Sunday, July 17: 5:19 pm - Quarterfinals: Alex Lieberman vs. Celso Zampere
Alex Lieberman vs. Celso Zampere
Celso tried a Sakura-Tribe Elder, equipping it with Jitte, but Alex had Kagemaro waiting along with a finally-drawn Top. The elder attacked, putting two counters on Jitte after it ran into Kagemaro, and Zampere played Keiga. He tried to equip, but Lieberman responded with Gifts Ungiven, getting Myojin, Extraction, Ink-Eyes and Hana Kami. Celso gave Alex Ink-Eyes and the Myojin.
"Alex Lieberman is the best Magic player no one talks about," proclaimed Antonino De Rosa.
Kagemaro attacked into Keiga with 4 cards in Alex's hand, and after the block was declared, the Top made it five. Jitte went to 4 counters and Celso passed. Adam played Myojin of Night's Reach and removed the divinity counter after the draw. Celso looked shaken at the turn of events.
Kodama attacked, taking the score to 10-1, then Hana Kami came to play. Alex played Extraction with Soulless Revival spliced, but Celso flipped Hinder from the top of the deck with Top and countered. He untapped, drew, tapped and drew again and played his final gasp: Meloku. He equipped the Jitte and passed. At end of turn, Alex played death Denied and got back Kagemaro and Hana Kami. The game would never end.
Alex played Kagemaro, then ninja'ed out Ink-Eyes, forcing the Jitte's hand, then played Kagemaro again. He then played Goryo's Vengeance, bringing Ink-Eyes back and Celso scooped up his lands.
What a game
Celso looked like a broken man. He'd drawn double-digit cards off of Overwhelming Intellect, made it 40 cards into his deck, had his opponent at 1 and still couldn't finish the job. His face was sullen, his posture weak, but the match ain't over 'til the fat lady sings, and there aren't too many ladies at this tournament.
Celso's turn one Top gave him reason to hope, but Alex resumed without a hitch, turn two Elder accelerating the mana while the Brazilian failed to play a third land, finding a second Top instead. Another Elder and Nezumi Graverobber showed up turn three, and Celso again missed a land drop. Cranial Extraction revealed Celso's hand, removing Kodamas from his deck.
Zampere finally drew a Forest and played Kodama's Reach, but that enabled the Graverobber to flip, bringing Nighteyes the Desecrator out. Another Extraction removed Keigas from Celso's deck.
While Alex had established control, his attack was still vulnerable. Celso managed a Threads on Disloyalty on the Desecrator, but Alex managed to sneak an Elder through on the attack, with Ink-Eyes applying the damage. With Celso at 3, he played Meloku, but she got Rended after Alex drew out the counter, but there was another Meloku waiting. This time, it was Celso who would not die.
While Meloku started making chump blockers, the stolen Desecrator started swinging back, soon to be joined by Meloku. Turn after turn, Alex tried to get spells through only to find counters waiting: 15-2, 12-2, 5-2. Finally, rending Vines got rid of Threads of Disloyalty, bringing Nighteyes home. It returned Meloku to play, killing both copies. That's when my battery indicator stated blinking. I'd started the match with the battery full.
Celso made six tokens in response to Meloku coming into play, then Alex brought her back out with Nighteyes. Alex had one land open with Meloku for blocks with five life staring down six tokens, with the inevitable swing back meaning the end for Celso: He couldn't attack. The man from Sau Paulo thought, Topped, played an Elder and passed the turn, and could only watch in horror as Lieberman played Myojin of Night's Reach. Meloku, Ink-Eyes and a token attacked, the two big creatures blocked, Celso's life going to one. The end was inevitable.
Lieberman wins 2-0.
Sunday, July 17: 5:33 pm - Quarterfinals: Gerry Thompson vs. Dustin Marquis
A bitter rivalry between two bordering states has lead to an interesting top 8 match and put me, an Iowan, into position to do feature match coverage. The bout in question today is that of Minnesota versus Iowa. This long-standing friendly feud seems to have culminated today as Grand Prix Minneapolis cuts to the top 8 playoffs and pits Minnesota's local pro, Gerry Thompson, against one of Iowa's best in Dustin Marquis. The rivalry has existed for years now, players encouraging each other in opposing states through friendly ribbing and a constant competition to keep up with each other. Minnesota's accusations of an overzealous love for corn and our constant failure to stay at the Pro Tours has been the subject of much attention.
Gerry Thompson piloted a deck that he has long advocated, Gifts Ungiven Control, through a field filled with White Weenie. Marquis is poised to represent the weekend's most populous archetype and put Iowa back in position with Minnesota, maybe for good. As the players sit and prepare their decks for their match, dozens of onlookers surround their table expecting what the rivalry has long promised. Thompson wins the die roll and casually declares that he will be on the play for the first game.
Gerry leads off with a quick decision to mulligan. "I like Top as much as anybody else, but three is a little much." A sigh and a nod and he's back to shuffling. Six cards looks better and is as low as he'll go. Marquis doesn't mulligan.
Gerry leads off with Forest... followed by missing a land drop. Marquis makes a first turn Isamaru, Hound of Konda and begins unleashing the beats. His second turn sees a Samurai of the Pale Curtain join the game, and things look grim as Gerry misses his land drop again on turn three.
Dustin summons Eight and a Half Tails before attacking for four, putting Gerry at fourteen, and passes the turn. Gerry finds a second land, Tendo, and plays a Sakura Tribe Elder. He looks to be taking off as the snake blocks an incoming attacker on the next turn and heads out of the game, providing Gerry with a swamp on its way. Marquis continues to apply strict pressure playing a Celestial Kirin after combat.
Thompson's next turn sees a Kodama's Reach which may help dig him out of the land situation, but it may already be too late as he is at 10 life, facing down nine power in attacking creatures next turn. On Dustin's next turn he casts a Manriki-Gusari providing the tenth point of damage and waits for a response before equipping and attacking, presumably expecting a Sickening Shoal to come down to buy Gerry another turn. Gerry doesn't have it and Marquis carries Iowa out to an early match lead.
The plot thickens.
Gerry chooses to play first again and despite the grimace on his face, keeps his opening seven. Dustin takes his time before announcing that he'll keep as well.
This game starts out much the same with an expected Isamaru coming out on turn one as Gerry makes his first two land drops (WOW! BEARL!) but doesn't have the Elder or the Top. Marquis plays out his Samurai of the Pale Curtain after bringing Gerry to 18, and passes the turn.
Gerry opens up the mana base a bit with a Reach fetching a second forest and an island. Marquis casts Manriki-Gusari, the breakout equipment of the weekend, and equips, sending five power into the red zone. Gerry has his fifth land for the game, but still casts nothing beyond his third turn Kodama's Reach. His hand is full though, and the Gifts Ungiven Control engine is about to explode. Normally we might see the 3U instant cast at the end of the White Weenie player's turn, but Marquis casts and equips Umezawa's Jitte (SIGH! BEARL!) and Gerry responds to attackers by tossing his Gifts Ungiven on to the table.
Gerry thinks about his resolving his spell for quite a while before revealing: Rending Vines, Exile into Darkness, Kagemaro, and Wear Away. Marquis gives Thompson Exile into Darkness and Kagemaro, and Gerry shows the Sickening Shoal, pitching the Kagemaro he'd just tutored for.
Marquis passes the turn and the engine begins to roll. Gerry casts Exile into Darkness and Dustin is forced to sacrifice his only remaining creature, Isamaru, with Gerry sitting at eleven life. With no plays, Marquis passes the turn and glooms as Gerry's Edict leaps from his graveyard into his hand.
"Ken Bearl!" says Gerry, and the Minnesotans laugh.
Gerry gets in a quick point with Sakura Tribe Elder and Dustin casts a Lantern Kami the next turn. On Gerry's turn, we get another call for a creature sacrifice, but Dustin saves his creature with a quick Otherworldly Journey, hoping to get in a few more points before the game goes longer. Gerry drops to eight and the Jitte powers up.
Gerry casts Exile into Darkness again and Dustin shows the second Otherworldly Journey, meaning he'll get in a few more points the next turn. Marquis equips his Manriki-Gusari and Jitte and sends his Lantern Kami in to the red zone boasting a possible seven points of power.
Things get tense as Marquis removes a single counter and seems content with Gerry taking five damage, sending him to three. Life totals now sit at Marquis 18, Thompson 3.
Gerry draws his card for turn and scoops up his cards with no answer and no returning Exile into Darkness. Iowans give a subtle applause and the always gracious Gerry Thompson offers his congratulations for Dustin Marquis, the advancing amateur.
Dustin Marquis over Gerry Thompson
Iowa wins another small victory in the friendly rivalry between two up-and-coming states on the Magic scene. Minnesotans still rumble in the distance over something about "Corn," and "Bearl," and the crowd divides.
Sunday, July 17: 5:47 pm - Quarterfinals: Andrew Stokinger vs. Adam Yurchick
Some things are even more important than Magic.
Culled from 406 "players," we have the only eight that can truly be considered competitors of the game. These eight have passed through the trials of the Swiss and have entered the zone of single elimination, winner take all. Only one man can be the king now. All other pretenders will lie at his feet, broken in body and spirit.
Leading off this bloodthirsty charge we have Andrew Stokinger and Adam Yurchick. Andrew is the owner of Over The Edge Games and is in the hunt for yet another trophy with an unusual Mono-Blue deck. Adam, fresh off a PTQ win with his White Weenies action, is a High School graduate who will be attending OSU in the fall.
Rumors abound, but Andrew would neither confirm nor deny calling his matchup with White Weenie "Whiffle Ball."
Adam won the die roll and chose to go first. There was a story floating around that someone at the Grand Prix actually chose to draw first. Most believe this to be a myth. Certainly if such a person did exist, they did not make the top 8.
Turns 1-4 was Yurchick playing out creatures, ending with the extremely powerful Celestial Kirin. Andrew's draw was a little slower, using a turn 3 Honor-Worn Shaku (Paddle) to accelerate into turn 4 Meloku, The Clouded Mirror.
Adam laid his 5th land and played Shining Shoal for 3. The five-casting-cost arcane spell ended Meloku and earned the concession from Stokinger.
Yurchick: "God draw anyone?"
Adam Yurchick: In 3x Pithing Needle, 3x Orb of Dreams. Out 2x Shining Shoal, 1x Celestial Kirin, 3x Manriki-Gusari
Andrew Stokinger: In 4x Minamo Scrollkeeper, 2x Threads of Disloyalty. Out 2x Umezawa's Jitte, 2x Paddle, 2x Keiga, the Tide Star.
Andrew started off in serious trouble with a double mulligan on the play. Adam felt sympathy pains and took the trip to Paris himself.
Adam laid out some 2/2s but Andrew's Scrollkeeper held the fort admirably. Andrew Stokingered the fire by playing a freshly drawn Meloku, but Adam trumped with a freshly drawn Pithing Needle. Eight-and-a-Half Tails made it into play and started working his foxy magic to force through damage. At 6 life, Andrew played Azami, Lady of Scrolls who happened to be the third wizard on Stokinger's side of the field.
Yurchick had the choice of forcing 4 more damage through or making a Jitte run to kill Azami. He chose the latter and traded one of his dorks for 2 Jitte counters. Jitte attempted to kill Azami but the Lady was rescued by Consuming Vortex. Next turn Adam made the same move, getting a guy through for two damage as well. Jitte tried and succeeded at taking out Azami. At 4 life Stokinger needed something to stop 8.5 Tails, but it was not to be.
Adam Yurchick won 2-0 and advanced to the semifinals.
Sunday, July 17: 5:55 pm - Quarterfinals: Mark Herberholz vs. Sean Inlow
Mark Herberholz vs. Sean Inlow.
This is Sean's first Top 8, but he is trying to keep his nerves under control and his game face on through repeated deep threats. He starts off confidently with Isamaru, Hound of Konda, Hand of Honor and the dreaded Umezawa's Jitte. Unfortunately, a stall at two land limits his aggression. Mark's Gifts Control deck ramps his mana quickly with a Sakura-Tribe Elder and Kodama's Reach.
Mark keeps Sean's threats at bay with a Hideous Laughter. A Cranial Extraction for Hand of Honor strips away one card in Sean's hand, but there are still plenty of threats - 2 Isamaru, a Lantern Kami, Celestial Kirin and an Otherworldly Journey. Exile Into Darkness eliminates one Isamaru, and Sickening Shoal takes out the Lantern Kami before the still-threatening Jitte can gain any counters.
Sean finally finds his fourth land and prepares to take control with Celestial Kirin, but Mark once again has a response in the form of Kokusho, the Evening Star. A Jitte'd Kirin sends Kokusho to the graveyard, exactly what Mark needs as he plays Gifts Ungiven for Ethereal Haze, Soulless Revival, Hana Kami and Death Denied. Sean recognizes the infinite damage prevention combo and concedes.
Mark 1, Sean 0
Sean is limiting his threats, wary of another Hideous Laughter, at least until he plays Manriki-Gusari. A Lantern Kami equipped with Manriki-Gusari and Celestial Kirin are immune, but Sean also brings out an Isamaru. He needs to beatdown and beatdown fast.
Mark plays a few Sensei's Diving Top tricks to bring out a Kodama's Reach and get the needed color mana. Kiku's Shadow hits Celestial Kirin, but Sean shrugs it off with an Otherworldly Journey. A swing for seven and Mark is at a precarious 3 life. Without the needed mana, Mark diverts from the typical infinite life prevention combo to get Ethereal Haze, Hideous Laughter, Goryo's Vengeance, and Kagemaro, First to Suffer. Sean thinks hard, but finally decides his two biggest threats are Ethereal Haze and Goryo's Vengeance. A 7/7 Kagemaro hits the table, and an untapped Tendo provides the black mana to wipe out Sean's side.
Sean's pretty happy about the situation as he shows the only emotion to be experienced between the two overly-mellow players. Sean is cracks the slightest grin as he plops Hokori, Dust Drinker down. Without a flinch, Mark pitches Soulless Revival to Sickening Shoal and eliminates what would have been game.
Sean's a fighter, though, and he tries again by playing a Hand of Honor. Another Gifts from Mark gets Sickening Shoal, Kagemaro, First to Suffer, Exile Into Darkness, and Meloku, the Clouded Mirror. Sean knows Meloku and Kagemaro mean assured loss, so he gives Mark Sickening Shoal and Exile. Despite being at three life, Mark already has the answers in hand. He throws out a Sakura Tribe Elder to block and Hideous Laughters when Sean adds an Eight-and-a-Half Tails to the table.
Sean plays the land-go game for several turns - a hard position for White Weenie. He holds one card, but Mark is just playing with him as he uses another Gifts Ungiven to get Sensei's Diving Top, Kodama's Reach, Gifts Ungiven, and Sakura-Tribe Elder. Mark decides to finally end the game by playing Hana Kami to get back Goryo's Vengeance. Sean is still fighting, and decides to play Hokori while Mark is tapped down. He thwarts a Hideous Laughter with a Charge Across the Araba, but the spliced Goryo brings back Kagemaro and eliminates Hokori. Another Goryo's Vengeance on Meloku, the Clouded Mirror and Sean is suddenly facing nine flying illusions. Two attacks later, Mark continues to the semis.
Mark 2, Sean 0
Sunday, July 17: 6:16 pm - Semifinals: Alex Lieberman vs. Dustin Marquis
After a marathon match, Alex Lieberman sat down to play his semi against Dustin Marquis, winner of the Iowa-Minnesota quarterfinal grudge match against Gerry Thompson. Lieberman survived more than a few near death experiences to get this far in his match with Celso Zampere, but regardless of wins and losses, this one was sure to be more cut and dried, with his opponent running aggressive White Weenies.
Marquis, playing first, mulliganed to six before playing a first turn Lantern Kami. The beats continued with Hand of Honor, and after Alex missed his turn two Elder drop, Jitte came to play and Dustin failed to play a third land.
The Hand's pro-black qualities started to factor into things when the Jitte was equipped to it. No Shoals or Whispers would kill this good man: With Alex at thirteen, the two critters attacked, with one Jitte counter giving +2/+2, putting the Floridian Lieberman to eight life. After Manriki-Gusari was played and equipped to the Lantern Kami, Alex played Gifts Ungiven at the end of turn, selecting Soulless Revival, Death Denied, Hana Kami and Exile into Darkness. Marquis gave him the two kill spells, but Alex was expecting that: he played Sickening Shoal on the Kami and Exiled the Hand, with Kagemaro entering play on the ensuing turn wresting complete control of the game from Marquis.
From there it was elementary. Kagemaro got bigger thanks to Kodama's Reach with Soulless Revival spliced onto it. Then Meloku came to play along with Hana Kami. Marquis could have gotten the Kami out of the game with the Jitte and Samurai of the Pale Curtain for the brief moment the 2/2 was in play before Exile removed it, but he'd already given up by that point. The game went a few more turns, but frankly, White Weenie has no way to deal with Meloku backed by seven cards in hand. It took a few more turns, but the game was over the moment she hit the table.
Lieberman 1, Marquis 0
While Lieberman mulliganed, Marquis stared intently at an opening hand including two Manriki-Gusari, which he may have left in for Hideous Laughter and Kagemaro, though it seems like a questionable ploy. Turn two Hand got equipped on turn three to commence the beats, with turn four Hokori negating the mana advantage of Lieberman's third turn Kodama's Reach. Lieberman still managed a fifth turn Kagemaro with six cards in hand: the ploy was likely to fail, though with Alex at 2 life, Marquis might have enough time to kill Alex before the game was contained.
"My prodigy," quipped Antonino De Rosa "I'll take all the credit."
Kagemaro activated and Dustin started over, playing a second Hand and Isamaru, Hound of Konda, but with his mana freed, Alex could now play Meloku. Jitte was equipped to the Hound, which kept the 1/1 tokens at bay long enough to trade with Meloku. Alex's token attacked only to be replaced by Ink-Eyes, which retrieved the Hounds.
Marquis played Lantern Kami, equipped the Gusari to it, thought a long time and finally passed the turn despite a 15-2 advantage. Alex untapped, with Ink-Eyes unable to penetrate thanks to Hand of Honor and its Jitte, and passed the turn. The Kami attacked into a Meloku token, but the Jitte got Wear Away'ed, saving Lieberman time, and when Marquis played another Jitte, Alex played Gifts, getting himself Kagemaro, and they started over again.
Lantern Kami and Isamaru, Hound of Konda came to play for Dustin, with each equipped by a Gusari, but Alex had the answer in Laughter spliced onto Laughter. Alex untapped and played Cranial Extraction, naming Hokori, with Dustin revealing Jitte and Hand of Honor. Dustin drew a second Hand and played it after Alex played Elder, but Alex untapped and played Exile into Darkness, taking one out and played a second Elder, ensure the other could be stopped for at least a turn. Hand attacked, Elder blocked and sacked and after Dustin played Samurai of the Pale Curtain, Alex Exiled again and played Kodama of the North Tree.
The Hand attacked into the second Elder, with a pre-stack sacrifice preventing Jitte counters. Exile came back and took out the Hand, and Dustin looked to be out of steam. Alex attacked with Kodama and Elder, played Soulless Revival for Ink-Eyes, replaced the Elder and dealt lethal damage.
Lieberman advances to the finals with the 2-0 win.
Sunday, July 17: 6:32 pm - Semifinals: Mark Herberholz vs. Adam Yurchick
Mark Herberholz vs. Adam Yurchick.
Mark is enjoying another pairing against White Weenie. Adam plays the White Weenie game, throwing out enough creatures to get Mark down to eight life. Without an Umezawa's Jitte, though, he has no protection against a board-clearing Hideous Laughter. This game is a replay of Mark's last match, and his opponent plays a Celestial Kirin and he responds with Kokusho, the Evening Star.
Hand of Honor threatens, but Mark has a blocker - Sakura-Tribe Elder. Shining Shoal and Manriki-Gusari keep Celestial Kirin alive after a block by Kokusho. The five point life swing is what Mark is hoping for as Kokusho bites the dust. Back at a comfortable 13 life, Mark plays Gifts Ungiven for his infinite damage prevention combination: Death Denied, Ethereal Haze, Soulless Revival, and Hana Kami. Mark gets the Hana Kami and Ethereal Haze. He demonstrates the combo to Adam by sacking the Kami to get back Soulless Revival, splicing Revival on Ethereal Haze, and getting back the Hana Kami. Mark insists the game is unwinnable, but like all good players, Adam refuses to quit - he is sure there is still an answer. A Samurai of the Pale Curtain could easily prevent Hana Kami from continuing to bring back the Ethereal Haze - if Mark had no removal. After drawing another card, Adam sees the futility and packs it in.
Mark 1, Adam 0
Mark has to mulligan, but it doesn't warp his typical unfazed demeanor. Adam brings the beats with an Eight-and-a-Half Tails and Hand of Honor. There's a brief scuffle involving Kiku's Shadow, Otherworldly Journey, Diving Tops and Sickening Shoal, but the Eight-and-a-Half Tails doesn't make it out alive. There's still too many creatures for Mark to deal with as his life total sinks to four before he can cast Hideous Laughter.
Adam is ready with a Kami of Ancient Law to replace his lost army. With a Kodama's Reach giving him the necessary mana, Mark casts Gifts Ungiven to get removal and blockers: Exile Into Darkness, Meloku the Clouded Mirror, Kagemaro, First to Suffer, and Soulless Revival. Mark uses the Revival for Meloku, which produces a few illusions each turn until Adam finally caves.
Mark 2, Adam 0
Sunday, July 17: 7:44 pm - Finals: Mark Herberholz vs. Alex Lieberman
Finalist Mark Herberholz.
When one talks of a player being hungry for success, the image of Rocky in the mountains of his fourth installment or just about any other sports film montage applies, but Mark Herberholz has been taking the notion to a new level. Despite his success at PT Philly, Herberheezy is one broke man. He spent his winnings and had little enough money that he walked around PT London with hat in hand asking for change. He was actually at the point this weekend where he was ready to move back home "so I could afford to eat." Now at least, he knows the rent is paid.
With his appearance in this final, Mark is assured of at least $1,500, but to get more, he'll have to go through Alex Lieberman, the former Magic prodigy whose blown away all comers throughout the tournament. Alex listened to Mark's sorry tale with stone face and disinterested eyes: he's all business and he's taking no prisoners.
The matchup is one that speaks volumes about this tournament. Black-green Gifts against black-green Gifts. The black green deck specializes in taking out the weenie hordes that have been popular of late: the Gifts Ungiven gives the control player the edge in the mirror match. Now, two of these decks are squaring off in a final between two strong, young players for a little more cash, a little more fame and the right to the title of Grand Prix champion.
The key to the matchup is card advantage. Myojin of Night's Reach is the coveted monster, Gifts Ungiven the wanted spell. Early in each game, the players focused on mana acceleration, using Tops to find Elders and Kodama's Reach, trying to get to eight mana as fast as possible. In Game 1, it was Herberholz who reached the threshold first. His Myojin took out Alex's hand and while Alex had the kill for it, another was soon to follow. Lieberman eventually found a Myojin of his own, but by then, Mark had severe mana advantage, meaning that when he found Death Denied, it was all over.
While the deck's big legendary creatures are impressive, more often than not, they end up trading for one another. Game 2 saw Kodamas exchange, then Melokus do the same, but it was Alex's sideboarded Nezumi Shortfangs that really did the trick. They kept Heezy's hand depleted, forcing him to discard spells as he held off the little man's flip. Finally, it was another Nezumi, the Graverobber, who finished the Michigan native off.
One game for the championship.
In the end, it came down to the Shortfang and the always tough to kill Kodama of the North Tree. Lieberman got down the 1/1 early, but when it flipped, Herberholz was able to flip one almost simultaneously, ending that threat, then flip another. Unfortunately for him, it was Lieberman who had the Kodama, and with the sideboarding strategy forcing players to take out some kill, Mark couldn't deal with it. Of course, none of that would have mattered if Alex hadn't top decked Gifts Ungiven. The blue instant allowed him to get back into the match after going to no cards in hand. The Kodama then did enough hard damage to force Mark to use cards in a defensive posture in less than efficient fashion, and finally, with Herberholz at one and no way to stop the fatty, he extended he hand.
Alex Lieberman wins GP Minneapolis 2-1