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Australian Son Shines Again!

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He came, he saw, and he totally conquered. James Zhang has now won back to back Australian Grand Prix, solidifying his place in Australian Magic as one of the Greats. Piloting his Blue/Red deck through the top 8, he demolished Steven Aplin before any other match finished, he brushed aside travelling Japanese Pro Tomoharu Saito and then proceeded to beat Grand Prix Brisbane finalist Anatoli Lightfoot senseless in two straight games. All hail our new James Zhang overlords!




Quarterfinals   Semifinals   Finals   Champion
1 Jeremy Neeman   Jeremy Neeman, 2-1        
8 Shouta Yasooka   Anatoli Lightfoot, 2-0
       
4 Takuya Oosawa   Anatoli Lightfoot, 2-0   James Zhang, 2-0
5 Anatoli Lightfoot    
       
2 Steven Aplin   James Zhang, 2-1
7 James Zhang   James Zhang, 2-1
       
3 Tomoharu Saito   Tomoharu Saito, 2-0
6 Hugh Glanville    


EVENT COVERAGE FINAL TOP 8 STANDINGS
 1.  James Zhang $2,400
 2.  Anatoli Lightfoot $1,700
 3.  Tomoharu Saito $1,200
 4.  Jeremy Neeman $1,000
 5.  Steven Aplin $800
 6.  Takuya Oosawa $800
 7.  Shouta Yasooka $800
 8.  Hugh Glanville $800
Pairings Results Standings
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BLOG

 
  • Saturday, Oct 7: 10:29 a.m. - Deck Registration Begins


  • Who will find the Golden Ticket?

    If you're anything like me, you love the sound of a booster pack being cracked. That crackle, that tear in the airwaves that makes you want to leaf through to the back to see what your rare is. You want to know what's better than the sound of a booster being opened? Two hundred and thirteen boosters all being opened at once. I half expected some kind of temporal portal to appear above the players and Cleopatra, Elvis and a packet of peanuts to suddenly appear and drop down amongst the players. To some players who may not have seen Time Shifted cards yet, that may have been what it felt like to them.



     
  • Saturday, Oct 7: 11:30 a.m. - Deck Construction with Kenji Tsumura


  • In 1981, Australia unleashed the second Mel Gibson "Mad Max" film "The Road Warrior" on the world. I would say "the unsuspecting world", but sequels seldom take people by surprise. Echoing the 80's cult icon, Kenji Tsumura has made the trip out to Sydney in pursuit of the "Road Warrior" title himself. Last time I caught up with the pint-sized Player of the Year, he was demolishing the competition at Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur earlier in June.

    When I arrived at his table, he was shuffling his playables around in front of him. He seemed certain that he was going to play Red, as he had been fortunate enough to open a Rift Bolt, a Lightning Axe, a Sulfurous Blast and a Magus of the Scroll. After that, things weren't so cut and dried. First the Green was laid out next to the Red, then the White. Then both the Green and the White with a Red Splash. The thumbed through his Black disapprovingly, and practically refused to look at his Blue, which amounted to little more than a few Morphs and a bounce spell. In the end, and I mean that literally, as there were less than five minutes left on the clock, Tsumura decided to pair his destructive Red spells with some small and combat-savvy White ones. Clearly hoping that a couple of D'Avenant Healers and a pair of Benalish Cavalry would be the kind of thing that would push him through to day two.

    Tsumura wasn't overly excited about his card pool, with the highlights being the Red cards listed above and the Pro Player card, which happened to be his good friend Masashi Oiso. When I asked him how he thought he would do, he offered "I hope X-1 or X-2."

    Now, I would love to give you his card pool and deck list. You know, so you can take a look to see if maybe you would build it differently, or whatever. But I have already seen several players around the room plugging away at their laptops, no doubt connected to the rest of you wirelessly. So in this day and age, you're gonna have to wait until the close of day one to see anything resembling a decklist. With any luck, Tsumura could be up there amongst those lucky enough to avoid losses, but we'll just have to wait until then to find out, won't we?



     
  • Saturday, Oct 7: 1:03 p.m. - Anecdotal Evidence - The First


  • As round two gets underway, I find myself reflecting on things that have happened so far this weekend. Sure, round two isn't especially far into the tournament as such, but exciting or entertaining things can happen if you know where to look. Those astute readers out there, and I think if you're reading this then that basically does include you, may have noticed that I entitled this entry "The First". Yes, that means that I may from time to time try to regale you with more anecdotal shenanigans throughout this weekend, but fear not, the resident physician assures me that any harm caused from the reading this of this blog entry is only temporary, and certainly non-fatal.

    Round two, fight!

    New Cards
    During the Grand Prix Trials run yesterday, I hovered over one or two players as they built their sealed decks. As David Crewe arranged his cards in front of him, I scooped up a Scryb Ranger to take a closer look. Another local player Garry Wong leaned over my shoulder to peer at the card, "ehh that's not good, is it?" I replied that I thought it was quite good, but Wong would have none of it. "I dunno man, maybe if it had flying." "It does have flying" Crewe snapped, and snatched the card back from me before a judge escorted us from the area for being disruptive. Wong was later seen loudly gesticulating (as is his way) at a Draining Whelk because it too had flying. As hard as it is to believe, some cards do in fact have flying.

    Old Cards
    Timeshifted cards were not the only thing brought back with Time Spiral, some older players not seen in the wild or captivity any time in the last few years have also come out of the woodwork to play. Justin "Bomber" West, who lead the Australian National Team on home ground in 2002 is here, and is wearing his traditional gaming gear of black beanie, red bush shirt and black "Death Dealers" T-shirt. Joining him is The Ben Seck or TBS as he has often been called. Seck has a Pro Tour top 8 under the belt, a couple of Grand Prix wins to his name, and is no doubt looking for a third one here this weekend. And now for a fun game featuring both of these players. The picture above has Justin West in it somewhere, albeit without his red bush shirt on, and the picture below has Ben Seck in it. Can you find the Australian Magical icons?

    Where's The Ben Seck?

    It Takes Skill
    For deck registration, local judge and player Andrew Pirie was seated across the table from noted Japanese Pro Tomoharu Saito. Both players were required to register the deck, and once prompted, pass the deck across to the other player to double check that it had been registered correctly. Once he finished registering the deck, Saito got a bit of deck building practice in with the cards as well. They then swapped cards and checked them, before the judges collected everyone's sealed decks up for redistribution. The deck Pirie got back (randomly, of course!) had been registered by none other than Tomoharu Saito, and it didn't take Pirie long to reassemble the deck he had seen across from the table from him a few minutes earlier. How lucky.

    In the numbers
    As most tournament staff are likely to do the night before a tournament, friendly wagers were placed as to just how many players would turn up on the day. With 210 players in the field as players first opened their packs, I was the clear winner with my guess of 200, and head judge Mark Brown in second place with his of 225. Imagine my luck as a couple of last minute entries ("you have eleven minutes to register a deck, can you do that?") took the number of players up to 213, putting Mark out in front by the narrowest possible margin.



     
  • Saturday, Oct 7: 1:03 p.m. - Round 4: Terry Soh vs. Cynic Kim


  • Terry Soh

    As the Head Judge Mark Brown and I skimmed the round four pairings for a feature match, one stood out in particular, and that was Cynic Kim and Terry Soh, both of whom had finished in the Top 8 at Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur earlier this year.

    Kim started the first game strong by using his Hunting Moa to beef up with Withered Wretch and forcing Soh into a defensive position before he had a chance to get anywhere useful. Soh dropped a couple of smaller Black and White guys, but they stood no chance in the face of Kim's Weatherseed Totem, who cleaned up the board smartly.

    Soh again chose to draw for Game 2, but this time came out fighting with a Soltari Priest and a Trespasser il-Vec. All Kim could come back with was a turn three Weatherseed Totem and a turn four Vhati il-Dal. Kim couldn't get the Totem online without a third Green Mana source, and soon lost his Vhati il-Dal in combat as Soh continued to apply pressure to Kim's wounds. Kim could only make a less than impressive Phyrexian Totem, which had to step up to defend and took three combat damage in the process, leaving Kim with the two Totems and Forest for permanents. The writing was clearly on the wall, but Soh made it clear with a Tendrils of Corruption on the Animated Phyrexian Totem, leaving Kim with zero permanents and a lowly six life.

    After this attack step, Kim had zero permanents

    Both players came out at the same pace as each other in the final game, resulting in a predictable ground stall. Kim was threatening to overcome Soh with a Verdant Embrace on his Hunting Moa, but being on only nine life meant he had to wait for the right moment to strike. Soh on the other hand had a ticking bomb in play, the Magus of the Mirror. With time running out, both players were looking for a way to break through before the other player went all in. Just as extra turns kicked, Soh mana burned down to two during Kim's end step, untapped and popped his Magus during his upkeep, swapping life totals with Kim. He then Flashbacked his Strangling Soot to knock Kim's only flier out of the way to finish the match in one fell swoop.

    Terry Soh defeats Cynic Kim 2-1



     
  • Saturday, Oct 7: 5:28 p.m. - Round 5: Terry Soh vs. Ben Seck


  • I didn't have a great deal of time to cover this match, much to the distress of Ben Seck, who by all accounts craves attention almost as much as I do. Conveniently, I could blame Terry Soh for taking so long to finally win his match verses Cynic that I had to type up that match instead. After hammering away at the keyboard for a while, browsing a few forums, taking a nap, going out to buy more bottled water, taking in the afternoon showing of Clerks 2 and arm-wrestling a couple of the judges for fifteen minutes, I went back over to the match to see Seck administering the killing Conflagrate blow that gave him the match 2-1. "Terry had the worst draws ever" Seck offered, shaking Soh's hand "it wasn't good."



     
  • Saturday, Oct 7: 6:31 p.m. - Round 6: Daniel Piechnick vs. Shuu Komuro


  • Daniel Piechnick will be representing Australia this year in France as part of their national team after his exceptionally strong performance at this year's National Champs. Shuu Komuro won Pro Tour Nagoya in 2005, and has something like five Grand Prix top 8's as well, which should be more than enough information on the man.

    Komuro started out with a mulligan and his first few turns reflected that with Mountain, suspend Keldon Halberdier, Mountain, pass, pass. Piechnick pushed forward with a Flowstone Channeler, and Komuro threw down an Ætherflame Wall to keep things in check. Piechnick attacked into the wall, and Komuro blocked. "Yeah" Piechnick mused, nodding. Komuro found a third Mountain and made a Jaya Ballard, Task Mage, which elicited an "oooh" from Piechnick.

    Going for a "big turn", Piechnick powered out a Madnessed Dark Withering through his Flowstone Channeler, banishing the wall and shrinking Jaya Ballard's toughness by one. He then played a Grapeshot for two, one on the Task Mage and one on Komuro. Komuro played Snapback on Jaya Ballard, deflating Piechnick's big turn nicely. Komuro replayed the Red Legend and then proceeded to take back the game with it until Piechnick suspended a Greater Gargadon.

    "Gargadon eats everything" announced Piechnick, which made me finally read the card. "Mmmmm, hungry hippo." He deadpanned. "Does he trample?" Komuro inquired, "he should trample" the Australian answered. A few careful chump-blocks and Jaya Ballards to the face later, and Komuro had successfully raced the Gargadon to the finish.

    Piechnick started Game 2 with a suspended Mindstab, which Komuro Reiterated a few turns later to keep things even. Other than that, play was slow with Komuro's first aggressive spell being an end of turn Crookclaw Transmuter. Piechnick again suspended his Greater Gargadon. Knowing he had a monster to race, Komuro bolstered his attack force with a Pirate Ship wearing an Ophidian Eye. Piechnick considered his options and realized that if he didn't push out the Gargadon soon, it would soon be worthless in the face of Komuro's card drawing flyer. "Elephant! Smash!" Piechnick decided, only to have Komuro block it's progress with a Triskelavus, which conveniently made small Shuu Komuro (Pro Player Card) tokens. With nothing but a Greater Gargadon, a Flowstone Channeler and a Forest in play, Piechnick was forced to pack it in.



     
  • Saturday, Oct 7: 7:58 p.m. - Round 7: Steven Aplin vs. Kenji Tsumura


  • There is a whole lot I could tell you about Kenji Tsumura, but there really is no need. If you've made it this far, you know that being Player of the Year sets Tsumura well apart from the crowd. Steven Aplin, I don't know a great deal about, other than the fact that he earned his byes at a Grand Prix Trial in Adelaide, and has built a solid performance on top of that to be undefeated going into the final round. Aplin's Green/White/Red deck was going to face off against Tsumura's fast and efficient Red/White construction to see who would be making it through to day two still undefeated

    Both players started out by establishing similar board positions. Tsumura prevented a possible ground assault with an Ætherflame Wall while attacking in the air with a Cloudchaser Kestrel, while Aplin accomplished both with a lone Serra Avenger. A flying 3/3 vigilance Angel would pose quite a sizeable problem to get past in the air if you didn't have some kind of trick, but Tsumura attacked into the Angel turn after turn. Knowing that the Angel was his path to victory, Aplin refused to rise to the bait. Several diverse creatures fell aside on either side, but that Angel kept on ticking and eventually Tsumura was forced to drop his attack in favor of defending his board position. Aplin drove the nail in by adding an Amrou Seekers and a Gustcloak Cavalier to his attack, and Tsumura was left picking up his cards with a shake of his head.

    Tsumura punished Aplin's slow start in Game 2 with an early Benalish Cavalry and a D'Avenant Healer. Aplin's first play was a Thunder Totem, followed by a Scarwood Treefolk, neither of which do a great deal of defending while they're getting set up. Tsumura compounded things with a Flamecore Elemental, and by the time Aplin could actually push his guys in front of Tsumura's, he was on seven life and promptly had his army smashed apart by a flashed Bogardan Rager.

    Both players appeared to start out slowly in the last game, but Aplin had the bomb turn four Stonebrow, Krosan Hero, which proceeded to crash into Tsumura's face repeatedly for six. Tsumura suspended a Rift Bolt, and followed it with a Sulfurous Blast, but Aplin fended it off with a Thrill of the Hunt followed by flashing it back. There was little the Player of the Year could do to stop the Krosan Warrior from finishing him off in short order, leaving him with the X-1 finish he predicted earlier today, and setting Aplin up for a great day two starting at the top of the pile.

    Steven Aplin defeats Kenji Tsumura 2-1


    Day 2




     
  • Sunday, Oct 8: 9:51 a.m. - The First Draft with Anatoli Lightfoot and Shuuhei Nakamura


  • Instinctively, I headed towards Table One to cover their draft, but faltered as I passed table two.

    Ben Fleming
    Maximilian Bracht
    Anatoli Lightfoot
    Shuuhei Nakamura
    Kenji Tsumura
    Rhys Gould
    Philip Hunn
    Adrian Capilitan

    Now that'sa spicy pod of meatball! Even though it's a little early for meatballs, I am totally craving them now. I think I'll requisition a judge to go fetch me a meatball sammich. Anyway, back to the draft. I positioned myself between Anatoli Lightfoot, who made the finals of the last Limited Grand Prix held here in 2004, and Shuuhei Nakamura, who has made the top 8 of three Pro Tours, but has only one Grand Prix. Nakamura was also feeding Player of the Year Kenji Tsumura, and Lightfoot was receiving most of his cards through current German National Champion, Maximilian Bracht. Quite the corner to be in, if I do say so myself.

    Lightfoot first picked a Looter il-Kor, which he later told me was not because he prefered Blue, but because there were no good removal or White spells in the pack. He followed it up with a Spiketail Drakeling and a Viscerid Deepwalker before branching into Black for Nightshade Assassin. More Black cards came his way, and even one or two Red ones, but not much more in the way of Blue. While reviewing his first pack picks, It was clear that Blue wasn't going to be the major influence in his deck that he thought it would be.

    Downwind of the Australian, Nakamura plucked a Celestial Crusader out of his first pack, and then a Phantom Wurm out of the next. He rounded out the pack with a Thunder Totem, an Essence Sliver and a couple of White Flyers. Going into the second pack, Nakamura diversified his options with an Errant Ephemeron, but fell back into Green when he was shipped a Tromp the Domains, a couple of Might of Old Krosa's and a Amrou Scout by Tsumura.

    Showing that he valued removal spells over most things, Lightfoot snapped up a first pick Lightning Axe in the second pack, then a Strangling Soot followed by a Liege of the Pit. Lightfoot's eyebrows were positively wiggling at the cards that Nakamura was passing him. The Liege was followed immediately by a Kaervek the Merciless and a Shadow Guildmage, causing Lightfoot to pretty much forget Blue all together.

    The third pack mostly cemented both player's colors, although they were both convinced that they made a couple of mispicks around the third pack as well. Nakamura first picked a Soltari Priest, but he later thought that he should instead have picked an Outrider en-Kor to go with the Amrou Seeker he picked in pack two. Lightfoot passed a second Kaervek the Merciless in favor of a Blazing Blade Askari, for the sake of tempo, but later realized that he had more than enough three-drops with three Basal Slivers, which would have been more than suited to powering out his bombs as well.

    Lightfoot thought he could definitely 3-0 with his deck, stating "this is ridiculous" gesturing towards his plethora of removal. Nakamura was not so enthusiastic about his chances, and when prompted suggested that he thought maybe Kenji Tsumura would be the one to go 3-0.



     
  • Sunday, Oct 8: 11:13 a.m. - Round 8: Anatoli Lightfoot vs. Shuuhei Nakamura


  • I love it when this happens, you stand behind a couple of guys while they draft and then they get paired immediately afterwards. I asked the players who was going to win, and Lightfoot was quick to say "me!" We all turned to Nakamura, who just grinned, paused and finally pointed both hands at Lightfoot, who promptly mulliganed to five on the draw.

    Both players suspended spells early, a Keldon Halberdier from Lightfoot and a Duskrider Peregrine from Nakamura. Lightfoot rallied from his unenviable position with a Shadow Guildmage and a Morph that suddenly flipped up into a Liege of the Pit and was joined by a Mogg War Marshall, perfect for feeding to the Liege. With both players getting dangerously low on life, Nakamura thrust a bunch of his men under the Liege before managing to main phase a Might of Old Krosa on his remaining flier to come over for the win.

    Nakamura kept a shaky hand in Game 2, and was forced to discard once before he found a second land. Lightfoot dropped a Mana Skimmer into play that kept Nakamura well and truly tied up until Liege of the Pit came through again to tidy things up. "Liege of the Pit is Good" Lightfoot mused.

    Lightfoot was light on plays (chuckle) that make guys in Game 3, but certainly not lacking in ways to remove Nakamura's. Creatures eventually landed on Lightfoot's side of the table, and both players dipped to around 10 life. Nakamura pushed on, adding a Phantom Wurm to his army, but shook his head when Lightfoot finally dropped Kaervek the Merciless into play. He had gotten the Australian close, but not close enough. There was no way he could afford to play any more spells if the next one didn't remove Kaervek from play, and there is very little White and Green can do to actually relocate a bad guy. Namakura grinned and offered Lightfoot his hand.

    Anatoli Lightfoot defeats Shuuhei Nakamura 2-1



     
  • Sunday, Oct 8: 2:32 p.m. - Round 10: Tomoharu Saito vs. Steven Aplin


  • Steven Aplin is the only undefeated player remaining at this point, and he's been playing the best to get here. Next up is double Pro Tour winner Tomoharu Saito.

    Aplin powered ahead with small offensive White and Blue creatures while Saito suspended a Keldon Halberdier and a pair of Greater Gargadons. He was then forced to burn a single Grapeshot on Aplin's Zealot il-Vec before it could pick apart his 4/1 first striker. Aplin continued to power out the fliers and there was little Saito could so to stop the incoming horde.

    Saito kept Game 2 under control with an early Sudden Shock on one of Aplin's fliers, and was soon crashing into the Red Zone with a Watcher Sliver and a Bonesplitter Sliver. Yes, collectively they were a pair of 4/4's. Aplin presented a Celestial Crusader, which threatened to make things interesting, if not for the fact that it died horribly to an Orcish Cannonade. Aplin used a Weathered Bodyguards to absorb some of Saito's assault, but it wasn't enough as Saito's crowd outnumbered Aplin's six to three.

    Saito started Game 3 by again suspending a Halberdier and a Gargadon. Aplin responded in kind, but ultimately had nothing this time that could menace a 4/1 first striker. The Keldon Halberdier took Aplin low, and before he could do enough to stabilize, Saito pushed the Gargadon into play and knocked Aplin out of his chair.

    Tomoharu Saito defeats Steven Aplin 2-1



     
  • Sunday, Oct 8: 3:19 p.m. - The Second Draft with Kenji Tsumura


  • Kenji Tsumura is sitting at the bottom of the 24 pointers, but is still only one win away from the leaders of the pack on 27. His first pack in the second draft offered him a Cloudchaser Kestrel, an Urborg Syphon-Mage and a Skittering Monstrosity. After seeing how over-drafted White was in the last pod, Tsumura plucked out the Syphon-Mage and headed off into Black instead. Sure enough, downwind of him, Charles Koh first picked an Evangelize and took the Kestrel to mean that White would be open to him. Tsumura followed up with a Trespasser il-Vec and then a Penumbra Spider over an Undertaker. The Undertaker then cause Koh pause as Tsumura spanned up another Spider, but he stayed on target, supplementing his White with Blue.

    Tsumura started pack two with yet another Spider, but had to stop for a wee think when Koh passed him a Void, but decided against it, instead picking up an Assassinate. Weatherseed Totem fattened out his front end, and a Strangling Soot the back. A Greenseeker ensured things would run smoothly from the outset. The third pack offered up a Clockwork Hydra, followed by a Thelonite Hermit, a Phantom Wurm and a Search for Tomorrow. Watching him lay out his card pool, it seemed like it was strong enough of a weapon for Tsumura to do whatever it was he aimed to do. But before I could tackle him with a few questions about it, the judges arrived with a tasty burger for me (sadly no meatball sammich), and I felt my attentions were best served elsewhere.




     
  • Sunday, Oct 8: 4:04 p.m. - Day 1 Undefeated Decklists








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  • Sunday, Oct 8: 5:06 p.m. - Round 12: Hugh Glanville vs. Kenji Tsumura


  • Hugh Glanville has been complaining to me all day. Any time I give him a feature match, I'm too busy writing up one from the previous round to cover it. Apparently I did the same thing to him at the Australian National Champs as well, but I'm choosing to believe that I would never do something like that, especially not to young Hugh Glanville. Either way, as a peace offering, I decided to give the wee lad a feature match in the 12th round. It had nothing to do with the fact that his opponent was Kenji Tsumura, who I stood behind in the second draft, but more the fact that Glanville started day two in 53rd place, and is now something like one win and a draw away from the top 8.

    Glanville started out with a mulligan, but still managed to get the ball rolling with a Dauthi Slayer and a suspended Durkwood Baloth. Tsumura trumped it with a Æther Web on his Thallid Shell-Dweller, and followed up with a Clockwork Hydra, but it wasn't enough to hold Glanville in place, as he slowly started overwhelming Tsumura with a Wurmcalling, complete with buyback, and sealed it with a Sudden Spoiling.

    While they shuffled up for Game 2, Glanville pointed toward some kanji hastily penned on Tsumura's score pad. "Does that say Sudden Spoiling?" Tsumura grinned and nodded in reply.

    In a sudden change of mood, Tsumura's face told everyone just happy he was to be mulliganing to five on the play. Glanville also had a mulligan of his own, but it was only once and he had the first draw step of the game to console him. Tsumura came out with guns blazing, getting stuck in with a turn two Spinneret Sliver. Glanville took it on the chin for a could of turns and in true Australian fashion, proved that Spinneret Sliver was in fact, not a knife, and that this is a knife, slapping down a Plague Sliver. Tsumura fought back as best he could, but was ultimately battered to death by the Juzam Sliver. Unwittingly becoming part of Glanville's impressive run for the top 8.

    Hugh Glanville defeats Kenji Tsumura 2-0



     
  • Sunday, Oct 8: 5:18 p.m. - A Rockin' in Sydney Photo Montage!


  • As with any event that happens to have Magic players at it, there will almost always be Magic Moments. That was a Magic Moment, right there, where I did the pun thing with "Magic". Anyway, here are some pictures that I happened to have lying around with no place to go, but the Rockin' in Sydney Photo Montage!

    Players competing in the Qualifier tournament for Pro Tour Geneva


    A "Nudie Crushie". It actually tasted very nice, once I got past the name.


    The dealers are a'dealin'


    This is what judges look like at the start of the weekend.


    They're not so bad at the judge's meeting at the start of day two...


    But it's all become too much for this wee one. I didn't have the heart to wake him, so I had to continue with my work as best I could.


    Here are our resident artists, Mark Poole and Warren Mahy. They have it easy, just sittin' around chillin' and shootin' the breeze.


    "And then like, I make my arm just disappear like this!" "Woah man, woah…"


    How not to open pre-stamped draft packs.


    The tournament organizer Dale Aitken and head judge Mark Brown "stress test" the top 8 playmats. It's a hard job, but someone has to do it.


    And yours truly, back stage working away to bring all of this to you, with the help of the incomparable Ben Stahl back at WotC HQ.

    (Ben "Stahlen" Stahl is a slave driver and is holding my family hostage, send he;lp)

    [Editor's Note: Now they get it!]



    Top 8




     
  • Sunday, Oct 8: 7:01 p.m. - Top 8 Draft with Shouta Yasooka and Hugh Glanville


  • I scanned the draft able for a suitable place to stand, and spotted a place with my name on it between standings runner Hugh Glanville, and current leader in the Player of the Year race, Shouta Yasooka. I elbowed my way through the crowd, only stabbing one or two with my pen and blinding a couple more the camera flash to get to where I needed to be.

    Glanville first picked a Sacred Mesa, which some people consider to be on the same power levels as Meloku, the Clouded Mirror. Yasooka went with an Avalanche Riders, which is generally considered extremely constructed playable, and pretty good in Limited. Unfortunately for Yasooka, the quality of the Red cards flowing through had Glanville going heavily into Red, while still leaving passable cards for him. This made it somewhat more difficult for Yasooka to notice that he was effectively being cut off, but thankfully he had chosen to supplement his Red with Black, which Glanville was leaving well alone, so he was still filling up on playables.


    The second pack picked things up nicely for Yasooka, which popped a Sudden Shock and was passed a Stormbind and a Rift Bolt. Glanville on the other hand, busted open a Firemaw Kavu, and picked up a couple of Castle Raptors and a Lightning Axe. Yasooka seemed to be getting more than his fair share of Slivers though, and managed to pick up a late Might Sliver in the last pack to pull his deck together, while Glanville was rewarded by a fifth pick Word of Seizing.

    Glanville seemed happy with his deck "but I wish I had a slightly easier opponent!" Everyone seemed to be in fear of Yasooka's Sliver deck, but time will tell if it's all hype or if they deck actually came together to make a monster.



     
  • Sunday, Oct 8: 7:40 p.m. - Quarterfinals Recap


  • James Zhang vs. Steven Aplin

    The first match to finish was Steven Aplin vs. James Zhang. Zhang took Game 1 handily, but stalled out in the second giving Aplin enough time to overrun him with his Black and White men. Zhang's deck started Game 3 just fine, coughing up enough Blue fliers and Red removal to push anything Aplin played out of the way. When Aplin finally found a second Plains for his Serra Avenger, it was already too late, and all Zhang had to do was turn his guys sideways to take the match.

    James Zhang defeats Steven Aplin 2-1

    Next to finish was Anatoli Lightfoot and Takuya Oosawa. Lightfoot took Game 1 when both players had their Phyrexian Totem meet in combat, but the only one of them had a pump spell. Game 2 saw Lightfoot come out fast and strong, with his Green, Red and Black cards pushing Oosawa to his limits. Oosawa unmorphed a Liege of the Pit but it was too late, as Lightfoot again had the Might of Old Krosa to win it in two.

    Anatoli Lightfoot defeats Takuya Oosawa 2-0


    Shouta Yasooka vs. Jeremy Neeman

    Almost immediately after Lightfoot and Oosawa, Jeremy Neeman and Shouta Yasooka finished their match as well. I went to the table judge for the recap, and it seems that in the third game, Neeman sent his men into an unfavorable combat situation leaving his only out being an Unyaro bees off the top. Being at a precarious two life, Yasooka was dismayed to see Neeman rip the Bees right off the top, and send it straight to the face.

    Jeremy Neeman defeats Shouta Yasooka 2-1

    Finally in the Tomoharu Saito and Hugh Glanville match, both players threw their White men at each other. Glanville backed his up with his exceptional Red spells, but ultimately could not stop Sato's white fliers from finishing the race by flying over a ground stall. Game 2 looked like it was going to be much the same, with Saito laughingly guessing that Glanville's morph was a Weathered Bodyguard. If Glanville was worried by Saito's fliers again in the second game, he hadn't seen nuthin' yet. Saito windmill slammed an Akroma, Angel of Vengeance into play, and that was all it took for Glanville to pack up his cards.

    Tomoharu Saito defeats Hugh Glanville 2-0



     
  • Sunday, Oct 8: 9:21 p.m. - Semifinals Roundup


  • Anatoli Lightfoot vs. Jeremy Neeman

    Not leaving me any space for breath, or even food (my grilled chicken burger is rapidly turning into a grilled chicken sammich) Anatoli Lightfoot and Jeremy Neeman launched straight into their match with vigor, energy and a Neeman suspended Mindstab that robbed Lightfoot of all of his early gas. With one last card left of consequence to play with, Lightfoot dropped an Urborg Syphon-Mage into play and used it to drain Neeman from 20 to zero over the next ten turns, the life gain barely keeping his head above water.

    Neeman kept a two-land hand that featured Tromp the Domains for the second game, and while he didn't exactly stall out, Lightfoot mulliganed and top-decked his way into a turn three Viscid Lemures. The 4/3 made short work of Neeman by turning sideways repeatedly and finally sneaking through his Swamp with a Might of Old Krosa'ing for the killing blow.

    Anatoli Lightfoot defeats Jeremy Neeman 2-0


    James Zhang vs. Tomoharu Saito

    On the other table, Tomoharu Saito and James Zhang were throwing their reasonably priced fliers at each other and using diverse tricks to keep them alive or send others to spiraling deaths. Eventually, Zhang copied his Fledgling Mawcor with a Vesuvan Shapeshifter, and proceeded to clay pigeon down Saito's side of the table.

    Both players staggered into Game 2 with only their main colors available, Zhang with his Islands and Saito his Plains. Zhang was the first to find one of his secondary lands, and dropped a Clockwork Hydra that threatened to give Saito's air force a little trouble if allowed to get out of hand. Saito simply tapped his three guys to Gaze of Justice the Artifact out of the game, and then continued to beat through in the air to take the match to one apiece.

    In stark contrast to the second game, both players came out with everything in the third. Zhang building up to a Clockwork Hydra and Saito with his almost trademarked air force. Zhang backed his Hydra with another Fledgling Mawcor, and combined with a Firemaw Kavu, tore the skies to pieces. Saito was left shaking his head. He resolutely offered Zhang his hand.

    James Zhang defeats Tomoharu Saito 2-1



     
  • Sunday, Oct 8: 10:02 p.m. - Finals: Anatoli Lightfoot vs. James Zhang


  • It all comes down to this. Two men enter, one man leaves. Actually, both men leave eventually, but it's not an Australian Grand Prix without copious Mad Max quotes. Last time there was a Limited Grand Prix in these parts (Brisbane 2004) Anatoli Lightfoot lost in the finals to a heartbreaking mulligan to four. Last year, James Zhang won the Extended Grand Prix in Melbourne. These two veterans are as hungry as each other for the win here tonight.

    Lightfoot took a strong lead with a Strangling Soot on a morph, and then ripping the land to flash it back on a Stormcloud Djinn. Zhang stabilized with a Pirate Ship, and a Vesuvan Shapeshifter before landing a Pardic Dragon that had a hungry look in it's eyes and fire on it's breath, literally. "You know that guy's no good to suspend, right?" Lightfoot coached Zhang as he packed up his cards. "Good thing I didn't have double Red early" Zhang deadpanned.

    "That's why I'm in the finals" Lightfoot chuckled in Game 2, drawing a land off the top two turns in a row to play a third turn Phyrexian Totem, followed by a turn four Viscid Lemures. Zhang had a very nice start of his own; Goblin Skycutter, followed by a morph and a Fledgling Mawcor. Pirate Ship again came down for Zhang, and Lightfoot ripped a few more lands off the top. "Okay, you can stop now" he jokingly advised his deck.

    Both players began committing a few more guys to the table. One of Lightfoot's was an Urborg Syphon-Mage that started chewing away at Zhang, dropping him well below 10 life. Zhang made a Clockwork Hydra, and Lightfoot replied with a shrug and a Corpulent Corpse, still feeling in control of the game. Things changed dramatically the following turn as Zhang dropped Firemaw Kavu on top of the Syphon-Mage. "That's a good card" Lightfoot mused, and could only watch as Zhang elected not to pay the echo the following turn and have it also take out the Corpulent Corpse.

    Zhang again found and played his Pardic Dragon, and followed it up with Stormcloud Djinn. He turned to the table judge, "the turn he plays this Totem" gesturing to the Phyrexian Totem loitering near Lightfoot's lands, "if he activates it, it doesn't have haste, right?" Lightfoot correctly sniffed out the Temporal Eddy "I can't win" he exclaimed, packing up his cards and shaking Zhang's hand.

    James Zhang defeats Anatoli Lightfoot to become the Grand Prix Sydney Champion and the Australian Grand Prix Champion for the second year running.



     
  • Sunday, Oct 8: 10:19 p.m. - The Top 8 Profiles


  • Name: James Zhang
    Age: 20
    Location: Sydney
    Occupation: Student
    Best finish in a Magic; the Gathering event: Winner GP Melbourne 2005
    The card you most hope to open in the top 8: Stormbind
    The best Time Spiral common in Limited: Amrou Seekers
    Who is the sexiest member of the top 8: All the Japanese players are sexy.

    Name: Hugh Glanville
    Age: 24
    Location: Canberra
    Occupation: Geologist
    Best finish in a Magic; the Gathering event: 5th in a GP
    The card you most hope to open in the top 8: Spectral Force
    The best Time Spiral common in Limited: Errant Ephemeron
    Who is the sexiest member of the top 8: Jeremy Neeman

    Name: Anatoli Lightfoot
    Age: 24
    Location: Canberra
    Occupation: Data Analyst
    Best finish in a Magic; the Gathering event: 2nd GP Brisbane 2004
    The card you most hope to open in the top 8: Spectral Force
    The best Time Spiral common in Limited: Strangling Soot
    Who is the sexiest member of the top 8: Hugh Glanville, what a pretty boy.

    Name: Jeremy Neeman
    Age: 16
    Location: Canberra
    Occupation: Student
    Best finish in a Magic; the Gathering event: Top 16 GP Melbourne 2005
    The card you most hope to open in the top 8: Spectral Force. It's a savage sack beating.
    The best Time Spiral common in Limited: Strangling Soot
    Who is the sexiest member of the top 8: Hugh Glanville, he's a total babe.

    Name: Steven Alpin
    Age: 19
    Location: Adelaide
    Occupation: None
    Best finish in a Magic; the Gathering event: 1st PTQ Kobe
    The card you most hope to open in the top 8: Akroma
    The best Time Spiral common in Limited: Fortify
    Who is the sexiest member of the top 8: Me, obv.

    Name: Shota Yasooka
    Age: 22
    Location: Japan
    Occupation: Card Gamer
    Best finish in a Magic; the Gathering event: Pro Tour Charleston Winning Team
    The card you most hope to open in the top 8: Sudden Spoiling
    The best Time Spiral common in Limited: Strangling Soot
    Who is the sexiest member of the top 8: Oosawa Takuya

    Name: Takuya Oosawa
    Age: 21
    Location: Japan Kanagawa
    Occupation: Groupies
    Best finish in a Magic; the Gathering event: Pro Tour Prague Champion
    The card you most hope to open in the top 8: Jaya Ballard, Task Mage
    The best Time Spiral common in Limited: Strangling Soot
    Who is the sexiest member of the top 8: Shouta Yasooka

    Name: Tomoharu Saito
    Age: 22
    Location: Japan Tokyo
    Occupation: Pro Card Gamer
    Best finish in a Magic; the Gathering event: PT Charleston Winning Team
    The card you most hope to open in the top 8: Errant Ephemeron
    The best Time Spiral common in Limited: Errant Ephemeron
    Who is the sexiest member of the top 8: Tomoharu Saito



     
  • Sunday, Oct 8: 10:24 p.m. - Decklists: The Top 8 Decks





  • Takuya Oosawa
    GP Melbourne Top 8 Decklist





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