoa sac'd it to the Swarm in response to the Chandra's Outrage to counter the spell.

    Ochoa went to 16 from Jacob's next attack. The former Nats Champ followed up with Pacifism on the Swarm and Crimson Mage.

    Ochoa played Divination -- the card he was agonizing over on the previous turn -- and found a fifth land to also play Distress. Lurking in Jacob's hand were Volcanic Dragon and the land to play it. He took the dragon.

    Ochoa played Gravedigger to get back Drifting Shade but had to wait a turn and took two from a freshly cast Peregrine Griffin that was given haste by the Mage -- Ochoa went to 12.

    Ochoa replayed the Drifting Shade and braced for impact as Jacob added a hasty Bonebreaker Giant. Jacob sent in the Giant, the 2/4 Griffin and the pesky Arsonist. Ochoa -- who only had two black mana untapped -- looked for productive blocks. He could not find any and eventually settled on having the Skeleton absorb the brunt of the Giant and took two in the air. He reassembled EOT

    Ochoa attacked for one with Drifting Shade which may not have been much but it was enough to turn on bloodthirst for Vampire Outcasts -- 4/4 with lifelink is much better than 2/2. He also played Royal Assassin.

    Jacob could only peck away for one with his Sentinel. Drifting Shade struck back for six in the air. Sentinel kept plugging away but the momentum of the game had swung toward Ochoa. Peregrine Griffin chumped the Shade. Divine Favor on the Sentinel made things interesting. Vampire Outcasts joined the attack next turn and ultimately traded the blocking Arsonist for his Royal Assassin and four precious life points.

    Peregrine Griffin was Mana Leaked and Jacob conceded.

    Final result: Michael Jacob - 1 David Ochoa - 2


     

  • Vintage Deck Tech – Slash Panther -Workshop with Ryan Glackin

    by Nate Price
  • If you are a Vintage fan, you might remember the name Ryan Glackin. Last year, he sliced his way to a Top 8 at the 2010 Vintage Championships with his Noble Fish deck. This time around, he has changed gears, switching over to the artifact-laden Workshop deck, but this one has a twist.

    "After a bit of testing, we switched over from Magus of the Moon to Slash Panther. You can't ignore the interaction with Phyrexian Metamorph. Also, the blue decks, which Magus was in the deck to beat, have started to play more basic lands, so he just isn't as effective. Plus, with Jace, the Mind Sculptor so popular now, having the Slash Panther to just kill him is very nice."

    Here's a look at Glackin's deck:




    This deck is basically an artifact-based control deck that uses a suite of disruptive artifacts to control an opponent's ability to play spells for enough time for a Slash Panther or Lodestone Golem to finish them off. Cards like Thorn of Amethyst, Sphere of Resistance, Trinisphere, and the Lodestone Golem make spells more expensive while Tangle Wire, Strip Mine, and Wasteland keep them from having the ever increasing amount of mana to pay. In addition to those, Null Rod, Phyrexian Revoker, and Chalice of the Void just stop them from playing spells or abilities right out. While they're locked down, the 4 or more powered creatures start business. Now, as the game goes on, the lock gets less effective, consequently the size of the creatures really matters.

    Usually, the games play out with the Workshop player setting up a good soft lock. A first-turn Chalice of the Void off of an Ancient Tomb followed by a Sphere of Resistance or Thorn of Amethyst is usually a pretty good start. With that in place, a Lodestone Golem or Slash Panther can come down to start to hack away at the opponent's life. After that, to keep them from being able to answer the threat du jour, a Tangle Wire can come down to keep their resources at bay while a Wasteland keeps them strapped for mana. You also have a set of Phyrexian Metamorphs for extra redundancy and versatility. It's the perfect string along.

    It is easy to overlook this way to play the deck, though. When you see a deck that is capable of powering out a first-turn Lodestone Golem and following that with a Slash Panther or two, most people start basking in their third-turn kill. However, this just isn't how Vintage usually works.

    Out with 2 ManaBlue Mana, courtesy of Tinker.

    "Making a first-turn Slash Panther is almost always a mistake. There are just too many decks out there that can just kill you if you don't find a way to disrupt them. If they resolve a Time Vault and Voltaic Key or land a Tinker, which usually gets Blightsteel Colossus these days for a one-shot kill, you just lose. You can't give them a chance. You almost always want to set up a nice defense before you go for the kill. Admittedly, there are occasionally games you win by being incredibly aggressive, but they don't usuay go that way."

    This deck is designed to deal with the large number of blue-based decks in the field. With cards like Thorn of Amethyst and Sphere of Resistance to keep them from playing too many inexpensive spells in one turn, as well as Slash Panther for Jace, the Mind Sculptor, they seem to have a good amount of game against blue. In the mirror match, those cards that are so good in that matchup become incredibly useless. The sideboard takes care of that, though.

    "In the mirror match, you just get rid of all of those Spheres and Thorns and bring in Precursor Golems and Crucible of Worlds and go to beat them down. I had to win my last round that way."

    Also hiding in the sideboard are Jester's Caps, which are another good answer to the very threat-light Blue decks, as well as the necessary Relics of Progenitus, to deal with the graveyard decks.

    This is a great example of a resource denial strategy that is not only completely viable, but quite powerful in Vintage right now. If you like setting your opponent in a vise and watching them squirm helplessly as you slowly squeeze, this is certainly the deck for you.


     

  • Round 6: Feature Match – Luis Scott-Vargas vs. Brad Nelson

    by Marc Calderaro
  • So Brad Nelson was pretty unhappy with his deck. He showed it to Brian Kibler after losing his last round to drop to 4-1. "This might be the worst M12 limited deck I've ever seen," was the first thing Kibler said. He followed that comment closely with, "If you're to win a match this draft, you a) have to get extremely lucky, while b) your opponent gets extremely unlucky."

    "My deck is pretty terrible too." Luis Scott-Vargas returned.

    The usually chipper Brad Nelson was slightly frowning and slumping in his chair. This draft had gotten the best of him. On a lighter note, to figure out who went first, Luis laid two cards face down and said, "Pick the better card for constructed. Don't worry, it's not close." Nelson flipped over a Wurm's Tooth, while LSV showed a Dragon's Claw.

    "See? Not close. I'll play."


    Luis Scott-Vargas

    Game One

    They both kept and LSV played a turn-two Crimson Mage off a Mountain and a Plains. He then cast a Divine Favor on it the following turn and attacked into a Reassembling Skeleton that declined to block. When Scott-Vargas attacked again, Nelson's Skeleton happily joined the fray, because this time he was aided by a Sacred Wolf. All three creatures went happily to the graveyard.

    Scott-Vargas quickly refilled with an Arbalest Elite and an Auramancer returning the Divine Favor. Nelson's refilling consisted of the Skeleton rising from the grave and a Garruk's Companion. An un-aura'ed Thran Golem and an Auramancer attacked the following, making the totals 23-13 in Luis Scott-Vargas' favor. Brad's demeanor was getting lower, but it hadn't hit bottom yet. That came when he realized the Divine Favor on Luis' Thran Golem also gave in Flying, in addition to First Strike, Trample. and +3/+5. Two turns later, Brad was at one. Three turns later, he was dead.

    Luis Scott-Vargas 1 – 0 Brad Nelson

    "I can see from the spells we cast that neither of us were exaggerating about our decks." Scott-Vargas said. Brad could only let out a slight chuckle.


    Sad Brad

    Game Two

    Though Nelson went first, Scott-Vargas cast the inaugural spell in Crown of Empires. A turn-four Reassembling Skeleton was Brad's sort-of response, to which Luis cast a Rusted Sentinel.

    The Sentinel's power was clearly too imposing, so an Arachnus Web answered it. LSV tried to add power with Divine Favor, but before it could resolve, Nelson Naturalized the Sentinel away.

    Over a few turns LSV added a Thran Golem, Blood Ogre (bloodthirsty, mind you) and a Benalish Veteran, who received a Deathmark. Brad had another Reassembling Skeleton and a Rusted Sentinel of his own. There was an old fashioned stalemate round these parts.

    That is, until Scott-Vargas cast a Flameblast Dragon.

    Brad scoffed, drew his next card, and packed it in. I guess to Kibler's comment, neither a) nor b) happened for Brad. I didn't see him getting any happier as he walked away from the table.

    Luis Scott-Vargas 2 – 0 Brad Nelson

    Luis Scott-Vargas is now 5-1; Brad Nelson is 4-2.


     

  • Vintage Deck Tech – Bob/Gush Control with Stephen Menendian

    by Nate Price
  • Stephen Menendian

    Stephen Menendian has long been a leading voice in the Vintage field. He has been a Vintage Champion, in 2007, as well as netting himself a spot in the 2007 Magic Invitational, the very last one. He is constantly on the front edge of design for Vintage, as a frequent contributor to the ever-growing community of Vintage writers.

    It is a rare day when you can see Menendian sitting down to a Vintage match without Dark Confidant in his deck. One of the most powerful card-drawing engines ever made, the efficiently brutal Confidant is an integral part of Menendian's plan. Here's a look at what he brought to battle:





    When I first looked through his decklist, there were a few things that threw me off the trail of what this deck wanted to do. First, was the presence of Vendilion Clique, Trygon Predator, and Dark Confidant. Those cards are all incredibly powerful, especially in Vintage. However, they all attack for real damage. At first, I thought that this deck might just be a control deck that beat opponents down with these dorks over a few turns until they were dead. That didn't seem too cool to me. I saw the Tinker and the Blightsteel Colossus, but I figured they were just a way to grab an easy win out of nowhere. After watching Menendian play a couple of rounds, I realized that they weren't just tossed in the deck. They were the deck.

    "Basically, this deck just wants to Tinker out a Colossus every game. That's its goal. Every other card in the deck is just there to make sure that it does that."

    With that, I took another glance at the list. Well, yeah, there are Confidants and Cliques and Predators, but they really are just geared to make sure that he can grab a Tinker and get the Colossus into play as soon as possible. The Confidants draw him an absurd number of cards, helping him find it. The Predators keep the board free from anything that might stop him. The Cliques work double duty, acting as a form of end-step permission as well as targeting himself if the Colossus is stuck in his hand. Everything else in the deck, all the spells, are simply ways to draw, tutor, or protect his two-card combo.

    One of the things he was most excited about was the unrestriction of Gush.

    "That is one of the biggest things to happen to Vintage this past year. Combined with Fastbond, it's an incredible combo. You get access to not only the cards that you get to draw, but replaying the lands gives you extra mana as well. Add in Yawgmoth's Will, and you get to replay them all over again, getting even more cards and mana. It's pretty insane. With Gush, Confidant, and all of these Tutors, I have a lot of redundancy in getting the cards I need."

    The interesting thing is how his plan is able to change drastically against different decks while not really changing at all.

    "Against the Workshop decks, all I want to do, at any cost, is get a Trygon Predator to stay in play. Against Dredge, all I want is a Leyline of the Void."

    Against these decks, his target cards change, but the engine of the deck, the part of the deck that does the bulk of the work, doesn't change at all. Instead of doing anything to protect the Tinker, he substitutes in a Trygon Predator or the Leyline. The deck's target changes, but its focus never does.

    We talked a little about the state of Vintage right now, as it seemed to be going through a bit of a renaissance.

    "Yeah, Vintage is in a really good place right now. There have been a number of new cards that have been released that have had an immediate impact on the format. You've got Blightsteel Colossus, Mental Misstep, Steel Sabotage and Leonin Relic-Warder are seeing some play, Slash Panther and Phyrexian Revoker are really hot right now. Phyrexian Metamorph is just amazing in the Workshop decks. I don't know if you can beat a first-turn Lodestone Golem that gets copied on the next turn. I'm even starting to see some Flusterstorm from Commander floating around. This has been a very exciting year for Vintage.

    About the only thing that might make it more interesting were if Fact or Fiction were to be unrestricted. It's a good card, but not great anymore. It's just worse than Jace, the Mind Sculptor. But it would provide another interesting option for the blue decks out there. You've got all kinds of different blue decks out there, and a card like that would have a different effect on all of them. The best part is that it might actually make a slow blue deck more viable. There was a guy I saw yesterday playing a blue deck featuring Intuition and Accumulated Knowledge and doing pretty well. Fact or Fiction would be great for those decks, and simply another reasonable option for the faster decks in the field."

    When I asked him how that might affect the non-blue decks in the format, he assured me that it wouldn't really matter.

    "The thing is, the card is just slow right now. It is a lot of mana for an effect that isn't as good as it once was. Those decks aren't going to be hurt by it at all. It's not like it makes the blue decks in the format any better, it just has the potential to make them different. It may even open up a new deck type."

    With that said, we talked a little more about his deck. With a deck that has so much card selection in it, despite the clear goal in mind, it seemed pretty difficult to play.

    "Yeah, the decision tree is pretty complex on every turn. There are just so many decisions to make, and making the wrong one can really hurt you. This doesn't operate like the combo decks in the field, where they build up to a really big turn. This deck gains incremental advantages over a few turns until it's safe to slam the Colossus in there. Mistakes make those advantage smaller, and they can really affect the game."

    The moral is to not let Vintage fool you. As simple as some of the plans seem for these decks, implementation of them is actually quite difficult. With access to whatever you want whenever you want, making the right decision is like finding a needle in a haystack. There may be multiple right answers, but only one that is most right. In a deck like this, finding the most right play every time takes lots and lots of practice. You'd better get started.


     

  • Round 7: Feature Match – Phillip Lorren vs. Haibing Hu

    by Steve Sadin
  • Phillip Lorren and Haibing Hu entered the final round of Day One with 6-0 records – the winner of this match would end the day as one of only two or three players in the tournament with a perfect 7-0 record – putting himself an arm's reach away from advancing to the Top 8. The loser would still be in excellent shape to make a run at the National Team with a 6-1 record.

    Phillip Lorren has been playing limited for about 7 years, but he only started actively trying to qualify for the Pro Tour this past year. Lorren played in a bunch of Scars of Mirrodin Sealed deck/Booster Draft PTQs for Pro Tour Paris, but he ultimately fell short of qualifying for the French PT. Unwilling to wait until the next limited qualifier season, Lorren gave himself a constructed crash course before competing at Grand Prix Atlanta, and Grand Prix Dallas. Lorren didn't make Day Two at either of those events, but he designed a Grixis Tezzeret deck which a friend of his took to a Top 32 finish at Grand Prix Dallas.

    Lorren seems to be a quick learner though, as he has already gotten off to a 6-0 start this weekend.

    Haibing Hu has been playing since Urza's Saga, but he "took some time off here and there." Hu played in his first Pro Tour nearly a decade ago (Pro Tour Nice in 2002), then played in another 4 or 5 Pro Tours with a few money finishes along the way. Hu has found some more time to play in tournaments recently, and came a fraction of a tiebreaker point away from earning money, and a Pro Point at Grand Prix Kansas City where he finished in 65th place.

    Hu didn't practice a ton of Standard for this event, and explained that he was feeling his lack of preparation in Round 1 where he made a bunch of misplays. He was able to eek out a victory there, and then "tightened up," rattling off another five victories before entering this match.

    Haibing Hu

    Game One

    Lorren won the roll and chose to play first, but he was unhappy with his opening hand and went down to six cards.

    Even though Lorren mulliganed down to six cards, he had no shortage of removal spells.

    Hu's Goblin Fireslinger fell at the hands of Wring Flesh. Crimson Mage was able to swing in, once, but it ultimately died to Lorren's Consume Spirit. A Mana Leak countered Hu's Duskhunter Bat. And Hu's Blood Ogre got killed by a Doom Blade.

    Hu's Tormented Soul was able to stick around, and he was also able to add an Adaptive Automaton (naming Ogre) to his board.

    After using four removal spells, Lorren finally added a creature of his own to the board – a Tormented Soul which he enchanted with Dark Favor.

    Hu's Shock took out the 4/2 Tormented Soul, but Lorren was able to bring it back with a Gravedigger. An Act of Treason on Gravedigger then knocked Lorren down to 9.

    Lorren spent his turn casting a Tormented Soul and a Blood Seeker, prompting Hu to keep the pressure on by Incinerating Lorren's Gravedigger and attacking in for three leaving Lorren on a meager 6 life.

    Lorren never managed to draw an answer for his opponent's unblockable 1/1 – and a Shock and a few more pecks from his Tormented Soul were enough to allow Hu to take game one.

    Haibing Hu 1 – Phillip Lorren 0

    Round 7 - Loren.JPG

    Game Two

    Lorren again chose to play first, and this time he had to mulligan down to five cards. Lorren did manage to make the first play of the game, a Warpath Ghoul, but it died to Hu's Shock seconds after hitting the battlefield.

    Hu cast an Adaptive Automaton naming "elemental" (representing Lightning Elemental), then followed it up with a second Adaptive Automaton also naming "elemental", allowing him to attack in for three with his first Adaptive Automaton.

    Lorren cast a Child of Night, then followed it up with a Bloodrage Vampire – but Hu had an Incinerate to take out his opponent's 3/1.

    Lorren attacked in with his Child of Night, but had no followup play. Hu had the Lightning Elemental which he had been representing for a few turns, but Lorren (who had started the game by mulliganing to five) had no answer, allowing Hu to end Day One with a perfect 7-0 record.

    Final Result:

    Haibing Hu 2 – Phillip Lorren 0


     

  • Player Profile – Brendan Hurst

    by Marc Calderaro
  • Age: 24
    Occupation: Johns Hopkins Research Assistant
    Largest Magic Accomplishment: Qualifying for this event

    Brendan looks tired. Real tired. And for good reason – he's had the biggest day of his Magic career so far. He went 4-0 in Standard with the underrepresented Valakut, and he just 3-1'ed his second ever M12 draft in a long, hard-fought battle against a deck with more than one Overrun. The match ended in that way we know all too well – just the two of them at seemingly endless, empty table, being watched closely by a judge.

    "It's been a long day," he told me.

    However, for Brendan, it's been a relatively short career. He starting played Magic with 9th Edition in college, but didn't start thinking about competitive Magic until two years ago, after graduation.

    Hailing from Downingtown, PA, about an hour outside Philadelphia, Brendan decided to try his hand at the higher echelon of Magic for an interesting reason. "Most things I like to do, luckily, come fairly easy to me, but Magic has been very hard. I wanted to see if I could do well at something I had to work for." Though his highest accomplishments before this point were a couple PTQ Top 8s, it would seem that such work is beginning to pay off.

    As far as his long-term Magic ambitions, they seem unclear. Brendan just wants to see how far the rabbit hole goes. Quite frankly, I think that's how a lot of us ended up where we are in Magic to this day. Because let me tell you something, the hole is deep. So don't be surprised if Brendan's in it for the long haul, and just doesn't know it yet.

    At X-1, Hurst is positioned well for a spot on the National team this weekend. And if he can repeat today's performance again, you just might be seeing him in a bigger spotlight than this Player Profile. But for now, just think about the best Magic day you've ever had, think about how Brendan must feel right now and enjoy how truly tired he looks in these pictures. Especially the one where he tries to give me a smile.


     

  • Top 8 Vintage – Player Profiles

    by Nate Price
  • Name: Stephen Menendian
    Age: 31
    Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
    How long have you been playing Vintage? 17 years
    How many times have you played in the Vintage Championship, and what was your best finish? 7 times, with one win
    Where do you play Vintage locally? The Soldier
    What deck did you play, and why?Bob/Gush control, because Bob and Gush are two of the top draw engines in Vintage. Paul Mastriano is playing my deck too
    What is the coolest recent innovation or new card to hit Vintage?Slash Panther
    What is your favorite Vintage-only card?Gush
    If you could take home another recommissioned piece of art, like the Time Walk being given away here today, what would you like to see done?Sol Ring
    Name: Joseph Charles Brown
    Age: 30
    Hometown: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
    How long have you been playing Vintage? Actively since 2010, casually since Revised
    How many times have you played in the Vintage Championship, and what was your best finish? This is my first Vintage Championships
    Where do you play Vintage locally? Alternate Universe in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, Full of Win Games in Clarks Summit Pennsylvania, Topdeck Games in Westmont, New Jersey
    What deck did you play, and why? Bishop's Painter. The Vintage metagame has become very blue heavy, and this version prey on blue decks
    What is the coolest recent innovation or new card to hit Vintage? Mike Noble creating Slash Panther.dec
    What is your favorite Vintage-only card?Timetwister
    If you could take home another recommissioned piece of art, like the Time Walk being given away here today, what would you like to see done?Time Vault
    Name: Paul Mastriano
    Age: 29
    Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    How long have you been playing Vintage? 1996 – when they called it "Type One"
    How many times have you played in the Vintage Championship, and what was your best finish? Played four times, made the top 8 three times, won in 2008.
    Where do you play Vintage locally? Blue Bell, Pennsylvania and New York
    What deck did you play, and why? Meandeck Gush-Bob – I play a tournament almost every weekend and my teammates and I felt the two best decks were Gush and Suicide Jace Vault. Our deck is a combination of the two.
    What is the coolest recent innovation or new card to hit Vintage? The Show and Tell Oath deck
    What is your favorite Vintage-only card?Time Walk
    If you could take home another recommissioned piece of art, like the Time Walk being given away here today, what would you like to see done? Awesome Vintage-only staples: Mana Drain, Mishra's Workshop, Mana Crypt, Sol Ring, Bazaar of Baghdad, Tolarian Academy, Library of Alexandria, Time Vault
    Name: Rich Shay
    Age: 30
    Hometown: Norwood, Massachusetts (currently in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
    How long have you been playing Vintage? Since Unlimited
    How many times have you played in the Vintage Championship, and what was your best finish? Four times, second place
    Where do you play Vintage locally? The university center at Carnegie Mellon University
    What deck did you play, and why?Gush. It is explosive and powerful, and also able to drag opponents into long games. It combines good qualities of control decks and combo decks
    What is the coolest recent innovation or new card to hit Vintage?Mental Misstep and cutting Time Vault
    What is your favorite Vintage-only card?Gush, since Brainstorm and Mindslave see play in other formats
    If you could take home another recommissioned piece of art, like the Time Walk being given away here today, what would you like to see done?Library of Alexandria! Or… Bazaar of Baghdad!!! Also, Library of Alexandria (especially).
    Name: Joseph Bogaard
    Age: 23
    Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
    How long have you been playing Vintage? 7-8 years
    How many times have you played in the Vintage Championship, and what was your best finish? I have played twice – this is my best finish
    Where do you play Vintage locally? I don't have anywhere
    What deck did you play, and why? BUG Fish, because I felt comfortable with it after the preliminaries on Thursday, and it has strong pre-board games vs blue and workshop decks.
    What is the coolest recent innovation or new card to hit Vintage?Jace, the Mind Sculptor is still good even in a format with Ancestral Recall and Black Lotus
    What is your favorite Vintage-only card? I love casting Yawgmoth's Will, even though I am not playing it today
    If you could take home another recommissioned piece of art, like the Time Walk being given away here today, what would you like to see done?Bazaar of Baghdad, Library of Alexandria, Mana Drain, Mishra's Workshop, Tolarian Academy, Sol Ring, Yawgmoth's Will
    Name: Ryan Glackin
    Age: 31
    Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    How long have you been playing Vintage? Semi-competitively, about 5 years. Casually, forever.
    How many times have you played in the Vintage Championship, and what was your best finish? Four times. I made top 8 last year
    Where do you play Vintage locally? Alternate Universes, Blue Bell. Brothers Grimm, Selden New York, soon to be Top Deck Games, Westmont New Jersey.
    What deck did you play, and why? Cat Stax Fever, because I've been running pretty well with it lately. Also because blue decks give me headaches
    What is the coolest recent innovation or new card to hit Vintage?Slash Panther and Phyrexian Metamorph. Decks built by Mike Noble consisting mostly of 4-ofs.
    What is your favorite Vintage-only card?Slash Panther! Meow!
    If you could take home another recommissioned piece of art, like the Time Walk being given away here today, what would you like to see done?Mishra's Workshop
    Name: Mark Hornung Jr.
    Age: 23
    Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    How long have you been playing Vintage? Two years
    How many times have you played in the Vintage Championship, and what was your best finish? Twice, with my best finish so far being 17th.
    Where do you play Vintage locally? With Nick Coss or Nick Detwiler
    What deck did you play, and why? It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia [Sun Titan Dredge] because Matt Elias said I am a pro deck flipper.
    What is the coolest recent innovation or new card to hit Vintage? Mike Noble creating Mike Noble Fish and Cat Stax Fever
    What is your favorite Vintage-only card?Bazaar of Baghdad (obv!)
    Name: Nicholas Coss
    Age: 26
    Hometown: Moorestown, New Jersey
    How long have you been playing Vintage? Eight years.
    How many times have you played in the Vintage Championship, and what was your best finish? Three times, 11th last year, top 8 this year
    Where do you play Vintage locally? I run the Philadelphia area Vintage tournaments, so I don't get to play as often as I like. NYSE tournaments are great when I get the chance to play.
    What deck did you play, and why? "Minus Six" AKA Worldgorger Dragon combo. It is very resilient for a combo deck, and it is very fast.
    What is the coolest recent innovation or new card to hit Vintage? Mike Noble seeing the power of Slash Panther, and creating "Cat Stax Fever"
    What is your favorite Vintage-only card?Yawgmoth's Bargain
    If you could take home another recommissioned piece of art, like the Time Walk being given away here today, what would you like to see done?Bazaar of Baghdad, Mishra's Workshop or Mana Drain

     

  • Vintage Championship Top 8 – Decklists

    by Event Coverage Staff















  •  

  • Vintage Quarterfinals Roundup

    by Nate Price
  • Quarterfinal 1 – Stephen Menendian vs. Joseph Bogaard

    Things didn't start too auspiciously for Menendian, as Bogaard managed a first-turn Thoughtseize to strip the Tinker that was in Menendian's hand. With his method of getting his Blightsteel Colossus in the graveyard, his entire plan came down to resolving a Yawgmoth's Will. Getting the resources in play to put all of that together became a difficult proposition, as Bogaard got Life from the Loam and Wasteland going to keep Menendian off of his lands. Menendian did have a Dark Confidant in play to ensure a steady stream of lands to keep afloat. Bogaard resolved a Jace, the Mind Sculptor at one point, and it looked lost, until Menendian managed to draw a Fastbond, allowing him to combine with multiple copies of Gush to squeeze enough mana out of his two lands to cast Yawgmoth's Will, Tinker, and Time Walk all in one turn. The new Blightsteel Colossus ate Jace one turn before infecting Bogaard to deck in an incredible turn of fate.

    Joseph Brown and Stephen Menendian

    The second game was considerably less intense. Bogaard was stuck on one land after a Brainstorm, meaning he had a pair of useless cards on top of his deck. Fortunately for him, Menendian made a Dark Confidant, giving him a target for his sideboarded Darkblast, allowing him to dredge those two cards away. Menendian made a second Dark Confidant and a Trygon Predator over the next two turns, while Bogaard tried desperately to find another land. He eventually found a Strip Mine, but the game was out of reach. In an unusual fashion, Menendian relied on actual damage to kill his opponent.

    Stephen Menendian 2 – Joseph Bogaard 0

    Quarterfinals 2 – Ryan Glackin vs. Joseph Brown

    Glackin's Cat Stax deck got a really fast grip on the first game, using a Mana Crypt and a Black Lotus to literally power out a Chalice of the Void for one and a Sphere of Resistance. He managed to keep Brown locked down with a Strip Mine as his two Mishra's Factories, one of which started life as a Phyrexian Metamorph, ground him to dust.

    Joseph Bogaard and Ryan Glackin

    The second game was about as anticlimactic as the first. Glackin locked down Brown's artifact mana early with a Null Rod, keeping him very restricted on mana. He would have found himself able to deal with it, but he had used his one artifact-removal spell, an Ingot Chewer, on the previous turn to kill a Thorn of Amethyst. Locked down under that Null Rod, Brown's problems were exacerbated thanks to a Strip Mine and a Wasteland from Glackin. With Brown locked down, a Lodestone Golem took his sweet time to bash Brown down.

    Ryan Glackin 2 – Joseph Brown 0

    Quarterfinals 3 – Paul Mastriano vs. Rich Shay

    In this quarterfinals match, Mastriano was able to assemble a near-perfect opening set of turns, using a Time Walk, Vampiric Tutor, and a Brainstorm to set up a third-turn Yawgmoth's Will with Force of Will backup. Shay, who had gone undefeated in the swiss, had the Force of Will to keep Mastriano honest, but once the Will resolved, the game was more or less over. Mastriano got to recast Vampiric Tutor and Brainstorm to get a Tinkered Blightsteel Colossus into play. Shay had no answer, and the first game went to Mastriano

    Paul Mastriano and Rich Shay

    The next game was a textbook example of explosive Vintage at its finest. Shay mulliganned to six cards, but those six cards contained a Mox Sapphire and a Tinker, resulting in a second-turn Blightsteel Colossus. Seemed pretty good. Pretty good until Mastriano drew Black Lotus for his turn. Then, after a significant amount of thought and talking through his decision tree, he played Lotus, Sol Ring, Voltaic Key, and then Time Walk. On his second turn, he dropped a Time Vault into play, to which Shay could do nothing but concede. You can threaten a third-turn kill and find yourself conceding five minutes later. Welcome to Vintage!

    Paul Mastriano 2 – Rich Shay 0

    Quarterfinals 4 – Mark Hornung vs. Nick Coss

    This was possibly the most interesting match to me initially, since both players were playing decks that have been so powerful at one point, that they define sideboards to this day. Because they demand so much hate, they are often deemed unplayable in the current metagame. I am of course talking about Dredge and Worldgorger Dragon.

    Mark Hornung and Nick Coss

    The first game went pretty standardly for both players. They each mulliganned until they found their Bazaar of Baghdad, using them to dredge their libraries until their graveyards towered over them. Unfortunately, Coss wasn't able to assemble his combo, or another answer, faster than the Bridge from Below could churn out all of the Zombies ever. Needless to say, with that many Zombies, not even Woody Harrelson could survive.

    The second game went exactly the opposite way, but for a very unorthodox reason. Nick Coss went to the board for an incredibly surprise way to win. Needless to say, Hornung was probably a little surprised when he only got one activation of his Bazaar of Baghdad before Coss managed to assemble Time Vault and Voltaic Key. That's right, from the board, he stuck the combo into his deck, knowing full well that his graveyard was not going to be how he won this match. When he played the Time Vault, Hornung had a chance to stop it from happening. He had a single copy of Cabal Therapy in his graveyard, and could flash it back to try and stop the combo. He had to choose between Vampiric Tutor, which Coss could cast on upkeep to fetch the Key, or Voltaic Key itself. He said that something was telling him Vampiric Tutor, so he chose the powerful instant. Something lied to him. When Coss revealed his hand, showing the Key that was coming down on his turn, Hornung conceded.

    "Man, I thought I had picked right, too."

    The final game was right back to the first. Hornung just absolutely went off. He showed off the newest addition to the deck, getting a massive dredge off early. With his graveyard getting full, he cast Dread Return to bring back Sun Titan, getting back a dredged Bazaar, which he used to refill his graveyard, which gave him more Dread Return fodder, so he could keep recurring Sun Titan to get more Bazaars and so on. Eventually, he had so many Zombies that he had to borrow more tokens. Coss made him go through the motions, just to rib a friend, and packed it in when the Zombies hit home.

    Mark Hornung 2 – Nick Coss 1


     

  • Vintage Championship Semifinals Roundup

    by Nate Price
  • Semifinal 1 – Mark Hornung vs. Ryan Glakin

    These guys are pretty good friends, so the banter between them was nice and snarky.

    "Bad luck, and I hope you mulligan into oblivion," Glackin said to Hornung with a smile.

    Hornung did what he was supposed to do in the first game, mulliganning to five cards, including one that involved a Serum Powder, all in an attempt to find a Bazaar of Baghdad. Once he found it, he started to get his dredge cards into his bin. Unfortunately, he only got one activation before it was removed with Wasteland. He had a second copy of Bazaar, allowing him to dredge a load of cards into his graveyard, but Glackin had a Strip Mine for the second one. After that, Glackin put together a Lodestone Golem, a Phyrexian Metamorph copying the Golem, and a Chalice of the Void for one just to be safe. Those Golems wasted very little time in wasting Hornung.


    Mark Hornung gets his Dredge on.

    The second game went considerably differently. Hornung again mulliganed, this time to six cards, and again found two copies of Bazaar of Baghdad. This time, however, Glackin had nothing more than a Chalice of the Void on one as defense. With the way clear, Hornung set about using his two Bazaars, a trio of Golgari Grave-Trolls, and a pair of Dread Returns to put eight Zombies into play alongside an 8/8 Grave-Troll on the second turn. Glakin was not equipped to deal with that and the match went to the final game.


    BRAAAINS!

    For the final game, Glackin went first and exploded with a City of Traitors and a Mana Crypt, enabling a Chalice of the Void for one and a Thorn of Amethyst before Hornung played a permanent. Hornung simply (and I say that sarcastically) played a Bazaar of Baghdad. Glackin made a Percursor Golem to follow that up, putting nine power worth of creatures onto the table on the second turn. Hornung started to dredge, putting a dozen cards into his graveyard. Glackin animated his Mishra's Factory and attacked for eleven. Hornung only had one turn, but, as dredge does, only needed one turn. He dredged a literal ton, playing an Undiscovered Paradise so that he could play his Dread Return through the Thorn, netting himself twelve very fast, very angry Zombies that crushed over Glackin and dropped him out of the Top 8.


    Even with all those Golems, Ryan Glackin knows he's done.

    Mark Hornung 2 – Ryan Glackin 1

    Semifinals 2 – Stephen Menendian vs. Paul Mastriano

    In a rematch from the swiss rounds, Stephen Menendian squared off against a virtually identical deck being piloted by Paul Mastriano. Menendian had won their initial showdown, and Mastriano was out for some friendly vengeance. Their first game started with two Dark Confidants apiece, setting the stage for a fairly quick first game. I realized during this match that there is nothing quite as funny as watching people decide whether or not they should block an opponent's Confidant with their own. At one point during the game, there was a crucial near miss where Menendian drew a Merchant Scroll and a Preordain with his Confidants, leaving him to draw the Blightsteel Colossus that would have killed him during his draw step. That was a pretty lucky order for that to happen.


    Paul Mastriano knows it's a Bob eat Bob world.

    Their Confidants kept hitting themselves and then each other, whittling away the life totals. Eventually, Menendian was forced to a difficult decision about whether or not to use a freshly cast Vendilion Clique to block a Confidant, saving him two life, or to let them through, drop his opponent to two on the swing back, and hope his two Confidants kill him. He chose the latter decision, and the suspense of the moment was proven to be quite anticlimactic. He untapped and flipped over Force of Will and Dark Confidant, killing him even if he had blocked.


    To block, or not to block. That, is Menendian's question.

    For the second game, neither player had an early Dark Confidant. Mastriano went down to zero lands to Gush, which prompted Menendian to Gush himself down to a Mox Jet before using Red Elemental Blast to stop Mastriano's copy. Both players managed a Dark Confidant on the next turn, and things progressed rather slowly for a couple of turns until Mastriano managed to stick a Time Vault. Menendian stuck a Vendilion Clique end of turn, revealing the two-headed monster of Voltaic Key and Tinker in Mastriano's grip. He ended up choosing to put the Key at the bottom of the deck.

    When Menendian played Fastbond, it looked like he might be able to find a way out of his little pickle. A fight ensued over Menendian's Gush, clearing the way for him to cast Yawgmoth's Will. Unfortunately, his life total was incredibly low, severely restricting the amount of Gushing he could do. Ultimately, Menendian had to use a Time Walk simply to untap. Mastriano spent the next few turns simply using powerful cards like Black Lotus and Ancestral Recall to draw the counters out of Menendian's hand. Each turn that he did, though, Menendian's Vendilion Clique slammed over for another three. Eventually, it was the last three.

    Menendian got the final game rolling with an early Fastbond. Combined with a Dark Confidant and a Sensei's Divining Top, he had a dominating early board position, but he ended the turn with only a single card in his hand. At the end of his turn, Mastriano used a Vampiric Tutor to fetch up a Tinker, which he immediately used to trade his Mox Emerald in for a Blightsteel Colossus. Menendian did put on a little show in response, using his Top to hunt for an answer, but didn't find anything to stop it. He now had only his turn to deal with the Colossus or Mastriano. When he fetched a Hurkyl's Recall with his Demonic Tutor on the following turn, Mastriano had the Force of Will to just put the match to an end.

    Stephen Menendian 1 – Paul Mastriano 2


     

  • Vintage Finals – Paul Mastriano vs. Mark Hornung

    by Nate Price
  • Game One

    Hornung started the first game off with a Serum Powder, followed by a mulligan to six…then five, all in search of a Bazaar of Baghdad. He found it, and they were off. Both players made a show of the early turns of the game. Hornung used his Bazaar to start his dredge engine, building up a massive graveyard on the second turn. Mastriano played a Mox and a Black Lotus in addition to his land to put him up to five mana before letting Hornung do his worst.

    Well, his worst seemed to be pretty good. Dredging a significant portion of his library into his graveyard on his turn, he played a land to bring back a couple of Bloodghasts, which he used to cast a pair of Cabal Therapies, stripping the Force of Will from Mastriano's hand. Mastriano was stuck facing a formidable army of Bridge from Below Zombies before untapping for his second turn. When he did, he simply made a Trygon Predator and passed the turn with a Mox Sapphire up. Undeterred, Hornung did what his deck does, milling his deck, getting back Narcomoebas (which he remembered this time), sacrificing them for various things, and vomiting Zombies of various shapes and sizes onto the table. Combined with his Flame-kin Zealot, the hasty and large army of Zombies smashed in for way more than lethal. Mastriano chump blocked one of the Zombies with his Trygon, while the rest of the Zombies dropped him to approximately negative brazillion.

    Paul Mastriano 0 – Mark Hornung 1



    Game Two

    Stephen Menendian, who was playing 73 of the same cards as Mastriano, admitted after the first game that Mastriano only had about a 5% chance of winning the first game. Things get significantly better when he gets to put the large amount of sideboard hate that has limited the sideboard space of every deck in Vintage since the word Dredge was first printed on a card. One of those cards is Leyline of the Void, which Mastriano managed to find after a mulligan to six. Putting the hate-filled enchantment into play on his side, Mastriano played a Pithing Needle as well, naming Bazaar of Baghdad. With those two cards in play, Hornung was virtually dead. When a second Leyline hit play, the game was absolutely sealed. Hornung wasn't able to find the absurd number of Nature's Claims he needed to be able to use his cards before Mastriano was able to drop Voltaic Key and Time Vault, assembling the Time Machine, and take as many turns as necessary to win the game.

    Paul Mastriano 1 – Mark Hornung 1



    Well, that was certainly a different game than the first. This time around, rather than being the whipping boy as Dredge ran rampant on him, Mastriano was able to completely exert his will on Hornung, completely locking him out of the game, much as Hornung had done to him.

    The second game started out in similar fashion, much to the dismay of Hornung. Mastriano started with a Leyline of the Void before drawing into a Pithing Needle. The trio of Moxen in his hand allowed Mastriano to get a massive advantage, as well as locking Hornung's deck strategy up. Hornung used his Bazaar one time before it got locked off, trading his three worst cards for an opportunity to draw into a Nature's Claim…or two. He did manage to find one, which immediately ate the Leyline of the Void. Trying to end things before Hornung could get back into the game, Mastriano used a Vampiric Tutor to snag a Tinker, allowing him to get a Blightsteel Colossus. For his draw step, Hornung went yard, ripping a Chain of Vapor to send the Colossus packing. In addition, he had another Nature's Claim to free his Bazaar from the Pithing Needle! Welcome to Vintage, where you can be guaranteed victory one moment and have your back against the wall in the next.

    But, like had been happening all game, Mastriano had the perfect card to keep things under control. He used a Yawgmoth's Will to return the Pithing Needle to play, once again locking the Bazaar out. And once again, Hornung had the Nature's Claim to deal with it. Mastriano had made a small mistake with his Will, forgetting to reuse a Mystical Tutor in his graveyard, something that would come back to haunt him as Hornung went crazy on him, making a slew of Zombies, which got to take care of business free of a Chain of Vapor. The Zombies turned sideways, and handed a sweet looking Time Walk to Mark Hornung, the 2011 Vintage Champion!


    Mark Hornung, 2011 Vintage Champion

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