Sunday, April 1: 11:18 a.m. - The secret to his success…
Kenji Tsumura & Richie Hoaen
Have you ever wondered what it is that separates the Kenji Tsumura and Richie Hoaen's of the world from the rest of us PTQ stiffs? As I was walking through the deckbuilding area I stopped to check in on Rich and Kenji. Rich's deck looked solid but Kenji looked like the cat that ate the canary. Actually he looked more like the canary that ate the cat. I flipped through his deck until I hit the cards that put the smile on his beak…
"So lucky," laughed Kenji pointing at himself while I admired the Pyrohemia and Akroma. "They were both in the same pack."
Sunday, April 1: 1:10 p.m. - Round 8: Undefeated Showdown
Brian Siu & Jim Dyke
Steven O'Mahoney-Schwartz is easily one of the most underrated players in the history of the game. In terms of dollars he was the third winningest player in the history of the game when he retired. He had a win at Pro Tour Los Angeles where he had to defeat both Mike Long and Jon Finkel in order to hoist the trophy. He started playing at the very first Pro Tour in the junior division and it is fair to say that the East Coast Magic scene coalesced around him. I know I would never have been able to open Neutral Ground without the counsel and support of the young OMS brothers.
His teammate is Top8Magic partner and in-game podcaster Matt Wang who has been playing just as long as Steve albeit with not as much success. To be fair to Matt, he did have two early Top 64 finishes before he went off to business school to make a vaguely honest man of himself. Both players are regulars at Finkel's apartment which has become the draft Mecca of the New York for veteran players.
The showdown of undefeated teams was almost an early nineties reunion as Mark Le Pine - last seen making the Top 8 of Pro Tour Rome - was at their draft table. Instead they drew the pairing of Brian Siu and Jim Dyke the reigning New Hampshire State Champs of 2HG. Given slightly different circumstances this match could have been a PT 1 old-timers game.
I asked Jim Dyke which NH store he and Brian played at regularly and he shrugged: "You can say we play at Hammer's Comics."
"I thought Hammer had to close the store," was my reply. We were discussing Pro Tour one finalist Shawn "Hammer" Regnier.
"I mean…we play in his basement," laughed Jim. "I actually wanted him to be my partner but he said no so I took Brian instead."
Steve and Matt came out of the gates fast with a Gemhide Sliver and suspended Duskrider. Eric Phillips and Bern Farkas, crusty veterans in their own right, were watching the match and they pumped the fist when there was no kill spell for the sliver. "No one has ever untapped with Gemhide Sliver and lost the game," declared Farkas.
Matt and Steve went to work on turn three by accelerating out Reflex and Poultice Slivers and beating in on turn three. Brian and Jim held them back with Aven Riftwatcher and Matt was content to just attack with a hasty Vampiric Sliver. Steve added a Saltfield Recluse and suspended Shade of Trokair.
They looked to be in a good position to win the game on the ground but their opponents both had fistfuls of cards. Gabe Walls was talking about the format earlier and was complaining that he never felt like he was winning when he played 2HG. "My opponents always have so many cards and are talking about all these things they can do."
Steven O'Mahoney-Schwartz & Matt Wang
Case in point… Steve and Matt attacked with everyone but the Recluse and the Gemhide counting on the rebel to leave the NH team no tenable blocks. Dyke used Sudden Death on the rebel and Siu flashed out Crookclaw to make the Aven Riftwatcher a lethal weapon against the Peregrine. Steve OMS used Fortify to save his flier. Matt Wang asked Siu to dump 80% of his cards with Haunting Hymn. He pitched two lands, Bogarden Rager, and Frozen Aether but kept a Snapback.
Siu and Dyke began to stabilize. Primal Plasma came down as a 1/6 barrier and Brute Force saved their Crookclaw from a pre-blockers Shaper Parasite, allowing it to trade with the Peregrine. Suddenly the path on the ground became rocky and Matt and Steve went to plan B - Screeching Sliver. Matt cast Scryb Ranger and used Evolution Charm to get back the Reflex Sliver. Steve played Poultice Sliver and Screeching Sliver.
The game was over soon thereafter as they were able to take out seven cards a turn by aiming all their slivers at the top of Dyke's deck.
Sunday, April 1: 2:13 p.m. - Round 9: Towel of Power
Eric Ziegler & Gerard Fabiano
The theme for this weekend's coverage has been focused on Pro Tour Champions and round nine was no different with Gadiel Szleifer stepping into the Feature Match area along with John Pelcak. The duo made up two-thirds of multiple successful three-person teams. With Tim Aten - playing this weekend with Ben Lundquist - they won Grand Prix Chicago. With Chris "Star Wars Kid" McDaniel they got as far as the semifinals at Pro Tour Charleston.
That semifinal match ignited the firestorm between Gadiel and Wily Edel but there would be no such friction in this match as Gerard Fabiano gets along well with both players. So does his teammate Eric Ziegler - even if Eric didn't exactly realize it…
"Hey BDM Eric and I went to dinner with these guys last night," laughed Gerard, pointing at their opponents for round nine. "This morning we were looking to see who was in our pod and we saw Szleifer and Pelcak. Ziegler was like, 'Who are those guys?'"
Gadiel's squad won the die roll and Gerard's team did not make any pretense of asking if they would play or draw. While there was some variation from team to team under the old rules, 'play' has been the universal choice this weekend by all the Pros.
I asked Pelcak if anyone had won a die roll and chosen to gone second. "No. Never. Having one player start with eight cards is like cheating, basically."
Gerard had Screeching Sliver on the draw while Gadiel's team suspended Ephemeron and Duskwasp. Gerard and Eric cam back with their own Ephemeron and a Phthisis for Ziegler. Pelcak: "Wow!"
Prodigal Pyromancer showed up for Pelcak. Gerard decided to get max usage out of his sliver and used it EOT and again during his main phase hitting a Forest and Empty the Warrens.
A morph from Gerard was Erratic Mutationed EOT. Gerard made a show of turning to Ziegler and they discussing whether he should be returning two Islands if he hit a two with the Mutation. He kept selling but Szleifer and Pelcak were not buying. Fittingly it was revealed to be a Trickster when it went binward.
Pelcak played a Coal Stoker and burned for three, which did not speak well of his hand. Gadiel Canceled Bonesplitter Sliver after Gerard resolved Telekinetic Sliver. Then Pelcak Stingscourgered the Telekinetic and attacked for three.
Gerard replayed the Telekinetic hoping to contain the impending airforce that was waiting to be mobilized. The fliers took off and Gadiel's team sent in everything but their pinger. Gerard and Eric conferred behind Gerard's trademark towel which has been upgraded to multi-tasker for this event. Normally their for Gerard's notoriously sweaty hands the towel now serves as an ersatz infielder's mitt for obscuring conversation.
Gadiel Szleifer & John Pelcak
The New Jersey team activated Eric's red totem and ate the Stingscourger taking ten. Gadiel Enslaved Telekinetic Sliver. Gerard's flier came into play on their turn and got in for four - not a good sign for the team that appeared to have the better board position.
Eric blew up the world with Damnation. Gerard made Ziegler draw four cards with Careful Consideration. There was no play from the Gadiel team with an impending Phthisis which was till effective as a Time Walk and allowed the NJ guys to get in for four with the totem.
Gadiel and John put up some token resistance - literally when they used a Gerard Fabiano player card to represent a spider token - but Gerard had a hand full of answers and he had helped Eric dig to all his removal and they quickly dispatched the Charleston semifinalists.
Sunday, April 1: 3:09 p.m. - Round 10: Twice the Champs
Shouta Yasooka & Takuya Oosawa
As we reported yesterday there were 15 different Pro Tour champions playing on Day One. I had not checked on the count of Champs that made the cut to Day Two but there had been at least one available for the Feature Match area every round on Sunday to this point. I say 'at least' because the team of Shouta Yasooka and Takuya Oosawa each have a Pro Tour trophy to throw their house keys into when the walk in the door. Shouta is also the reigning Player of the Year. Oosawa nearly achieved the very rare feat of two trophies but fell short in the finals of Pro Tour Geneva.
The American team of Tim Aten and Ben Lundquist had their work cut out for them. Not that we were talking any slouches here. Ben and Tim both made the Top 8 of US Nationals this past year and Ben advanced to make the team. If you read about Magic on the internet - as I suspect you are wont to do - then you are well aware of Tim's prowess as a writer. Tim has also had his fair share of success playing the game as well. He won Grand Prix Chicago with Pelcak and Szleifer and recently finished third at Grand Prix New Jersey all by his lonesome.
Still a little help never hurts. Aten and Lundquist had not been getting much help when it came to randomization with a die and they groaned when the Japanese players offered the six-sided object to start the process. They claim to have not won any die rolls on the weekend.
"Not a one," sighed Tim. "We have gone first when we have used other methods but that was like three times."
"I am not good at die rolls," deadpanned Lundquist.
"This is the first time that has happened," observed Aten as Shouta dipped down to six cards. It happened a second time as well when Shouta sent those back and kicked things off with five cards. Oosawa started with eight and suspended Baloth to start the game.
Suspend was the buzzword for the first few turns as there was a Deepwalker for Ben and a Veiled Oddity for Shouta synched up with the Baloth - a Thallid Shell Dweller for Oosawa. The American team did nothing of interest on turn two besides a Prismatic Lens.
There was a pair of regenerating Trolls for the Japanese - Hedge Troll and Uthden - on turn three but that was stymied by Aten's Smallpox. Ben floated a blue and emerged from the turn with a 3/3 Primal Plasma thanks to the Lens he had played a turn earlier.
The five card hand was more or less out of gas for Shouta and the burden was on the Prague champion who played Poultice Sliver after getting in with the Troll. Ben made a Serendib Sorcerer and Tim Assassinated the headstrong Troll.
Despite the two card handicap the Japanese team threatened to dominate the ground. There was a Primal Forcemage from Oosawa and a Bonesplitter Sliver from Shouta.
Ben Lundquist & Tim Aten
Tim played Rathi Trapper and they fell to nine on the next unblockable attack as the Oddity and Baloth came into play. It would have been one shy of lethal if not for the Sorcerer that worked its Magic on the otherwise 8/8 Baloth. They added Herd Gnarr and Basalt Gargoyle.
The Americans sent over their Deepwalker and the Primal Plasma to drop the Japanese team down to 12. Stingscourger sent the Baloth back to hand and a Vampiric Sliver appeared on Tim's half of the board.
Sunlance took out the Sorcerer but the tapper was online at this point. Viscid Lemures was just a midrange fatty against the Swampless Japanese team but that was more than good enough. Tim's squad thought for a while, played and flipped Fathom Seer, thought some more, and finally turned their team sideways. The Japanese players took heavy losses on their side after Crookclaw Transmuter mucked up the math during combat.
They tried to stabilize but they were too far behind. The Trapper kept the Poultice Sliver busy while a second Stingscourger bounced the Bonesplitter. Shouta extended the hand and Tim's team advanced to a 9-1 record right near the very top of the standings in a three way tie with Steve OMS' team and Gerard Fabiano's team.
Sunday, April 1: 5:13 p.m. - Round 11: Sibling Rivals
Jeff & Alex Sittner
This match featured Onetime World Champion and reigning Grand Prix - Phoenix champion Carlos Romao. The Sittner brothers came with their own illustrious past but that is a story for another time. I can tell you that John "Alex" Sittner did play in Pro Tour Honolulu as he was wearing the official shirt, surely to intimidate his opponents. Did work against a former World Champion? Read on to find out!
The first couple of turns were a lot busier for Ramao/Martins as they ran out Amrou Scout, Zealot il-Vec, Spinneret Sliver and Thallid Germinator against a Dreamscape Artist, an AEther Membrane and a suspended Ith, High Arcanist.
Romao/Martins must have thought that the wall was "insane in the membrane" as they were only able to press with the Zealot the get rid of the Artist of Dreams. The Brazilians continued to add to their board with a Thick-Skinned Goblin, a Thallid Shell-Dweller and an Amrou Seekers, unfortunately for them Feebleness and Erratic Mutation were able to deal with the pair of two-powered Rebels. The board continued to grow on both sides as Viscid Lemurs came down for the men from Brazil while Jaya and Jodah's Avenger joined the fight for team Sittner all by turn six. Jaya survived an attempt on her life as Thrill of the Hunt helped her fight off a Rift Bolt that would have seen her go directly into the bin.
Carlos Romao & Sergio Martins
The board continued to move into the Sittner Brothers' favor as Ith came off his suspension (hopefully not using a banned substance) and brought Urborg Syphon-Mage with him.
Carlos tried desperately to get back board parity with the Krosan Hero, Stonebrow, however poor Stonebrow never saw it coming as a Draining Whelk ambushed him and send him to the graveyard instead of the battlefield. For its trouble the Whelk was able to blossom into a dragon-like 6/6 flier. A turn later, and up 22-19, the Brazilians decided that they had lost the good fight and extended their hands. I guess a board of Ith, Syphon-Mage, Jaya, Aether Membrane, Jodah's Avenger, and a 6/6 Draining Whelk was too much to overcome. Jeff told me his hand at the end of the game was Evolution Charm, Stonewood Invocation, Strength in Numbers and Dead//Gone.
So did Carlos and Sergio get intimidated by the Pro Tour Honolulu shirt? Or was the board truly out of their reach? Will Jeff and Alex's partnership hold-up under the lights of pod 1? Or will Alex's claim that he has never lost to his brother tear them apart? Only two rounds to go until we find out the answers to these questions and more!!
Sunday, April 1: 5:18 p.m. - Draft Report: Drafting with Two Champs
Table 1 for the second draft was loaded with players the likes of Tim Aten and Ben Lundquist, Gerard Fabiano and Eric Ziegler, and Steve O'Mahoney-Schwartz and Matt Wang but we chose to cover the reigning Player of the Year Shouta Yasooka and his teammate -- who Shuhei Nakamura called the best 2HG player in Japan -- Takuya Osawa.
Shouta Yasooka & Takuya Osawa
Pack one was not their friend as they took Grapeshot and Trespasser il-Vec followed by Watcher Sliver/Thrill of the Hunt, Ghostflame Sliver/Thallid Germinator and Phyrexian Totem/Feebleness. In the end only 5 of these cards will show up in either deck. I'd tell you more about their picks but the packs were so bad they struggled to even find those playables.
Pack 2 started off great with a Grapeshot and Ignite Memories waiting for them. With four black cards already in their pile passing Sudden Death must have been hard but the power of Storm in Two-Headed Giant count could not be denied. Also by picking up three good Storm cards this early (Grapeshot/Grapeshot/Ignite) you are able to craft the rest of your draft to have synergy with this powerful mechanic. The rest of pack was again unkind to them, as only 3 of the next 6 cards would end up in their final decklist.
Durkwood Baloth/Foriysian Totem over Prismatic Lens and Penumbra Spider, Prismatic Lens/Slipstream Serpent, Uthden Troll/Firewake Sliver over Spell Burst. They did end up with a late Herd Gnarr and Harmonic Sliver that found their way into Osawa's deck.
Pack 3 started with Pardic Dragon and Coal Stoker followed by Bonesplitter Sliver/Thallid Shell-Dweller over Wipe Away, Thallid Germinator, and Undying Rage.
Bonesplitter Sliver/Basalt Gargoyle and Snapback/Primal Forcemage finished out the first lap of pack three.
Pack 4 was just ridiculous. Brine Elemental, Stormbind, Looter il-kor, Fathom Seer, Stonewood Invocation, and Durkwood Baloth. Brine Elemental and Stormbind found their way into the pile but they could not have been happy about passing that many good cards. The rest of the pack played out as follows:
Watcher Sliver/Think Twice over Spell Burst; Looter il-Kor/Keldon Halberdier over Spinneret Sliver; Wipe Away/Undying Rage over Mogg War Marshall; Spiketail Drakeling/Herd Gnarr over Chromatic Star; Mindlash Sliver/Calciform pools. They had debated taking the storage land second, but ended up shipping it and hoping it would come back to them. It did.
As we moved into the first Planar Chaos pack (pack 5) Shouta and Takuya had firmly established themselves in Red, Green and Blue but their forth color was still up for grabs. They had a slight Sliver theme going but without any marquee players like Might, Telekinetic, or Psionic Sliver. As they examined the pack for the first time they found four potential picks to choose from: Rough//Tumble, Veiling Oddity, Giant Dustwasp and Ovinize. The first two cards were their ultimate choice. Next up they had a choice of Sunlance, Cautery Sliver, Poultice Sliver, Malach of the Dawn, and Citanul Woodreaders. Sunlance and Poultice Sliver joined the other 62 cards in hopes of being cast on the side of Osawa/Yasooka.
Poultice Sliver/Dreamscape Artist; AEther Membrane/Battering Sliver (over Fury Charm); Synchronous Sliver/Mana Tithe; and Reflex Sliver/Merfolk Thaumaturgist rounded out the pack.
The final pack of the draft began with Dismal Failure/Whitemane Lion being taken over Ana Battlemage and Stingscourger. They said they took the Lion because of its ability to ramp up Storm counts. Hedge Troll/Shade of Trokair were next over Necrotic and Poultice Sliver and again a card, this time Shade, made the pile on the strength of its storming ability.
Necrotic Sliver/Hedge Troll, Uktabi Drake/Dreamscape Artist, and Reflex Sliver/Rebuff the Wicked finish off the draft.
As they began building they immediately went to Green/White and Blue/Red. I noted that they considered Whitemane Lion a spell and not a creature. When I asked why they passed twice on Spell Burst, in a format where counterspells are considered key, they told me that they thought that it was slow and mana inefficient. They also noted that Naturalize effects are very important in Two-Headed Giant which is why Harmonic Sliver made the cut. The last 3 cards cut from Osawa's deck were Mana Tithe, Pallid Mycoderm, and Weathered Bodyguards. Shouta's final cuts were Two-Headed Sliver, Merfolk Thaumaturgist, Foriysian Totem and Undying Rage.
Day Two/Draft Two - Grand Prix Mass
Day Two/Draft Two - Grand Prix Mass
Sunday, April 1: 6:00 p.m. - Photo Round-up
If you walk into a GP with the hopes of winning a slot, some money, or some precious Pro Tour points the last thing you want to see is this group of jokers lounging around. Between them they possess nine Pro Tour Top 8s, three Pro Tour victories, twenty-three Grand Prix Top 8s, and eight Grand Prix wins.
From left to right: Shuhei Nakamura, Shouta Yasooka, Takuya Oosawa, and Tomohiro Kaji.
Kyle Sanchez and Teenage Mutant Ninja Taylor nerfed the value of one of their victories when Taylor Webb neglected to register any Planar Chaos cards on their decklist after draft one. Taylor offered up the following defense: "I registered everything he handed me!"
Kenji Tsumura and Richie Hoaen have been lurking beneath the top tables this weekend but Kenji is still the game's biggest star. A group of people from Gamepro were at the event producing a three-part documentary about Magic and they spent some time with the player who has racked up five Pro Tour Top 8s in the last two years. Kenji did much of the interview in Japanese but also felt comfortable enough with the interviewer to try his hand at speaking in English.
The GamePro camerawoman was apparently very easy to talk to…
Poor Tiago Chan… He has had great success practicing the 2HG draft format against players of similar caliber to himself. Despite that he has not had a chance to play in a single sanctioned draft match. That's what happens when you go 1-7 in Sealed Deck over two GPs. Tiago figures he may be the lowest ranked 2HG player in the entire world.
"I thought about forking over $45 for the PTQ and conceding to my opponent every round just to make sure," joked the Portuguese Level 6 mage.
Jesse Bourgault is one half of the Maine 2HG State Champions but the only thing anyone was really talking about was his Little Dutch Boy outfit. Why the outfit we asked?
"It's snazzy!" he replied.
There has been a lot of talk about all the old time players at this weekend's event such as Mark Le Pine and Steve OMS. Jeff Butz is a player whose name I have not seen since an early issue of The Sideboard Magazine when he was on the same U.S. National team as Kyle Bigos, Justin Gary, and Bob Maher back in 1997. Jeff lives in Alabama with his wife and three kids so he can't play Magic as much as he would like.
"I love the 2HG format!" he declared when asked about his rare appearance this weekend.
Sunday, April 1: 6:17 p.m. - Decklists: Day 1 Undefeated Decks
Team Siu/Dyke - Brian Siu - Player A
GP Massachusetts 07
Team Siu/Dyke - Jim Dyke - Player B
GP Massachusetts 07
Team LePine/Tamblyn - Mark Le Pine - Player A
GP Massachusetts 07
Team LePine/Tamblyn - Mitchell Tamblyn - Player B
GP Massachusetts 07
Team Wang/O'Mahoney-Schwartz - Matt Wang - Player A
GP Massachusetts 07
Team Wang/O'Mahoney-Schwartz - Steve O'Mahoney-Schwartz - Player B
GP Massachusetts 07
Sunday, April 1: 8:36 p.m. - Round 12: Chain of Evidence
Matt Rubin & Rob DiPalma
In Round 12 action The Sittner Brothers once again found themselves in the feature match area. This time they were squaring off against the team of Matt Rubin and Rob DiPalma.
Rubin and DiPalma were a little perturbed that it took them to round 12 to find themselves under the bright lights of the Feature Match area. When we last checked in on the Sittner Brothers they were getting a concession from former World Champion Carlos Romao and his partner Sergio Martins after they had developed an unbeatable board Position.
Not a lot of action in the early going as turn 3 ended with not a single creature in Play after Alex's Spiketail Drakeling met an untimely end at the hands of an Erratic Mutation. With Jeff not finding a 4th land he is forced to discard Wild Pair and all the potential it would have brought with it.
A few turns later Riftwing Cloudskate comes to town to bounce an unknown morph creature the Alex has. The Fathom Seer was returned to hand but no islands came along with him. With a clear path in front Spiketail Drakeling, Penumbra Spider and the hasty Cloudskate all came across. An Orcish Ccannonade from Jeff dealt with the Cloudskate but in the end the Sittners dropped to 22.
In the second main phase, Wormwood Dryad and Corpulent Corpse joined the party for Rubin and DiPalma. A party that apparently the Sittners and their creatures were not invited to.
On the next turn, a Lightning Axe that madnessed out Gorgon Recluse killed the freshly cast Bog Serpent. Rubin / DiPalma served again with the team and team Sittners life total stood at half of where it began the game. Funfzhen for those of you reading this in Germany.
There were some cheap shots coming in from the peanut gallery directed at DiPalma's 'Mr. T'-style gold chain. Mainly they were questioning the play from the previous attack where Rubin/DiPalma allowed their Wormwood Dryad to trade with a lowly Essence Warden.
Battering Sliver and Urborg Syphon-Mage came to fight for the Sittners, but another attack from Rubin/DiPalma left them at a very fragile 7 life.
The Sittner Bros!
The bodies kept coming for Rubin/DiPalma with a 2/2 flying Primal Plasma and a Vampiric Sliver adding to their very large team. They now had an 8-3 lead in creatures.
On the next turn Rubin/DiPalma spent some time deciding whether or not to moving all-in and forcing some bad blocks is worth it. After deliberating they did indeed move all-in with their board of Spitting Sliver, Gorgon Recluse, Basalt Gargoyle, Vampiric Sliver, Penumbra Spider, a 3/3 Primal Plasma, and a 2/2 flying Primal Plasma. Syphon-Mage locked horns with the Gorgon, while Battering Sliver went to battle with his Vampiric counterpart, leaving a morph to get in the way of the Spider. After first strike knocked off the Vampiric Sliver, the Syphon-Mage used its ability, Dark Withering the Gargoyle in the process. A Brute Force saved the Syphon-Mage, but after all was said and done the Sittners were barely alive with only 3 measly life to their name. Rubin/DiPalma put them out of their misery with a Conflagrate to the dome, not only ending the match but also all but securing them a berth into the Top 4.
Sunday, April 1: 10:48 p.m. - Round 13: The Last Spot
Tim "Turbo" Aten and Ben "Leo" Lundquist versus Jeff Butz and Lance Loden was the showdown for the last berth in the Top 4 after the other teams fell into place with at least 32 points. Both of the teams in this match-up had 30 points so that meant the loser was out and the winner would live on the draft again, but this time for title of GP Champion.
The first two turns were highlighted by 5 cards being suspended. Butz/Lance got their Slivers on as Watcher, Fungus and 2 Spinnerets made appearances throughout the game but the suspends resulted in a turn 5 Empty the Warrens producing 10 goblins for the Aten/Lundquist team. A couple of turns later and Tim and Ben went all-in with the 10 goblins, Coal Stoker, Sengir Autocrat, Viscerid Deepwalker, Benalish Calvary and Ith. A Fortify helped deal a total of 19 damage to drop Butz/Loden to 9 while Turbo and Leo were still at 26.
Not much action happened afterwards, and eventually the red "tim" and a single activation from Urborg Syphon-Mage ended the game and the former National team member's hopes of a Top 4 finish.