hicken Ranch has quietly been tearing up the tables this weekend, going 7-1-1 through the first nine matches. This team, sporting "The Champ" (World Champion Julien Nuijten), former Dutch National Champion Roger Maaten, and Wessel Oomens, a Dutch player who had his first Top 8 at a Grand Prix way back in '96-97 and then disappeared from the lists only to reappear this year at Paris.
Their opponents for this round are the squad of Adam Chambers, Andrew Pacifico, and Don Smith known as We Add. Their rise from the pack has certainly been unexpected considering they qualified via the Last Chance Qualifier on Thursday night and are now sitting at 7-2. Both teams need at least one more win in order to give themselves a shot at Sunday.
The Chickens put together three strong decks, using the unusual strategy of splitting white between their B and C players, and giving the A player a strong red-green deck. They said the reason why the white split worked is that the divided the color between spirits and samurais, thus giving them two sets of playables to complement blue and black.
The Champ was fairly confident in his matchup when I sat down to chat with him, but Julien is always confident, so sometimes it's hard to tell. His blue-white samurai deck certainly looked saucy though, seeing how it has Nagao, Takeno, and Konda's Hatamoto to go along with some solid men and the big daddy of the Glasskite family. Julien stated that he thought his two Consuming Vortexes would be big in the matchup because Chambers deck has a ton of tricks, including two Kodama's Might and Strength of Cedars. He also has a Tallowisp to search out Cage of Hands, Phantom Wings, and Threads of Disloyalty.
Maaten built a solid white-black deck accessorized nicely by Umezawa's Jitte, something Maaten was practically overjoyed to have opened and not see played against him.
Oomens' deck seemed most excellent, though I did ask him about a late pick Goblin Cohort over First Volley. Since Oomens already had a Glacial Ray, it seemed natural that you would pick a splice vessel there, but Wessel explained that they think the only way a green-red deck can beat blue-white is to put early pressure on them and continue beating people down.
Julien explained it as, "Everybody runs River Kaijin, why wouldn't you run Goblin Cohort. It's a much cheaper blocker and fits in well with a deck that has a solid number of two-drops."
In the end, he snagged the one-drop, thinking that he already had enough removal spells (four plus Initiate of Blood and Ember-Fist Zubera).
Facing off against The Champ this round will be former JSS sensation Adam Chambers. Adam drafted a very saucy green-red snakes deck with a huge host of tricks, two Sosuke, and a bit of removal. He also managed to pick up two very sneaky (and late) Harbingers of Spring, giving him some nice protection against Nuijten's army of samurai. When asked how he thought his match would go, he actually said it should be easy, and he is well aware of Nuijten's bounce spells and doesn't plan to walk into anything if Julien has mana available to cast a Vortex.
Andrew Pacifico in the B seat explained how he thought Chicken Ranch had screwed up by giving Maaten the Jitte. "Rogier already has a very good matchup against my black-red deck, so he didn't really need the Jitte -- it's a win-more card. If they just pass it to Julien, Adam's matchup suddenly becomes much worse."
Don Smith in Seat A readily admitted that he didn't have a deck at all until he picked up 10 white and blue cards in Betrayers, switching his matchup against Oomens from highly unfavorable to favorable. He was very surprised when he got a very late Mistblade Shinobi and Minamo Sightbender out of the same pack with picks 13 and 14. Kami of False Hope was another card that Smith felt he was lucky to get, as it slipped through the Dutchies fingers and landed squarely in the playable pile for his deck. Smith figures that his tricks plus the 4/5 ninja he drafted in the last pack should let him beat Oomens, though it will be close.
Pacifico and Smith would like to note that they were formerly of the team "We Taught Gindy," giving a nod to Charlie Gindy and his three consecutive Team Limited Grand Prix Top 2s.