Saturday, July 22: 10:02 a.m. - Grinders Decklists
Just because your rating isn't high enough, and that lucksack punked you out at regionals with the top 8 on the line, doesn't mean you can't compete at Nationals. You just need to win one of the last chance qualifiers being held the day before. Also known as meat-grinders, these single-elimination events can be somewhat taxing on the players involved, as they lose in one and immediately enter the next, keeping their eyes on the prize and their hopes alive. A staggering fourteen grinders were held on Friday, three sealed deck events and a ridiculous eleven standard events feeding into the main event. What's even more ridiculous, is that I somehow managed to force myself to type out not only the winning standard decks, but the decks that also came this close to making it through. That's so ridiculous, it's not even funny. Don't ask about the limited decks, just don't.
1st Constructed Grinder
Winner – Constructed Grinder - Zoo
Runner up – Constructed Grinder - Zoo
2nd Constructed Grinder
Winner – Constructed Grinder - Firemane Weirding Control
Runner up – Constructed Grinder - Hierarch Control
3rd Constructed Grinder
Winner – Constructed Grinder - Izzetron
Runner up – Constructed Grinder - Green/White/Red Control
4th Constructed Grinder
Winner – Constructed Grinder - Heartbeat Combo
Runner up – Constructed Grinder - Four Color Wildfire Control
5th Constructed Grinder
Winner – Constructed Grinder - Blue/White/Black Reanimator
Runner up – Constructed Grinder - Orzhov Control
6th Constructed Grinder
Winner – Constructed Grinder - Boros Deck Wins
Runner up – Constructed Grinder - Blue/White/Black Reanimator
7th Constructed Grinder
Winner – Constructed Grinder - Boros Deck Wins
Runner up – Constructed Grinder - Four Color Hierarch Control
8th Constructed Grinder
Winner – Constructed Grinder - Gruul Beats
Runner up – Constructed Grinder - Izzetron
9th Constructed Grinder
Winner – Constructed Grinder - Orzhov Husk
Runner up – Constructed Grinder - Blue/Green/Red Aggro Control
10th Constructed Grinder
Winner – Constructed Grinder - Boros Deck Wins
Runner up – Constructed GrinderQ - Izzetron
11th Constructed Grinder
Winner – Constructed Grinder - Orzhov Control
Runner up – Constructed Grinder - Blue/Red/Green Tron
Saturday, July 22: 11:14 a.m. - Round 1: Pip Hunn vs. Anthony Purdom
I scoured the pairings for last year's high finishers, but didn't find any match-ups that stood out. However, I did stumble across what I assumed was a typo, a small error, an anomaly in processing, a judge in the playing field. Not just any judge either, but none other than Pip Hunn, legendary Tasmanian Judge. Thankfully, there is only one Pip, or we may be left explaining to his family why he suddenly vanished from existence, or something. Anyway, I have had the fortune to encounter Pip in my various trips about the place, the last one being to Pro Tour Honolulu earlier this year. Someone who also took the trip to Hawaii was Anthony Purdom, who secured his seat on the plane at a Qualifying Tournament in Brisbane. Seeing them paired up made me chuckle enough that I decided to throw them deep into feature Match territory.
Both players had decided to bring Control decks to the table, Hunn with Magnivore and Purdom with the new Blue/White/Black Reanimator spreading about Magic Online, if you could call a couple of Zombify's "Reanimator" at least. The match should favor Hunn with his Eye of Nowhere and Stone Rain package, backed up by the Wildfire Elbow-drop. Purdom however, had at least six Signets to help get around Hunn's massive land destruction suite, and plenty of card drawing and selection with the help of Compulsive Research and Court Hussar.
Game 1 got underway with Hunn attacking Purdom's mana base, and twice clearing the board of his lands with Wildfire, only to have him come back, using his Signets to power up his plays. Purdom found an opening after a second Wildfire, and managed to Zombify an Angel of Despair into play, cutting Hunn's mana out from under him by taking an Izzet Boilerworks out of the picture.
"Things aren't looking particularly handsome for me."
"You should bounce it"
"I'm thinking about it…"
"Damn, " Purdom replied, counting his mana and coming up one shy of being able to recast the Angel if it came to that. Luckily for Purdom, Hunn didn't have the Eye of Nowhere.
Purdom discarded a pair of Persecutes in Game 2, only to throw out a third one on his fourth turn. His call of Red found a solitary Wildfire and six Blue spells, perhaps making him wish he hadn't been so eager to ditch the other two discard spells to begin with. Before long, Hunn was forcing the game to conclusion with a 12/12 Magnivore while Purdom was tapped low. He tidied it up on his turn with a Mortify, only to have a Meloku come out a turn or two later. Another Mortify came out, but Meloku spat out a pair of Grover tokens, which were enough to fly over and finish off Purdom.
This time Purdom called Blue with his Persecute to kick off Game 3, and while it hit a couple of Eye of Nowhere and some other random Blue spell, it did leave Hunn holding a trio of Stone Rains. Together with the fourth Stone Rain which lurking near the top apparently, Hunn made short work of Purdom's board position and finished things off with yet another Magnivore to the face.
Pip Hunn defeats Anthony Purdom 2 - 1
Saturday, July 22: 11:36 a.m. - Floor Tech
Make no bones about it, the only people who are going to read this are friends and family, and the ones ravenous for information about standard. In particular, those attending the United States and English National Champs next week, and the Canadian and New Zealand Nationals cough, cough, don't call me a tech-hoarder cough, cough Nationals the week after.
From a quick walk of the floor in round two, I don't have anything concrete to report back on, other than that everyone is playing everything. I've seen Boros Deck wins, Simic Aggro, Zoo, Hand in Hand and the Husk variant. I've seen multiple flavors of UrzaTron, the Japanese (Blue/Black/White) Reanimator deck, various Control decks based on anywhere between three and five colors. The question is obviously, what will rise to the top? In the feature match area for round two, Dominic Musolino's Simic Aggro defeated Dominic Lo's Boros Deck Wins 2 - 1.
Saturday, July 22: 2:17 p.m. - Round 3: David Zhao vs. Andrew Vance
It would be nice if I had the time to pick and choose the feature matches based on what each competitor was playing as well as whatever other criteria we happen to use. Criteria such as players with some amount of success in previous events, well known players, players from the same town as each other, players with red hair, coin-flip, players with the same name, ouija board, names out of a hat, phases of the moon, French players and as an absolute last resort, players who might be doing well in this event. Unfortunately, we don't usually end up with much time for such things, so we just have to hope things turn out okay.
Thankfully for you all, David Zhao and Andrew Vance happened to be playing two vastly different decks to those played by Pip and Anthony in round one. Vance speculated that Zhao was running with the Boros, but his opening play of Breeding Pool, Birds of Paradise soon dispelled that idea. Vance on the other hand, was running the Other Flavor of Aggro with Gruul.
Zhou started out strong with an end of turn Plaxmanta to match Vance's Kird Ape in the race to the face. Every time Zhou committed another critter to the board, Vance found a Volcanic Hammer or a Seal of Fire for it. Both players neared the end of their available life pool, and one by one, the creatures began to meet each other in combat. As the smoke cleared (dramatic imagery, yes, yes!) Vance could be seen holding a Volcanic Hammer out with a questioning look in his eyes. He paid for the first Mana Leak from Zhao, but couldn't stretch as far as the second, and Zhao's Green/Blue/Red deck took Game 1 home by a narrow margin.
Vance had a much better start in Game 2, getting a Dryad Sophisticate to run through Zhao's non-basic lands for direct numbers to face action. Other men were committed to the board, and again Vance applied burn to those that he didn't like the look of. Sick of having his men getting roasted, Zhao upgraded his position with a Rumbling Slum, which certainly did a good job of containing Vance's Gruul Guildmages, but unfortunately, not the Sophisticate. Vance pushed the point with another Sophisticate, but had both of them steamrolled when Zhao dropped an Umezawa's Jitte and placing it in the hands of the Rumbling Slum. Vance pushed on, knowing that a single piece of burn off the top of his deck would be enough to overload the Jitte's lifegain, but he found nothing to help him, and Zhao took the game to win the match.
David Zhao defeats Andrew Vance 2 - 0
Saturday, July 22: 3:56 p.m. - The Ballad of Joe Connolly
The Ballad of Joe Connolly
Bad cards, bad cards, what 'cha gonna do?
What 'cha gonna do when they come for you?
Packs one through three, chaff picks all around.
No matter what choo do, no playables to be found.
I hope it wasn't my fault, I hope my presence at the table didn't jinx anybody, but man, you couldn't pay me to be in Joe Connolly's shoes for the first draft at the 3-0 table. It didn't start too badly, the first pick being a Last Gasp over Viashino Fangtail and a Selesnya Guildmage. The second pack had a Civic Wayfinder and approximately zero unplayables, which was evidently, somewhat of a hint. A Farseek and a Bramble Elemental followed and uhh, yeah, that was pretty much it for pack one.
Pack two had a Rumbling Slum over a Blind Hunter and then uhh, yep. Nothing else again. I could see the pain in the back of Joe's head, as every time he tried to move with the flows of the draft, the packs delivered wave after wave of bad news, poor picks and downright pet-cage-liner.
A first pick Wakestone Gargoyle lay in wait in pack three, and was joined by a Minister of Impediments, a Windreaver and uhh yeah, not much else. There are some good cards in Joe's deck, for sure. However, it was spread so evenly across four colors, and did so little for the consistency of his deck, that if you tried to riffle shuffle two halves of it together, the cards would just bounce off of each other and some would probably even fly off and land somewhere out of reach.
The worst part is that it really wasn't his fault. From what I could see, there was very little he could have done to change the outcome of the draft. I watched him play his first round, and his heart really wasn't in it, as he lost 2-1 to Desmond Ng.
I almost shed a tear when one of the judges came up to me afterward and showed me Joe's decklist. Apparently, today's tournament is brought to you by the numbers "39" and the letters "G" and "L". This afternoon, nobody wants to be Joe Connolly.
Saturday, July 22: 4:44 p.m. - Round 5: Tim He vs. David Crewe
Tim He is a man of results. He burst onto the Australian Magic scene in 2004 by taking the title of National Champion, and followed it up with a third place finish at Grand Prix Melbourne last year. David Crewe is a man of words, many words. Maybe not as many as me, but definitely more words that are actually to the point, sensible and probably a great deal more helpful to players like yourself. In other words, Crewe is the kind of guy who makes me look bad, so I was obviously not going to waste any time getting him under the spot light to get smacked around by the likes of Tim He.
By the time I got to the table, Crewe was already boasting about the fact that he had attacked for eight on turn four, most of that being a Flaring Flame-Kin wearing a Moldervine Cloak. Great.
He's start of Bear One and Bear Two quickly succumbed to Crewe's Savage Twister for Two. You'd think that would be a pretty good start for Crewe, but what followed could only be described as a lull in his ability to draw lands and therefore, make plays. He (as in Tim, not David) dropped cards with numbers on the bottom right corner of them into play, and repeatedly waved them in Crewe's direction. By the time he (as in David, not Tim) could manage his fifth land and a Streetbreaker Wurm, it was far too late for a comeback.
Crewe started Game 3 by dropping a Tin Street Hooligan on He's turn two Izzet Signet. He (Tim) then proceeded to make another one, but in the process, missed his third turn land drop. Seeing this, Crewe went in for the kill, throwing his Moldervine Cloak under the Hooligan and crashing in for five. He (Tim) rallied with a Mossdog, which promptly took a Galvanic Arc to the eye, before he (Still Tim) managed to drop an Ogre Savant into play and set the Hooligan back a turn. Crewe dredged back his Cloak and replayed the Hooligan, succeeding in snagging another Signet in the process. He (yes, still Tim) added a Viashino Fangtail to the mix, and together with a Twinstrike, managed to turn the board around to the point where his Fangtail was enjoying a frolic in the red zone, and there was nobody to get in the way. Crewe calmly threw out an end of turn Cackling Flames, and dropped a Izzet Chronarch to get it back and finish the job his Moldervine Cloak started.
David Crewe defeats Tim He 2 - 1
Saturday, July 22: 6:29 p.m. - Round 6: Anatoli Lightfoot vs. Justin Cheung
For the last round of the draft, I singled out Anatoli Lightfoot, finalist from the last Limited Grand Prix held in Australia. His opponent, Justin Cheung is ranked within the top five players in Australia, and both players are looking to come out of their pod with a tasty 3 - 0 record.
Lightfoot started out quickly with numerous Red and Green one-drops, the second one being Skarrgan Pit-Skulk, so his attack force was nothing to sneeze at. Cheung was content to turn the other cheek however, and simply played out a handful of Forests, Mountains and Islands.
"What's going on over there?" Lightfoot questioned bemusedly*.
"It looked good, until… gestures towards Lightfoot's army …yeah."
Cheung finally made a play, dropping an Ogre Savant into play. Lightfoot just shrugged and landed a Hammerfist Giant, to which Cheung responded with scoopery.
A Courier Hawk revealed Lightfoot's third color to get Game 2 started, and Cheung suited it up with a Fists of Ironwood. The Hawk powered up a Bloodscale Prowler's Bloodthirst, but Cheung took it down with a Steamcore Weird before it could menace him at all. The Hawk came in again for one, but this time it powered up a Skarrgan Pit-Skulk. Both creatures then Thrived, suddenly giving Lightfoot five power of evasive face smashery.
Cheung dropped a bounce land to facilitate a Compulsive Research, looking for something that could stop the Hawk and Pit-Skulk beats. Wait, wait, Hawk, Pit-Skulk and Streetbreaker Wurm beats, things were looking a little sour for Cheung. He (but not as in Tim**) played out a Torch drake, with enough mana to let it trade with the 2/3 Courier Hawk.
Lightfoot planted a Taste for Mayhem on his Skarrgan Pit-Skulk, making it a 5/3 that can only be blocked by creatures with five or more power, and crashed into the red zone. Cheung threw his people in front of as much of the army as he could, but dropped dangerously low on life. For his encore, Lightfoot emptied his hand and swung through for seven (basically) unblockable damage off of the Pit-Skulk For The Win.
Anatoli Lightfoot defeats Justin Cheung 2 - 0
* I am frankly surprised that bemusedly is actually a real word. I fully expected the spell-checker to spit the dummy there.
** See the Tim He verses David Crewe feature match of last round
Saturday, July 22: 7:28 p.m. - Round 7 Rare-drafting
Jackson fan was all set to drop from the tournament before the second draft. You can't win them all, and this was clearly not his day, but he figured he'd stay in for the second draft, for the free rares at the very least. He came up to me after the draft and showed me his deck registration sheet. Evidently he planed on playing;
1 Stone-Seeder Hierophant
1 Zephyr Spirit
206 assorted land
I raised one eyebrow, in a particularly fetching and handsome manner, and Jackson just grinned at me, and passed me a stack of cards. Apparently he managed to get 15 of the 24 rares available in his draft.
Yeah, he conceded his match and is playing in the PTQ tomorrow.