Saturday, June 3: 12:02 p.m. - Rich Hoaen Builds
With a buffet of options that included Anton Jonsson, Frank Karsten, Julien Nuijten, Jelger Wiegesma, Billy Moreno, Jon Sonne, and Johan Sadegphour whom did I select to walk over with me to the Feature Match area to watch build a Sealed Deck?
Rich Hoaen is certainly the top limited player in all of Canada and is on an extremely short list of the best Limited players in the world. Hoaen is a sure fire bet to money at Limited Pro Tours - which he recently did in Prague - and won the last North American limited Grand Prix in Richmond. Hoaen has become something of a Limited guru and there is even talk of him flying out to Japan to mentor Kenji Tsumura in the finer points of Time Spiral draft in the days leading up to Kobe.
If he's good enough for the reigning Player of the Year …
"Powerful rares, I guess," chuckled Richie when I asked him what he looks for when opening a Sealed Deck. Other than a Brightflame the rare slots in his deck were quite unspectular - although that was not his main concern.
"The first thing I noticed was that there was only one double land which is pretty important in this format. The lands are much more important than the signets because they give you a free card." Still, he felt he could make something happen. "It doesn't seem overwhelming but it looks like it has potential. While there are no good rares the green and the blue look deep althought there doesn't seem to be much else."
His blue and green looked especially promising in Ravnica as he flipped past a number of solid cards - Compulsive Research, Snapping Drake, Belltower Sphinx -- but the boosters offered little to help out in either of those colors. It was obviously vexing for the Canadian who was building a Sealed deck for the first time in this format.
"I have not played with Dissension in Sealed yet. They didn't have this format on the Beta - they offered double Dissension," laughed Hoaen as he double checked for mana fixers - maybe a Vesper Ghoul had slipped into the chaff pile. The only problem was that even if he had the good mana fixing there was barely anything he wanted to play.
I asked him about the X-spell sitting among his chaff and he made it clear that is where it was going to stay. "I don't like Brightflame very much… never have…never will."
Right from the start he knew he would be running a blue-green base with splashes in as many as all three of the remaining colors - there was a Faith's Fetters, Ogre Savant, and an ample supply of black cards to choose from. While he only had one bounce land - a Golgari Rotfarm - he did have a handful of Signets, Terrion, and Utopia Sprawl to try and make it all happen. The key for Richie was to have his splashes accessorize an otherwise straightforward two color deck in as unobtrusive a fashion as possible.
Green-blue had some solid creatures - Snapping Drake, Belltower Sphinx, Bramble Elemental, Ghor-Clan Savage, etc. - to go along with some reasonable spells. It looked like he would certainly be splashing black for Seal of Doom, Consult the Necrosages, and possibly Shambling Shell and Dimir Doppelganger. Surprisingly he left Brainspoil, Stinkweed Imp, and Darkblast in his non-playable pile with little to zero consideration given to any of them.
"I am just going to be splashing black," he explained as he gestured to the double black barrier in the upper right hand corner of the Brainspoil. "Stinkweed Imp in only really good on turn three and…" he made a dismissive gesture in the direction of the Darkblast.
With the base of the deck settled he looked for some marginal cards that could pad his base colors. He laid Vedalken Plotter with his three drops after a moment's consideration.
"I guess Plotter is good in this format - now that people know the bounce lands are good." It was also made better by the fact that Richie - thanks to his three byes -- would not be playing until round four - when all the good decks would certainly have plenty of Karoo-iffic targets.
In the end he left the red Ogre Savant riding the pine and went blue-green with a smidgeon on black and just a whiff of white for the Faith's Fetters. He went right up to the time limit trying to figure out his mana - Utopia Sprawl was giving him fits. If he could play the Wild Growth update it would be his most flexible fixer but with two of his other fixers - signet and the Rotfarm - in green he wanted to shave a couple of Forests. In the end he cut the Sprawl and ended up with the following list.
Grand Prix Toronto - RGD Sealed Deck
Richie's thought that the deck would be more than enough to get him over the Day One hump to the drafting he prefers to be doing. "I will be pretty disappointed if I take more than one loss. Come to think of it I am pretty disappointed whenever I take any loss."
Saturday, June 3: 1:18 p.m. - Foreign Relations
Coming into this weekend I was certainly jealous of my counterparts at the other GPs who were going to have an opportunity to cover the players in Kuala Lumpur and Torino. Don't get me wrong; there is no shortage of top notch talent around here from Rich Hoaen to Antonino DeRosa to Mark Herberholz to Billy Moreno. It is just that I cover these guys all the time when I do a domestic GP. While I was looking forward to the short trip (more on that later) I was craving a little bit of strange.
I was pretty happy when I saw Julien Nuijten, Frank Karsten, Jelger Wiergesma, and Rogier Mattien queuing up last night for an early registration. Things were definitely looking up although it was not quite on the same par with seeing the Japanese stroll through the door in Seattle. (I wish I could say "for the first time" but I missed their exciting debut in Boston) The Dutch have made a habit of traveling to North American GPs in the last year.
I was able to capture the buzz I was seeking when none other than Anton Jonsson strolled up behind them along with Johan Sedegphour. This was the first time either of these Swedish superstars had traveled to a North American event. Considering both players' prowess with 40-card builds it was even more exciting - although it was 60-card decks that brought them across the Atlantic.
"Me and Johan are teaming with Rich Hoaen for the team Pro Tour," explained Anton Jonsson. "He wanted us to come here. After this weekend we are going to Eric Froelich's house to test for the PT. It makes sense because it doesn't cost us much more - and its fun to try an American GP for a change."
"North American GP!" corrected Hoaen.
While Anton was hoping to find some block Constructed tech in the coming weeks he already had a little trickery up his sleeve for this event. Anton had two decks built. One was green-black-red with some additional splashage. The other deck which was armed and ready to go was straight red-white.
The best of Sweden and the Netherlands give their decks a trial run while waiting for the fourth round to start.
"What are you doing here," I asked 2004 World Champion Julien Nuijten after he learned of the relatively light turnout in Turin.
"That's what I am wondering right now as well," he sighed. "We thought we would be avoiding a 1200 man GP but we were wrong."
I think there are still fewer Pros and fewer Players than are in Europe but the difference is much less than we had hoped for," Frank Karsten chimed in.
Unlike the Swedes who are staying through Charlston, this was just a weekend jaunt for the Dutch contingent.
"We are going home after this and testing in Europe."
Julien was playing with the same team he sported in Atlanta - him, Rogier Mattien, and Wessel Oomens. Karsten's team - the Ruel brothers will be his wingmen -- has caused something of a buzz although the Fanatic tried to downplay it.
"My team is okay," he softpedaled. "There are definitely better teams."
"When Frank is the weakest link on the team it is a nut high team," eye-rolled Julien.
"It is definitely a very good team and I have faith in how well we are going to do. There is probably a better Japanese team - they are awesome and especially in Constructed.
Saturday, June 3: 2:03 p.m. - The Return of the Tait
Geordie Tait won three byes last night.
Geordie Tait was one of four players who earned three hard fought byes in last night 120+ player Trial. Joining him in round four will be Don Dunham, Stephen Zhang, and Martin-Eric Gauthier. Geordie seems reinvigorated about the game after a protracted absence. He prepared extensively for this tournament playing online over the past few weeks.
Better still it appears that Geordie will soon return the ranks of active Magic columnists.
"If I am playing Magic I am going to be writing about it," promised the Tait.
Saturday, June 3: 2:31 p.m. - Technology on the March
Gerard turns his camera on
Man…this text based coverage is starting to feel a little bit like the Pterodactyl intercom system that was favored by Mr. Slate. Moxradio is doing audio commentary of Grand Prix Turin and Gerard Fabiano is doing a video diary of his Grand Prix experience in Canada.
"Basically I am making a video article. I bought a video recorder - invested some of my Magic winnings to give something back to the community."
I am going to film some players building their decks and some good matches. We are also going to do two take-offs on popular MTV shows -- Next and Yo Mamma. Instead of Yo Mamma it is going to be called Yo Decks and they are going to make funny of each others decks for the pride of the 'hood.
Next is going to be Rich Hoaen looking for team draft partners. You will have a chance to be his partner in a draft if not he will say "Next" and you will have to draft with someone else.
Saturday, June 3: 3:24 p.m. - Unexpected Benchwarmers
Hex or no?
Its amazing how the values of cards - especially big swingy rares - changes each time a new set is released. Woebringer Demon resides in the sideboard of Anton Jonsson's deck without any tokens to stoke its furnace and Richie Hoaen sniffed disapprovingly at the Brightflame that he opened.
Sometimes no one wants to be the guy who benches a rare when they start to suspect its skills are waning. Ken Krouner had that issue with Hex last night in the Trial and Phil Samms was faced with the same dilemma today.
"I wish I wasn't playing every single round today," complained the bye-less Samms who was still uncertain if his deck was built correctly. "I have like nine removal spells and I don't know if I should have played the Hex - but I couldn't bring myself not to play it.
Boo-hoo, Phil… I am sure that plenty of people would take your trouble on as their own.
Saturday, June 3: 3:50 p.m. - Round 4 Feature Match: Julien Nuijten vs. Jon Sonne
In 2004 Julien Nuijten had a break-out performance winning World Championships, Rookie of the Year, and $50,000. After that anything is going to seem like a letdown but in 2005 Julien won a pair of Grand Prix and emerged as one of the better young writers in the game. He was recently the R&D pick to compete at the 2006 Magic Invitational.
Jon Sonne also had a solid 2005 season with a win at Grand Prix Austin, a berth on the US National team, and followed up with a finals appearance in Grand Prix Richmond. Sonne - one of the original TOGIT members - has quietly emerged as one of the top North American players on the Pro Tour with consistent money finishes although an individual Top 8 continues to elude him.
This game developed slowly with each player using removal on creatures that reaped benefits from enchantments. Julien had to BrainspoilBramble Elemental before it could get tricky and Jon had to use Cackling Flames on a Simic Ragworm lest it sport an Ocular Halo.
Both players nipped at each other with mosquito bits from Jon's Lurking Informant and Julien's Spectral Searchlight. Dimir Guildmage might have opened up the game for Jon but Julien promptly killed it with his own Cackling Flames.
The game looked like it was going Nuijten's way when he had a big turn that saw him play Azorius First-Wing and Chronarch back Brainspoil. Jon had Viashino Fangtail and it became a 4/4 thanks to a Simic Basilisk he had played the turn before. He also had Fists to protect it from spoiling. Julien's removal spell ended up being used as mosquito repellant and took out the Informant.
Jon cleared the path of the Chronarch with Seal of Fire and crashed on in. Julien tried to hide behind an Aurora Eidolon. Jon just sent in one token giving Julien a much harder time than he would have had with an alpha strike. He was holding his pen and looked like he was going to take one but eventually put the Eidolon in the way - Fangtail polished it off.
There was no gold card waiting for Julien on his next turn - or any action card for the matter - and he passed the turn. Jon sent in everyone and Julien nudged his First-Wing to the frontlines to bear the brunt of the Basilisk. Steamcore Weird took out another token.
Golgari Rotwurm brought the Aurora Eidolon along for its ride into play but Julien was almost dead. Jon had him at two. He waited patiently as he dropped Julien to one and then played Cytospawn Shambler. Since Julien could sacrifice his Eidolon to negate one ping from the Fangtail he chose to wait for the end of Julien's next turn. The former World Champion did not need to wait as long. He drew his next card and reached for his sideboard.
Jon Sonne - 1 Julien Nuijten - 0
The two players smirked as they side boarded. "We rebuilt out decks together," grinned Julien. "He is bringing in Barbarian Riftcutter and I might be bringing in something myself."
"He is bringing in Tin Street Hooligan," Jon assured. "What are you going to do; not bring it in?"
Stinkweed Imp loomed in the flight path of Julien's First-Wing before it was shot down by Jon's Keening Banshee. Julien played an Entropic Eidolon but the game looked like it could get out of hand really quickly when Jon cast Evolution Vat. Julien tried to hide behind Drift of Phantasms with an Ocular Halo.
This match was a surprising one to watch as Sonne is notoriously slow but in this game he was playing in an uncharacteristically brisk fashion. He wasted no time slapping Strands of Undeath onto his Stinkweed Imp. Julien tapped his wall to draw a card and protect one the three already in his hand - he would have had to pitch Cackling Flames or Savage Twister otherwise. Jon flew over for four.
Jon was happy to keep getting in for an increasing amount of damage each turn with his Imp while Julien kept the Banshee at bay with his card drawing Drift. More than anything the regeneration ability of Strands was frustrating Julien's ability to stabilize the board.
Despite drawing two cards a turn, holding Cackling Flames and Savage Twister, and possessing the mana to cast his X-spell there was nothing Julien could do about the enormous regenerating - and trampling, thanks to the Fists - Stinkweed Imp.
Jon Sonne - 2 Julien Nuijten - 0
Saturday, June 3: 4:41 p.m. - Judging Around the World
Head Judge Juan Del Compare
Joining our American, Canadian, Dutch, Swedish, and Israeli players at Grand Prix Toronto were French Level 4 judge David Vogin, Canadian Level 3 Jason Ness, and Head Judge Juan del Compare from Buenos Aires, Argentina.
While Juan has had experience as a Head Judge of big events - three GPs and a Latin American championship - before this was the first time he was ever worked one in North America. It was also the first time he has worked one so large.
"This is my biggest event," confirmed Juan. "They have all been around 300 players so this one breaks that."
As a result of the unexpectedly large attendance Juan assured that he would try to keep things moving along at a brisk pace.
"For this event I was worried about time delays because it is a Limited event with eight rounds. We are going to be actively enforcing penalties for slow play."
Saturday, June 3: 5:29 p.m. - A Few Words with Wise
It is impossible to talk about Canadian Magic without discussing Gary Wise. Gary has made lasting contributions to the game as both a successful tournament player and as a prolific writer. He wrote the original Week in Review column for the sideboard, which eventually morphed into my The Week That Was Column, and as one of the first players to write extensively about Limited in his Limited Skills articles.
Words of the [Gary] Wise
He finished ninth at the last Grand Prix Toronto in 1997 and although he no longer plays Magic competitively he could not resist an opportunity to see all the old faces at an event in his own backyard. He doesn't normally get a chance to see a lot of those people - even the ones here in Canada as he has been writing about competitive poker on a full time basis.
He briefly surfaced on the Wizards forums last year when the Hall of Fame was introduced. He had strong opinions about the process, the candidates, and the future of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame. He is eligible to inducted into the Hall himself in the second class this summer but don't expect to see him be as vocal about the Hall as he was last year.
"I don't want to campaign for it," explained Wise. "If people think that I made contribution… fantastic. There are a lot of really good players up for it. I have been told I have a shot but it really depends on what the voters are basing it on. If contribution to the game and outside stuff matters then I will be considered. If it is all about play skill I think there were better players than me out there. A guy like Rob Doughtery or Chris Pikula who made Top 8 after Top 8 after Top 8… you have to recognize their accomplishments."
While Gary does not play Magic any longer he would certainly go to Paris for Worlds if he was inducted.
"Of course I would go. It is a tremendous honor."
Saturday, June 3: 6:16 p.m. - Round Six
Geordie Tait was up against reigning US Champion Antonino DeRosa in the feature match area. Geordie has never been a huge fan of being featured. Although in the past that was often the dreaded round two writer's feature match in which the coverage team plucks a name out of the pairings before the Pros have expended their byes. That name is usually a writer who spends more time… you know…writing than earning three byes.
This time the feature was coming in Round Six. Geordie won three byes in a Trial the night before Grand Prix Toronto and had put them to good use with two legitimate wins. He felt somewhat lucky to have them since he believed his deck was built incorrectly for Game 1 with an Hour of Reckoning and not nearly enough white sources to support it.
In Game 1 his deck looked like it was coming out better than could be expected. He had the requisite white sources to convoke Devouring Light and eventually his Wrath while DeRosa piled up creatures. It appeared that Pillory of the Sleepless on Ant's Assault Zeppelid was going to get Geordie to the Wrath on time when he was struck by a meteorite.
DeRosa used Seed Spark to kill the enchantment and made two tokens. Geordie took ten from DeRosa's army with the threat of two more after he tapped out to cast Hour of Reckoning. When he did cast it, DeRosa just grinned and cast Scatter the Seeds.
"I would just like the record to show that my deck is so misbuilt that it is like getting a game loss every round," sighed Geordie.
"Have you lost every Game 1?"
"My Game 1s haven't even been close. It has been just demoralizing."
DeRosa watched as Geordie made a significant overhaul to his deck. "I will just wait until Game 3 to see what to sideboard. I noticed both of our mana bases are realy good. I am playing five colors with no mana-fixing so I have had a game loss to manascrew every round."
DeRosa mulliganed to lead off Game 2 while Geordie came out fast with Tin Street Hooligan and Stinkweed Imp. There was no fourth land for Geordie. Meanwhile, Antonino was playing shock lands every other turn - he kept bouncing his Watery Grave with karoos.
"Not Wrecking Ball," cheered DeRosa when Geordie's four tapped lands resulted in Wojek Embermage.
DeRosa used his mana to summon Streetbreaker Wurm and shrugged when it fell to a Tin Street/Gather Courage tandem. Geordie doubled up on tim effects with Rakdos Ickspitter.
Both players summoned fatties and DeRosa tried to figure out his plan for the remainder of the game. "Alright," said DeRosa, looking at Geordie and the Judge. "I am going to sit here for a minute while I figure things out."
His Gruul Nudorog eventually went to the red zone and when Geordie opted not to block. Ghor-Clan Savage came down large.
"What do you think the chances he has Carom are?" asked Geordie as he tapped his Ickspitter to get a point in. DeRosa let it resolve and then Lightning Helixed the flier. Geordie thought about dredging it back but ultimately decided to draw - and was rewarded with Last Gasp.
Rotwurm rumbled into the red zone and DeRosa blocked. Geordie thought about Last Gasping the Savage but instead let the Rotwurm die. He then Last Gasped the Nudurog and did the final point to both green creatures with his Embermage.
Antonino played his own Rotwurm and Geordie kept it at bay with Junktroller. DeRosa sent out an Assault Zeppelid and Elves of Deep Shadow. When Geordie shot the elves he ended up taking one from Rotwurm.
He dredged back the Imp and groaned as the Twinstrike slipped away into the yard. Galvanic Arc on the flier took out the Imp and the two players settled into a race -- pinger against the flier. Geordie kept dredging back Stinkweed Imp and DeRosa took notes on the cards as they went by.
Screeching Griffin joined DeRosa's team and for some reason Geordie failed to double ping it to death. I suspect he had gotten locked into the idea of shooting the Rotwurm with his Ickspitter so he would get his point of damage in each turn. Both players settled into a pattern and the Griffin took its slow inexorable toll on Tait's life total.
Eventually Geordie fell beneath the wheels of DeRosa's offense and had further injury inflicted upon himself when everyone asked him why he didn't kill the flier - was he too locked into the repetition of shooting the Rotwurm?
"The only thing I was locked into was being dumb," groaned Geordie.
DeRosa showed him the Hour of Reckoning that was in his hand and pointed out that he was likely going to win the game anyway. It did not seem like much in the way of consolation.
Saturday, June 3: 6:39 p.m. - Round Seven Feature Match (sort of) - Johan Sadeghpour vs. Rich Hoaen
These players were not happy about facing off this round - especially since they were both saddled with a loss. They were both confident in reaching Day Two and were looking forward to how that second loss would impact their Top 8 chances. As they were two of the very best drafters in the whole room almost any other pairing would have improved both players' expected value for the tournament.
Plus, they are planning on attending - along with Anton Jonsson - Pro Tour Charleston as a team. No one wants to have to face their teammate in the late crunch rounds. As they sat in the feature match area waiting for the round to start they began to wonder what was taking so long.
It turned out that round needed to be repaired and the two teammates were getting shuffled back into the mix - along with everyone else - and they happily high-fived and went off to find other less seasoned opponents.
To follow-up the earlier deckbuilding feature with Richie I asked him about his deck. Almost every other person I spoke with this weekend felt they had misbuilt their deck by a huge margin.
"I was one card off," answered Richie. "I should have played one Plains instead of an Island. When I cut the Utopia Sprawl it made it more difficult for me to get white."
Saturday, June 3: 6:57 p.m. - Round Five Feature Match: Anton Jonsson vs. Frank Karsten
"Are you scared?" Anton asked Frank as they shuffled up. Despite winning the previous round, Anton seemed a little unsure about his deck and remarked that it was almost impossible to determine the best build in the allotted thirty minutes. They discussed how difficult this Sealed Deck format was, compared to previous ones. Anton actually came up with two separate builds and was ready to make drastic changes after Game 1 if things didn't work out. Frank, meanwhile, seemed quietly confident. They wished each other luck and Game 1 began.
Frank led things off with Scion of the Wild, and followed it up with a Centaur Safeguard. The Scion got in for two before being Marked for Eviction. A Vedalken Entrancer on Anton's side threatened to slow Karsten down even further. The Mark of Eviction lost a bit of its luster, however, when Frank enchanted his Scion with Fists of Ironwood. Trophy Hunter joined the party and the now 4/4 Scion made its way into the red zone. Fists, Scion of the Wild, and Mark of Eviction bounced back to their respective owners' hands, and, unsurprisingly, Anton chose not to replay the latter. Instead, he played a Signet and a Guardian of the Guildpact, while Karsten answered with an Ostiary Thrull and a Seal of Fire.
Anton now had access to all five colours and he made a Streetbreaker Wurm and Izzet Guildmage. On his turn, Karsten broke his Seal of Fire, killing the Guildmage before Anton could untap. He followed that up with a Dowsing Shaman. Combined with Seal of Fire, the Shaman would make it tough for Anton to keep guys on the board.
Anton had his own Seal of Fire, and he aimed it at Karsten's only multicoloured creature, Centaur Safeguard. Guardian of the Guildpact got in for two, while the Streetbreaker Wurm traded with Karsten's Saproling tokens and Ostiary Thrull. Anton then played Auratouched Mage, fetching Infiltrator's Magemark. That would have put him ahead in the race except Frank still had his Dowsing Shaman and Seal of Fire.
A Wrecking Ball by Anton finally broke up the combo, but it was too little, too late. Frank had a Wrecking Ball of his own, which he aimed at Anton's Guardian of the Guildpact. With just a Goblin Spelunkers to Karsten's Greater Mossdog and Stinkweed Imp, Anton drew his next card, and scooped them up.
Frank Karsten 1 - Anton Jonsson 0
Anton chose to let Frank play first. One mulligan for Karsten later, and they both decided to keep. Karsten's first play was a Guardian of the Guildpact off of a Boros Signet. Anton answered with Goblin Spelunkers, and since Frank had a Mountain, the race was on. While the Guardian and the Goblin traded blows, Karsten's Stinkweed Imp got hit with a Seal of Fire and his Dowsing Shaman traded with a Bloodthirsted Bloodscale Prowler. Not to be out-gunned, when a Streetbreaker Wurm threatened to end the race, Frank had the Brainspoil. A Macabre Waltz allowed Anton to replenish his dwindling forces, but his Streetbreaker Wurm was hit with a Wrecking Ball and his Bloodscale Prowler tangled with a Wildsized Trophy Hunter.
Low on life, Anton played a Bramble Elemental. With Hypervolt Grasp in hand, and the mana to play it and bounce it multiple times per turn, he looked like he might be able to mount a comeback, but Frank pulled a Mortify out of his Bag of Infinite Removal and that was game.
Frank Karsten 2 - Anton Jonsson 0
Saturday, June 3: 7:32 p.m. - Round Seven 6-1 Club
There were some interesting old timers lurking near the top of the standings as the tournament began to wind down to the final round. Going into Round seven you could find Gary Krakower - a member of the victorious Canadian National team in 1997 - fighting to his way through without the benefit of any byes. He won his seventh round and needed a draw or a win in the eighth to make through to Sunday.
"My tiebreakers are the worst," groaned the man they call The Krak.
Eric Phillipps is part of the recently reinvigorated drafting scene at Jon Finkel's posh New York apartment. He was also looking for a draw in the last round. "I just want to sit at a draft table tomorrow and not have to play anymore with this POS."
Eric was rather lucky to get out of round seven with only one loss. He was a turn away from losing to a Leafdrake Roost and sent his whole team over in what he assumed would be a futile alpha strike. He had all the tools on the table to win but his opponent did not notice the Verdant Eidolon - the only potential white mana source in Eric's deck -- that allowed him to activate his Selesnya Guildmage twice after his opponent allowed what he thought would only be nine points of damage to get through without blocks.
Saturday, June 3: 8:46 p.m. - Round Eight: John Fiorillo vs. Adam Chambers
Both of these players were 7-0 coming into the final round of Sealed Deck action. John Fiorillo has been steadily improving his Grand Prix finishes over the past two seasons. After a string of heartbreaking Top 16s, John forced his way through the glass ceiling in Richmond. He was hoping to add another accomplishment to his steadily lengthening resume.
"I have never gone undefeated on a Day One before," he grinned after winning his seventh match. He felt pretty confident that he had the cards to get that elusive perfect score. The deck featured solid creatures, removal, and mana fixing - plenty of mana fixing. In addition to a couple of bounce lands and signets he also had Civic Wayfinder and Farseek.
That may be the formula for a successful Sealed Deck as Adam Chambers - the Pro Tour Atlanta semi-finalist - was packing a similar deck. In fact as they got down to the closing match of Saturday both players had Moroi in play. We pick up the action around turn five of Game 1.
After a little Moroi on Moroi violence Adam Chambers summoned a Golgari Rotwurm. John came back with a Cytoplast Root-Kin and Minister of Impediments - he was also packing a Seal of Doom that was ready to break at a moment's notice.
Adam Dismissered the Root-Kin back on top and John promptly replayed him. Adam had no real attacks after John tapped his boom-boom with Obstacles. Adam fortified with a Siege Wurm - perhaps to get clear of the Seal of Doom. John had a Dismisser of his own and boinged the Siege Wurm. Adam fell to nine from the subsequent attack.
Adam chose not to replay it despite having seven mana open. John knew it was bad but it turned out to be worse than he originally had thought. He swung in with everyone but the Minister. Adam blocked Dismisser with his Dismisser and Wrecking Balled the Root-Kin. He then Wildsized his own Dismisser to draw a card and save his dude. He untapped and replayed the Siege Wurm along with a Terrarion.
Despite the big turn he was not able to deal with the tapper and kept taking judicious attacks from Fiorillo. A Conclave Equenaut later he was ready for Game 2.
John Fiorillo - 1 Adam Chambers - 0
"You can go first." -- Nobody loves drawing more than Adam.
John kept his hand -- with one basic and one karoo - while Adam sent his back for a retake. Adam had some minor action in his second set but his Lurking Informant, Drift of Phantasms and Coiling Oracle were not able to stem the tide of John's deck. He did get a 2 for one with Thunderheads but was still without any kind of offensive presence.
Fiorillo goes 8-0
There was nothing on Adam's side of the table that John even wanted to kill so he transmuted his Brainspoil for Sky Hussar and that went all the way while Adam played land after land despite cycling through his deck with Flight of Fancy and a desperation Wildsize.
Final result: John Fiorillo - 2 Adam Chambers - 0
After the match John's all-star cast of friends came over to congratulate him - Jelger Wiegersma, Johan Sadeghpour, and Antonino DeRosa to name-drop a few - and John could not stop smiling.
Saturday, June 3: 9:17 p.m. - Round 8 Recap
Brian Kowal seemed to have Billy Moreno on the ropes in the deciding game of their match, but a Savage Twister off the top saved Moreno. Izzet Chronarch (retrieving Compulsive Research and the Black Eidolon) and Shambling Shell did the rest.
Jon Sonne won his match largely on the back of his (foil!) Necroplasm and the combat-complicating Evolution Vat.
Antonino De Rosa fell to David Rood in two games. To give you an idea of how this match went, De Rosa attacked for two with his Verdant Eidolon, then sacrificed it to bring out a Bloodthirsted Skarrgan Firebird … but Rood had the Faith's Fetters. He eventually used his Azorius Guildmage to tap down De Rosa's creatures before attacking for the win.
Frank Karsten lost a very close Game 2 to Kyle Sanchez, despite having a Chorus of the Conclave and a Blind Hunter piled high with Canadian coins. Sanchez's Oathsworn Giant, combined with his tappers, ensured that Frank couldn't attack profitably. Karsten had Sanchez down to two life in the third game before Sanchez stabilized with a Hellbent Twinstrike and a Wrecking Ball. Unfortunately for Frank, they ran out of time and drew, 1-1.