Saturday, December 17: 11:33 a.m. - Friggorid?
The story of Ichorid's rise as the new favored deck for all the pros is a long one, especially when you consider the preamble is 107 pages. I'll try to condense it for those of you who are unaware of the details behind this fascinating new playa on the Extended scene.
About six weeks ago, John Rizzo wrote an enormous three-part article on StarCityGames.com discussing his comeback to the game and the solo testing he was doing for this exciting new Extended format. Rizzo eventually ended up creating a deck that abused the synergy Ichorid had with the dredge mechanic, and though John was not successful at the PTQ he attended, the framework for the deck was set. And then promptly forgotten. Or overlooked. Or something, because nobody was playing or even working on the deck at that point in time.
However, Rizzo used to play at CMU as did most of Magic R&D, so he has more than a couple of readers in the hallowed halls of Renton. Paul Sottosanti found the deck to be intriguing enough to load up on Magic Online and his results there showed the deck to be powerful enough for Paul to build a version and bring it to Worlds. In Japan, he kept smashing people with the deck between rounds, creating a buzz around a deck constructed by a guy known more for rants against intentional draws than deck design. Then Osyp Lebedowicz played the deck to a Top 4 finish in a Grand Prix Trial, and Thomas Pannell fell just short of qualifying for Hawaii with the deck in the Sunday PTQ at Worlds. Heavy-duty playtesting ensued in the following weeks, the deck was tweaked and tuned, and Mike Flores wrote about his own Top 8 PTQ performance with the deck this week, thus further ballooning the hype. When I talked to the pros last night, it seemed like more than half of them were playing the deck, and the dealer tables reported back that two of the hottest selling cards were Ichorid and Morningtide, two sides of the same recurring coin.
As for the name of the deck, Rizzo didn't really give it one, no one seems to like the "Ich Bedoel" name BDM coined for it at Worlds, and Flores called it Friggorid earlier this week, which seemed to catch on immediately. Personally, I think there's a decent chance (in spite of the fact that the deck is quite difficult to play) that by the end of this weekend we will hear it referred to as "that damn Ichorid deck." Luckily, after Sunday no one will have to play against it until next Extended season.
Haven't seen the deck? This is what Flores played to a 5-0-2 record in the swiss last weekend:
Michael J. Flores
6th Place - Connecticut - Newington - 12/10
Saturday, December 17: 12:22 p.m. - My Kind of Town, Charlotte Is…
What a year it has been. By my estimates I have covered events in six countries, seven time zones, and flown around one hundred thousand miles in a plane in 2005. On those trips I got to see the Great Wall of China, Big Ben, the drivers in Mexico City, and the constructed beauty of Melbourne, Australia. In Magic terms, I witnessed things I thought I might never see as well. Semi-retired Tomi Walamies made the Top 8 at a Limited Pro Tour. Antonino De Rosa became the U.S. National Champion. Chris "Star Wars Kid" McDaniel made a Pro Tour Top 8. Japan swept the World Championships. Those are just the highlights from the magical whirlwind I've been riding around the world for the last twelve months and beyond.
However, after spending two weeks in China and Japan, I was definitely feeling the need to click my ruby red heels together and settle down at home. Thankfully, Charlotte is a quick trip for me - a direct flight from Virginia and in the same time zone, something one comes to value when dealing with two weeks of jetlag that leave you sleeping four hours at night and four hours during the day. I think I love Magic more than most, but even I am ready to see things come to a blessed halt for a month or two while most of us hunker down for a long winter's nap and time with family. With January barren, the next premiere event on the schedule is Ravnica Sealed in Richmond where I will leave the coverage to Brian David-Marshall while I get my game on.
There's still this weekend to talk about though. The new financial center of the South, Charlotte is a great town to spend time in. The downtown is clean, the people are friendly, the restaurant scene is quite good, and there are more than a few attractive people in the clubs here. The weather is also quite nice for the vast majority of the year. It's "cold" here this weekend, but cold in Charlotte is about 35 degrees warmer than it was in Chicago at this time last year. Speaking of Chicago, perhaps my favorite thing in Charlotte can be found directly across from the Convention Center in the form of Matt's Chicago Dog. Back at GP--Chicago I mentioned just how much I love Chicago food, particularly Italian Beef, and Matt's Chicago Dog has some of the finest beef outside the confines of the Windy City. I've been downright evangelical about it this weekend, sending players and judges alike across the street to obtain dinner, lunch, snacks, whatever… just make sure you eat some beef before you leave town.
2005 has been an incredible year for Magic, and I want to thank all of you readers who have followed both my adventures and those of the Pro Tour. I have every reason to think 2006 will be even better and can't wait to see what the new year will bring, just as long as I get to sleep in my own bed for about six weeks first.
Saturday, December 17: 2:07 p.m. - Round 4: Osyp Lebedowicz vs. Jon Sonne
Jon Sonne is hardly a man that would be intimidated by the likes of Joe Black.
I'm certain this is not the pairing these two players were looking for to kick off their Grand Prix experience, but here they are. Pro Tour Winner Osyp Lebedowicz is playing the uber-popular Ichorid deck, while Jon Sonne - a Psychatog player for the rest of Extended season - has changed his stripes and is running aggro Rock.
Osyp sidled - no, he strutted - up to the feature match table slowly, trying to intimidate Sonne before a card had even been played. Somehow I don't think Sonne can be intimidated by anything less than a hungry Marco Blume, but it was a nice attempt at levity from Joe Black.
A first turn Putrid Imp from Osyp was matched by a Llanowar Elf from Sonne. Osyp dredged a Grave Troll during his next upkeep but then failed to play a land, instead casting another Imp before passing the turn. Sonne cast Duress on his turn, forcing Osyp to reveal a hand of four creatures including a Filth, but no spells to discard. Sonne then followed that with Umezawa's Jitte. Riftstone Portal hit play for Lebedowicz as he actually drew a card with his deck, allowing him to flashback Deep Analysis. Cabal Therapy from Sonne sent Psychatog to the bin and made Sonne think, as he could see Osyp had also drawn a Tolarian Winds, but he simply equipped his Jitte and bashed with the Elf, giving him counters to deal with the Ichorids that were soon to come. Sonne chose a different plan, however, killing a Putrid Imp on each of the next two turns before casting Wild Mongrel and Withered Wretch, putting Osyp in a very tough spot.
A pair of Psychatogs hit the board for Osyp, but Withered Wretch made them blockable by removing Filth and Wonder from Osyp's graveyard, and Sword of Fire and Ice a turn later meant the Wretch was now a perpetual blocker. The game had slowed to a crawl now as both players tried to figure out who had the upper hand - zombie and dog versus a tandem of teeth, with Sonne now tapped out. Osyp sent the Togs into the red zone during his turn, killing the Mongrel at the cost of some cards in his graveyard. He then upped the ante by casting Zombie Infestation with four cards in hand. For his part, Sonne simply cast Call of the Herd and attached a Jitte to it. Osyp took ages on his turn doing combat math before finally dredging three times (twice via Deep Analysis) and swinging with the team, dropping Sonne to eight, killing an elephant, and losing only a zombie token in the process.
Sonne equipped his Wretch with the Jitte on his turn, smashing for four, killing two zombie tokens from Osyp, and removing all of Osyp's dredge cards from his graveyard before passing the turn with Osyp now at 5 to Sonne's 7. Osyp attacked again with the Togs but was a point of damage short, giving Sonne game 1 with nine minutes left on the round.
Osyp checks his hole cards for a winner.
Sonne 1 - Lebedowicz 0
Osyp began with a turn 2 Zombie Infestation for game 2, as Sonne did Rock things, casting a Birds of Paradise and then making a turn 2 elephant. The board war escalated rapidly, with Osyp casting a turn 3 Tog, only to see Sonne throw Phantom Centaur down and practically leer, "Bring it." Time was called following Osyp's turn 4 in game 2, seeing him fail to find an incarnation via dredge, and then using Cabal Therapy to name Umezawa's Jitte (miss) and Smother (hit), giving him a very good chance at winning next turn. Sonne simply cracked for five with the Centaur, dropping Osyp to eight and creating another elephant. Osyp then was forced to dredge four more times during his turn, flipping over all but six cards in his library in search of the lone Filth in his deck. He got to the 53rd card without finding the swampwalking incarnation and the crowd collectively held their breath as the Pro Tour-Venice winner slowrolled the final card, eventually flipping over… Filth, and getting a huge roar out of the crowd. This allowed him to attack for the win without such mundane impediments as "blockers."
All that work just to earn a draw.
Sonne 1 - Lebedowicz 1
Saturday, December 17: 4:39 p.m. - Round 6: Gadiel Szleifer vs. John Fiorillo
John Fiorillo is one of those players who lives in Pro Tour purgatory. He seems to travel everywhere, he often posts solid results at Grand Prix, yet can't quite achieve a Top 8 appearance, nor accumulate enough points to achieve level 3 status in the Pro Tour Players Club, thus leaving him unqualified for Hawaii. John is yet another pro who hopped on the Ichorid bandwagon this weekend, playing a slightly older version with maindeck Careful Studies as opposed to the (currently) more common Tolarian Winds run by most.
Sitting across from John is Pro Tour winner Gadiel Szleifer. Gadiel was a dark horse contender for the Player of the Year title at the end of last season, but audibled decks the morning of Extended day at Worlds and ended up with a very disappointing 2-3-1 record to end his chances. When we had talked earlier at Worlds he told me he was following my advice and playing CAL, but when his first turn play in round 1 of the feature match was Seat of the Synod, I knew something had gone horribly wrong. Gadiel has remedied that oversight today and is running Olivier Ruel's special creation.
Szleifer started things off with a turn 1 Birds of Paradise followed by Duress on turn 2, taking Fiorillo's Zombie Infestation and revealing three lands, Golgari Grave-Troll, Wonder, and Psychatog. He also cast Life from the Loam before ending his turn. Fiorillo had no action until the aforementioned Tog on turn 3. Szleifer got his dredge engine going and cast Life from the Loam again on his turn, before once again passing with no action. On Fiorillo's turn he attacked with the Psychatog and Szleifer looked bored brilliantly, causing Fiorillo to use Cephalid Coliseum plus his own dredge engine to pump the Tog to 15/16 before Szleifer Putrefied the animal. Fiorillo died on Szleifer's next turn when Gadiel cast Seismic Assault and then chucked seven lands at John's dome (with help from Life from the Loam, of course).
Szleifer 1 - Fiorillo 0
The first spell in game 2 was cast by Fiorillo, who put Zombie Infestation into play on turn 2, bringing his discard engine online. Szleifer cast Sakura-Tribe Elder on his turn 2, but then had no plays in the next two turns. This left him wide open for Fiorillo to just win via a Psychatog and Zombie attack with Gadiel at 17, but Fiorillo got a bit unlucky and whiffed on dredge cards with his first dredge from Cephalid Coliseum, forcing him to actually draw the cards into his hand instead. How awful. Cabal Therapy after attacks naming Burning Wish hit the mark, and then flashed back to send Eternal Witness to the bin to boot. Szleifer whiffed on his turn and died to Icky and Tog a turn later, evening the match at one game a piece.
Szleifer 1 - Fiorillo 1
Game 3 started as a tight affair but quickly turned into a blowout where Fiorillo was always one step ahead of what Szleifer was trying to do. Careful Study gave him an early discard outlet, fortuitous dredging delivered all the answers, and Ichorids pounded Szleifer's life total each turn. This was in spite of an early Putrefy on Psychatog. A bevy of Cabal Therapies left Szleifer with practically no hand, his mana base left him without early red mana, and his deck left him without either Life from the Loam or Seismic Assault. A Burning Wish for Morningtide would have probably won the game for Szleifer, but his deck just refused to give up the goods, giving Szleifer his first loss of the weekend.
Fiorillo 2 - Szleifer 1
Saturday, December 17: 6:04 p.m. - Tales From the Fun Side
Certain Magic players are notorious for being complete goofballs whose level of buffoonery rises to heights that surprise even those who know them. A prime example of this was the appearance of Mark Herberholz on The Price is Right. Anyone watching the episode could not help but laugh as Mark danced his way to over five thousand dollars in cash and prizes, though Bob Barker seemed a bit peevish about Mark's antics. Heezy's highlights have certainly been archived in numerous spots on the internet, and though I have no internet connection at this moment, I've guessing a simple Google search will deliver hours of laughs for the whole family.
Another player that is consistently at the forefront of goofdom is Gerard Fabiano. If you look closely at Herberholz's shirt on television, you can see he is wearing the charter edition of the Gerard Fabiano T-shirt we profiled back in Los Angeles. Fabiano has also recently appeared on film, recording a priceless audition tape for the next volume of the Real World that friend Osyp Lebedowicz says will be linked in an upcoming article of his. For those who can't wait that long, you get Gerard's consolation prize from this weekend. Seeing as how finals have just ended for most student Magic players, Fabiano was seen carrying around the ubiquitous college blue books to keep his life total on. One player asked if there was an essay inside Gerard's book and this somehow sparked a contest where anyone interested could write a fifty-words or fewer essay about why Gerard is such a great Magic player. The player deemed to have the best essay at the end of Day 1 would then earn a free dinner paid by Ghetto Fabulous himself.
At this point in the day the contest is still open, but I'm told Paul Rieztl (with help from Osyp) is the front runner with the following submission:
Gerard is awesome when he poops
He's an awesome gamer.
As long as he eats his fruit loops
He'll be a Hall of Famer.
I promise never to subject you to such torture again.
Saturday, December 17: 7:11 p.m. - Round 8: Kyle Goodman vs. Mike Krumb
Kyle Goodman - Only people who look like this are allowed to wear their collars up.
Kyle Goodman is the type of rare Magic prodigy that seems to come along in floods. He, Gadiel Szleifer, and Jeff Garza are all around the same age (practically fetuses), and all have displayed impressive skill in spite of their youth. Perhaps it is the fact that their skull has yet to harden that allows them to hold such vast Magical knowledge, or maybe they store the knowledge in their tails… Garza has since fallen off the face of the earth, but Goodman seems to have solid Constructed finishes at almost every Pro Tour he attends and we all know what Gadiel has done. Goodman's opponent is none other than Michael Krumb, another Midwesterner who has two Grand Prix Top 8s to his name, but has yet to break out at the Pro Tour level.
Up until last week, both players were unqualified for Hawaii, but Goodman managed to win a Chicago PTQ last weekend in interesting fashion. He and his entire car showed up too late to get in on round 1, so they all received match losses and were allowed to play as of round 2, if they wanted to. Goodman did, and he then reeled off ten straight wins to take home the slot and the invitation to Hawaii. Interestingly, Krumb was also at that PTQ, posting another 0-2 drop performance, something he seems to do consistently when playing Magic at that level, and yet he often has success at Grand Prix. Go figure. Regardless of Krumb's PTQ performances, both he and Goodman find themselves sporting undefeated records with one round left to go.
Goodman walked up to the table and asked, "So, have you tested this matchup?" knowing full well that Krumb had not been too worried about the Friggorid vs. Tooth and Nail matchup when picking his deck for this weekend.
Goodman kept a one-lander with a Sensei's Divining Top on the play and stumbled for a turn before finding a second mana source. Krumb came out like gangbusters, dropping Goodman to five in two turns, but then being forced to fight through Moment's Peace for two turns while completely obliterating Goodman's hand. Goodman failed to find a second Peace and died to the Aten zombie onslaught.
Krumb 1 - Goodman 0
In stark contrast to game 1, game 2 seemed like a race of the turtles, with neither player having any real action over the first three turns. Krumb changed this by casting Tolarian Winds at the end of Goodman's turn, getting one dredge in with a Grave-Troll, but then drawing five cards. Cabal Therapy sent a Triskelion to the bin, but Goodman proved himself to once again be a true master of the game, plucking Sensei's Divining Top off the top of his deck and then Topping into Mindslaver, Tooth and Nail, and Oblivion Stone, flashing it to the gathered crowd and asking "Is anyone else seeing this? Man!" With Krumb still having no pressure, Mindslaver hit play and was immediately activated, giving Goodman a huge leg up.
I have been informed that Aten's zombie army even sings karaoke when you are winning.
On the Slaver turn, Goodman flashed back Krumb's Deep Analysis targeting Goodman, discarded Krumb's six cards to create three zombie Atens, and then ended Krumb's turn. He then received a concession on his turn by casting Tooth and Nail.
Krumb 1 - Goodman 1
"I beat Gomersall 4-0 when we were playing earlier," noted Goodman, "so I think this matchup is actually pretty good."
Krumb cast Putrid Imp to kick off the rubber game of the match, while Goodman failed to cast a turn 1 Top, saying "Guess I can't win." Krumb lent further credit to that notion by getting a huge dredge on his next draw, throwing Golgari Grave-Troll, Stinkweed Imp, Deep Analysis, Cabal Therapy, and Ichorid into his bin, earning a groan from Goodman for his troubles. Cabal Therapy naming Sakura-Tribe Elder whiffed and revealed a rather putrid hand with no power cards outside of Oblivion Stone. The dredge engine did its thing, Ichorids came out to play, Goodman never drew a Top and Krumb suddenly found himself the bearer of an undefeated Day 1 record and a feature match win, something he said he never achieves.
Krumb 2 - Goodman 1