Day One Blog - 2008 Grand Prix–Indianapolis!

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  • Saturday, 10:37 a.m. - Event Logistics
    by Rich Hagon
  • On the European Grand Prix circuit, once we reach 800 players - the point at which the cut to Day Two moves from just 64 to 128 - the tournament automatically splits into two pods, reconnecting at the start of Day Two, with the Top 64 in each pod advancing. With the growing success of the Grand Prix program, we pretty much expect that there will be enough Europeans to take us down the multi-tournament Day One route. Historically, that hasn’t been the case in North America. Even Grand Prix that flirt with the 1,000 player barrier still run as a single unified event. That format will be stretched to the limit here in Indianapolis.

    As the first of the new Summer Series, featuring more cash and more Pro Points than have ever been offered on the Grand Prix circuit, the Convention Center here is bursting at the seams. The record for the largest North American Grand Prix hasn’t just been passed here today, it’s been Demolished (at a cost of four mana, presumably.) Close to some of the hotbeds of US Magic, Indy is pretty easy to get to, and has a real gaming history. The result? 1121 players sitting down to register Sealed pools. And in about 90 minutes, we will embark upon not seven, not eight, not even nine, but an astonishing ten Rounds of Swiss action. At the peak of the action, Round Four (where all the byes have been exhausted) will likely feature more than five hundred simultaneous matches in one joined-up tournament.

    Two thoughts - first, let’s hope players understand the rules about playing in a timely fashion during extra turns, since this event is going nowhere until everyone’s done each round. And second, praying for a lack of in-depth Judge Investigations seems a solid choice. Boys and girls, we are heading for a long, long day.

  • Saturday, 11:46 a.m. - 10 versus 1111 Part One
    by Rich Hagon
  • So, mad fool that I am, I’ve decided to offer you just ten names to take down the other 1111 come the end of Sunday. And because I won the toss against fellow Coverage writer Tim Willoughby, I got to choose where my team of ten come from. That’s easy. Given the choice between North America or the Rest of the World, I take team Planet every time. Since there are only approximately, ooh, ten players from the Rest of the World with proven Magic pedigree my choices were easy. Here they are, and remember that the winner comes from this lot. You heard it here first.

    Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa - fresh from the Top 8 in Hollywood, the Brazilian now has three Pro Tour Top 8s to go with 3 final table finishes in Grand Prix. A Level 7 Pro, he already has 14 Pro Points, and his status as a Pro for 2009 is already assured. My second Brazilian isn’t necessarily who you might expect. Willy Edel may be gone now, but that still leaves a worthy replacement on my go-to list in the shape of Carlos Romao, the 2002 World Champion.

    Remi Fortier - the French winner of Pro Tour: Valencia has been quiet since, until he came to Grand Prix: Birmingham with Faeries and made it all the way to the final. That’s a thoroughly useful boost to an indifferent first half of the season.

    Raphael Levy - the second Frenchman in the list finished joint sixth in the Player of the Year Race last time around, and yet again he’s proving himself superior to most of the field most of the time. Back to back Top 8s at Brussels and Birmingham prove the point.

    Gabriel Nassif was an unexpected attendee here, but with business beckoning elsewhere in the States he found the time to sling spells once again. Although he made Day Two in Hollywood, that was on the low end of expectations, but this guy has eight PT Sundays to his name. That’s a lot.

    My final Frenchman is arguably the best Magic player alive right now, or at least the best Magic player alive who doesn’t just turn up occasionally and win the whole thing. Yes, it’s Guillaume Wafo-Tapa who, following a hideous back end of Day Two, finished a lowly (that’s irony folks) 13th. Rarely in the history of the game can we point to players and genuinely predict a Top 8 finish. He may be that good, although Sealed might be an Achilles heel.

    Next up come two of the three famous Japanese travellers seen so regularly on European shores. Tomaharu Saitou is the reigning Player of the Year. Frankly the likelihood of him retaining that title is pretty minimal, unless he can pull together some serious results through the Summer Series to haul himself back into the Race. At the time of writing, his most probable successor is Shuuhei Nakamura, a semi-final in Hollywood marking his fifth Super Sunday appearance. Nakamura leads the Race on 34 points, and started the season in great form with a win in the first event, Grand Prix: Stuttgart.

    Next up is a welcome addition to the squad, Jelger Wiegersma of the Netherlands. Amongst the Pros we asked, he was mentioned far and away as the most likely foreign winner of this event. One of just eight current Pro players with Grand Prix Top 8s in double figures, Jelger also has a PT victory to his name on North American soil the last time the Pro Tour visited Seattle in 2004.

    And my final contender - Sam Gomersall. The man once known as the most active Magic Online player in the world has been away from the game for almost eighteen months, but as a Limited Grand Prix winner (Hasselt 2006) on playskill alone he has to be feared. So there you have it. You can forget 1111. These are the ten names you need for when the going gets tough:

    Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
    Carlos Romao
    Remi Fortier
    Raphael Levy
    Gabriel Nassif
    Guillaume Wafo-Tapa
    Tomaharu Saitou
    Shuhei Nakamura
    Jelger Wiegersma
    Sam Gomersall

    Tim Willoughby, it’s over to you.

  • Saturday, 12:34 p.m. - 10 versus 1111 Part Two
    by Tim Willoughby
  • Man... I can’t believe that I lost the completely fictional coin toss! I’m normally so good at those too...

    Now, clearly, I have a lot more names to choose from for my top 10, and I can’t help but think that Rich took the easy half of things both in terms of total Pro Points, but also lack of decisions to make. I’m not sure that his opting for Sam is a little sketchy, what with the whole 'This is a prerelease for me' factor making his life a little tricky. Anyways, onto Team America (yeah). Of the 75 players with 3 byes, the vast majority are American. For the purposes of my choices, I’m all about the 3 byes players, simply because of the bonus to tiebreakers that they get. With 10 rounds of day one, and a little over 10% making day 2, I’m looking for every edge I can get. Sorry Zac Hill, but with 2 byes, this time you don’t have my vote.

    My list (alphabetically to avoid offending anyone) begins with Tim Aten. Tim hasn’t had so busy a season this year, as much as anything due to his aversion to travel. A limited GP seems like ideal fodder for Tim though, so he gets my vote, as if he didn’t have it anyway for sharing a name with me (us Tim’s look out for each other).

    Paul Cheon is one of the leading US players today, and is having a fair season, so he is a lock for my ten.

    Next up is Antonino Da Rosa. There was a bit of discussion as to which team was going to get Ant, with his dual nationality, but I was quick to grab him for Team USA. Earlier in the weekend, Da Rosa was talking about showing up to some GPs later in the year so that he could stay ‘on the train’ and remain qualified for the PT for 2009. I pointed out to him that he should just win this one. If he does, then we’ll both be happy, and Rich will owe me dinner. Indianapolis is a great place for dinners.

    Mark Herberholz is most often referred to as a constructed master, but I’m inclined to suggest that he’s just a master in general. Ever since seeing his Chicken Danc e in Prague following drafting a very silly deck at the Pro Tour, I’ve had him in the back of my mind as a hot ticket for limited. Don’t let me down Heezy.

    Chris Lachman shot to notoriety as one half of the Pro Tour San Diego winning ‘Sliver Kids’ and has been trying to get away from the nickname ever since. His efforts to do so, which include creditable performances at a whole bunch of events since are enough to make him a lock for my team.

    Ben Lundquist I first encountered at a team draft in Paris, where miraculously the writers managed to take one, in spite of the fact that yours truly was playing. That was the day that I was officially labelled as ‘not being British’. Suddenly it makes a whole lot more sense that I’m pulling for America this weekend. Ben has the uncanny ability to win a whole lot. A past member of the US national team with 3 GP top 8s to his name, he was Kyle Sanchez pick to ‘beat everyone but Paul Cheon’. As Cheon is on the team too, I can live with that.

    Steve Sadin, with both feet now functioning more or less as feet should, gets the nod as being not only a fellow writer, but an all around amazing Magic player right now. A lot of talk goes on about his studious, methodical approach to winning, but I’d just like to point out that in addition to this, Steve is a hoot. For this, as much as anything, he gets locks up his spot.

    Luis Scott-Vargas, the other part of the gestalt entity with Paul Cheon could not really not be on this list while Neon Cheon is. Currently 5 points behind Cheon in the Player of the Year race, Luis has more to do here. That fire is what I’m looking for in my ten.

    While we’re finishing off pairs, let’s get Jacob Van-Lunen in the mix. Recently described by none other than Zvi Mowshowitz as ‘The Man’. I don’t bet against Zvi.

    One other person I don’t like to bet against is Mr Gabe Walls. GWalls has one of the shortest trips to the venue of anyone in the room, living a scant 15 minutes away at a push. He’s wickedly good at Magic, and one of the last American players to be on a winning Worlds team. Having watched him draft for much of yesterday, I can confidently say that should he make day 2, he’ll be in great shape to make a run for top 8.

    Ok America, your team may have less total Pro Player levels, but there is a huge amount of talent there. Here’s the list; make me proud!

    Tim Aten Paul Cheon Antonino Da Rosa Mark Herberholz Chris Lachman Ben Lundquist Steve Sadin Luis Scott-Vargas Jacob Van Lunen Gabe Walls

  • Saturday, 12:11 p.m. - Going Large in Indy
    by Tim Willoughby
  • If Starship built their city on rock and roll, Indianapolis built itself squarely on gaming. This is a city dominated by its big sports teams. This is the city whose racetrack is internationally known. This is a city where for one weekend a year, gamers from around the globe congregate for the massive gaming celebration that is GenCon.

    It’s no big surprise to me that the first big Magic event in Indianapolis for nearly 10 years (just a week or so shy) is a big one, but just how big is pretty incredible. Here’s the top 5 GPs for attendance in North America, before Summer GPs started with a bang here in Indy, smashing records along the way.

    GP Philadelphia 2008 – 969 players
    GP New Jersey 2004 – 958 players
    GP New Jersey 2006 – 915 players
    GP Columbus 2007 – 883 players
    GP Dallas 2007 – 747 players

    As you can see, getting into 4 digits has taken a while, but with the extra prize payouts and Pro Points, America now knows what it’s like to have 10 rounds cutting to top 128, and a whopping 1,121 players. Yikes.

    Indianapolis was the first city in the America that I ever visited, and it’s still a pretty special place for me. I was first introduced to the U S of A as the place where the food is awesome, the portions are big, the weather is hot and the service is incredible. Indianapolis ticks every box in this regard.

    What Indianapolis lacks in beach (having neatly sidestepped the whole coast issue) it more than makes up for in prime beef. I’m pretty sure that given the opportunity, I would happily become corn fed by proxy here.

    The steak dinner last night was a new pinnacle in this writer’s not insubstantial cow-eating experience. This photo was taken shortly before a veritable feeding frenzy.

    It's what's for dinner.

    My next big cow town is the Summer GP in Kobe. I love my job.

  • Saturday, 1:03 p.m. - Limited Information
    by Rich Hagon
  • So how do you explain the deckbuilding process of one of the game's brightest young talents without giving away the contents of their Sealed Deck for sneaky potential rivals to look up right here on That's a tricky one, but we'll give it a shot. The Pro in question is a man whose weekly column is a stern reminder to us journalists that sometimes Limited Information needs to be limited information. Yes, it's Steve Sadin, who was more than happy to show off the delightful fact that he does indeed still have two feet with which to reach his Round Four opponent, following a curiously ill-advised piece of homebrew surgery during Pro Tour: Hollywood.

    And so to the Sealed Pool. Within the first few minutes Steve was clearly committed to two colours, but the nature of Shadowmoor means that with only a couple of changes that could turn into a near-mono collection. Thanks hybrid! His initial build had a full 28 cards, with another half-dozen waiting patiently in the wings, hoping for their chance to shine. Amongst this pile sat comedy rare Reaper King, but with relatively few Scarecrows available the King was soon sent back into Steve's tournament pack, never to return. Once the Wizard of Oz references had vanished down the yellow brick road, Steve was left with 24 cards, including multiples of his favorite common, and an uncommon that most players would give their right arm (or even left foot) for.

    That's when things got tricky. With Owen Turtenwald and Gabe Walls watching on as they wrestled with their own conundrums (how many creatures do you need to run if you want to play many creature enchantments?) Steve was contemplating an authentic two-card splash. There could be little doubt that his overall quality would substantially improve, with the likely 22nd and 23rd card from the splash-free build being less than stellar. But at what cost? In and out, in and out the two cards went, with three basic land funding the splash. With time ticking away, 20 cards had been locked in within the first five minutes, but that final crucial decision remained. What did he do? Well that would be telling, and I think I'll leave Steve to do that in next week's column.

    With that final choice made, attention turned to the really important questions like what to do with the time before Round Four. Suggestions included lunch, sleep, a shave, shopping, and the clear winner - 'Anyone fancy going to a movie?'

    And in case you’re wondering, yes, we’re into extra turns. In Round One.

  • Saturday, 1:51 p.m. - Sins of the Past
    by Rich Hagon
  • Over the course of a long Magic career you might play several thousand matches. Of all your opponents, perhaps relatively few will have a significant impact on your own relationship with the game. Especially if you’re a big name in the game, playing some random guy in Round Four of a Grand Prix and beating them is likely well down your list of top Magic memories. But for the opponent, maybe simply playing you is a significant event, and how you behave is forever etched on their memory long after you’ve forgotten the whole tournament, let alone that random match.

    Talking to Jamie Parke, I found myself standing next to an extremely tall American who I didn’t recognise. Jamie introduces me to Mark le Pine. Turns out le Pine and I have history. In my first Pro Tour back at London in 1999, I’d won my first round and then lost to Raphael Levy. In round three I faced the 17 year old le Pine, who at that time was one of the hottest young stars in the game having just finished runner-up behind Kai Budde in the same World Championship that Parke made Top 8, also losing to Kai on Sunday. I was extremely nervous, and when le Pine shuffled my cards and then told me I had presented just 38 cards I thought the world was caving in. Embarassed, incredulous, humiliated, I frantically searched for the missing cards, eventually finding them nestling tight against the wall of my new deckbox. I know for certain that I am destined for a Game Loss. Mark simply said, ‘Lucky I’m a nice guy.’ He didn’t call a Judge. Didn’t claim a free game win. Determined to take advantage of his generosity I utterly butchered him in Game One and then found myself in a glorious position in the second. With Temporal Adept active, I had him right where I wanted him, stuck forever on one land and then a second in his turn, before I bounced him back down to one. Unfortunately, I was still losing life to a pesky little flyer turn after turn, and eventually on six life my patience cracked. I abandoned my Temporal Adept plan, and allowed Mark just one turn to get to three mana. One Sick and Tired later, and my Adept was dead, another 1-toughness monster was dead, and shortly thereafter I was dead. Obviously, he won game three, and I didn’t win a second match all day.

    Talking today, he didn’t remember me. He didn’t remember playing me, didn’t remember beating me, didn’t remember being almost locked out, didn’t remember Sick and Tired, and didn’t remember a random act of kindness that he really didn’t need to make.

    But I remembered, and because of that long-forgotten moment in his Magic life, Mark le Pine, now 26 and General Manager for a Massively Multiplayer Online gaming company on the East Coast and playing with just one bye here at Indianapolis, occupies a special place in my own Magic story. Sometimes kindness comes back to haunt you too.

  • Quick Questions
    by Tim Willoughby
  • Jelger Wiegersma
    Which North American wins the Grand Prix this weekend?

    Zac Hill - Zac Hill, I like my chances.

    Jelger Wiegersma - Antonino de Rosa.

    Jacob van Lunen - Steve Sadin.

    Zac Hill
    If not a North American, which foreigner wins?

    Zac Hill - Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa.

    Jelger Wiegersma - Shuuhei Nakamura.

    Jacob van Lunen - Antonino de Rosa. He's kind of foreign, right?

    Jacob Van Lunen
    What's the correct number of lands for this Sealed format?

    Zac Hill - definitely 18.

    Jelger Wiegersma - 18.

    Jacob van Lunen – I'm oscillating between 17 and 18.

  • Saturday, 4:08 p.m.: Feeling Fine about Nine
    by Rich Hagon
  • It's one of the great ironies that having spent large portions of their formative years learning to play a musical instrument to a ridiculous level, most professional musicians then spend their careers trying to earn as much money as they can whilst playing as little as possible.

    And so it is with Magic players. Never mind that the real Pros have multiple hours to wait before turning a card sideways in anger - something they're just about to do as Round Four is imminent - the fact is that for every Steve Sadin who would play Magic until Christmas apart from irritating things like bathroom breaks and food, there are a bucketload of people who groan at the prospect of a mighty ten rounds of Magic Sealed play here on Day One.

    You can therefore imagine the cheers from players, Judges, and even - yes, gentle reader - your Coverage staff when Head Judge Jason Ness confirmed that somebody somewhere had got a little overexcited in the record-breaking rush this morning, and that there would in fact be the small matter of nine rounds to accomplish today.

    With the prospect of finishing their Sealed examination sometime round about midnight, spirits soared, and with the sure and certain knowledge that Steak 'n' Shake opens 24/7, both needs of stomach and sleep now seem likely to be accomodated. The Head Judge giveth, and the Head Judge taketh away....

  • Round 4: A Walk in the Parke?
    Jamie Parke vs Shuuhei Nakamura
    by Tim Willoughby
  • Jamie Parke
    Jamie Parke was pretty fortunate to make it into the colossal GP Indianapolis. Just minutes before the player list was put up, he was still in a queue, and things looked dicey as there was an upper limit on tournament packs available for the event itself. A frantic looking Adrian Sullivan was zipping around trying to score some extras to ensure his buddy's slot.

    As it turns out, there were just enough packs for everyone that wanted to play, and Jamie made it. It may be that his good luck was at an end though, as his very first round of the tournament, after his byes had ticked down, was against Shuuhei Nakamura, the Japanese powerhouse currently leading the Player of the Year race.

    Shuuhei won the die roll and elected to draw first, not an uncommon decision in sealed deck, where that little bit of extra consistency can pay dividends. Both players had a single mulligan, before Jamie led off with Plains, followed by Forest and Elsewhere Flask. Shuuhei started off mono-green, with a turn two Devoted Druid. Nakamura had a Boartusk Liege for the following turn, but had an uphill struggle in terms of life as Parke played out Kitchen Finks.

    Parke's deck appeared to have plenty of colours going on, with a board containing Plains, Forests and a Mountain. He had an Aethertow for Shuuhei's Liege, and a Crabapple Cohort to mount a counterattack. Shuuhei, meanwhile, rebuilt with more defensive creatures in the form of Kithkin Shielddare and Old Ghastbark.

    Both players were representing at least 3 colours in their lands by this point, and each had an Elsewhere Flask, meaning that the number of potential tricks to be played around in each combat step was substantial on either side of the board.

    It may have been this fact that held off attacks on either side for the early game. Each player committed more creatures to the board but couldn't create a great attacking position. It was Jamie who took the initiative in this nominal stalemate. At the end of turn he played Glamer Spinners to put out a flying threat, and ran in. Gnarled Effigy added further inevitability to Parke's plan, while Shuuhei's draws seemed to be drying up a little - his one card hand placed on the table to one side.

    A Curse of Chains came off the top from Shuuhei to take Crabapple Cohort out of the equation. Nakamura also had a pair of copies of Sapseed Forest, to functionally blank the attacks from Glamer Spinners. A third (in foil) came along the following turn. As long as Shuuhei kept two green permanents around, he had quite the lifegain engine to work with.

    Shuuhei attacked with Old Ghastbark, who Jamie was intent on gradually shrinking with Gnarled Effigy. He got in for two, taking Parke down to 20, effectively only dealing with the lifegain from early Kitchen Finks.

    Parke had Prison Term for Old Ghastbark the following turn, and Ballynock Cohort to further make things problematic. Shuuhei, remained a study in inaction, simply gaining life each turn.

    Parke played a Grim Poppet, and attacked with Ballynock Cohort, Kitchen Finks and Glamer Spinners. This prompted a surprise Plumeveil from Shuuhei, who was in rough shape with the Poppet around, and couldn't stop the wall from falling to Glamer Spinners and some counters courtesy of the Poppet.

    It was time for Shuuhei to fight back, and he did so by casting Reaper King. This was quickly given Old Ghastbark's Prison Term, but remained a vindictive threat on the board, should Nakamura draw more scarecrow creatures.

    Parke played Last Breath on the Gnarled Effigy shrunk Boartusk Liege, putting Shuuhei to 19, but effectively making his board a lot less scary. He then followed up with Order of Whiteclay. The rare wasn't too scary without targets for Jamie, but it did add to an already rather full board for the American, compared to Nakamura's somewhat sparse table space.

    Shuuhei drew his card and surveyed the board carefully. He scooped up his cards, wary of the clock, knowing that he couldn't get back into this game.

    Jamie Parke 1 - 0 Shuuhei Nakamura

    Shuuhei Nakamura
    Each player carefully went through sideboarding, finding a few cards that made the cut for game 2. Given that each of these players had byes in which to look at and test their deck, there is every possibility that this sideboarding wouldn't be so much match specific as simply the product of additional experience as to the 'right build'.

    Shuuhei chose to draw again for the second game, and appeared calm as he watched Parke ruminate over his hand for Game 2. Both players kept, and play play itself began in earnest.

    Shuuhei had a turn 2 Juevenile Gloomwidow, which seemed an excellent card against Kitchen Finks from Parke. He had a Finks of his own, to which Parke's reply was Gnarled Effigy. It seemed unlikely that there would be a great deal of persisting going on in the game.

    Shuuhei used Prison Term on Parke's Finks to buy him an opening for attacks, and got a hit in. Parke drew, played a land, and passed.

    The following turn, Glamer Spinners came down when Shuuhei attacked, killing off Kitchen Finks (for the first time). Shuuhei had a Gleeful Sabotage to stop Gnarled Effigy from getting too out of control, but couldn't really attack around the 2/4 flyer too easily. What Shuuhei was rather good at though was building his own life total. In addition to those Finks, he got a Sapseed Forest online, again making racing tricky for his opponent.

    Parke was all set for big things though, playing Firespout to kill off Shuuhei's board, while leaving his own relatively unscathed, with Kitchen Finks coming back minus their Prison Term. He had a Prison Term of his own for Wildslayer Elves from Nakamura, and commenced beats where he could. The Prison Term got moved onto Roughshod Mentor from Shuuhei, who, while high on life was looking low on threats on board. Safehold Elite and Gloomwidow came from Parke in successive turns, as he endeavored to be the beatdown.

    Shuuhei's response to this plan was a Plumeveil, to try for favourable blocks, only to find a Barkshell Blessing from Parke. Wildslayer Elves from Shuuhei were the next to fall, this time to Grim Poppet. Shuuhei was at 10 by this point, and while he had a Curse of Chains for Grim Poppet, and a Scuttlemutt to block with, he was still facing down a far greater force on the other side of the board. Gleeful Sabotage killed off his mutt, and attacks knocked Shuuhei to 2. Nakamura drew his card and extended his hand. Jamie briskly shook it, gave a little clap and pumped the fist. The first win of the day is always good, but even more so when it's against a pro of Nakamura's caliber.

    Jamie Parke 2 - 0 Shuuhei Nakamura

  • 7:15 p.m. - Podcast: Can You Hear Me?
    by Rich Hagon
  • Turns out, yes you can, if you download the attached morsel of audio goodness. At the end of Round Five I got to sit with Gerry Thompson, a man who almost certainly knows even more Magic players than I do. With four rounds to go there are literally hundreds of players still well in contention. Believe me, we need those nine rounds to sort the men from the boys.

  • Click here to download!

  • Round Five: Off the Top
    Patrick Chapin vs. Mitch Tamblyn
    by Rich Hagon
  • With both players at 4-0, it fell to Mitch Tamblyn to attempt to inflict the first defeat of the day on the ever-entertaining Patrick Chapin. Having elected to play, Tamblyn opened with a mulligan, but his early start went some way to negating that.

    He led off with Rhys the Redeemed with Safehold Elite quickly following up. Chapin's first offering was Medicine Runner, and it was indicative of the hybrid format that two mountains, two plains and an island were in play, together with three green monsters! Chapin added an Elsewhere Flask for a rainy day, and Tamblyn began the process of using Rhys to build an army, while Chapin continued to take early damage.

    At 14 life, Chapin made Leech Bonder, but Tamblyn continued to swing in, putting Chapin to 11 before increasing the pressure with Scuzzback Marauders. Following a Thistledown Duo though, Chapin had enough mana spare to cast Curse of Chains on the 5/2 trampler, nullifying it, at least for a while. Morselhoarder was a pretty fair replacement from Mitch on the following turn.

    Chapin got his first damage through when the Thistledown Duo gained flying thanks to blue spell Merrow Wavebreakers, leaving the lifetotals at 18 to 9 in favor of Tamblyn, and with two cards left for both players the game slowed, before Tamblyn revealed his plan. First he cast Knollspine Invocation, then discarded Turn to Mist to remove a potential blocker. Phase three of the plan involved turning many men into the red zone, and with Chapin now at just 1 life there was nothing he could do, and he shuffled up for Game 2.

    Chapin 0 - 1 Tamblyn.

    The sideboarding process was surprisingly banter-free, and Chapin elected to draw, allowing Tamblyn to start out again with a turn one Rhys the Redeemed. Cerulean Wisps looked to smooth out Chapin's early mana, and did so, although Boggart Arsonists looked pretty good for Tamblyn against Chapin's Plains. Again Tamblyn was curving out nicely, adding turn four Rune-Cervin Rider, but at least this time Chapin had some defence courtesy of Spectral Procession.

    Knollspine Invocation was next for Tamblyn, again threatening the Chapin position. Niveous Wisps dug Chapin deeper, and he continued to aggressively force his flyers through, dealing Tamblyn four damage and leaving the lifetotals at 16-13 in favor of The Innovator. With five mana up, Tamblyn simply passed, leaving Chapin free to cast Barrenton Cragtreads, again giving the Thistledown Duo flying and +1+1 and dropping Tamblyn to 10. Tamblyn used the Boggart Arsonists to kill the Cragtreads at end of turn, but Chapin had the answer with Turn to Mist, sending the Cragtreads to the sin bin rather than the graveyard.

    Six mana meant Morselhoarder for Tamblyn, while Chapin used five of his seven to cast the 6/6 Wicker Warcrawler, and with ten monsters now onboard Tamblyn seemed to be getting bogged down. Not so Chapin, who activated an Elsewhere Flask to turn all his lands into islands before drawing a backbreaking seven cards with Flow of Ideas. When Chapin asked to move to discard, Tamblyn activated Knollspine Ridge with a full seven mana, including a counter from Morselhoarder, discarding the enormous Loamdragger Giant and droppng Chapin from 16 to 9. It was clear that his plan now was to try and burn Chapin to a crisp before all that phenomenal card advantage could kick in.

    A second Boggart Arsonists from Mitch dealt with Wicker Warcrawler, and with the round down to fifteen minutes the crowd had swelled to fifty or more, most of them eager to see one of the most famous names in the game battling back. But as Tamblyn discarded Armored Ascension to drop Chapin to 5, would they get their wish?

    Chapin piled in with more flyers, and Tamblyn was now at 6, with two cards in hand. Ghastlord of Fugue was potentially enormous for Chapin, if he could survive. In he came, and Tamblyn fell to 3. End of turn Tamblyn discarded Burn Trail, leaving Chapin at 1, and it all came down to the top of Tamblyn's deck. A spell would win him the game and the match, a land and we would be heading for a decider.

    The card? Spectral Procession.

    Patrick Chapin 0 - 2 Mitch Tamblyn.

  • Quick Questions 2
    by Tim Willoughby
  • What common do you most want to open in multiples?

    Mark Herberholz

    Mark Herberholz - Burn Trail.

    Brandon Scheel - Curse Of Chains..

    Chris Lachmann - Silbind Faerie. (We got this answer a lot!)

    What rare do you most want to see?

    Brandon Scheel

    Mark Herberholz - Twilight Shepherd.

    Jelger Wiegersma - Gabriel Nassif had two on his way to the Grand Prix: Brussels final, so I have to emulate him.

    Brandon Scheel - Puca's Mischief.

    Chris Lachmann - Oona, Queen of the Fae. (We got this answer a lot too!)

    What impact will fewer Magic cards in a set (from Shards of Alara onwards) have on Draft?

    Chris Lachmann

    Mark Herberholz - Not much difference. There will probably be fewer unplayables.

    Brandon Scheel - The format will probably be narrower with fewer archetypes.

    Chris Lachmann – You'll see more multiples of commons in decks.

  • Round 6: Dropping Bombs
    Jelger Wiegersma vs Zac Hill
    by Tim Willoughby
  • Zac won the die roll and elected to draw. Jelger sighed and shook his head.

    "Netherlands lost."

    Now, I knew that Jelger was all about the European Football Championships, in which his team were previously riding high. Zac had to make a lucky guess when the two Europeans started talking, that we were referring to football (never soccer), rather than thinking, for example, that Wiegersma himself was in trouble.

    Would Jelger fair better than his nation's football team?
    With a deck chock full of removal, Jelger actually promised to be in great position for this GP. His deck is practically a Rogier Maaten special, with small amounts of creatures, but very powerful spells. Zac's is rather trying to do the same, but with a slightly less spectacular card pool.

    The first game started pretty awkwardly, as each player played land go for the opening four turns. Both red/black, Jelger's first creature was Gravegill Duo, while Zac had a Cinderhaze Wretch. This was quickly dispatched by a Murderous Redcap, Zac had a Puncture Bolt to deal with Jelger's Goblin, but continued to take lumps from Gravegill Duo, who remained unworthy of any removal spells.

    Sootwalkers from Zac came down, and the American hoped forlornly that he might get a creature to stick. Wiegersma was happy for this to happen, with Demigod of Revenge over any further removal. He bashed Zac down to 11, and the following turn took him down to 6 with his hasty lord of the skies.

    All Zac had was a Power of Fire to kill off the duo, and stop a Cinderhaze Wretch from Jelger from getting out of control. He had to use the Power of Fire and a Burn Trail to kill of the Demigod, but felt far from Stable in the face of double Cinderhaze Wretch from Jelger.

    Zac was more or less living off the top of his deck, and seemed pretty pleased to be able to sneak down a Deus of Calamity. His hand was emptied (of land, and then Incremental Blight dealt with a chunk of his team, with Sootwalkers killed off, and the Deus rendered less scary with a couple of counters.

    Zac got pretty lucky with a Firespout to allow some big attacks with his smaller than average Deus, but was still well on the ropes when Grim Poppet came along to finish off the Deus, and Merrow Grimeblotter joined the team as well. A Power of Fire was enough to have Zac scooping up his cards and going for game 2.

    Jelger Wiegersma 1 - 0 Zac Hill

    For Game 2 on the draw, Zac had a mulligan, and each began with a fairly slow opening. Boggart Arsonists were the first creature from Jelger, who merrily traded with a hasty Sootstoke Kindler. He had an Oona's Gatewarden to try to hold off Sootwalkers from Zac, but a Cultbrand Cinder enabled attacks from Hill.

    Burn Trail killed off Sootwalkers, so Zac opted to just play more massive beaters, choosing Ashenmoor Gouger as his next offering. Jelger had Watchwing Scarecrow as a blocker, but it began to look smaller and smaller compared to Zac's team, which grew with a Loamdragger Giant.

    This time it was Jelger's turn to be on the ropes, in a race that looked tough for him to win. What six mana sorcery is good in a race? Corrupt for 5, that's what. It dispatched the Gorger and bought Jelger a little time. After a little thought he played Disturbing Plot and got back Oona's Gatewarden to buy him a little more. With a deck full of power, Jelger knew he needed to just get himself some breathing room to start dropping bombs.

    Zac had bombs of his own though, with an Incremental Blight to clear Wiegersma's side of the board, and allow an attack putting the Dutchy to just 2. Grim Poppet would not be enough for a comeback, as a Burn Trail finished the game.

    Jelger Wiegersma 1 - 1 Zac Hill

    As the players shuffled up for game 3, Zac reiterated his love for Loamdragger Giant, the monster that is just too big for many sealed decks to handle. There was also a little speculation as to how many Incremental Blights there would be to come in the following rounds for winners. With 1121 players, each opening 15 uncommons, and the correlation between having Incremental Blight and winning, how many times would they be facing the powerful sorcery for on the top tables?

    Zac Hill, going down in defeat.
    Hill had a mulligan on the play for Game 3, while Jelger was safe on seven. Elsewhere Flask from Zac negated his mulligan, but didn't mean that he had a third land drop, so he had to sit back and watch as Jelger built up neatly, and started beating down with a Boggart Arsonists and a Murderous Redcap who went for the dome. Puncture Bolt killed the redcap, but Zac was still at 14 before he hit his third land (a third Swamp). Power of Fire plus Scar did for Zac's first creature (a Faerie Macabre), and Zac continued to be beaten up by those Boggart Arsonists.

    A Burn Trail from Jelger killed off Zac's Sootwalkers and it more or less seemed to be over. but for a Cultbrand Cinder which finally dealt with the troublesome Arsonists. Zac had a Midnight Banshee but was in terrible shape, as Jelger's board was nothing but black creatures, and Zac was dangerously low on life.

    Jelger attacked on his turn and took Zac down to just one. To finish things off, he had a Corrupt for exactly one point. Done.

    Jelger Wiegersma 2 - 1 Zac Hill

  • Saturday 4:38 p.m. - Reflecting on Pool
    by Rich Hagon
  • Shamed though I am to admit it, I have scandalously failed to examine each of the 1121 Sealed Deck pools to bring you the most challenging build puzzle in the whole of Indianapolis. However, within the first 476 I looked out, this little beauty leaped out of the pack, clamoring for my attention, and now yours.

    Graven Cairns
    Sapseep Forest
    Blazethorn Scarecrow
    Blight Sickle
    Lurebound Scarecrow
    Rattleblaze Scarecrow
    Thornwatch Scarecrow
    2 Apothecary Initiate
    Boon Reflection
    Last Breath
    Mine Excavation
    Mistmeadow Skulk
    Niveous Wisps
    Safehold Sentry
    Advice from the Fae
    Drowner Initiate
    Kinscaer Harpoonist
    Leech Bonder
    Merrow Wavebreakers
    Spell Syphon
    Aphotic Wisps
    Cinderhaze Wretch
    Incremental Blight
    Loch Korrigan
    Sickle Ripper
    Bloodshed Fever
    Burn Trail
    Crimson Wisps
    Ember Gale
    Mudbrawler Cohort
    Pyre Charger
    2 Rustrazor Butcher
    Wild Swing
    Crabapple Cohort
    Devoted Druid
    2 Farhaven Elf
    Flourishing Defenses
    Foxfire Oak
    Toil to Renown
    Curse of Chains
    2 Mirrorweave
    Mistmeadow Witch
    Repel Intruders
    2 Somnomancer
    Thistledown Duo
    Fate Transfer
    Gravelgill Axeshark
    Torpor Dust
    Wanderbrine Rootcutters
    Ashenmoor Gouger
    Cultbrand Cinder
    Fists of the Demigod
    Fulminator Mage
    Murderous Redcap
    Poison the Well
    Sootstoke Kindler
    Fossil Find
    Loamdragger Giant
    Tattermunge Witch
    Old Ghastbark
    Shield of the Oversoul
    Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers

    So there's your challenge. 75 cards to sift into the perfect mix, and if you want to do this under exam conditions, you have just 30 minutes to do it. As for the auspicious builder of the pool, we'll tell you all about him and his solution later in the weekend. Good luck my friends, I think you're going to need it.

  • Round 7: Enemies Now, Roommates Later
    Gerry Thompson vs Brandon Scheel
    by Rich Hagon
  • Gerry Thompson
    At the time of writing, Gerry Thompson lives in Indianapolis. On Monday he's moving house. To Iowa. To live with Brandon Scheel. As they said, 'Oh, the irony.' Both players come into the round on 5-1, so although neither would be eliminated with a defeat, a win would see the victor well on the way to Day Two.

    On the draw, Scheel made the first creature, a persistant safehold Elite and followed it with Silkbind Faerie opposite Thompson's Scuttlemutt and accelerated Gravegill Axeshark. Scheel used combat trick Scar to avoid the Axeshark persist ability, and attacked with his tricksy 1/3 flyer. When Thompson tried to cheekily score a bonus two damage with his Scuttlemutt, Scheel blocked with Silkbind Faerie. Not only did Thompson not have a trick that would kill the Faerie, but Scheel had a second Scar to kill the Scuttlemutt. Definitely not the greatest trick the devil ever pulled. Gloomlance finally got rid of the troublesome tapper/untapper.

    This was a game of real attrition, with a full fourteen cards occupying the graveyards. Meanwhile, despite Scheel's assorted trickery Thompson was gaining the upper hand, until Scheel dropped Scuttlemutt and Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers to go with his Burrenton Medic. Still, he needed to stabilise as he was down to just 5 life opposite 14 for Thompson, who continued to apply the pressure, dropping Scheel to 1. Surveying his options Scheel passed the turn, then used Niveous Wisps to buy himself another turn. But that was all the extra time he got, as Thompson crashed over unopposed for the win.

    Thompson 1 - 0 Scheel.

    Brandon Scheel
    Scheel engaged in some hefty sideboarding before the must-win second duel, and Thompson helped him out pregame with a mulligan to six. Spiteflame Witch for Thompson faced Safehold Elite early, and he settled for acceleration via Scuttlemutt before casting Gnarled Effigy. Order of Nectars came for Scheel, and went just as quickly, trading with the Spiteflame Witch. Aethertow bounced Gloomwidow, but Thompson just used Manamorphose to get it off the top of his deck and back into play.

    The two friends were playing at a frantic pace, with Thompson edging ahead 13 to 12. Curse of Chains slowed the Gloomwidow and Scar made Scuttlemutt a lowly 1/1. With nine mana in play Scheel continued to pass, and pass, and pass again, now at just 6 life. Finally a third black mana presented itself, and he was able to cast the mighty Midnight Banshee.

    Gloomlance dealt with that in short order, and Thompson crashed in for the win. Or more accurately, he would have done, if he hadn't decided to concede to his great friend and soon-to-be housemate.

    Unoffically: Gerry Thompson 2 - 0 Brandon Scheel.
    Officially: Gerry Thompson 1 - 2 Brandon Scheel.

  • Round 8: That's a Big Game
    Sam Stoddard vs Gabe Walls
    by Tim Willoughby
  • "Is this the boom boom mirror?"

    "How about we settle this with pie?"

    Gabe Walls, local hero
    Gabe Walls, the local hero, has picked up only a single loss thus far in the tournament, and rocked up ready to play for round 8 against Sam Stoddard looking pretty pleased with himself.

    He had a mulligan to start, but still had the first action of the game, on the draw with a Juevenile Gloomwidow. This was met by a Hungry Spriggan from Stoddard. The green goblin doesn't have a great matchup against wither, but Stoddard still seemed happy with his lot.

    Farhaven Elf came from Gabe, who saw a Niveous Wisps stop his spider for a turn, before Sam followed up with a freshly drawn Silkbind Faerie. Gabe was quick to play Last Breath on it.

    Raven's Run Dragoons was the next from Sam, whose green/white creature was trumped by Rhys the Redeemed from Sam. When Sam attacked with his 3/3, it was taken down by a mass block and an Inquisitors Share from Gabe. Curse of Chains briefly made Gabe's spider ineffective, but a Gleeful Sabotage kept the Indianapolis native on the attack. He had a Boggart Ram-Gang to keep up relentless pressure with,

    Sam was drawing pretty thin. While still on 17 to Gabe's 12, his board was just Hungry Spriggan to an impressive team from Walls. Presence of Gond plus Seedcradle Witch from Sam looked promising, but Gabe was far from out of the game, even in the face of a Hungry Spriggan who could get formidably large, while powering out tokens. Gabe attacked Sam down to 5 and passed, with plenty of mana up.

    Sam Stoddard
    Sam attacked with his Spriggan, and thanks to a Barkshell Blessing looked to have just enough damage to finish Gabe off, in spite of substantial blocks on a substantial Spriggan. Gabe had one card in hand. It was a Barkshell Blessing of his own, which was enough to keep him alive and allow a lethal swingback

    "That was quite the game... even with you being horrendously flooded. This does not bode well for future endeavours."

    Sam Stoddard 0 - 1 Gabe Walls

    On the draw, Gabe had a mulligan for game 2. He still had his turn two Juvenile Gloomwidow though, and chuckled a little as Sam had to discard, being stuck on two lands. Gabe was up to five lands in play before Sam got his third, but Walls still managed a faux grumpy harrumph as Sam played Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers. Gabe had a Shield of the Oversoul for his Old Ghastbark. He got one hit in before Consign to Dreams spoiled his day.

    Those Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers got a little scarier when Wilt-Leaf Liege came down, making them a 5/6. A Biting Tether took out Old Ghastbark, and suddenly Gabe looked in a lot of trouble. The big man was not done though. Barkshell Blessing plus Scar allowed his spider to beat up Sam's Liege, and his follow-up was Oversoul of Dusk. None too shabby.

    Sam had a second Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers, and a Silkbind Faerie, but Gabe was pulling back with Lurebound Scarecrow and a Last Breath on the Faerie. Sam trumped with Mistmeadow Witch.

    "Are you proud of yourself? Are you?"

    Sam wasn't finished though, he had Shield of the Oversoul for one of his Cavaliers.

    At this point Gabe's phone rang.

    "Cedric Philips?" he picked up

    "Yeah, I'm doing ok. I'm playing in a feature match against Sam Stoddard right now."

    At this point he had to hand over the phone.

    "Yeah, this is Sam. We're playing right now."

    Gabe took some time to survey the board, and when Sam hung up, Walls scooped up his cards, ready to move to Game 3.

    Sam Stoddard 1 - 1 Gabe Walls

    For the third game, Gabe had yet another mulligan. Less than ideal. He started out as a mono green deck to Sam's mono white. The first creature of the game from Sam was Oracle of Nectars, while Gabe had a Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers. This would be an awkward race.

    A Wilt-Leaf Liege made things even more awkward for Gabe, who had a Farhaven Elf, but was busy being lambasted by Sam's team, with Curse of Chains on Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers really not helping. Shield of Oversoul was enough to seal the deal in what was a brutal final game.

    Sam Gomersall wandered over, and had some words of consolation for Gabe, who had now picked up his second loss.

    "Wanna get some chicken? I'm buying"

    "Darn right you are! Lets go!"

    Sam Stoddard 2 - 1 Gabe Walls

  • Undefeated Decklists Heading in to Round 9
    by Tim Willoughby
  • So, I had the option of waiting for the undefeated day 1 players, or starting a round early, and giving you a little more to work with if you are looking to create a set of traits of a very good Shadowmoor sealed deck. Call me a masochist that is fine with typing up decklists, but I figured that more data is better, so here we go.

  • Round 9: Old vs. New
    'The' Ben Seck vs. Remi Fortier
    by Rich Hagon
  • Following his final appearance at Grand Prix: Birmingham Remi Fortier of France finds himself at seven wins and one loss facing an Australian who was making a name in Pro Magic when the young Pro Tour champ was, ooh, about 6 years old. The winner will be in a strong position going into Day Two, while the loser must look to tiebreaks to make it through.

    The Ben Seck
    Seck won the die roll and chose to draw. While Fortier developed early with Tattermunge Witch and a Trip Noose, Seck opened with Mistmeadow Skulk and Scuttlemutt, then the fairly tasty Spectral Procession featuring Kenji Tsumura tokens generously donated by an eager spectator.

    Scuzzback Maruaders joined the French squad, and Seck shored up his board position with Leech Bonder whilst attacking through the air. Remi came right back, dropping Seck to 12 before adding Lurebound Scarecrow. Leech Bonder shenanigans swung the game towards the Australian, before another flyer in the form of pumpable Rune-Cervin Rider prompted the scoop from Fortier.

    Seck 1 - 0 Fortier.

    In response to a question from the crowd, Fortier defined the global Block Metagame in approximately three sentences between the games. 'Elementals is the best, but it's really complicated. If you want something solid you play Kithkin or Faeries. And if you don't like Kithkin or Faeries, play 10 Commandments.' Here endeth the lesson.

    Medicine Runner and Scuttlemutt kicked off the second for Fortier, with Seck starting out with Safehold Sentry and decent flyer Faerie Macabre. Boggart Ram-Gang provided a boost to Fortier's chances, but Seck was swinging at every turn. He added Mistmeadow Skulk to his board before casting Curse of Chains on Fortier's Scuttlemutt. Viridescent Wisps drew Fortier one card deeper, but if body language was anything to go by he was in trouble.

    The next turn, he really was in trouble, as Incremental Blight utterly wiped his team. Still, Gloomwidow's Feast stemmed some of the bleeding. Scuzzback Marauders looked to complete the stabilisation, but Seck cast Torture with enough mana to send the Marauders packing. 5 more points of unanswerable damage left Fortier at 3. Ember Gale attempted to stave off the inevitable, but with a deck that featured Godhead of Awe, Twilight Shepherd and double Incremental Blight, Seck had picked himself a monster.

    Ben Seck 2 - 0 Remi Fortier.

  • 11:05 p.m. - Podcast: A Little Perspective
    by Rich Hagon
  • Maybe it's true that you never can walk away from Magic. One of the old timers to come back to the game is Ben Seck, who offers his perspective on how the premier-event scene has changed. Plus, a rundown of the final standings for Day One, setting you up for what to watch for come Sunday.

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