Sunday, Feb. 5: 10:33 a.m. - Paid for by Frank Karsten for Resident Genius
The scribbles of a madman or genius? You decide
Frank Karsten is an interesting candidate for Resident Genius on this week Invitational ballot. He is one of the few candidates there because of his reputation as a Limited thinker as well as his skills as a deck designer and player. Frank's Limited skills first came to light on the Pro level when he reached the Top 8 of Nagoya with his fabled List for Champions of Kamigawa. He had rated every single card in the block in order on the flight. He continued to tinker with the document until it looked more like the route Billy from Family Circus took to go straight to school than an orderly list.
Yesterday when I spoke to Frank about his Sealed Deck strategy he promised to explain his method for card sorting that helped him to analyze his card pool. When I walked in this morning Frank was hunched over a scrap of paper scribbling what looked like perhaps a chemical formula. It turns out that it was a graph representing the twelve piles he sets out when breaking out his deck.
"I thought people might want to use this method at the PTQs," Frank explained, "This way they can see all the color combinations next to each other."
Sunday, Feb. 5: 11:02 a.m. - Cats and Dogs Living Together…Mass Hysteria!
Kenji Tsumura, left, and Gabe Walls prepare to Draft in Pod 1
"I object to this draft pod!" exclaimed Ken Krouner with a laugh. "Can someone tell people that the last draft pod is not supposed to be harder than the first one?"
That was a variation on a theme that everyone was talking about this morning as we got ready for the first draft. While I would not exactly deem the first pod - which featured reigning Player of the Year Kenji Tsumura and Grand Prix Philadelphia winner Jon Sonne - a slam dunk for anyone 'fortunate' enough to be seated there, it was not as chock full of names as table eight.
Draft Table Eight
Katsuhiro Mori and Frank Karsten were destined for a first round rematch of the finals of the 2005 World Championships.
Sunday, Feb. 5: 11:40 a.m. - Draft one: Gabe Walls and Kenji Tsumura
Before the draft Kenji and Gabe were talking about their draft preferences. Kenji expressed an affection for the five-color archetype in this new format and when Gabe found himself sitting to Kenji's left he knew he was going to go blue. His decision was made even easier by a decidedly mediocre first pack - he took Clutch of the Undercity passing almost nothing.
Kenji had a tougher time with his first pick. He isolated Trophy Hunter, Brainspoil, Shambling Shell, and Vinelasher Kudzu as the cards on his plate and finally settled on the Hunter. Gabe happily took the Brainspoil and the subsequent Stinkweed Imp that Kenji passed him after the Japanese player took Bramble Elemental.
Things got a little tricky with Kenji's third pick when he veered into black for Brainspoil over Overwhelm and Transluminant creating some overlap between his and Gabe's colors. Kenji did consider white briefly when his next pack offered up Boros Guldmage and Conclave Equenaut - instead he took Nullmage Shepherd. He veered again with a fifth pick Vedalken Dismisser. Hunted Dragon was in the next pack but Kenji was prepared to let someone else take that bait and picked up Sewerdreg.
Kenji continued to be Green-black-X in the second pack when he nabbed a second Brainspoil with his first pick. Bramble Elemental ended up in front of him despite being tempted by Circu, Peel from Reality, and Remand. He succumbed to the lure of blue when he was passed Glimpse the Unthinkable one card later.
Gabe was raking in blue ahead of him though with Snapping Drake, double Compulsive Research, and an impossibly late Halcyon Glaze. He could scarcely believe it as every blue card he passed - except for one Peel - came back around the table including two Remands.
Guildpact seemed to give Kenji a splitting headache as he couldn't really decide what direction he wanted his deck to go in. He finally decided that Orhzov was going to be the road he followed and took a pair of Blind Hunters sandwiching an Ostiary Thrull.
Gabe was in perfect position for Izzet and first picked that color combination's Guildmage and just about any card he wanted in the common slot over the rest of the pack. He was of mixed emotion when he long-ranged Izzet Chronarch around the table. He was excited to get it back but sad that it was the only one at the table because he would have had them all.
Kenji was miserable after the draft and did not feel like he could even win a match with his draft deck.
Grand Prix Richmond - Draft One
Grand Prix Richmond - Draft One
Sunday, Feb. 5: 12:15 p.m. - Round 9: Frank Karsten vs. Katsuhiro Mori
Frank Karsten, left, vs. Katsuhiro Mori
Frank Karsten and Katsuhiro Mori went through the first draft in the furthest corner of the room, exiled to table eight by virtue of a pair of losses (offset by the tiebreakery goodness of three byes). It is unusual to have a feature match with two players nestles so far down in the standings but it is also unusual to have a rematch of the finals from the World Championships.
Frank has been around the block a few times and went straight to the feature match are as soon as he looked at the pairings board - he didn't even bother to wait for the announcement.
"Nice smile Frank," shouted someone from the crowd as Frank grimaced for the camera.
"My deck is not so good," explained Frank. It should be pointed out that Mori was not smiling either as he sat down for the match.
Frank led off with Wild Cantor and "Nice deck"ed himself. Nether player did much of anything early on. Frank was stalled on three lands and sacrificed the Cantor to play Torch Drake. Mori's deck was green-white-red and he seemed to have an underwhelming array of Mossdogs and Brownscales. Karsten recovered from his brief mana stumble and his deck delivered Rumbling Slum and Primordial Sage over the next few turns. Mori was able to Lightning Helix the flier but could not do much about the card advantage generated by the Sage.
Frank - 1 Mori - 0
Ivy Dancer was the first play from Mori and Karsten answered with Silhana Starfletcher. The two players just mounted their forces for several turns -- Greater Mossdog from Mori and Torch Drake from Karsten followed by Sagitars from Mori.
The flier and the ersatz spider traded and the players traded attacks. Mossdog got in for three and allowed the Stafletcher to get in for one which set up a turn of bloodthirsty Burning-Tree Bloodscale and Scab-Clan Mauler. Mori put Sinstriker's Will on his Mossdog but once Karsten played a Siege Wurm the World Champion could not keep up with the Onslaught of fatties and eventually succumbed to superior numbers.
It may not make up for losing the finals of World Championships but that didn't stop Karsten from pumping the fist.
Sunday, Feb. 5: 12:41 p.m. - Just Admit It!
"You have to be jay-kay!" declared J. Evan Dean as Mark Zadjner played Searing Meditation against him in the feature match area - the match was featured to highlight Mark's unusual deck.
This man conceeded to the Benediction of Moons
I am sure you have been in a draft before and seen a couple of Meditations going around the table and considered trying to see if the card could be anything like Lightning Rift. Well Mark saw three - in the first pack of his draft no less. He took the third one he saw within the first five picks of the draft and waited for the other two to come back around (which they did) and then drafted every life gain card he could get his hands on. There was only one Mourning Thrull in the third set of packs but he did get three Benediction of Moons. Since Mark could stack the haunt effect of the spell so it resolved before the Searing Meditation he could actually machine gun two gray ogres with five mana.
Other nuttiness in the deck included a Conclave Phalanx, Flash Conscription, and Douse in Gloom.
Dean had an Absolver Thrull for the Searing Meditation - to Mark it felt like a Flametongue Kavu - but there was another copy of the enchantment waiting in the wings.
Dean frowned, prompting Mark to exclaim, "What are you frowning for? You had FTK on turn four; I thought I took all of those."
When Mark killed Viashino Fangtail with Douse in Gloom and activated Searing Meditation. "Nice deck here, huh? If you didn't have that FTK on turn four you would be packing it in right now."
The second Searing Meditation may not have been enough for concession but when Mark cast two Benediction of Moons - with a one-toughness army in play on Dean's side of the table - that was enough for the concession.
Dean sided out most of his white and brought in green cards to get a second disenchant effect into his deck but it was just not enough as Mark quickly had three Searing Meditations in play for Game 2. Mark laughed as he played Hammerfist Giant with a Centaur Safeguard in play on his side of the table. "You had better kill this guy or you are dead - you will take ten."
Dean attacked with a flier and then Fiery Conclusioned the Hammerfist.
"You're killing this guy?" asked Mark.
"You just told me that I would lose if I let it live. Maybe you should not be giving me advice."
Exhumer Thrull from Mark brought back a Mourning Thrull and that was about all Dean could take and he conceded the second game in the face of seven a turn from the Thrull.
Grand Prix Richmond - Draft One
Sunday, Feb. 5: 12:55 a.m. - Round 10: Gabe Walls vs. Kenji Tsumura
Gabe Walls is going to die in 7 days!
Gabe Walls is a mountain of a man, and this jolly ball of boisterous fun is once again displaying his spell-slinging skills this weekend, only losing one match through the first nine rounds. Sitting across from him is the diminutive form of the reigning Player of the Year, Kenji Tsumura. Tsumura has gone undefeated this weekend, the only blemish on his record a draw from early on Day 1. According to master draft analyst Brian David-Marshall, Walls's deck is clearly superior (he was feeding Tsumura), but any time Kenji is involved, playskill is going to matter.
Both players kept their opening hands, and Walls started out with a Roofstalker Wight and Terraformer on the play to Kenji's Dimir Signet and Sadistic Augermage. Walls then went for the full on blowout, bouncing the perverse drilling machine with Clutch of the Undercity, then using Gaze of the Gorgon to let his Wight take out a Bramble Elemental. Tsumura stabilized with another Bramble, plus an Augurmage and Brainspoil on a fresh Tattered Drake, as the two giants (one figurative, one literal) exchanged body blow after body blow, aggressively shipping their men into the red zone. Kenji was able to drop Walls to five before a Peel from Reality and Ogre Savant shipped his men back to his hand, and Repeal made sure no other blockers would staunch the flow of blood, giving Walls an early lead.
Walls 1 - Tsumura 0
Tsumura led the action in game 2 with a third-turn Civic Wayfinder, only to see it get Remanded back to his hand for not once, but twice. A pair of Blind Hunters quickly swung the lead back to Tsumura. Brainspoil again sent Tattered Drake to the yard, and Walls was now staring at an 18-10 deficit in life totals, with four points of haunt life loss lingering at some point. A Brainspoil from Walls this time killed one of the Hunters, but both players never lacked for spells and the board was soon Stinkweed Imp and Snapping Drake for Walls versus Bramble Elemental, Benevolent Ancestor, Blind Hunter, and Greater Mossdog. Trophy Hunter from Tsumura drew a flag for piling on, and Walls fell under the Onslaught, despite the fact that his hand was filled to the brim with cards.
Walls 1 - Tsumura 1
Walls mumbled, "I think he would have won that game on either side of the table," as he began shuffling up for game 3. Things did not get better in game 3 for the "boom boom" that Japanese players love to love, as Walls had to mulligan on the play. Fortunately for Gabe, Kenji didn't have much gas this time either, which allowed Gabe to set down two impressive defensive creatures in Stinkweed Imp and Tattered Drake against Tsumura's Ostiary Thrull, Benevolent Ancestor, and a suddenly dangerous Sewerdreg. The 'Dreg became a lot less impressive, however, when Walls played his fourth karoo of the game, putting his sole Swamp back into his hand, and started drawing fistfuls of cards.
With his fliers controlling the board and his bounce controlling Kenji's board, Walls began to bash repeatedly, dropping Tsumura to 9 before a Blind Hunter made it 11 instead. Walls drew four cards off of Train of Thought, again restocking his grip. The board stalemated for a couple of turns, as neither player could find an advantage until Walls used Gaze of the Gorgon to get rid of Tsumura's pesky bat. Halcyon Glaze and Izzet Chronarch returning Gaze of the Gorgon suddenly meant Tsumura could neither attack nor block effectively. The Chronarch/Peel from Reality mini-lock sealed the game and Tsumura conceded just as time was called in the round.
Walls 2 - Tsumura 1
Sunday, Feb. 5: 1:24 p.m. - Day One Undefeated Decklists
Grand Prix Richmond - Sealed Deck - 8-0
John E. Moore
Grand Prix Richmond - Sealed Deck - 8-0
Grand Prix Richmond - Sealed Deck - 8-0
John E. Moore
Grand Prix Richmond - Sealed Deck - 8-0
Grand Prix Richmond - Sealed Deck - 8-0
Grand Prix Richmond - Sealed Deck - 7-0-1
Sunday, Feb. 5: 1:56 p.m. - Top to Bottom Update
Taylor Webb was undefeated
At the start of the day we pointed out the high quality of the last draft table, which featured a potential rematch of this past season's World Championships finals. It was contrasted with the top table which featured Jon Sonne, Gabe Walls, and Player of the Year Kenji Tsumura but far more unfamiliar names than the table all the way on the other side of the standings.
At the end of three rounds it was relatively unknown Taylor Webb and Gabe Walls drawing in an eleventh round pairing of undefeated players from table one. Taylor was the only undefeated player remaining in the tournament at 10-0-1. If Taylor and his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hoodie seem familiar you may be remembering him from U.S. Nationals where he was a near-mortal lock to make the Top 8. He only needed to win one of his three remaining matches to secure a berth and possible shot at being on the National team. He struck out in that pursuit and the Texan Magic player was hoping to avoid a repeat performance in the last draft.
Eugene Harvey swept his table of all-stars
As for that fabled Table 8… Eugene Harvey has been sighted and he went 3-0 with a green-black-white deck. The table came down to a match-up between him and Canadian Nationals Top 8 competitor Kyle Smith. Eugene climbed as high as the second table for the last draft pod and was in excellent shape to make a run at the Top 8.
Grand Prix Richmond - Draft One/Table One 2-0-1
Grand Prix Richmond - Draft One/Table Eight 3-0
Sunday, Feb. 5: 3:32 p.m. - Draft 2 Coverage
John Fiorillo is one of those unlucky players who live in perpetual Pro Tour Hell, a space reserved for those special few who seem to consistently find themselves a few Pro Tour points of guaranteeing qualification for future Tours. He has once again put himself in contention for another spot on the Tour, needing only a Top 16 finish to earn a trip to Prague in May. Feeding John for this draft is Gerry Thompson, an outstanding Grand Prix player whose skills never quite seem to carry him to Pro Tour glory.
Back at Worlds, the thing players dreaded the most was drafting a Boros deck next to one of their neighbors. This was thought to guarantee both players a 1-2 record or worse, submarining one's chances at big money, no whammies. Since that time, however, Sam Gomersall managed to win a thousand-person Grand Prix by being the only Boros drafter at his table, making that most derided of archetypes considerably more inviting. However, the question still remains: Can you post a good record by sharing Boros cards with your neighbor?
Fiorillo got the classic Mark of Eviction vs. Selesnya Evangel pick for pack 1, taking the Mark. Thompson took Lighting Helix over Siege Wurm, Razia's Purification, and Boros Guildmage.
Pack 2 Fiorillo grabbed the Guildmage, while Thompson did exactly the same thing in front of him, shipping a Trumpeter, another Wurm, and Vitu-Ghazi. Fiorillo then took the Thundersong out of that pack.
The next pack saw Fiorillo pause over a Watchwolf that Thompson hadn't given a second thought, while Thompson busied himself going heavy Boros, snagging a Screeching Griffin, with Fiorillo taking a Vedalker Dismisser.
By pack 6, Fiorillo had fallen to the full hook, snagging whatever leftover Boros cards Thompson didn't take, in this case a Skyknight Legionnaire. This left him sucking hind pick for the rest of the pack, adding cards like Goblin Spelunkers and Dogpile to the stack in front of him.
At the end of pack 1, Fiorillo had a somewhat confused-looking mash that didn't know whether it wanted to be a more controlling U/R deck or something that splashed White to go more aggro. As for Thompson, he had the makings of a very quick Boros deck that looked to have some solid late game as well.
Fiorillo's first pick in pack 2 was the same as pack 1, as was Thompson's, giving Fiorillo a pair of Marks now while Thompson had two Helixes (taking his second over Faith's Fetters). Thompson took another Guildmage for himself out John's pack, and Fiorillo picked a second Skyknight Legionnaire.
At the end of Pack 2, Fiorillo had a deck sporting Boros creatures with two Marks and four Peel from Reality, while it was Thompson's turn to feel a little uncomfortable about finding enough playables to finish his deck.
Fiorillo's first pick in Guildpact was Strattozeppelid, a hefty addition to the U/R archetype. Thompson's grab was an underwhelming Bloodscale Prowler. Thompson took a blimp of his own for pick 2. Fiorillo then began was stocking up on bouncelands as Thompson stole a Steamcore Weird away, again dipping into Fio's strategy, though this gave John an Izzet Chronarch to go along with his Peels.
Unbeknownst to either of these gentlemen, Gabe Walls was also swiping their playables in pack 2, taking a midpack Lightning Helix and Viashino Fangtail for his mostly Selesnya deck.
Looking at their completed builds, things could go either way. Fiorillo actually cut a Peel from his deck, giving him only five excellent bounce spells to go along with his mediocre creature base. Thompson's deck has the potential to come out lightning fast (I wasn't even punning on the Helix there, honest), and it will be interesting to see whether or not one of both of these guys end up in the Top 8.
As for the question posed above, we'll know the answer in about three rounds from now.
Grand Prix Richmond - Draft Two/Table One
Grand Prix Richmond - Draft Two/Table One
Sunday, Feb. 5: 4:15 p.m. - Top Two Tables
The feature match area for Round 12 featured two different takes on the potential Top 8 competitors near the top of the standings. Jon Sonne has always been a highly regarded player from the TOGIT pool. Last season saw him nab two Grand Prix trophies; one Limited and one Legacy. His opponent was Adam Chambers who played on Sunday at Pro Tour Atlanta as a member of We Add. Adam is a rogue Limited specialist with an unnatural affinity for 2/2s and 3/3s that cost way too much mana.
Less is known about the two players seated at table one. John Moore is a young PTQ level player from Maryland who runs with the likes Morgan Douglass and Brock Parker. Texan Taylor Webb was the only undefeated player left in the tournament and had fellow Texan Billy Moreno in his corner.
Round 12: Sonne vs. Chambers
The players got a little ahead of themselves and started playing before the opening bell. Jon won the die roll and allowed Chambers to play first. Chambers had played Civic Wayfinder when Head Judge Sheldon Menery chastised them for starting too soon. They figured they could just wait until the start announcement and recommence the game in progress but Sheldon told them to shuffle up and start with everyone else.
"My hand was so good. I don't think I could have possibly lost that game," frowned Chambers.
"I think I can manage a better draw this time," Sonne sighed with relief.
Actual Game 1
Jon chose to draw both times. Chambers made the most of his head start and came out fast with Elvish Skysweeper, Lurking Informant, and Civic Wayfinder over the first three turns. Jon was scuffling for green mana to play the two Evangels in his hand. He had to play Benevolent Ancestor instead. It could have been a blessing in disguise as Chambers had Faith's Fetters and attacked for four.
Jon finally drew a green but had to stop the bleeding with Greater Mossdog before he could start playing Evangels. Adam had no attack and simply played Stinkweed Imp.
Jon finally had some mana maneuverability and dropped Elves of Deep Shadow and two Evangels over the next couple of turns. Adam could only attack for one in the air with his Stinkweed and lurk Jon's deck at the end of each turn. He let Jon draw the clump of land that was floating on top. He sent his Civic Wayfinder in to trade for Deep Shadow and token. Post-combat he played the six-mana Harrier Griffin. "He's a really, really good card," grinned Chambers.
Jon played an Ostiary Thrull and got his Mossdog in for some damage. Jon fell to seven on the counterattack. Adam put a Gruul Nudurog on his frontline. The game looked unwinnable for Jon but he gamely sent his Greater Mossdog in after playing Plagued Rusalka. Chambers went to 15.
Harrier Griffin tapped Jon's tapper and Jon shut off the flier in response. Adam had Flight of Fancy for his 4/4 and attacked Jon down to 2. He used Lurking Informant on his own turn to make sure Jon did not draw anything gamebreaking - Adam left a land on top. Jon sacrificed his Wall to take out the Skysweeper that was Adam's only potential blocker he also made two more saproling tokens.
"Attack with everybody."
"I'll take it."
Jon showed him the Seeds of Strength that brought the damage tally to exactly 15.
Chambers chose to draw this time. Jon got off to a sluggish start with nothing but land. Chambers had time to set up. He Farseeked into Island on his second turn and dug three cards deep with Complusive Research.
The two players traded damage with Jon's Mossdog and Adam's Dimir House Guard swinging unfettered. Jon played Elves of Deep Shadow and Plagued Rusalka only to be trumped by Adam's Streetbreaker Wurm.
Jon continued to send in the Greater Mossdog. He put Strands of Undeath on the Rusalka and Adam discarded two lands. He held onto Faith's Fetters for the Rusalka. Jon sacrificed it to make the Wurm smaller. Adam attacked with his 5/3 wurm and Jon was able to block with Elves and Gather Courage.
Jon played his own Harrier Griffin after Skysweeper gang blocked Mossdog with House Guard. Adam had another Streetbreaker Wurm but Jon had Seize the Soul. Adam could not deal with the flier and Jon was now in a position to draw with the winner of table one and secure a berth in the Top 8.
Round 12: Moore vs. Webb
Game 1 saw John Junktroller a Darkblast and Tunnel Vision away all but one card of Taylor's deck for the win. In the second game Taylor's deck delivered the rich creamy green-red goodness and Moore was overrun.
Moore took a mulligan to kick off the deciding game; Webb took a mulligan as well. Both players had Izzet Signets. Taylor's was on turn two but John's was on the turn three in lieu of land. Silhana Starfletcher from Taylor gave him plenty of mana in all his colors.
Moore found a third Mountain and cast Viashino Fangtail. Streetbreaker Wurm dwarfed it on the other side of the table. John cast Compulsive Research in search of land. Not only did he have to discard two spells but the land he found was a fourth Mountain.
Taylor put Fists of Ironwood on Streetbreaker and attacked with both his guys. John took seven. Taylor reinforced with Stinkweed Imp. John shot a token EOT but made no play on his turn.
Taylor attacked with everything. John put the Fangtail in the way of the Wurm. Cleansing Beam was pointed at the Starfletcher and John also shot the Starfletcher before damage was on the stack. Taylor was able to save the Wurm with Gather Courage and trample for five.
Moore scooped after looking at the next card his deck had to offer. Taylor Webb was now 11-0-1 and in excellent position to wash the taste of U.S. Nationals out of his mouth.
"I don't know," sighed Taylor. "I was 5-1-1 in three Honolulu PTQs and went 9th, 9th, and 10th"
Sunday, Feb. 5: 5:23 p.m. - Round 13: Gerry Thompson vs. Gabe Walls
Ah, roommates. The trash talk before this match was something that could only come from two people living together, like a married couple or someone who recently moved into a house of gamers like Gerry Thompson did down in Indy. GerryT was BDM's pick to win this event on Friday and the former Minnesotan has not let him down, sitting only one win away from another Grand Prix Top 8 finish. Standing in his way is part-time sumo wrestler and full-time loudmouth Gabraham Walls. The man nicknamed "Gee Walls" has been cackling all the way through this weekend, racking up win after win, and also putting himself into position where one more win means another Top 8 appearance.
Walls mulliganned his opening hand for game 1, as Thompson tapped a Mountain and a Plains before pausing for a second. "Nice Boros guildmage, stupid," smarmed Walls, predicting Thompson's play. "Not even close," noted Thompson, playing a Sell-sword Brute instead. "Oh, nice Brute! Bahaha!"
For his part, Walls led with a Dyad Sophisticate and Fists of Ironwood to Thompson's aforementioned Brute plus Bloodscale Prowler. In fact, Thompson was all smiles until Siege Wurm hit the table, at which point Gabe assumed his more familiar dominant role. Thundersong Trumpeter ended the threat of the Wurm, living through a Lightning Helix courtesy of Bathe in Light. Thompson's deck did him in though, only providing further Sell-Sword Brutes to act as blockers, nugging Gerry for two a block, putting him in range of a lethal attack plus Boros-Fury Shield on his blocking Conclave Equenaut.
Walls 1 - Thompson 0
Walls had to mulligan twice to start the second inning of this torrid affair. Thompson began game 2 with a Goblin Spelunker, a veritable bloodthirst engine against Gabe's deck filled with Mountains. For his part, Walls only managed to play Mountains and Plains, earning some scathing beats from Thompson.
"That's a nice Green deck you got there, Gabe," sarcasm thick in the air. "Shut up," snarked Walls. "I know where you sleep. I gave you your bed!"
No Forests appeared for Walls and he quickly died to Thompson's squad of surly beaters, though the chatter never stopped flowing.
Walls 1 - Thompson 1
Walls had a better start for game 3, casting a second turn Selesnya Evangel and getting all three colors by turn 3, but Thompson smashed right through that, zorching the Evangel with a Helix, and then throwing five creatures onto the table in three turns. Just as Walls looked like he might stabilize, Thompson played a Trumpeter with a Boros Guildmage on the table, giving the hornblower haste and attacking for lethal damage.
Thompson 2 - Walls 1
After the match, Gerry delivered a message to good friend Mike Krumb, who is noticeably absent this weekend after his GP win in Charlotte. "Hey Mike, I'm winning the race now," said Thompson, referring to the number of Grand Prix Top 8s earned by each Midwesterner.
Sunday, Feb. 5: 5:50 p.m. - Time to Put Up Or Shut Up
As of round fourteen there were only a few things certain about the Top 8. Jon Sonne was almost certainly going to scoop to his friend John Fiorillo to ensure that they both reached the elimination rounds and that Taylor Webb and Gerry Thompson were going to draw in. All the other matches featured uneven point totals and created very few opportunities for people to draw in.
Not even anime hair can get Rich Hoaen a Feature Match
Rich Hoaen had been quietly lurking just off the top tables all day long and had escaped the spotlight of the Feature Match area - not that he was happy about that.
"How is it that you haven't covered me before now?"
I had no good answer. I suspect I may have assumed Rich was a lock for the Top 8 and, as one of the game's very best Limited players, would receive plenty of attention there. At least that's what I told him.
Of course Phil Napoli was hoping to keep the spotlight off of Richie past this round. Napoli is a New York native who makes my Brooklyn accent sound like the Queen's English. Living in the middle of the migratory pattern that goes from Brooklyn to Staten Island to New Jersey, Phil hangs around with John Fiorillo and the TOGIT crowd. Fiorillo came over after accepting his concession from Jon Sonne to watch Phil play as did Osyp.
Phil led with a Veteran Armorer while Richie parlayed a Signet into Nullmage Shepherd. Neither player did anything for two turns until Phil bounced the Nullmage with Ogre Savant and got in for two. The Nullmage came back with a friend - Selesnya Evangel.
Phil Repealed the Nullmage and attacked Rich down to eleven. Richie shrugged and replayed the Nullmage accompanied by Mourning Thrull. Phil's Conclave Equenaut came to a Fiery Conclusion a turn later when Rich cashed in an Evangel token.
Both players settled in for a long game. Rich was holding onto a little something special though and he had not planned for things to go as far as Phil had charted out. When he was able to sneak in enough damage he counted up permanents and announced, "You're at eleven? I'll cast this Flame Fusilade."
Phil broke out a Trumpeter on turn two and got in for two points with it when Rich played a Signet. Goblin Spelunkers from Rich was enough of a threat for Phil to run his Trumpeter into them and trade. Phil then played Tibor and Lumia.
Rich had a Bramble Elemental that he got to replay on the next turn when it jumped back to his hand courtesy of Ogre Savant.
Phil sent both guys into the red zone and Richie pushed his freshly recast Bramble in the way and asked, "Leap?" Phil had the flying/first strike card and killed the 4/4.
Phil drew a quizzically cocked eyebrow when he chose to play Drift of Phantasms as opposed to transmuting it or using it make a guy fly over his team a turn later. All Richie had was Golgari Brownscale. Phil took him to 9 with Tibor and Lumia - had he held back a turn on the Drift it would have been to 6. Phil offered up Hypervolt Grasp for his Drift and Richie responded by Fiery Conclusioning the Drift.
Rich dredged back Brownscale ad played it alongside Golgari Rotwurm. Phil had a Snapping Drake that allowed Tibor and Lumia to fly over and drop Rich to 8. Rich attacked with his Rotwurm and left his Brownscale back to block. Phil used Cleansing Beam on the Brownscale. With the one from Tibor he cleared the path for nine potential points of damage.
"I'm killing something," announced Rich as he showed Mortify. The Snapping Drake fell from the sky. He regrew the Brownscale on his next turn and swung in for five more with the Wurm.
Suddenly the tide had turned and Phil was on the defensive - five points a turn adds up quick. It also closes the gap of those last couple of points even quicker.
Final result: Rich Hoaen - 2 Phil Napoli - 1
Sunday, Feb. 6:30 p.m. - Round 14: Gabe Walls vs. Adam Chambers
Adam Chambers, right, is caught reaching
"Not even gonna make Top 8. I can only beat him once a tournament." That was the lament from Gabe Walls as he sat down across from Adam Chambers with a Top 8 spot on the line. Walls is running a three-color R/W/G deck featuring hits like Sunforger and two Siege Wurms. Chambers's deck is the usual five-color special that he prefers drafting in this new format. It has served him extremely well so far, but he needs his mana to hold up for one more match in order to earn a spot in his first Grand Prix Top 8.
Walls had a very strong start for game 3, casting a turn 3 Viashino Fangtail off of Orzhov Signet, then Silhana Starfletcher into Siege Wurm. For his part, Chambers cast Greater Mossdog, and then Fetters on Walls's Wurm, following that with a Golgari Rotwurm, but not before Walls cast Auratouched Mage, which then brought Fists of Ironwood into play. Chambers made a game of it by beating down with his Mossdog, but lost the Rotwurm to Seeds of Strength and then capitulated when a second Siege Wurm hit the table for Gabe.
Walls 1 - Chambers 0
Walls was manascrewed for game 2, but came out of it quickly, casting Silhana Starfletcher once he hit three mana. Of course, the elvish archer immediately had to deal with a Streetbreaker Wurm, as Chambers delivered nothing but pressure. Flight of Fancy made it so the Starfletcher was the only creature on Walls's side of the board that could bother Craw Wurm Mark II, earning a frown from the big man. Walls put a pumped Ghor-Clan Savage on the board, but Chambers kept the fat factory running, casting Golgari Rotwurm to join the Streetsweeper and Stinky. The Savage and Stinky traded on Gabe's attack, making the life totals 7 to 8 in favor of Chambers.
Lightning Helix before damage was on the stack during Adam's attack dropped Chambers to five, with Walls falling to seven after damage resolved (gaining life from a Centaur Safeguard). Gabe peeked at his next card, hoping for either Lightning Helix or Sunforger to give him the win, but it was not to be and the Top 8 slot would be decided by a third and final game.
Walls 1 - Chambers 1
Chambers was again the aggressor in game 3, playing an early Dimir House Guard and then reprising his Muad'Dib act, calling Wurms like the Kwisatz Haderach. Walls scrapped, clawed, and bit his way into the late game even managing to deal with the wurms, but eventually died to a Congregation at Dawn-fueled flurry of beasties. This gives Chambers his first Grand Prix Top 8.
Chambers 2 - Walls 1