2008 Grand Prix–Denver Day 1 Blog

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Over 620 players showed up to give Lorwyn/Shadowmoor Block Constructed their best go here in beautiful Denver, Colorado. Only 64 of them have earned the right to play early on Sunday morning. Headed into the event the question on everyone’s mind was how big an impact Grand Prix-Kobe would have on the event, and whether or not Faeries would dominate. Heading into the final round, the answer to that question seemed to be in: no.

It wasn’t 1/1 Faerie Rogues that could be seen all over the top tables, but instead 1/1 Spirit and Kithkin Soldier tokens running rampant. FOUR copies of the Kithkin White Weenie deck had a shot at going undefeated (with the fifth player playing, of course, Faeries). In the end only Jarvis Yu and Walter Shatford managed to vanquish their foes and emerge on Sunday in undefeated position, rounding the tables towards the Top 8.

Of course, not far behind them are a horde of voracious pros looking to take advantage of the increased Summer Series Grand Prix payout. A number of big names opted to run a Quick ‘N Toast list designed by Patrick Chapin to the top, including Gerry Thompson, Luis Scott-Vargas, and Steve Sadin. Will they be able to shake off some early losses on Saturday and turn in a solid Sunday performance? Or will the title be ousted by a visiting pro like Tomoharu Saito, running his innovative Smokebraider deck from Grand Prix-Kobe? To find out that and more, check back on Magicthegathering.com all day tomorrow for updates from coverage reporters Nate Price and Bill Stark on the floor!


EVENT COVERAGE



 
  • Late Friday: Dogs and Cats, Living Together
    by Nate Price
  • "Hey, Nate, you wanna do a Chaos Draft?"

    A plastic bag with packs dating back to Ice Age sits in the center of a couple of pushed-together tables. Ten judges, writers, and Wizards administrators sit around the tables and grab a pack at random out of the bag. My first pack was Urza's Saga. Just so it's clear, I wasn't playing Magic during Saga Block, so this was the first time I'd ever opened an Urza's Saga pack with the intention of building a 40-card deck. In addition, this draft was being played as a multiplayer free-for-all. Needless to say, my card evaluation ability was pretty shot.

    Let the Chaos begin.
    As the first pack wound down, my deck was looking. . .interesting. I started taking some red cards, like the Goblin Offensive I opened, and the Bulwark that managed to come around the table out of the same pack. I also had some powerful white effects like Mass Calcify and the political powerhouse Wall of Shards. It wasn't anything special, but I didn't really have any idea what I was doing. Obviously.

    I think the highlight of the draft came when the words "What the hell? Unhinged?!" came from across the table, and everyone stopped what they were doing. I don't know how many of you have ever played with Unhinged cards, but, let me tell you, it's a trip. The gotcha mechanic may be the most frustrating mechanic to play against since banding, but there isn't anything quite like the self-amusement of getting to say the magic word for yourself.

    "Gotcha."

    Eventually, I had a red/white control deck that was comprised of a card from every block since Ice Age, and even a couple of white-bordered (yuck) cards. We broke the table up into two groups of five, and the last two players at each table combined to form a final table. Playing free-for-all multiplayer games with players I haven't played with before is a trying process. I tried to not offend anyone until I figured out who the threats were, and who I could manipulate to my own ends. As usually happens in these kinds of games, an early Goblin Charbelcher made one of the players at my table into a threat, and the table ganged up to drop him incredibly low.

    With him able to be killed at will, the table turned their attention to the next biggest threat, which apparently was me. All I had going for me was a Veteran Cavalier and a Bulwark with a full hand to threaten people with, but they were apparently scared of my tremendous intellect (read ego). With a final stroke, I used my Kaervek's Torch to finish off the player to my right the turn before I was done in myself.

    Despite my early exit from the draft, I had a great time drafting and playing with the other Wizards staff members. This format was an incredibly fun change from what I'm used to, and, seeing as how I knew I would be immersed in Block Constructed all weekend, I was grateful for the distraction. Chaos draft: where Mana Screw isn't always a bad thing. Sometimes, it's a twelfth pick.

    I think this is a solid board position.


     
  • 9:15 a.m.: Grand Prix Trial Winning Decklists
    by Nate Price
  • With a day and nightful of Grand Prix Trials in the books, thirteen players have piloted their decks to the top and won themselves three byes. The Fae are still the best represented tribe, but a few other decks have rewarded their builders with a few rounds of rest and additional practice before they are put to the test. Here are the decklists:

    Hunter Coale
    Grand Prix Denver Trials, 1st Place


    Ben Hagerman
    Grand Prix Denver Trials, 1st Place


    Lucas Siow
    Grand Prix Denver Trials, 1st Place


    Walter Shatford
    Grand Prix Denver Trials, 1st Place


    Owen Turtenwald
    Grand Prix Denver Trials, 1st Place

    Main Deck

    60 cards

    Auntie's Hovel
    Graven Cairns
    12  Mountain
    Reflecting Pool

    24 lands

    Boggart Ram-Gang
    Demigod of Revenge
    Figure of Destiny
    Stigma Lasher
    Vexing Shusher

    20 creatures

    Flame Javelin
    Lash Out
    Puncture Blast
    Tarfire

    16 other spells

    Sideboard
    Festercreep
    Inside Out
    Soul Snuffers
    Spitebellows

    15 sideboard cards



    Morgan Chang
    Grand Prix Denver Trials, 1st Place



    Rick Cline
    Grand Prix Denver Trials, 1st Place


    Brett McCleaf
    Grand Prix Denver Trials, 1st Place


    Orie Guo
    Grand Prix Denver Trials, 1st Place


    Christian Calcano
    Grand Prix Denver Trials, 1st Place





     
  • 10:30 a.m.: What Eventide Card Will Have the Biggest Impact on Block?
    by Bill Stark
  • Brian Kibler: Figure of Destiny. It gives multiple aggro decks a powerful, flexible threat.
    Charlie Gindy: Figure of Destiny. It gives Mono-red a solid one-drop.
    Brandon Scheel: Flooded Grove. The mana in 5cControl is way better.
    Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa: Figure of Destiny. It’s a huge threat, hard to deal with. It’s just a good card.
    Tomoharu Saito: Figure of Destiny. It’s a good draw late game in red decks or white decks.
    Steve Sadin: Archon of Justice. It makes the 5cControl decks much better.
     
  • Round 1 Feature Match – Horde-ly Fair
    Zach Towers vs. Chris Otwell
    by Nate Price
  • The early rounds of Grand Prix are a wonderful opportunity to get to know some local players and give them a little exposure. This round, though, I got to feature a player who has worked hard to expose himself (avert your eyes!). Chris Otwell, a Magic player from Colorado Springs, just an hour or so drive from the event site, has worked diligently as a Magic podcaster for mtgcast.com since US Nationals 2006. He's also made a name for himself as the longest continuously active player in the DCI, a stat noteworthy enough to make the December 20, 2005 Ask Wizards question. Needless to say, Otwell has been around for a while.


    Towers (left) and Otwell have drawn a nice crowd.

    His opponent this round, Zach Towers, hails originally from a small town named Diamond in southwest Missouri. He's now a psychology student at Park University in Kansas City, which was an eight hour drive for Towers and his carload of buddies. This is his first Grand Prix, and he's hoping that his b/r agro Elemental deck has the stuff to give Otwell's five-color Elemental deck his first loss of the day.
    Towers won the die roll by a score of three to two on a 20-sided die, which prompted Otwell to observe that he "managed to hit his ten-percenter."

    Towers started the first game off with a couple of Mountains and a Brighthearth Banneret. Otwell started to get his five-color mana base online on his third turn when a Reflecting Pool turned on his Fire-Lit Thicket and allowed him to play a Smokebraider. Towers had a Blowfly Infestation in play, and, though it would kill his Banneret as well, he chose to Scar the 'Braider before it could do anything 'fun.' The Ashenmoor Gouger that followed for Towers had the board all to himself.

    Otwell began to get back into the game by playing Makeshift Mannequin on his Smokebraider at the end of Towers' next turn. After untapping, he made good use of his new mana to play a Mulldrifter, getting himself a couple of cards. Towers eschewed card advantage for board advantage, using a Kulrath Knight to take to the skies, and a Puncture Bolt to clear the path even more for his team. Otwell dropped to twelve. He kept building his hand up, though, using another Mulldrifter to grab himself a couple more cards. The -1/-1 counters started flying on the following turn, when Otwell played a Soul Snuffer, strewing pennies across the board. It killed Towers' Smokebraider and shrunk his team, but left the Soul Snuffers a mere 1/1 and unable to affect the board due to the Kulrath Knight.

    Zach Towers presents his deck.
    Otwell had a Fulminator Mage on his following turn, although he had a lack of targets on Towers' side on which to use it. When Towers' tried to use a Puncture Bolt to Infest Otwell's side away, Otwell chose to sacrifice his Fulminator at his own land rather than lose his board, despite the fact that the Knight was holding it at bay. He did get a reprieve on the following turn, though, when he drew a Firespout to completely clear the board. He was at a mere eight life now, but Towers had no cards in hand, and Otwell was sitting on a full grip. He evoked another Mulldrifter to draw yet more cards before putting a Horde of Notions into play and sending it swinging.

    Despite his low life total, Otwell seemed completely in control of the game with a five-power attacker in play, and enough Primal Beyonds in play to keep bringing back the Mulldrifters and keeping himself well stocked. It didn't seem like there was much Towers could do to stop it. His attempt to get a Kulrath Knight and give it the Fists of the Demigod for the last few points was met with a Crib Swap, and he conceded the first game to Otwell.

    Otwell 1, Towers 0

    Towers got a second chance to take Otwell down, and started off strong with a Flamekin Harbinger to fetch a Smokebraider. His Smokebraider then powered out a Brighthearth Banneret and an Ashenmoor Gouger on the following turn. Otwell wasn't about to fall behind, though, and used his own Smokebraider to ramp into a third-turn Mulldrifter, although he made it seem a little more menacing as he tapped for it.

    "Red, blue, white, green, black. . .Mulldrifter."

    Not exactly the finish I was expecting.

    An Ashenmoor Liege from Towers made his team even more impressive, and Otwell was forced to chump block the Gouger with his Mulldrifter, dropping himself to ten. He made another Mulldrifter to replace it, but was forced to chump again when Towers attacked on the following turn, and he dropped to eight.

    Chris Otwell knows the power of the Horde.
    Despite seemingly having this game in the bag, Towers was a little leery. "This is about where I got him last game before he turned around and whomped me," Towers cautiously mentioned. He was fairly vulnerable right now to a Firespout, though his Ashenmoor Gouger would live to drop Otwell to four. Otwell clearly started looking for the Spout when he evoked a third Mulldrifter in an attempt to dig. "I guess they like me today. I hope it stays like that all day."

    Regardless of how much his Mulldrifters liked him, his Firespouts clearly did not. With nothing to stop the onslaught, Otwell conceded.

    Towers 1, Otwell 1

    Otwell kept his opening seven, but Tower, on the other hand, started this game off with a mulligan while laughing "I will not."

    Clearly displeased with his second draw, Towers' mood quickly became more sullen. He was even more displeased when his deck failed to provide him a second land. Things got even worse when Otwell was able to play his own Smokebraider and used it to power out a third-turn Horde of Notions. The Horde ran rampant over the next couple of turns, and Towers' deck was unable to get back out from behind the eight-ball. When he dropped to two, Otwell had the Cloudthresher to evoke to finish things off.

    After the game, Towers revealed a subpar starting hand and then discussed a potential mulligan to five with Otwell. Despite the fact that they both agreed his chances were better with five cards, they also both admitted that with Otwell's draw it probably didn't matter. Third-turn Horde of Notions is a bit difficult to deal with for anyone. One of Otwell's friends watching the end of the match admitted that he had pulled it off a number of times in testing. "He managed to get it like seven out of ten games against me, and I didn't win a single one."

    Chris Otwell defeats Zach Towers 2-1

     
  • Round 2 Feature Match: Ryder Ward vs. Kenny York
    by Bill Stark
  • Ryder Ward is a high school student from Los Angeles, California while his opponent Kenny York hails from the city of Denver itself. The Colorado standout has a handful of Pro Tour experiences including Pro Tour-New York, Washington D.C., and Tokyo. Both entered the round undefeated at 1-0.

    "What part of California are you from?" Kenny started the match by asking his opponent.

    "Near Los Angeles," Ryder clarified. "Are you from California?"

    "Originally," explained Kenny, "I'm from San Diego."

    Ryder Ward
    The two players talked amicably about their common bonds while shuffling for the match. After winning the right to go first, Kenny had to send his opener back. His fellow Coloradans teased him from the peanut gallery as they watched their friend play in the feature match area. Content with six Kenny quickly revealed himself to be a Faeries deck. A Thoughtseize from York revealed his opponent was playing a Doran deck, though Ryder didn't yet have the eponymous 0/5 in his hand. Instead Kenny saw Chamelon Colossus, Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers, Treefolk Harbinger, Firespout, and Wren's Run Vanquisher alongside some lands. York agonized over what to take before opting to nab the Wren's Run Vanquisher. His opponent seemed unfazed.

    Trying to get an offense going Kenny York made a Pestermite during his opponent's upkeep. Ryder, assuming the upkeeped Faerie would be a Vendilion Clique, started to put his hand on the table before realizing his mistake. Instead he was simply stunted on mana for a turn thanks to the Pestermite's comes-into-play ability before making a Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers the following turn.

    Kenny York was struggling. With the exception of the Pestermite his deck had revealed land after land while giving him little in the form of action cards. In an effort to prevent his opponent from playing a Treefolk Harbingered Doran sitting on the top of Ryder's deck, Kenny took a risk and activated a Mutavault to play a Mistbind Clique on Ryder's upkeep. If Ward had managed to draw some form of instant removal, his opponent would be all but destroyed. Fortunately for Kenny, Ward simply nodded and allowed the Clique to resolve, watching as his mana was stunted for a second time.

    Kenny was by no means out of the woods, as a Shriekmaw eventually managed to clear out his 4/4. Lucky for him, Ryder was struggling on mana with only three lands in play to Kenny's seven. When Kenny managed to rip an Oona, Queen of the Fae, the game swung drastically in his favor. All of a sudden his mana flood was going to be a boon, and his opponent would need to find an Oblivion Ring or other means of destroying the 5/5 while hoping his opponent couldn't come up with a counterspell in the meanwhile. An attack with a Spellstutter Sprite and Oona left things 18-6 in Kenny's favor, the sporadic early damage he had managed to sneak in combined with his opponent's Murmuring Bosk adding up.

    Ryder looked to the top of his deck for an answer and didn't find one. Deciding to make his opponent figure things out, he moved his creatures, two Treefolk Harbingers and the Doran, into the red zone. When the combat step didn't miraculously put an end to Kenny York's life total Ryder nodded his head in defeat.

    York 1, Ward 0

    "So you live here?" Ryder Ward asked his opponent while they sideboarded for the second game of their match.

    "Yeah. It's not quite like San Diego though. It's been hot here this week, like in the 100s." York responded. The two players discussed the first game, with Ryder confessing he wished he had had a Nameless Inversion for his opponent's Mutavault in response to the Mistbind Clique, and Kenny confessing he had been terrified of that possibility.

    Kenny York
    It was young Ryder Ward's turn to take a mulligan for the second game, but happy with his grip of six he opened on a Wooded Bastion. Kenny York was first on the board with a threat in the form of Bitterblossom, but Ryder was close behind making a third-turn Wren's Run Vanquisher. Ward tried to continue building an army with a Chameleon Colossus, but his opponent quickly dispatched it with a Consign to Dream, sending it back to his opponent's library. York then had a Nameless Inversion to deal with the Wren's Run Vanquisher, all the while accruing Faerie Rogue tokens from his Bitterblossom.

    The hits kept coming from York who had a Sower of Temptation to steal the re-played Chameleon Colossus. Ryder Ward, however, wasn't going down without a fight using a Firespout on only green mana to wipe out all of his opponent's fliers and get his own Colossus back. Two Cryptic Commands ended the 4/4's run, however, as Kenny used the first to bounce the Chameleon and the second to counter it, netting him two card draws in the meanwhile.

    When Kenny tried to Mistbind Clique his opponent, Ryder Ward had a Cloudthresher to respond with. That forced York to champion his own Bitterblossom and left the totals at 12-9 in Ryder Ward's favor. A Shriekmaw from Kenny changed that quickly, killing the 7/7 Elemental and allowing York to bash Ward down to 8. Ryder was forced to again wipe the board with Firespout, adding a Nameless Inversion to finish off the Clique, but that gave Kenny his Bitterblossom back. Unafraid of his meager 8 life, the Denver resident played a second copy of the enchantment. The Faerie hordes just weren't quitting.

    If the situation seemed out of control for him, Ward didn't let on happily playing a third Firespout to wipe his opponent's board. That forced York to use two Nameless Inversions to kill his opponent's Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers for fear of dying to his own Bitterblossoms. With the score at 7-4 in Ryder's favor, Kenny York was in need of finding a way to get out from underneath his own enchantments. When a draw didn't reveal an answer for the Bitterblossoms, Kenny could only shuffle his hand around dejectedly before admitting it was time for Game 3.

    York 1, Ward 1

    "Shouldn't have played that second Bitterblossom," Kenny York admitted for the final game of the match. His opponent, not wanting to make it appear he was rubbing his victory in, nodded silently.

    Both players started the game with a turn-two token generator; Kenny with a Bitterblossom and Ryder with a Wolf-Skull Shaman. Unfortunately for York, he had no land drop for the third turn and could only watch while his opponent made a Treefolk Harbinger to find Doran, the Siege Tower. Kenny York needed some help from the top of his deck if he was going to keep the home town victorious in the feature match area.

    A theatrical peel didn't help York at all, and he shook his head in slight frustration before moving to his discard step. His opponent's board had grown to a Wolf token, Treefolk Harbinger, and Doran, the Siege Tower while York's life total had dwindled to a lowly 12. When Ryder Ward blew up his opponent's only Faerie Rogue blocker using a Nameless Inversion, then bashed for 10, Kenny York could only shrug his shoulders.

    "Bad game," Ryder offered.

    Ryder Ward defeats Kenny York 2-1.

     
  • Saturday, 12:22 p.m.: Bye Bye Bye
    by Nate Price
  • You don't want to run into these guys.
    There really can't be any argument that having three byes for a Grand Prix provides a significant advantage. You get to start the tournament with nine free match points. Since your first actual opponent is undefeated, you start off with tremendous tiebreakers. You effectively get three hours to rest and test before you have to kick your brain into overdrive. The give you a head start that can mean the difference between making Day two and missing the cut, or even making Top 8 and being forced to watch from the Top 16 instead.

    The most accessible way to get byes for the Grand Prix is to win a Grand Prix trial. Trials are like PTQs that give out byes instead of qualifications for the Pro Tour. They tend to be a little smaller than PTQs, mostly due to the fact that the ultimate goal of most players at the PTQ level is to, well, make it to the Pro Tour, and not get Grand Prix byes. Though Grand Prix function much the same as a large PTQ, with the Top 16 players getting invites to the upcoming Pro Tour regardless of previous qualification, the field tends to be chock full of Pro players who use the Grand Prix circuit as a way to accumulate the points required for their Pro level. PTQs don't have that risk, since a player that is qualified for a Pro Tour can't play in any of that season's PTQs, effectively making the field easier.

    Saito and Kibler make a cute couple.

    Another common way to get byes at a Grand Prix, is simply to play the game and do well. Byes are awarded based on rating and Pro level, so if you play enough, and do well, you can pick up anywhere from one to three byes based on your continued success.

    The first few rounds of a Grand Prix are always fun for the coverage staff, because most of the biger name players are off doing their own little thing during their byes. Many take advantage of the time to head out and eat, while others spend time getting in some last minute testing. This is especially true at Limited Grand Prix, where you get a chance to refine your Sealed build and figure out the proper sideboarding strategies to fix any mistakes made during the initial build.

    The back of the room here in Denver is littered with Pro players burning time before they have to sit to play a real match. Tomoharu Saito has made the long trip across the Pacific from Japan. Brian Kibler woke up out of hibernation to make an appearance in Denver. Pro Tour-Hollywood winner Charles Gindy was spotted testing a little bit during Round 2. A large contingent of players, including Luis Scott-Vargas, US National team members Sam Black and Paul Cheon, and Patrick Chapin decided to brush up on their forty-card deck prowess during their down time, while the captain of the US National team Michael Jacob looked on with amusement.

    How to test Block Constructed.
    No matter what you choose to do to prepare yourself for the fourth round, or distract yourself in the meantime, there's no denying that the three byes give an opportunity to better mentally prepare a player for the grueling day of Magic to come. I highly encourage any players looking to make the trip to a Grand Prix, whether it's ten minutes or ten hours away from you, try to participate in a Grand Prix trial beforehand. They're offered all over the nation, and there are always a ton going on the night before the Grand Prix. If nothing else, you'll get a little more practice in before the big event, and if all goes well, you'll win yourself a little extra time to test, a chance for a meal, or maybe even just an opportunity to draft. Whatever makes you happy, the byes have it.


     
  • Round 3 Feature Match: Alex Who?
    Alex Kim vs. Alex West
    by Nate Price
  • So. . .many. . .Alex's. I seriously considered writing this Feature Match using all first names, but I realized that if I did this, I had to face the very real possibility that my editors would fly down here and actually kill me. It was almost worth it. Even without the increased confusion I was going to try to add, the players and crowd managed to inject a fair amount of hilarity to the match.

    "Good luck, Alex," someone called as both Alex's sat down in the feature match area. All Alex Kim could do was laugh, "Which one?"

    "What do I write for my opponent's name," Alex West joked as he arranged his scoresheet?

    Alex has a little fun with, uh, Alex.
    I suggested the old Indiana tradition of playing for names, but I don't think they were up to the high-stakes of the name-betting game. You've gotta have balls, or at least a music career, to risk going the rest of your life by a one-word moniker.

    As West threw his hand back into his deck, he chuckled, "Looks bad for Alex," which met a chorus of laughter from the assembled masses. The first play of the game was a Fulminator Mage from Kim, which he briefly considered throwing at one of West's land before reconsidering. The Mage got to beat down on the following turn, beginning the damage race. West dropped a Vendilion Clique into play at the end of Kim's turn, looking to take the lead. Kim's hand held a Lash Out, Firespout, Thoughtseize, and two Incendiary Commands. After much consideration, West decided to replace the Thoughtseize. After the Cliques ability resolved, Kim used his Lash Out to off the offensive flier.

    West untapped and then, as Faeries is wont to do, simply drew and passed the turn back to Kim. Kim decided that now was the appropriate time to use his Fulminator Mage, and used it to kill a Secluded Glen, dropping West to only three untapped lands. When he untapped and used Incendiary Command to kill the other, Went was dropped to a mere three lands. He played a Mutavault to bring the total back up to four and then let Kim start again.

    What Kim started was a trip into the tank while deciding the best course of action. With West at 11 but with Cryptic Command mana available, he had a little baiting to do before he could commit to anything. He chose to Flame Javelin West down to seven at the end of West's next turn, putting the other Alex that much closer to having to counter everything. Demigod of Revenge was the first spell that met a Cryptic Command, although it wouldn't necessarily stay in the graveyard for long. With a Demigod in the graveyard now, things got a bit more dicey for West. Simply countering future Demigods wouldn't solve the whole problem since the dead ones would just come back, regardless of whether or not the original resolved.

    Kim kept the pressure on with an Incendiary Command, choosing to kill a Sunken Ruins and deal four to West. West had a Command of his own, though, and the blue Command trumped the red one and got West a card in the process. Kim had a devastating second Demigod on the following turn, returning the first to active duty. West had to play a Spellstutter Sprite to chump block. With a blocker for one now in place, and a Faerie finally in play, he used a Peppersmoke and Nameless Inversion to kill the other one. He was safe from damage for this turn, but Kim still had one Demigod around, and West was running out of options. He played a Bitterblossom on his turn, and sent things back to Kim.

    West didn't let him do anything other than untap, though, before furthering his attempts to stay alive. He had a Mistbind Clique during Kim's upkeep, which met an ugly Eyeblight's Ending. Now devoid of chump blockers and unable to remove his own Bitterblossom, West was all but lost. A swing from the Demigod dropped him to two. His Bitterblossom dropped him to his last life point, and he didn't have anything to prevent him from dying on the upcoming turn, so he conceded.

    Kim 1, West 0

    As the players chatted a bit between the games, the judge dropped by to inform them that sideboarding time was running slim. "I just want you to know that you are about halfway through your three minutes." Kim joked, "The pressure's on, Alex! Two minutes and forty-nine seconds remaining. Don't choke!" All west did was smile.

    Both players were fine with their opening draws, and West kicked things off with a first-turn Thoughtseize revealing Eyeblight's Ending, Figure of Destiny, Guttural Response, Thoughtseize, and Ashenmoor Gouger. West took some time to write Kim's hand out before taking Figure of Destiny. "This has got to be the worst match-up for me ever," West lamented while Kim was collecting his cards.

    Furthering his woes, his deck yet again failed to provide him a second-turn Bitterblossom. "Yes, no Bitterblossom! It feels so good. You have no idea how good it feels when your opponent doesn't play turn-two Bitterblossom," Kim rejoiced when West passed him the turn.

    "You've got to think about my feelings, I'm devastated," West responded with the hint of a grin.

    ". . .Well I feel good about it," Kim said with the expression of a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

    Kim chose not to Thoughtseize West on the following turn, instead choosing to wait until his third turn. When he did decide to play it, West tapped two and dropped a Sower of Temptation into play, which he immediately picked up and replaced with a Spellstutter Sprite.

    Kim just laughed and chided, "I wonder if Alex has a Sower of Temptation in his hand. Do you have a Sower, Alex?"

    "Nope, not here."

    An Ashenmoor Gouger from Kim was preceded by a plea for West to not have another Spellstutter Sprite, which he didn't. Instead, West chose to take the chance to play a Vendilion Clique, stripping Kim of his Eyeblight's Ending. With the path supposedly clear of removal, West had an opportunity to play the Sower that he "didn't have" to steal the Gouger from Kim.

    Kim had a great answer, though. His Chameleon Colossus was not only a better card to have taken with the Sower, its protection from black also let it trade with the Gouger at will. West was in a fairly strong spot, though, and chose to activate his Mutavault and sent his team in. Kim had plans to kill the Sower, and chose to leave the Gouger alive. Instead, he blocked the Mutavault and dropped to five. He swung back on the following turn with the Colossus and chose not to pump after doing some laborious math. After combat, he made a Fulminator Mage. During West's upkeep, he tried to Lash Out the Sower of Temptation, which resolved, but revealed a Mistbind Clique on the top of West's deck. West drew his card and attacked with his two fliers, knocking Kim to one.

    During Kim's upkeep, West played Nameless Inversion on Kim's Fulminator Mage, forcing him to blow it in response. In response to that, West played the Mistbind Clique he had just drawn. Kim floated two red and green mana into his draw step, knowing that he only had one shot to kill West. He drew a non-burn spell, and pumped the mana into his Colossus. Unfortunately, he didn't have any way to kill West, or survive the next turn, so he conceded.

    "Alex wins," West said triumphantly with his hands in the air.

    "It was bound to happen," someone joked from the gallery.

    West 1, Kim 1

    Despite the din of the audience around the table, the players were fairly silent while preparing themselves for the rubber game. Kim's face upon seeing his hand meant that he either had a borderline hand, or he'd eaten some bad Indian food. When he decided to keep after the theatrics, West prodded him, "was that the Alex Kim fake mulligan?" Kim laughed as he shook his head, and then laughed even harder as West threw his own hand back. "That's the real one," West sighed as he shuffled his deck. "I don't believe it," Kim chuckled, "I think you're bluffing me."

    Kim refuses to be bluffed.
    West decided once again to fail to play a turn-two Bitterblossom, although not by choice. His deck seemed to not be too forthcoming with the powerful enchantment. When Kim played a Fulminator Mage on the third turn, on the play, things started to look bad for West. Kim sacrificed the Mage during West's upkeep to kill his only source of blue mana, a Secluded Glen. West replaced it soon thereafter, providing some company for his Mutavault.

    A couple of turns later, with no additions to the board, West was able to play a Vendilion Clique during Kim's upkeep to deny him a Chameleon Colossus out of a hand that also contained Incendiary Command, Flame Javelin, and Guttural Response. Kim just replaced the card from his hand and used Incendiary Command to kill a Secluded Glen and the Clique. He had drawn another from the Clique, and put it to use on the following turn to kill another land and hit West for four.

    West's only source of offense was a pair of Mutavaults, and he began sending them in to race Kim's Ashenmoor Gouger. Kim had a Flame Javelin leftover from the Clique to kill one, though, which swung the race entirely in Kim's favor. Kim let out a "Man!" when West added a third source of Blue mana to his board on the following turn, knowing that he was now able to start trying to regain control with Cryptic Commands, but West road wasn't going to be an easy one.

    When West attempted to Consign to Dream the Ashenmoor Gouger, Kim had a Guttural Response to stop it. His swing dropped West to eight. West just drew a fifth land and passé the turn. Kim thought for a while and had to step away from the table to ask the judge a question before deciding to Incendiary Command the Mutavault and deal four damage to West, which would drop him to four. West had a Cryptic Command to counter the spell, but Kim had the Guttural Response to counter West's Command, which prompted West to concede.

    The judge came by to confirm the result of the match asking, "I need you guys to confirm this. Alex wins 2-1?" You could barely hear their response over the roar of laughter that erupted from the gathered onlookers.

    Alex Kim defeats Alex West 2-1


     
  • Round 4 Feature Match: Patrick Chapin vs. Adam Yurchick
    by Bill Stark
  • "There's a longstanding history of you hosing me in feature matches," was how Patrick Chapin greeted his opponent, Adam Yurchick, for their Round 4 feature match.

    "Heads I go first, tails you go first?" Chapin offered, holding up a quarter to his opponent. Yurchick nodded but, in character, checked both sides of the coin when Patrick managed to flip it in his favor. The two pros have storied histories with Adam Yurchick finishing second at the recent Grand Prix-Philadelphia, and Pat Chapin having a horde of excellent finishes, enough to make him Hall of Fame eligible this year.

    While Chapin might have won the flip, it was Yurchick who got on the board first using a Flamekin Harbinger to search up a Fulminator Mage. The 2/2 Mage was a problem for Chapin who has been a fan all season of very colorful, and non-basic, manabases. Yurchick simply continued his Elementals theme, adding a Smokebraider to the board on his second turn before blowing up a Vivid Creek of Pat's with his Mage.

    A Broken Ambitions was how Chapin answered his opponent's Reveillark, though the Michigan resident probably wasn't happy to win the clash, milling his opponent for four and potentially setting up an even bigger Reveillark evoke for later in the game. When he skipped a fourth land drop for a turn, the energetic Chapin turned serious, though he managed to find the land the following turn.

    Yurchick, in the meanwhile, kept building up his Elementals, using a second Flamekin Harbinger to find a Cloudthresher. Slowly plinking away at Chapin with two 1/1s had left the totals 20-13 in Yurchick's favor, threatening to become much worse the following turn thanks to the aforementioned Cloudthresher. A Shriekmaw brought back from the graveyard with Makeshift Mannequin allowed Chapin to deal with the 7/7, and a Kitchen Finks earned him some life back. With a paltry two cards in hand, it looked like Adam Yurchick's tempo train had come to a halt.

    Patrick Chapin struggles under the strain of his opponent's Fulminator Mage.
    Unfortunately for Pat Chapin, one of those cards turned out to be a Reveillark which Yurchick was all too happy to evoke, returning a Fulminator Mage and Flamekin Harbinger to play. The Harbinger searched up a third Reveillark, and the Fulminator Mage munched another one of Chapin's lands, dropping Pat to just three in play.

    The third Reveillark returned two Fulminator Mages to play, and they blew up two more of Patrick's lands, forcing Pat to discard a card from his hand on his turn, unable to play anything. When Yurchick revealed a Makeshift Mannequin targeting one of the previously evoked Reveillarks, Patrick scooped up what few cards he had left in play for Game 2.

    Yurchick 1, Chapin 0

    The players were silent as they shuffled for the second game, both intent on figuring out their plan for the sideboarded portion of the match. Chapin was so concerned by Adam's second turn Smokebraider that he used a Firespout immediately to kill the 1/1. When he followed up with an Oona's Grace, Yurchick had to stop and read the Eventide instant.

    "I'll let you know if the target is ever not me," Chapin proclaimed.

    An Archon of Justice hit the board for Pat while Adam Yurchick continued building up a series of Vivid lands featuring three Crags and one Marsh alongside a Primal Beyond. When he evoked a Shriekmaw to deal with his opponent's 4/4, Chapin was all too happy to blow up one of Adam's lands and return the Archon to play with a Makeshift Mannequin. A turn later, in response to a retraced Oona's Grace from Chapin, Yurchick copied the play using a Makeshift Mannequin to return his own Shriekmaw and blow up the Archon for a second time. After some consideration, Chapin decided to target the Shriekmaw with his Archon's leaves-play ability, but because the 3/2 Shriekmaw had a Mannequin counter on it, it went to the graveyard instead of being removed from the game.

    The players settled into a game of draw go, with Chapin at a decided advantage thanks to the retrace card in his graveyard. A Cloudthresher from Yurchick snuck through Pat's counter wall, but left the life totals at 18-10 in Pat's favor. He quickly mainphased an answer to his opponent's 7/7 in the form of a Shriekmaw. Yurchick tried to get back ahead with a Mulldrifter, but a Cloudthresher from Chapin dealt with the 2/2, forcing Adam to meekly use a Crib Swap to take care of the Thresher.

    With the totals at 11-5 in his favor, things looked good for Patrick Chapin, but they were starting to swing out of his control. Yurchick's Shriekmaw had managed to stay on the table and a Makeshift Mannequin had netted him a Reveillark when Chapin had tapped out to abuse Oona's Grace again at the end of one of Adam's turns. With only a Shapeshifter token thanks to Crib Swap and some lands, Chapin needed to find something to keep momentum in his favor. A Shriekmaw targeting his own Shapeshifter to block Adam's 3/2 was a start.

    Surprisingly, when Yurchick attacked Chapin didn't block, instead falling to 4. It looked like he was going to try to race, and did exactly that on his following turn by cracking back and dropping his opponent to 2. He followed the surprise attack up with a Hallowed Burial, then an evoked Shriekmaw to destroy one of the two creatures Yurchick returned with his Reveillark. That left Adam with a Mulldrifter in play, which bashed Pat to 2. Before passing Adam added a Wispmare and Chameleon Colossus to his board.

    Chapin wasn't concerned, using a second Hallowed Burial to end his opponent's threats before playing a Kitchen Finks to earn some life back. The risky maneuvering by Chapin paid off as Yurchick revealed a land from the top of his deck and conceded the game, unable to deal with the 3/2 Finks.

    Yurchick 1, Chapin 1

    With twelve minutes on the clock the players hurriedly shuffled up for the final game of their match. Yurchick came out of the gates with a Flamekin Harbinger to find Smokebraider, then a third turn Fulminator Mage to set his opponent back to just one land in play. An evoked Mulldrifter was close behind, ensuring Adam of hitting his land drops.

    Adam Yurchick tries to prevail with his Elementals.
    To his credit, Patrick Chapin was also hitting his land drops, despite having lost one to the Fulminator Mage. A Firespout from Pat wiped Adam's Harbinger and Smokebraider off the board, but Adam had a solid follow-up in the form of Cloudthresher. The back-and-forth of a big non-black creature meeting its end at the hands of a Shriekmaw continued as Chapin played one of the 3/2s to kill his opponent's 7/7.

    Unfazed Yurchick managed to resolve a threat his opponent couldn't Shriekmaw, and one that promised to cause lots of problems for Pat if left unchecked: Horde of Notions. An attack set the life totals at 18-10 in Adam's favor. Pat calmly made an Archon of Justice, trying to squeeze victory out of the game and match.

    The next play was an attack from Pat Chapin with Archon of Justice which he then followed up with Austere Command, resetting the board. Yurchick didn't leave the board reset for long, following up the play with a Reveillark and Puppeteer Clique which stole a Shriekmaw from his opponent, killing Pat's Mulldrifter, and attacking Chapin to 3. With a minute left in the round, Pat desperately tried to find a solution to his opponent's creatures. When he couldn't, Pat nodded politely and extended his hand.

    Adam Yurchick defeats Patrick Chapin 2-1.


     
  • Saturday, 2:08 p.m.: A Family Affair
    by Bill Stark
  • Magic is often recognized as a game that opens up borders, bringing players from around the world together and serving as a catalyst for friendships that transcend international boundaries. Of course, from time to time we hear stories of Magic serving to bring people closer together. Grand Prix-Denver happens to have just such a story.

    Nestled amongst the staff of judges working hard this weekend are two that happen to share a last name: Karen Degi and Greg Degi. That fact comes as no surprise when you realize Greg is actually Karen's father. But that's not all; somewhere in the sea of players competing for their shot at Grand Prix glory is a third Degi, son and brother of Greg and Karen, Kevin. We sat down to discuss the family's unique situation.

    Karen, a level 2 judge, explained that she had been judging for about two and a half years. "I've been at Pro Tour-Hollywood, Pro Tour-San Diego, U.S. Nationals last weekend, and now my first Grand Prix." Greg, her father, hasn't been wearing the zebra stripes quite as long. "I started judging January 1st of this year. I played for three years, took a break for three years, then came back and have been going for another three years," the elder Degi offered.

    Kevin, the odd person out in the group, explained why he has decided to play while watching his other family members spend their weekends on the judge side of the fence. "I'll judge if no one else is around," Kevin explained, adding, "we have four certified judges in the local area, so there's really no need to add a fifth to the rotation."

    Greg, Kevin, and Karen Degi.

    Explaining why she liked judging, Karen said "I'm not that good at playing and I don't like losing. I do love the social aspect of the game, however, so judging is a good fit." But had either Karen or Greg ever had to rule against Kevin? "Not that I remember, but probably," Karen answered, smiling.

    "Yeah sure. FNMs, things like that all the time. When it happens, you just rule the way the rules say you should," Greg clarified. And did that bother Kevin?

    "Sometimes I have to call them on myself for doing stupid stuff like sideboarding illegally," laughed Kevin.

    Fort Collins' own Degi family; more proof that the family that plays together, stays together.


     
  • Saturday, 3:04: Photo Essay
    by Bill Stark and Nate Price
  • Here are just some of the sites to be seen around the tournament hall at Grand Prix-Denver.

    What to during the bye rounds? DRAFT!

    The players sit down for Round 1.

    Special guest artist Dan Frazier.

    And some of his work.

    The big payoff.

    Head Judge Riccardo Tessitori.


    Sweet hat!

    Sweet hair!

    First place for the sealed deck side event.

     
  • Round 5 Feature Match: A Dish Best Served Cold
    Michael Jacob vs. Owen Turtenwald
    by Bill Stark and Nate Price
  • "This isn't going to be a very fun match to cover. I hope you don't mind writing the same card name over and over," Owen warned me as I arrived to plug in.

    After explaining to me that they were playing a 74-card mirror match (Michael is playing an Ashenmoor Gouger instead of a Vexing Shusher), I realized why. They both hemmed and hawed about having to play each other so early in the tournament. Anyone that's ever driven to a PTQ with a carful of friends only to play someone you came with in the first couple of rounds can relate to the feeling.

    They even went so far as to discuss how they planned to sideboard the mirror match, trying to figure out the best strategy. By this point, it didn't matter that they were playing each other in a Grand Prix. This match meant a little more than others, but to them, it was just another match. When someone jokingly asked who has the advantage in this matchup, Owen quickly responded, "Are you kidding me? Michael, not close."

    "I hope you don't draw two Demigods," Michael wished Owen before the game.

    "I hope I do," Owen responded.

    "That's fair," Michael conceded.

    Owen started the first game off with an aggressive draw, getting a Figure of Destiny, Vexing Shusher, and Boggart Ram-Gang into play in quick succession. Michael, on the draw, was forced to play a little early crowd control before he could get on the offensive. He had a Tarfire at the ready to kill the early Figure, and when the Ram-Gang tried to attack, it met a Lash Out. This left Owen with only a Vexing Shusher on his side.

    It takes 'Sick Reads' to be the National Champion.
    With Owen's early rush more or less dealt with, Michael began playing some threats of his own. His Boggart Ram-Gang met the same fate as Owen's, but not before hitting Owen once. Owen then bolstered his forces with a second try at a Figure of Destiny, this one hoping to avoid the fate of its predecessor. Michael had a Figure of Destiny of his own, as well as a Stigma Lasher to provide some defense.

    When Owen chose to send his Shusher in to attack, Michael tossed his head around a bit before plopping his Lasher in the way. You can't fall too far behind in this match. Owen played a Lasher of his own, and Michael had a Tarfire to get rid of it. The Figure race was on, and Michael had the clear advantage. Owen didn't have a fourth land, and Michael did, which allowed him to make a 4/4 before Owen could. With MJ on five lands the following turn, Owen was forced to use a Flame Javelin on the Figure of Destiny rather than the freshly-cast Demigod of Revenge Michael had just made. Trying to kill a 8/8 was out of the question, where the 5/4 might be manageable.

    Despite his best efforts, though, the Demigod proved too much to handle, and Owen ended up down a game.

    "Does it feel nice to outdraw your opponent," Owen asked as he reached for his sideboard?

    "Outdraw? Whaddaya mean? I had the sick reads. I saw you were a happy man and figured you had the Ram-Gang," Michael joked. Despite being down a game, even Owen managed a little chuckle at that.

    Jacob 1, Turtenwald 0

    "Stigma Lasher is a little better than I gave him credit for, I guess," Michael mused as he looked through his sideboard. "He was really important in the last match as well. He's no Blood Knight, though."

    "Why not just complain some more, Mr. National Champion," Owen chided him before adding that he agreed that the Lasher was a "good man."

    Owen Turtenwald is also a 'good man.'
    Owen was a little displeased with his opening seven, and was forced to drop to six on the play. His next six were a little slow, allowing him only an Ashenmoor Gouger on his third turn. Michael came out a little quicker, and his first-turn Figure of Destiny lived to become a 2/2. He followed that up with an Ashenmoor Gouger to match Owen's.

    Owen tried to slow Michael down a bit and chose to Puncture Blast the Figure of Destiny, forcing Michael to pump it in response. This ate Michael's turn, but, he didn't really have anything else to do and Owen had no blocking creatures. He did have something to do on his next turn, though, and Demigod of Revenge made a second appearance on Michael's side. Demigod advantage is pretty important in the mirror match, and it exacerbated Owen's already bad situation. He was able to finish off the Figure of Destiny with a Tarfire, but the four-toughness beaters were too hard to deal with and he packed it in. Ten minutes was all it took to decide this match's outcome.

    "See you Day two," Michael offered as they walked away from the table.

    Demigod of Revenge defeats Owen Turtenwald 2-0.



     
  • Round 6 Feature Match: "Q’ed for Berlin?"
    Brett Blackman vs. Gerry Thompson
    by Bill Stark
  • "Q'ed for Berlin?" Gerry chided his young opponent Brett Blackman after sitting down at the table. Meekly Brett shook his head ‘no' before turning the question back on his opponent. "Nope," Gerry nonchalantly responded.

    "Good luck," Blackman politely offered to Thompson.

    "Won't need it," Gerry replied.

    Brett opened on a mulligan, but neither player had a play over the first few turns. Gerry, playing a deck designed by Patrick Chapin, eventually got on the board with a Kitchen Finks. Blackman followed up close behind with a Bitterblossom and Gerry tried to sculpt a better hand with some card drawing. His Oona's Grace met no resistance from Brett, but a hard-cast Mulldrifter ate a Cryptic Command.

    A host of spells flew across the board. A second Mulldrifter from Thompson resolved, Blackman continued cranking out Faeries with his Bitterblossom and pumped them with Scion of Oona, Thompson countered with a Firespout on flying creatures, Blackman countered back with a Nameless Inversion on Thompson's Kitchen Finks. The frenetic pace of the two players and their decks made for solid crowd entertainment but challenged everyone to keep up with what was going on. Brett's forces felt larger than Gerry's, but thanks to the Kitchen Finks Gerry held a lead on life at 18-8. His Shriekmaw threatened to keep things close with Blackman, but Brett had yet another answer for the 3/2 in the form of Sower of Temptation.

    With a much more sizeable clock, Brett Blackman tried to end things quickly, but Gerry wasn't going down without a fight. A Thompson Cloudthresher ate a Spellstutter Sprite from Blackman, but let Gerry use a Cryptic Command to counter a Mistbind Clique and bounce Sower of Temptation, buying himself at least a turn against his Faeries opponent. When his Firespout managed to wipe out his opponent's board and a Shriekmaw attack left Blackman at 2, things looked good for the Iowa transplant.

    Not to be outdone, Brett made a second Sower of Temptation to re-steal his opponent's Shriekmaw, but saw those plans ended at the hands of a third Firespout from Gerry T. At 1 life from his own Bitterblossom Brett had to resolve a Mistbind Clique, but when Gerry revealed a Cryptic Command, Blackman simply nodded his head and reached for his sideboard.

    Thompson 1, Blackman 0

    For the second time in the match, Brett Blackman sent his opening hand back for a second look. Unlike the first game, however, his six-card hand wasn't any good either and he shipped it for five. When his five revealed no lands, Blackman had no choice but to go to four.

    Sighing, Blackman's opponent spoke up from across the table: "No justice. If I lose this..." he said, trailing off.

    Brett didn't back down, carefully peeling his first draw of the game off the top and excitedly plopping both it (a Secluded Glen) and a Bitterblossom onto the table. If you have to mulligan to four, a turn-two Bitterblossom is a pretty good start.

    Of course, a turn-three Bitterblossom is even better, but when Brett attempted it Gerry had a Broken Ambitions to prevent the enchantment from hitting play. Blackman didn't care, following up his first two Bitterblossoms with a third copy of the card. Thompson could only offer up a snicker, building up his forces with a Plumeveil and Kitchen Finks while evoking a Mulldrifter. The totals stood 23-11 in Gerry's favor.

    Blackman wanted a race, using a Scion of Oona to start getting in against his opponent. Not afraid of where his life total was at, Brett used a Thoughtseize to nab a Cryptic Command from Gerry Thompson. With only four lands in play, Gerry was a long way off from playing the Austere Command in his hand, but more Mulldrifters ensured he'd probably get there and that attacking was going to be an unprofitable position for Blackman. Still, so far behind on cards he had no choice, crashing in with his Faerie Rogues to put his opponent at 17, but losing two of the creatures in the process.

    The Bitterblossoms continued ticking down against Blackman while Gerry evoked and Makeshift Mannequined Mulldrifter after Mulldrifter, confident in his high life total and ability to block thanks to a second Plumeveil. Things were not looking good for Brett Blackman, and a Kitchen Finks from Gerry set the totals at 17-3 in Thompson's favor. With only one turn left to live, Brett evoked a Shriekmaw to remove one of the Plumeveils from Thompson. Gerry did some math, checked to make sure his opponent could only attack for 16, and allowed the spell to resolve. When Blackman realized Gerry's math was correct, he extended the hand.

    "Good luck," Brett encouraged his opponent.

    "Thanks," Gerry responded.

    Gerry Thompson defeats Brett Blackman 2-0.


     
  • 4:35 p.m. - From the Dealers' Booth
    by Bill Stark
  • Earlier in the day we heard from a number of pros about what cards from Eventide would have the most impact on Block Constructed. While pros certainly know their stuff, there is another source often turned to in times of confusion over the impact of a new set that's never biased save by the market: card dealers.

    Stillmoon Cavalier
    Cavalier has seen a meteoric rise in popularity.
    Chris Carney, a seven year employee with Strike Zone Online was happy to fill us in on what his biggest sellers were on the weekend. "Stillmoon Cavalier was my number one," he said before quickly adding "Figure of Destiny was a solid number two." Ben Bleiweiss from Starcitygames and David Hayes, owner of Black and Blue, agreed. Said Ben "Stillmoon Cavalier has definitely been the most requested card I've heard this weekend."

    Two cards many dealers weren't expecting to hear a lot of requests for were Runed Halo and Archon of Justice. "I think some of the pros are using them, and people found out and started hitting them up," explained Carney with Strike Zone. His intuition was dead on with a deck designed by Patrick Chapin seeing play in the hands of many of the game's biggest names like Paul Cheon and Steve Sadin.

    Still other rares saw big play at the dealer's table but haven't seen as much on the top tables. "Stigma Lasher was my number two," said David Hayes, who added that filter lands like Wooded Bastion and Twilight Mire were also strong sellers. Judging by the popularity of previous iterations of those lands, that probably comes as no surprise to anyone.

    Unmake
    One of the most popular common requests on the weekend.
    Of course, rares aren't all that provide a barometer for what's being played in the format. "We've sold a lot of Snakeforms and Recumbent Blisses this weekend." Chris Carney offered when asked what non-rares had been hot items. "And Unmake! Everyone wants Unmake." David Hayes of Black and Blue echoed that sentiment, adding "Soul Snuffers has also been a surprise uncommon hit for us this weekend."

    Which Eventide cards will have the most impact on Day 2 and the Top 8? You'll have to keep checking back on Magicthegathering.com to find out!


     
  • 4:39 p.m. - I Thought It Was Called Vanishing Now
    by Nate Price
  • If Brian Kibler was a Magic card, he would officially have fading. He dropped by the writer’s table with a little story he knew I’d appreciate.

    Apparently, one of his earlier opponents had mulliganned and then peeked at his top card before shuffling his hand in. Kibler, wanting to pass on a little good advice, gave the guy the standard "you never look" speech. You know, the one that effectively says that you don’t want to ever get to a situation where you might consider keeping a bad hand because so many times, the top of your deck has been the exact perfect card or combination of cards to draw out of it. It’s bad logic and can really lead to some poor play.

    Coming soon to a milk carton near you.

    Well, sitting right next to Kibler was Patrick "There’s a Method to My Madness" Chapin, who starts in on a little soliloquy about how Kibler’s argument only applies if you’re thinking rationally. After a few more minutes of explaining why it isn’t always a bad idea to look, Chapin’s made his point. Kibler’s opponent, obviously impressed, turns back to him and says, "No offense, but I’m going to listen to him, because he’s a Pro."

    I almost fell out of my seat laughing as he told me the story. I had him stick around for a few seconds more to snap a quick photo to stick up alongside this blog entry. The cherry on top was that after he left, a player who was standing in front of us and had seen me take Kibler’s picture looked up at me and innocently asked, "Who was that?"


     
  • Round 7 Feature Match: An Act of Demigod
    Josh Wludyka vs. Brian Kibler
    by Nate Price
  • I had to apologize to Wludyka before the match started for featuring his match this round against a relative unknown. Kibler, buried under a few hundred decibels of music, was oblivious to my snarky little remark, though I'm pretty sure he would have appreciated it. When he did take the headphones off to start the match, all Wludyka could do was smile.

    I don't know who this is, but he sure is happy!

    Kibler led off with a first-turn Thoughtseize revealing a Tarfire, Lash Out, Ashenmoor Gouger, Demigod of Revenge, and Thoughtseize. A saucy hand, I had to admit. Kibler stripped the Gouger, and then immediately Thoughtseized again to take the Demigod. With both four-toughness creatures in the graveyard, Kibler would presumable have an easier time keeping the game under control.

    Wludyka had drawn a Boggart Ram-Gang on his first turn, but chose instead to play a Figure of Destiny and leave himself a chance to pump it. He wanted Kibler to commit to killing it instead of the Ram-Gang, which would be much more useful in the long run against Kibler's Doran, the siege Tower deck. Kibler bit, and used a Nameless Inversion to kill the Figure before it could get larger than a 2/2.

    A Chameleon Colossus for Kibler took the title of "biggest creature on the board," and Wludyka had to pull some strings to get rid of it. He used a Lash Out during his upkeep, clashing a Boggart Ram-Gang to the bottom, and then Tarfired to finish it off. His deck didn't give him the fourth land he was looking for, and he had to just pass the turn.

    Kibler played a Treefolk Harbinger to fetch his deck's namesake to the top of his deck. Before the Siege Tower could hit play, though, Wludyka finally played his Boggart Ram-Gang and sent it in. Doran came down the turn after, and Kibler looked to be putting the pieces together. If he could get around the Ram-Gang's wither and survive a few more turns, he could be alright.

    And then Wludyka played Demigod of Revenge. The copy Kibler had Thoughtseized on the second turn joined it, and Kibler made a sound I've only heard coming from a hobo after his third bottle of hooch. Officially through his allotment of consonants for the weekend, Kibler conceded.

    Wludyka 1, Kibler 0

    Does this man look afraid of Pat Chapin?

    Despite losing in projectile vomit-inducing fashion, Kibler remained chatty between games. "I just played against a five-color control deck. I can't stand it, all the hate," Wludyka admitted to him as he peered through his sideboard.

    "What, you don't like Runed Halo naming Demigod of Revenge?"

    "Beating Pat [Chapin] at the store all the time, who thought he'd take it to this level," Wludyka said with the self-satisfaction of knowing that Chapin wasn't around to hear.
    "I was actually playing against those guys last night, and was almost a convert, but I had just traded a bunch of cards for my entire deck," Kibler revealed. Somehow, I just find it a little easier to picture Kibler attacking with greenish fatties than Mulldrifters.

    "I'm trying to remember the last Grand Prix I played in. It had to be like 2005. I took a bit of a break; no one ever quits."

    As they shuffled and presented their decks, they wished each other good luck. When Kibler saw his hand, he immediately remarked, "I didn't actually get good luck."

    "Ha, same," Wludyka laughed as he took a mulligan of his own.

    Kibler started the second game off with a second-turn Wolf-Skull Shaman, which failed to get him a Shaman on the following turn. He did, however, have a Treefolk Harbinger to fetch himself a Doran, the Siege Tower. "It's unfortunate I didn't have this earlier," Wludyka lamented as he played Lash Out to kill the Wolf-Skull Shaman. When Kibler revealed the Doran he had just placed on his deck, he gave a little mock surprise and, spirit fingers raised to the sky, chirped, "Surprise surprise!"

    Doran came crashing down on the next turn, but even the mighty Siege Tower crumbles to an evoke Spitebellows. Wludyka stuck to his "if you're going to play it, I'm going to remove it" theme and used a Puncture Blast to remove Kibler's brand new Scarblade Elite. Kibler, not to be left out of the removal party, aimed a Nameless Inversion at a freshly-cast Figure of Destiny.

    With both players' reserves of removal close to, if not entirely, depleted, Wludyka finally managed to get some threats to stick. Consecutive turns brought consecutive Boggart Ram-Gangs, which started taking three-point chunks out of Kibler's life total. Kibler had a triple-hybrid man of his own, but his Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers didn't survive the Flame Javelin that Wludyka threw at it on the next turn. Wludyka had yet another Boggart Ram-Gang to follow that up, which forced Kibler to Crib Swap a Ram-Gang just to stay at five. A Shriekmaw on the following turn brought the Ram-Gang total down to one, but all Wludyka had to do was untap and draw a land for his Demigod of Revenge to come over for the final five.

    Josh Wludyka defeats Brian Kibler 2-0

    Kibler's Shaman is so unreliable.

    After the game, Kibler injected a little levity into his own loss. "I think if you didn't have removal for my [Wolf-Skull] Shaman, the game might have gone a little differently. Maybe not, though. I went to the dealer table and asked if they had any tokens, and when they said 'no,' I said that it probably didn't matter since my Shaman never hits."


     
  • 7:11 p.m. – Xeroxing Pancakes
    by Nate Price
  • With 897 cards legal in the Lorwyn Block Constructed format, a certain number of interesting card interactions can be expected to show up. Before every tournament, the judges responsible for keeping the peace, rules, and sanity of an event gather under the watchful eye of the Head Judge for the event to go over these potential "interesting interactions." Here at Grand Prix-Denver, Head Judge Riccardo Tessitori, wanted to discuss a few interactions involving Snakeform and Mirrorweave.

    Riccardo Tessitori, shown here two seconds before his head exploded.

    For simplicity's sake, and I use that phrase lightly, I'm going to start with Mirrorweave. Mirrorweave turns every creature into a copy of another target creature. So if you decide to Mirrorweave a Grizzly Bear, every creature becomes a Grizzly Bear. Seems easy, right? Ok, now if you Mirrorweave a Lord of Atlantis, all creatures become copies of Lord of Atlantis, each of which gives each other creature +1/+1 and islandwalk. Therefore, if there are six creatures in play, they each become 7/7 islandwalkers. Ok, now let's Mirrorweave those six creatures into Thistledown Lieges. Each creature becomes an 11/13.

    Are you following me?

    Now it's time for some real fun. Let's turn one of the creatures in play into a fully-transformed Figure of Destiny. If you Mirrorweave creatures into it, they all become 1/1, untransformed versions. If you remember that Mirrorweave turns creatures into copies of the printed card, it makes sense. The same concept is applied if you activate a Mutavault and Mirrorweave creatures into it. Any creatures that are not activated Mutavaults become copies of Mutavault the land, not Mutavault the creature. They cease to be creatures, but can be activated and turned into creatures. This effectively means that a player can use Mirrorweave to more or less negate an attack step by turning all creatures into lands for the turn. Seems odd, but I'll buy it.

    This gets really interesting when you combine the three cards. If you have a fully-leveled Figure of Destiny that gets Mirrorweaved into a Mutavault, it becomes a flying, first-striking land. If you choose to activate it (it is a Mutavault now, after all), it becomes a 2/2 flying, first-striking Creature Land. You should note that Mirrorweaving a Mutavault when a creature printed with a keyword ability doesn't result in a land with that ability, but if you take a creature that has gained an ability or altered its power and/or toughness (such as a fully-leveled Figure of Destiny or a pumped Chameleon Colossus), and turn it into a Mutavault, the Mirrorweave doesn't get rid of it. There's a difference between printed abilities and gained abilities. The short answer to why this is the case is that Mirrorweave creates copies of a creature to which any after-market augmentations are then added. Or, as I have just relegated to saying, it works because Riccardo said so.

    You figure it out.

    The last little interaction I want to mention involving Mirrorweave involves creatures with champion. If a creature has championed a permanent, and it gets Mirrorweaved into a creature without champion, and it dies while it's a copy of that creature, the championed permanent stays removed from the game. If the creature it gets Mirrorweaved into another creature with champion, even if it is a champion of a different type, the championed permanent returns to play when the creature dies.

    Without the champion ability to trigger when the creature leaves play, the championed permanent doesn't know it's time to return to play. Therefore, the same effect occurs if the creature dies while transformed by Snakeform, since the Snake has no abilities, which includes a lack of champion.

    This is where things can start to get complex (ha!). Snakeform creates a series of really cool, but really strange interactions with cards. Unlike Mirrorweave, which creates changes creatures but allows augmentations to be applied on top, Snakeform simply wipes the slate clean and gets rid of all abilities. This means that a creature with printed flying doesn't have flying. A creature that has gained flying doesn't have flying. If you want the snake to fly, you'd better lift it after it's become a snake.

    Part of what makes Snakeform work this way is how Magic resolves the gaining and loss of abilities and power and toughness. Think of a stack of pancakes. In order to get to the pancakes at the bottom, you have to first remove the pancakes at the top. Snakeform‘s alterations occur at a lower level in the stack of pancakes than any of the abilities that add attributes to a card. Therefore, they gain the abilities and alter their power and toughness before Snakeform‘s pancake takes them away. Snakeform always wins.

    One cool outcome of this is when dealing with the hybrid enchantments from Shadowmoor and Eventide. If a Boggart Ram-Gang is enchanted with a Runes of the Deus, it is normally a 5/5 double-striking trampler. Most impressive. If it gets Snakeformed, it becomes a 2/2 with no abilities. The reason for this is that the pancake that gives it trample from the Runes of the Deus is above the pancake that takes it away via Snakeform. However, the pancake that gives the creature +1/+1 is lower than Snakeform‘s pancake that shrinks it to a 1/1.

    Boggart Ram-Gang+ Runes of the Deus + Snakeform = Grizzly Bear.

    You can take this last example one level further if it was a monored creature enchanted with the Runes of the Deus. In this case, the creature never had trample to lose. Therefore, when the Snakeform makes it into a green creature, it is able to gain trample after the Snakeform has resolved. Essentially, because the colors before Snakeform were different, the end result is two different creatures. Pretty wild, huh?

    Because so many cards have been created, on occasion, fun little interactions involving cards like these show up. Usually, they are obscure enough that they never really become relevant. However, Mirrorweave and Snakeform see some serious play in Lorwyn Block Constructed. That means that there are plenty of opportunities for strange situations to arise.

    Luckily for players, there are always dozens of wonderful people running around in black-and-white striped shirts who are kept up to date on all of these little issues. If anyone ever has any questions, answers are a mere judge call away. Hopefully, after seeing the complexity of some of the things they have to be able to understand and explain will give you a little empathy for them. I know that my head hurts just trying to put these examples into words. Even Riccardo's head hurt after proofreading this for me. So the next time you have a hard time understanding a judge's explanation of a rule or interaction, just imagine trying to explain how a land can have flying and first strike. Good luck with that one.

    Their shirts give them +1/+1 and the ability to understand how these cards work.


     
  • 6:07 - Feature Match Round 8
    Tomoharu Saito vs. Kyle Dembinski
    by Bill Stark
  • Some technical difficulties in the background caused the lights to dim and forced the players to shuffle for their first game in near total darkness. While the judge staff diligently resolved the problem, the players in the crowd jokingly called for flashlights so they could watch their favorite players in the feature match area.

    Speaking of which, Tomoharu Saito is a man who needs little introduction. One of the cadre of Japanese pros who travels the world competing and reigning Pro Player of the Year, he is well respected within the Magic community. Kyle Dembinski was most recently seen winning a laptop prize package just one weekend prior to Grand Prix-Denver at U.S. Nationals in Chicago. The plucky American lost the die roll to Saito, then followed up with a mulligan of his opening hand.

    Saito’s first play of the game was a Bloom Tender, something the crowd hadn’t seen previously in the day in the feature match area. Playing the role of spoilsport, however, was Dembinski who had a Peppersmoke for the 1/1, then a turn-two Bitterblossom courtesy of his Faeries deck. What he didn’t have, however, was a counterspell of some sort for Saito’s turn-four Chameleon Colossus.

    A Sower of Temptation managed to convince Saito’s 4/4 to come play for Kyle’s team and when Tomoharu’s Mulldrifter and Firespout on fliers were countered, he scooped his cards up for the second game, bringing the Round 8 opener to an early close for his innovative Elemental Acceleration deck.

    Dembinski 1, Saito 0

    The players had finished their first game in lightning fast fashion, eating just five minutes off the clock. They shuffled in silence, in part because of a language barrier, but mostly because the two players have naturally quiet personas.

    Superstar Tomoharu Saito brings yet another innovation to play.
    "I start," Tomoharu said, pointing at himself with his thumb before leading on a Vivid Marsh. A Thoughtseize from the Japanese player revealed two copies of Sower of Temptation, two copies of Broken Ambitions, Sunken Ruins, Spellstutter Sprite, and Bitterblossom, which was sent to the bin. Dembinski had only a single land to add to the Swamp he made on the first turn, risking a possible mana screw though the clash ability on his Broken Ambitions could help him get to where he needed to be. Still, he missed his third land drop.

    Having made a Smokebraider, Saito was able to play a Horde of Notions with ease, even having up the single mana he’d need to pay for his opponent’s Broken Ambitions. When the top card from Dembinski’s deck wasn’t a land, he scooped his cards up.

    Dembinski 1, Saito 1

    The judge at the table leaned in to inform the players they had 40 minutes left in the round, having used only 10 for two games. That brought a laugh from both as they assured the judge they’d manage to finish in time. At X-1, both players were solid candidates for competing on Sunday, but to maximize their shot at playing the single elimination rounds, they would definitely need a win in Round 8. In an effort to re-focus himself, Saito gave himself a patented slap to the face, forcing himself to center on the game.

    Could the American Dembinski hold on?
    Dembinski spent a long time on his opening hand, agonizing over whether to send it back. The position was a tough one to be in, risking an X-1 record and guaranteed shot at Day 2 on sending a hand back while facing the best pro in the world (at least according to the Player of the Year standings). Whether that pressure was affecting him Kyle didn’t let on, finally coming to the decision to send his seven back for six, and calmly doing just that. When his second hand wasn’t that good either, however, he started to let some frustration show through, sending his hand back for five.

    A turn-two Smokebraider for Saito was answered by a Thoughtseize from his opponent. Kyle saw two Cloudthresher, two lands, a Thoughtseize, and a Horde of Notions. The 5/5 went to the bin and Kyle still had enough mana to make a Bitterblossom as well. Saito gave a hiss of disappointment before accelerating out a Mulldrifter on his own turn.

    Dembinski had a second Thoughtseize to bin one of Saito’s Cloudthreshers, but he had managed to deal 6 damage to himself over the course of the game, and Saito had a hand of gas to Kyle’s lonely Sunken Ruins in hand. Tomoharu opted to unload, playing an Ashenmoor Gouger and Bloom Tender while his opponent was low on options, and seemingly began to put the game away.

    Trying to stay in it, Kyle went for a Mistbind Clique during Tomoharu’s upkeep. That brought a flurry of responses as Saito made a Cloudthresher to wipe his handless opponent’s board of Faeries and Dembinski was forced to activate his Mutavault in response in an effort to keep his Bitterblossom on the board. By the end of the turn, the Clique had simply traded for Saito’s Gouger and Dembinski, at 9 life, was left to accruing Faerie Rogue tokens again.

    A second, then third Ashenmoor Gouger from Saito served as constant Abysses alongside his Cloudthresher and Dembinski simply couldn’t keep up. After wave after wave of Faerie tokens bit the dust and no life saving Cryptic Commands came from the top, Kyle had no choice but to extend his hand to Tomoharu.

    Tomoharu Saito defeats Kyle Dembinski 2-1.


     
  • Feature Match Round 9: So Cold
    Paul Cheon vs. Stephen Barnett
    by Nate Price
  • "Do or die, baby!"

    It’s a little odd talking about "local player" Paul Cheon outside of NorCal, but a little over a year ago, he packed his bags and headed out here to Colorado. Now he lives in the mountains, has grown a mountain-man beard, and hunts the majestic elk in his free time.

    I wish.

    "My first feature match," the beardless Cheon beamed over at me. "Maybe my last!"

    Paul Cheon, sans beard, is excited at the prospect of watching tomorrow from the sidelines.

    The first few turns progressed with Vivid lands coming into play for both players, which normally would lead to a slow start. Barnett was playing a Merfolk deck featuring Chameleon Colossus, though, and his second through fourth turns were spent adding a couple of Silvergill Adepts and the aforementioned Colossus to his wrecking crew. So much for slow.

    Cheon, in need of an answer, evoked a Mulldrifter to draw some cards. He found a Shriekmay, which he evoked to kill an Adept, and a Runed Halo, which he played naming Chameleon Colossus. When Barnett picked it up to read it, Cheon smiled and voiced Barnett’s thoughts with a "What’s that do?" He had slowed the beats, but Barnett had another Silvergill Adept to replace the one Cheon had killed. Paul was dropping fast, and Barnett’s upcoming attack knocked him to twelve.

    At the end of Cheon’s next turn, Barnett attempted to play a Vendilion Clique. Cheon, wanting to protect the other Runed Halo in his hand, chose to Cryptic Command it and draw a card. When he attempted to shut down the remainder of Barnett’s attackers with a second Runed Halo, Stephen was ready with a Cryptic Command of his own. Unable to cheat death any longer, Cheon packed it in.

    "I don’t know if I can beat that draw."

    Barnett 1, Cheon 0

    Game 2 started with a couple of Stonybrook Bannerets that ramped into a whole lotta nothing. Cheon started this game in the same manner as the first, just evoking a Mulldrifter to dig through his deck. Despite not really having any powerful follow-ups to his Bannerets, Barnett still maintained some pressure. His two little Wizards and his Mutavault crashed into Paul turn after turn. Unfazed, Cheon just kept digging through his deck, this time using Oona’s Grace (I think I’m in love!) to toss away the extra lands in his hand.

    Barnett wants another draw Cheon ‘can’t beat.’

    A Silvergill Adept was the first big addition to Barnett’s team, and Cheon wasn’t too happy. He was forced to attempt to play a Cloudthresher to block Barnett’s men, but he was ready with a Sage’s Dousing. Cheon drew his card and was forced to think for a bit. He was down to seven, and, counting the Mutavault, Barnett had six power worth of attackers. He decided to play Hallowed Burial to set Barnett back to just a Mutavault. The "little land that could" kept trucking away and dropped Cheon to five.

    Cheon exhaled sharply as Barnett played a Chameleon Colossus after attacking. He attempted a Broken Ambitions for one just to clash and force Barnett to tap out. He managed to wash a land away from the top of his deck, but the top of Barnett’s deck was another Colossus. Shaking his head as he played it, Cheon dropped an Archon of Justice into play, and had to reluctantly evoke a Shriekmaw to kill it. This got rid of the first Colossus, but he knew another one was waiting in the weeds to pick up where the first left off. In addition, the Mutavault was bringing him closer to death each turn. Barnett untapped, attacked with his Mutavault, and played the replacement Colossus. Cheon was at three.

    Kitchen Finks bought Cheon a temporary reprieve, giving him a couple of blockers, as well as raising him to five life. When Barnett played a Sower of Temptation on the following turn, though, Paul was forced to Broken Ambitions for enough to force Barnett to tap all of his mana but one. That kept the Mutavault back, and the resulting swing from the Colossus brought Cheon to one. His clash revealed a Shriekmaw, which, if nothing else, would give him a way to get his Kitchen Finks back.

    Cheon drew the elemental and evoked it to return control of his Finks. He also had an Archon of Justice, which provided a nice way to remove the Colossus if he got a chance. It was all just posturing, though, and hoping that Barnett might miss something. He had a Colossus and two Mutavaults to Paul’s two creatures, and Cheon was tapped out. When he activated his two lands and attacked, Cheon conceded.

    "I guess I’m just cold to Merfolk," Cheon admitted after the match. "I’ve played it two rounds in a row, and lost both times."

    Someone get Cheon a jacket.

    When the deck’s designer, Pat Chapin, stopped by to check on Cheon, Paul told him about his losses.

    "I’ve lost to two Merfolk decks in a row; I don’t think it’s a good match-up."

    "Hmm, didn’t test that one," Chapin said with a sideways grin.

    Stephen Barnett defeats Paul Cheon 2-0

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