Saturday, June 3: 10:45 a.m. - Trials Winners and Decklists
With every Grand Prix comes the inevitable Grand Prix Trials, where players compete for three byes in the main event. These byes make the struggle for Day Two that much easier, not only by giving you three wins, but by also making your tiebreakers look fabulous, darling! Friday night, four Trials were held to give players one last chance to win some byes for themselves. The following four individuals managed to prove their right to the ownership of three free wins, showing that they have what it takes to make with the winning today. Or maybe they’re like me and know how to crack the busted packs. I guess we’ll see by the end of Saturday, but until then, here are their decklists, and a glimpse into what it takes to make 10 Guilds dance to the same tune.
Players duke it out for three byes of their very own.
Wen Han Foo
Winner – Grand Prix Trial, Kuala Lumpur
Winner – Grand Prix Trial, Kuala Lumpur
Winner – Grand Prix Trial, Kuala Lumpur
Winner – Grand Prix Trial, Kuala Lumpur
Saturday, June 3: 11:15 a.m. - My New Nemesis
I feel like a rock star, and not just because I can play guitar and rock considerably in my spare time. I'm sitting up on the stage at the front of the room with my trusty laptop, camera, iPod, 1.5-liter bottle of water, and a (mostly eaten) block of chocolate. Joining me on stage, (perhaps they could be considered the rest of my band?) is the Head Judge Jacky Yang, a couple of scorekeeping judges and a Huge Ticking Clock.
The buzzing...make it stop.
The Clock is obviously the drummer, holding the beat that the rest of us work to. Not unlike many other drummers I have met, this one is prone to excessively loud and seemingly unprovoked outbursts – in this case, a very loud buzzing noise. I tell you, I came this close to requesting replacement underwear. My current plan of attack is to find an excuse to be on the far side of the room from my new nemesis at the end of any given round.
Saturday, June 3: 11:43 a.m. - How to Build a Ravnica Block Deck in 3 Easy Steps
In some ways, this format is now a little similar to that of Invasion/Planeshift/Apocalypse from all those years ago. While each block differed until complete (Invasion being only friendly color combinations until Apocalypse, and Ravnica having only seven of the 10 Guilds until Dissension), we're now dealing with the whole shebang again.
Deck construction action. The trick is to shake the camera to make it look like everyone is doing more than just sitting there.
I'm left wracking my brains as to how we managed to do it back in the day. I guess the trick is to open enough powerful single-colored cards, and not be lured into mana disaster by appealing multicolored nuggets of gold, or to somehow score enough mana fixers to make it all work. Throughout the day, I'll try to keep track of how many colors people end up playing and how it helps them, or perhaps hinders them.
Saturday, June 3: 12:20 p.m. - And the Boasting Begins...
Eugene Levin came up to me before deck construction was even finished, practically fizzing with excitement.
"You have got to see my deck, it can't lose," he informed me.
Martin and Levin shake on it, while Warmenhoven and Hart determine who has the winning deck.
I leafed through his deck and couldn't help but agree with him; Ruud Warmenhoven could only stand there and shake his head in amazement. Next thing we knew, Grand Prix veteran reporter Quentin Martin strode up to the stage, also packing bold proclamations about the prowess of his deck.
"Nuh-uh!" Levin cried.
"Yuh-ha!" countered Martin, "What's the bet, 20?" Levin was unsurprisingly quick to shake on that deal, and with ex-pat Australian Jake Hart as the adjudicator, the decks were compared. The look on Martin's face was priceless.
"Um, I think I might be helping you with coverage tomorrow," he finally conceded.
Saturday, June 3: 2:11 p.m. - An American, an Englishman, an Australian, and a Dutchie Walk into a Magic Tournament...
With round one fully under way, I thought I should head out and find the guys from the last blog entry to see what on Earth they were going in this part of the world. As varying a bunch of guys as you could expect, between the four of them they are known for living in America, Australia, England and the Netherlands. There must be some reason they are so far from home. Of course, these guys wouldn't be playing in the first round, well over a hundred of the 316 players in this Grand Prix have a round-one bye, and they will all no doubt be either outside practicing with their sealed decks or soaking up the sunshine. I figured what better place to look for these four plucky lads than outside in that sunshine stuff.
Round one: Fight.
No really, it wasn't just an excuse to step outside for a bit, oh no. I would never do such a thing. While I didn't find the guys I was looking for, I did find plenty of other people enjoying a game or two and I got a good look at the beautiful weather outside.
Players passing the time while their byes do all of the hard work for them.
We're up on the third floor there, with all of the windows...
...giving us fantastic views like this.
I figured I could track the travelers down some time later, once they're forced to actually knuckle down and play some Magic, but how lucky, I stumbled across them on my way back in. They were gathered in a huddle in the foyer discussing Quentin Martin's deck.
"You're splashing green for (Civic) Wayfinder, let's be honest. I'm not saying it's a bad play, but I'm putting it out there."
"I think the biggest mistake people make in four colors is making green their fourth color, just for the fixers."
I rudely interrupted their important strategic discussions to demand they explain what they're doing here. It turns out that Jake Hart, who originally hails from Australia, and the American Eugene Levin now live together in China. Hart explained that he moved to China for the easy life, and Levin is going to train to be a kindergarten teacher.
"A kindergarten teacher?" I inquired.
"Yeah, but mostly he just watches TV now, and sleeps in. I think he's set a record for the number of DVD boxed sets watched in one week."
I nodded incredulously as Levin just grinned.
Quentin Martin's excuse is that he's on a trip around the world, and that he managed to change his schedule to fit in this Grand Prix. Ruud Warmenhoven asked him if this was as a direct result to Martin's Top 8 performance recently in Prague.
"No, but it does mean that I can now afford the trip, whereas before..."
Warmenhoven is also traveling and happened to be in the neighborhood, and based on his line of questioning directed in Martin's direction, it's probably on the back of his Top 8 winnings in Honolulu earlier this year. Once he graduates in around six months or so, he is looking to live up the easy life with Hart and Levin in China.
All four were unanimous in agreeing that Magic had given them a taste for travel, and if there were a way to get to an event, they would find it. Warmenhoven would also like it known that he would make a particularly dashing Road Warrior for next year's Invitational, so get your votes in early and often. To see me off, all four of them showed me their best "blue steel" pose. I think it's probably for the best I don't know what that means.
Playing Magic and seeing the world. They wouldn't have it any other way.
Saturday, June 3: 3:57 p.m. - Travel Hindsight Always 20/20
Friends and family are beginning to remark about my frequent travel to Magic-related events, and I can't say I blame them! I have now been in five different countries other than my own, and every time it has been to attend a Magic tournament or some form or another. That doesn't even count the many times I have traveled about New Zealand to attend Nationals or the occasional Pro Tour Qualifier. With this amount of travel under my belt, you'd think I would know what to pack by now, but nooo, there's always something you forget, and always a something that only serves to weigh you down.
Here are some things I have with me, that really should be languishing at home instead of giving me a distinct lean when I carry my luggage.
A Book: Neal Stephenson's "Quicksilver" is both a great read and long and involved, making it perfect for long trips around the Pacific. It also weighs half a ton, and should probably have been replaced by something light-hearted, or at least just plain light, by Terry Pratchett. This is not the first time I have made the mistake of carrying a Stephenson tome with me, but I do rather enjoy his work.
Excess undergarments: Polypropylene no less. I haven't owned any polypropylene for some time, but knowing that I would be traveling to Japan last year in their winter, I decided it would be a good idea to stock up on the stuff. It turned out that while we were there, it was relatively mild, and the polyprop remained in my suitcase. As far as this trip is concerned, I'm not sure what prompted me to pack a polypropylene vest for travel to a country so close to the equator at their hottest time of year though, I really can't.
A wool Jersey: See above.
Things I should have had the foresight to bring, but obviously didn't.
I really do like chocolate.
My mouse pad: So far I have used a cardboard folder, one of those little score pads they give out at Grand Prix, my lap and even a level one judge to replace it.
A Hat: In Malaysia, the sun points straight down, and from what seems like a distance of 12 feet. A hat would have been a very good idea I think. Maybe I'll pull a BDM and buy one while I'm here.
Sunglasses: See the hat, but more so because I don't own any at the moment.
Sunscreen: See both the hat and the sunglasses. I actually bought a bottle of sunscreen for my trip to Honolulu earlier this year, and didn't use it because it was cloudy most days. Here, I think the sun is actually under any clouds that may somehow ever threaten the skyline with their presence, but never seem to do. So yeah ...whoops.
More Chocolate: I like chocolate, and thoughtfully stashed a large block of it away in my bag before leaving home. It's now all gone, I think I should have packed something like four or maybe even more. Thankfully, I was allowed to requisition a judge to replenish my supply. :D
Saturday, June 3: 6:07 p.m. - Round 4 Feature Match: Chuen Hwa Tan vs. Itaru Ishida
At the start of the day, I got the Head Judge to give me a list of local big guns, hardcore players and all-around Magic superstars. I figure these will be the guys defending their home turf against the invaders, including no less than 17 Japanese players, many with high-profile wins under their belt.
First up to the plate was Chuen Hwa Tan, ranked sixth in Malaysia for Limited play. Thanks to his three byes, his first round of play would be Round 4, just in time for the rest of the sharks to enter the pool. No doubt Tan hoped for someone who had been lucky in earning their nine points so far, but instead he found himself sitting opposite Itaru Ishida, and man with three byes of his own. He may not look like much, but when it comes to Grand Prix, Ishida has more Top 8s than anyone bar Road Warrior Olivier Ruel (sorry Ruud) and the almighty Alex Shvartsman.
Tan, left, had the pleasure of facing Japanese legend Itaru Ishida in Round 4.
If Tan was feeling any nerves, he didn't show it as he pile-shuffled intently with Ishida looking on calmly. Tan's deck, on the other hand, must have been a little shaken up. It failed to offer him any lands until he had mulliganed to four. One quick beating later and they were on to Game 2.
That was a much more drawn-out affair, with both players playing out flyers and tappers and drawing cards with Compulsive Research and Consult the Necrosages. We would have been there all day, if it wasn't for the fact that both players also suited up a creature of each other's with a Pillory of the Sleepless, giving us at least a definite ticking clock for the match.
Tan kept his life total up with an Azorius Herald, then Repealing it and replaying it, while Ishida was taking those same life points back down with an Auratouched Mage who mysteriously fetched nothing when he came into play. With both players finally at four life, Ishida showed what must have been in his hand for quite some time, and Galvanic Arced Tan to one ... leaving him at the mercy of the Pillory during his upkeep.
Itaru Ishida defeats Chuen Hwa Tan 2 - 0
Saturday, June 3: 6:51 p.m. - Round 5 Feature Match: Shu Komuro vs. Ruud Warmenhoven
The morning of a big tournament, some people do the bare minimum required to get themselves fed and cleaned and good to go. Other people, like these two, go the extra mile to look good, and frankly everyone, I think it's worth the payoff. Ruud Warmenhoven's t-shirt has the words "Dog looks at Airplane" on it, complete with dog and a wee airplane in the distance. Nice. Shu Komuro's shirt just says in big, plain letters "More Love, More Strong." Now that's what I'm talkin' about people, that's style by the truckload.
"We're very good friends Shu and I, we always draft," Warmenhoven quipped, Komuro could only grin back. "Well, we used to. You always complain you're too tired these days."
Fashion plates Ruud and Shu battled for t-shirt supremacy.
When Komuro won the die roll and elected to play, Warmenhoven laughed and asked if Komuro was playing any bounce lands. Sure enough, both players played bounce lands on their second turn, with Warmenhoven having to discard a Moldervine Cloak in the process. Komuro gradually built an army to be reckoned with, complete with flyers and an Oathsworn Giant providing powerful defense. Warmenhoven had big enough guys on his side, like Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi and Bramble Elemental, but the fact that one of Komuro's flyers was a Freewind Equenaut made combat somewhat problematic for the Netherlander, resulting in Game 1 eventually going to Komuro.
For Game 2, Warmenhoven was looking for a great seven-card hand to take back the match. The first seven were not great, so instead he chanced the next six. They were also not great, or even good for that matter. The next five were also not great ., they were, in fact, verging on appalling. Warmenhoven closed his eyes as he dealt out four cards in front of him. They included a Plains and a Simic Growth Chamber. Good enough!
But in reality they really weren't. While Warmenhoven put up a good fight, Komuro still overpowered him, and in a strangely similar way to last round's feature match, the Japanese player once again used a Galvanic Arc to dispatch the guy who suffered the misfortune of mulliganing to four.
Shu Komuro defeats Ruud Warmenhoven 2 - 0
Saturday, June 3: 7:23 p.m. - Random Snippets from the Floor
As I was frantically typing away, ex-Australian Jake Hart came up with a rough beat story for his opponent. Apparently Jake played a turn-two Signet, followed by Signet-Signet-Farseek on turn three. On turn four he dropped a Chorus of the Conclave, but missing his fifth turn land drop meant he had to settle for a 6/8 Silhana Starfletcher on his fifth turn, instead of a Blazing Archon. Hands up who would want to be on the end of that lot? Anyone?
Judges work faster than the speed of light. True story.
In the Round 6 feature match, Terry Soh lost 1-2 to fall to 5-1, while Takuya Osawa took the Japanese to 3 – 0 in feature matches so far today. It is unclear if Soh had to mulligan to four at any point in the match, but I did see the scoop, and at least there were no Galvanic Arcs to be seen.
A player has been disqualified for stacking his deck, so all you would-be cheaters watch out! The judges here are hard working, and on the ball. And no, I'm not just saying that because they bring me chocolate.
Saturday, June 3: 8:47 p.m. - Round 7 Recap
As we steamroll ahead into Round 7, the players are starting get a feel for their chances for Day Two. In the Feature Match pit, Magic old hand Albertus Law faced off against Chris Chan, the owner of a prominent Hong Kong Magic website. While losing Game 1 to Chan's Bloodthirsted Battering Wurm, Law managed to pull back in Game 2 with his Ratcatcher and in Game 3 with his Sewerdreg to take the match 2 - 1.
Albertus Law defeats Chris Chan 2 – 1.
Meanwhile, way up on table two, Player of the Year Kenji Tsumura was duking it out with Eugene Levin to see who can go into the last round of Saturday undefeated. Levin look Game 1 with his Rakdos Ickspitter and Orzhov Euthanist tag team, only to fall to Tsumura's 6/6 Sewerdreg that swept past a flurry of 1/1 Masahiko Morita tokens (on both sides of the table, no less) in Game 2.
The tide turned in Tsumura's favor in Game 3 when he landed a telling Ribbons of Night on Levin's Greater Forgeling. Levin missed having it whack itself out the back with a couple of quick self activations, but the extra card for Tsumura probably wouldn't have mattered, as Tsumura Dredged back his Shambling Shell turn after turn to make game unwinable for Levin.
Tsumura and Levin fight it out on table two.
Saturday, June 3: 10:04 p.m. - Round 8 Feature Match: Kenji Tsumura vs. Chikara Nakajima
When I got to the table, Chikara Nakajima was making life difficult for Player of the Year Kenji Tsumura with his Sunforger, which was upgrading 1/1 tokens to formidable opponents of mass combat phase destruction. Tsumura had found the perfect victim in his Shambling Shell, who has happily feeding itself to a growing Graven Dominator, while taking down anyone coming in bearing a Sunforger. Just when Tsumura looked like he was about to win the race with his 6/6 flyer, Nakajima trumped it with a Brainspoil to the face. The game dropped back into a bit of a stall, with Tsumura holding back the Sunforger with a Master of Impediments. However, it seemed that enough early damage had been dealt that when Nakajima fired off a saucy Macabre Waltz and then dropped a Golgari Guildmage, a Ghost Warden and a Conclave Equenaut in quick succession, Tsumura quickly decided to pack it in to give Game 2 a try.
Nakajima and Tsumura always pick scissors.
Most players I have watched at the feature table today have chosen to play first, instead of drawing. Not our Kenji Tsumura though, that guy wanted to draw! Both players played out some stuff, but once Tsumura had the sky taken care of with a Screeching Griffin and Grave Dominator with no answer from Nakajima, we were very quickly heading off to Game 3.
It was Nakajima's turn to draw in Game 3, but he was forced to chuck back his first seven, negating any advantage derived from electing to draw in the first place. He did manage to start out with a Ghost Warden, into a Guardian of the Guildpact and right up to a Conclave Equenaut, but Tsumura topped that by going Simic Growth Chamber, Master of Impediments, Vedalken Dismisser your Equenaut from whence it came, buddy! Nakajima's rejoinder of Watchwolf, go, was no match for Seal of Doom, Blind Hunter and then Congregation at Dawn for Sewerdreg, Goldgari Rotwurm, and anything else. Nakajima wasted to no time in offering his hand to Tsumura, who now advances to day two undefeated alongside Nan Tu and James Porter.
Kenji Tsumura defeats Chikara Nakajima 2 - 1