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Grand Prix Anaheim
Day 2 Coverage

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  • Round 10 Feature Match - Paul Rietzl vs. San Young
    by Blake Rasmussen

  • Day 1 yielded just four undefeated players emerging from a field of 938

    Game 1

    Rietzl had an explosive draw on the play, turning a Cloistered Youth into Unholy Fiend and pairing it up with Silverblade Paladin to hit for a quick six.

    But Young was cruising along just as well. Avacyn's Pilgrim and Strangleroot Geist let him come out quickly, and a Dungeon Geists locked down Rietzl's flipped Unholy Fiend.

    Devil's Play dispatched the Dungeon Geists while the Strangleroot took one for the team to keep the Silverblade Paladin at bay. Young, still humming along thanks to two Cavern of Souls set to Spirits, played another Strangleroot Geist and a Geist of Saint Traft to clog up the board further.

    The board was getting clogged quickly, causing Rietzl to pause every turn, thinking carefully before making a move.

    "Found it," he said as he played a Lightning Mauler and paired it with a Mikaeus, the Lunarch set to 2. He then attacked with both the Cloistered Youth and the Silverblade Paladin. One Strangleroot Geist stepped in front of the Unholy Fiend, but Young still took six from the Paladin, dropping to 8. Young simply passed the turn after opting not to attack.

    San Young had an explosive draw in game one, but it was no match for Rietzl's doublestriking team.

    "This is a much cooler game than this matchup usually produces," Reitzl said, laying a Fiend Hunter take out Strangleroot Geist. He attacked again, and Young chump blocked before falling to five life.

    The board was now five creatures for Rietzl and just a Geist of Saint Traft for Young, who drew surveyed the board and shrugged a bit before scooping up his cards.

    Rietzl 1 – Young 0

    Game 2

    "I hope you win this game, and it's really interesting, and then I hope I win the third game and it's really interesting, because that was a good game," Rietzl generously offered up as the players shuffled for the second game.

    "Can I win the third one?" Young asked.

    "Don't be greedy," Rietzl said. "I have a master plan."

    At 9-0 it was hard to argue the guy had a plan of some kind.

    Unfortunately for the audience – which at 9:30 in the morning was just one generous guy with some dice – the "interesting game" plan didn't really pan out.

    Young was stuck on just a Forest and Island and Rietzl made things worse with a Brimstone Volley on an Avacyn's Pilgrim after casting Gather the Townsfolk on turn two.

    A Silent Departure killed one token, though Rietzl didn't appear phased.

    "It's going to take you a long time to fight through that Gather the Townsfolk. You're going to need a lot more mana," Rietzl said.

    Paul Rietzl

    But the mana wasn't forthcoming. Young found a Hinterland Harbor and eventually an Abundant Growth, but kept passing with no real action.

    Meanwhile, Rietzl had stacked his board with a Silverblade Paladin, Champion of the Parish and Midnight Haunting. The resulting attack was, well, big.

    "I'm at one?" Young said, somewhat hopefully.

    "Quite a bit more," Rietzl said, casting Rally the Peasants to add approximately a billion more damage to his attack.

    "That's too much. Overkill!" Young said.

    "Yesterday I was at two and my opponent Bonfired me for 9. You don't want to just burn the body, you want to make it unrecognizable," he said, before wishing his thoroughly torched opponent good luck the rest of the way.

    Rietzl 2 – Young 0




     

  • Sunday, 10:09 a.m. - MOCS Metagame Breakdown
    by Frank Lepore

  • Alongside the Grand Prix this weekend, there was another large Innistrad Block Constructed event that ran its course. The Magic Online Championship Series - also known as the MOCS – came to a close early in afternoon the on Saturday, and with it came the Top 32 decklists from the event. We broke down the archetypes for your convenience and they look like this:

    Top 32 MOCS Metagame Breakdown

    As you can see from these results, there were two decks that appeared head and shoulders above the field: Boros and Bant Spirits.

    There were a couple varieties of the Boros decks, including one that was more human based and one that was more token based. MTGO player, Babones, played the following list which is one of the more human-based versions, utilizing the powerful soulbond mechanic from Avacyn Restored to great effect:

    The Bant Spirits list was the deck that put several players into the Top 8 of Pro Tour Avacyn Restored, including magic luminary Jon Finkel! Bant also takes advantage of the soulbond mechanic, but mostly it's looking to buff powerful hexproof creatures with spells like Increasing Savagery and Wolfir Silverheart in order to deal tons of damage. Kmaster took the following list to a 9th place finish in the event:

    Of course two more aggro offerings in the form of Jund and Monoblack Zombies were not far behind. The Jund list that won the event, played by Dzy, employed some of the more powerful four mana mythic creatures in the format, including Falkenrath Aristocrat, Olivia Voldaren, and Huntmaster of the Fells. We can also include Garruk Relentless among that lot despite not being a creature. Here was Dzy's list:

    Finally, Monoblack Zombies works pretty much how you would expect to: it attacks with a lot of small creatures while at the same time, trying to exploit their numerous synergies. The deck also uses Killing Wave and a full suite of Blood Artists to maximize the damage output. MTGO player, Sfida, took the following version to a 10th place finish in the event:

    MTGO Player: Sfida (Monoblack Zombie)
    MOCS Standard

    For all Top 32 decklists, be sure to check out the MOCS event page here.

    The Innistrad Block format has certainly taken center stage this weekend, and with some 10+ valid decks being showcased in the MOCS, it looks like quite the healthy environment. Will the Top 8 of Grand Prix Anaheim also reflect this diversity? Only time – and about six rounds – will tell.




     

  • Day 1 Undefeated Decklists
    by Event Coverage Staff

  • San Young
    Grand Prix Anaheim 2012 - Block Constructed

    Eric Froehlich
    Grand Prix Anaheim 2012 - Block Constructed




     

  • Round 11 Feature Match - Christian Calcano vs. Brian Kibler
    by Frank Lepore

  • These are two players that need no introduction. Kibler is a Hall of Famer that places consistently well in a majority of events he attends...which are numerous. Christian Calcano is the next in a long line of burgeoning magic players who further cemented his success by winning Grand Prix Minneapolis merely a week ago. This is truly a who's who battle that leaves the victor with an 10-1 record.

    As both players shuffled up, Kibler joked to Calcano, "So, I know you have Sulfur Falls in there..."

    "Yeah, I finally picked up a fourth," Calcano responded. Ever since he played his UR deck at Grand Prix Minneapolis, a running joke had been Calcano's mere three Sulfur Falls.

    Game 1

    Kibler won the roll and they were off. A quick keep from both players left Calcano to Thought Scour himself on Kibler's end step. Kibler dropped a turn three Borderland Ranger and found a Mountain; Calcano responded with a Desperate Ravings.

    The Ranger met a timely Pillar of Flame and Kibler brought Olivia Voldaren into the world. Calcano had no choice but to pass after another Thought Scour targeting himself. A turn five Silverheart attempted to bond with Kibler's Olivia, but Calcano had the Harvest Pyre...he only had to choose which creature to target. He decided to remove the Olivia, leaving Kibler with the lone wolf.

    Christian Calcano is coming to Anaheim fresh off a win at GP Minneapolis.

    Calcano was certainly playing draw-go while Kibler kept putting out threats. He attempted a second Wolfir Silverheart, but Calcano had the Snapcaster Mage to flashback the Harvest Pyre.

    "On the old one right?" Kibler asked, confirming which Wolf was leaving

    No, on the new one...wait, yeah, the old one!" Calcano responded. "You knew what I meant."

    He got into the red zone with his Snapcaster and Kibler took two. A Rolling Temblor from Calcano killed his own Snapcaster, but a Second Snapcaster brought a Pillar of Flame back to finish off the 4/4 wolf.

    Kibler took his turn and played a Scorned Villager and a Falkenrath Aristocrat which immediately dealt Calcano four. Calcano responded by adding a Lone Revenant to the board.

    "You have how many cards?" Kibler asked.

    "Just one."

    With no plays from Kibler, the Villager flipped into a Moonscarred Werewolf. Kibler declined to attack, presumably to prevent any Lone Revenant shenanigans on the following turn, but he took four unblocked damage from the spirit nonetheless. The score was now 14 to 16 in Calcano's favor. A Desperate Ravings from Calcano put a second Devil's Play into his graveyard and a Pillar ended up dealing with Kibler's werewolf.

    Kibler landed a second Aristocrat and bashed for eight, halving Calcano's life total.

    "You only have so many Sulfur Falls in there. You can't just be throwing them away like that!" Brian quipped as Calcano discarded the land to Desolate Lighthouse.

    "I know...they're a hot commodity! Calcano shot back.

    Calcano got into the red zone for six damage of his own which also brought Kibler down to eight life. A Devil's Play for one of the vampires gave Calcano some breathing room, but the pressure was still on.

    Kibler played his eighth land and flipped the Bonfire of the Damned in his hand back and forth. One more land and he could deal the final four points to Calcano. He declined an attack, knowing that a crack back from Calcano would leave him at two: a dangerous total against any red deck.

    Calcano revealed a Bonfire of the Damned for two clearing Kibler's board, and forcing Kibler to use his Tragic Slip on the Snapcaster simply to survive. Kibler drew his ninth land and when he attempted to Bonfire Calcano for four, Calcano revealed the Dissipate.

    Calcano 1, Kibler 0

    Game 2

    "Holy crap, Calcano is unstoppable!" LSV said, as he stopped by to check in on his friends.

    "I think he even has the fourth Sulfur Falls!" Kibler shot back, never one to leave a good joke on the sidelines.

    Kibler made a quick choice to ship his hand and Calcano followed him to Paris.

    "Better luck to both of us," Kibler remarked.

    But it was not to be as Kibler went back for a new five and Calcano stuck.

    "I said for BOTH of us," Kibler continued.

    He kept his five, but an Evolving Wilds made his turn one Avacyn's Pilgrim arrive on turn two. Back to back lands for Kibler led him to an easy turn three Garruk, granting him a Wolf token. Calcano was content playing lands and passing.

    Kibler dropped Calcano to 17 then played a Borderland Ranger for a Mountain while Calcano played Thought Scour and Desperate Ravings

    "You have two cards right?" Calcano asked, as he did some tricky math in his head. He was facing down seven power from Kibler's board and an active Garruk Relentless. Calcano resorted to playing a Pillar of Flame on Kibler's Ranger and passing. Calcano was at 12 life after the attack and a second Borderland Ranger joined Kibler. Calcano needed an answer. He dug with Ravings once more which undoubtedly helped him find the Bonfire he needed to wipe away Kibler's board. Kibler's field was demolished and Garruk was now at a more manageable one loyalty.

    A Snapcaster from Calcano allowed him to replay his Pillar and remove the Garruk from play altogether. A simple Scorned Villager was all Kibler could muster onto the board as Calcano regained control. Calcano dropped a Tamiyo, the Moon Sage and kept Kibler's would-be werewolf tapped. Another 1/1 from Kibler and Calcano continued to dig. A third 1/1 from Kibler elicited a "draw two" from Calcano as he removed two loyalty from the planeswalker. With no spell from either player, Kibler's 1/1's would becomes 2/2's. Kibler found a Garruk but Calcano had the Dissipate. Olivia Voldaren joined Kibler's ranks and Calcano was once again on the backfoot.

    Calcano had to tap the Olivia with Tamiyo and he was able to counter Kibler's Zealous Conscripts with a Dissipate. Tamiyo dropped to a mere one loyalty after an attack but Calcano was hanging on. A timely Bonfire for four damage definitely helped his return.

    With no action from Kibler, Calcano was once more on the rise. Kibler managed to find a Huntmaster of the Fells off of an Abundant Growth. Calcano had another Bonfire, this time for five, putting Kibler at 13.

    "Boom!" Kibler windmill slammed an Avacyn's Pilgrim onto the empty table, eliciting a laugh from the crowd. "Can you deal with that guy? I don't think you can deal with that guy."

    Brian Kibler falls to Calcano

    Calcano proceeded to keep the human tapped down with Tamiyo. "Yeah, I knew you were afraid," Kibler responded.

    Noticing Calcano's diminishing library, "can you actually kill me?" Kibler asked.

    "Hold on, I wanna check my sideboard real quick. I need to see if I still have Devil's Play in here," Calcano joked but still checking all the same.

    "Found it! I should totally have fourteen mana! Devil's Play you for thirteen!"

    "Thank you...for putting me out of my misery!" Kibler joked

    The two players shook hands and Calcano took the match!

    Calcano 2, Kibler 0




     

  • Round 12 Feature Match - Eli Linzi v. John Sittner
    by Blake Rasmussen

  • Eli Linzi is one of those Grand Prix stories that seem to happen every tournament from out of nowhere. Hailing from Hawaii, Linzi is playing in his first Grand Prix and is doing so with some pretty phenomenal success.

    After collecting three byes, Lizni faced Luis-Scott Vargas immediately in Round 4. Despite facing one of the game's greats, Linzi won and used that to propel himself into Day 2 and, now, at 10-1, into position to fight for a spot in the Top 8. He's even packing a Zombie deck that has been flying under the radar in the format.

    His opponent, John Sittner is a name that pops up from time to time near or at the front of the standings in major events. He has yet to really break through, but the way he's been piloting the Bant Spirits deck this weekend, Anaheim could be the performance he's been looking for.

    Game 1

    Linzi curved out like Zombies does, with a Gravecrawler into Highborn Ghoul, following up with an Appetite for Brains to exile an Increasing Savagery.

    And right on time, too. Sittner had led with a Strangleroot Geist and an Invisible Stalker, which would have looked awfully good suited up with five counters on it. Instead he "settled" for a Geist of Saint Traft.

    Linzi, meanwhile, was light on lands, but was able to play a pair of Diregraf Ghouls, which, importantly, entered the battlefield tapped.

    "Win or lose, someone's dying on turn six," said Eli Linzi. In game one, that someone was him.

    That allowed Sittner's Geist of Saint Traft to apply some serious beats alongside the rest of his team once a Silent Departure took Linzi's only available blocker out of the way. Falling to four and with no way to stop the Geist of Saint Traft, Linzi was quick to pack up his zombie horde.

    Sittner 1 – Linzi 0

    "The games in this matchup are all really fast," Linzi said. As one of only a very few Zombie players here on Day 2 in a field full of Bant Spirits, he would certainly know. "Win or lose, someone's dying on turn 6."

    Game 2

    Both players started out with their key one-drops, Gravecrawler for Linzi and Avacyn's Pilgrim for Sittner. Sittner used the Pilgrim to ambush a Gravecrawler on turn two with Wolfir Avenger, but it quickly took a Tragic Slip on the way to the graveyard.

    An Appetite for Brains revealed two Dungeon Geists and a Tree of Redemption along with a Cavern of souls and Abundant Growth. The tree was exiled and Linzi rebought the Gravecrawler before passing back.

    Dungeon Geists locked down a Highborn Ghoul, but Bloodflow Connoisseur gave Linzi a new angle to pursue, potentially pumping it sky high with Gravecrawler.

    But Linzi's deck was firing on all cylinders. A Silent Departure virtually timewalked Linzi, bouncing the Connoisseur, and Wolfir Silverheart turned Dungeon Geist into a 7/7, coming in as an 8/8 itself.

    Could this be John Sittner's breakout tournament?

    Linzi was able to use Tragic Slip took out the Wolfir and even gain a few life with a newly cast Blood Artist, but a second Wolfir Silverheart repeated the last turn and put Lizni within range of the lethal flier.

    Facing a 7/7 flier, Linzi's only hope was to play and chump block with a Demonlord of Ashmouth. However, a flashed back Silent Departure forced Linzi to sacrifice it and bring it back with undying, but at the cost of his Bloodflow Connoisseur. He gained a few life and lived through the turn, but things looked pretty grim.

    He knocked the top of his deck, pulled his card and paused before extending his hand.

    "That's my worst matchup. You're just as fast as me," Linzi said, still with a smile on his face.

    Sittner 2 – Linzi 0




     

  • Sunday, 12:04 p.m. - Deck Tech: Boros with Paul Rietzl
    by Blake Rasmussen

  • No player is hotter this weekend than Paul Rietzl and his blisteringly fast Boros deck. While the talk coming out of Pro Tour Avacyn Restored was all Wolfir Silverheart, Bant Spirits and Miracles, Rietzl seems to have found the right mixture of cards to make Boros really pop in Anaheim.

    The core of the deck doesn't deviate much from the standard block Boros lists. Eight one-drops in Stromkirk Noble and Champion of the Parish backed up by Gather the Townsfolk, Silverblade Paladin and Hellrider are all pretty stock and make the deck hum, but Rietzl was able to make a few key changes that he thinks put it over the top.

    The key to the deck, he said, was when he noticed players were running the full four Midnight Haunting in most lists. He had only had three in Barcelona and often sided them out, finding them low impact most of the time. There was the obvious combo with Hellrider, but beyond that he had thought they were underwhelming.

    "I thought, 'What if that was what I was missing?'" Rietzl said.

    So he went up to four and started leaving them in even in his bad matchups. It was when he added the single Rally the Peasants that things clicked, as he suddenly felt like he had enough ways to make the Hauntings especially deadly.

    "It just needed a little pop."

    A little pop.

    Speaking of Rally the Peasants, it has been absolutely wrecking people all weekend. At one point Rietzl turned to Matt Sperling and proclaimed Rally the Peasants to be the best card in the format.

    So why only one?

    Rietzl said drawing multiples was always bad, and that it wasn't very good in removal heavy matchups like Jund. Plus, with Devil's Play and Mikaeus, the Lunarch in addition to Rally the Peasants, the deck has a number of ways to break stalls or utilize mana flood.

    The results have been pretty powerful for Rietzl this weekend. He even had to mulligan to a mere four cards in game 3 of Round 9 yesterday, but the deck's powerful draws let him race through a slower Jund deck before the extra cards even mattered.

    The deck also pretty readily translates to standard, Rietzl said, figuring that the mana probably gets better if you swap in some more white Humans like Elite Vanguard, Hero of Bladehold and Mirran Crusader for the Stromkirk Nobles, Hellriders and Midnight Hauntings of the deck.

    So while Anaheim may be the last hurrah for this block format, Boros gets the Rietzl stamp of approval for Standard as well. If attacking is your thing, give it a whirl at your next FNM




     

  • Sunday, 12:43 p.m. - Top Tables Round 13
    by Blake Rasmussen

  • With the Day Two cutoff several rounds behind us and the Top 8 quickly approaching, Round 13 gives us one of the last opportunities to look at a snapshot of the metagame before the end of the day.

    So what did we learn with three more rounds to play?

    Jund is kinda good.

    People apparently paid attention to Brian Kibler and the Magic Online Championship Series, because Jund is out in force late in the tournament. Eleven of the 37 decks looked at for this Top Tables (three players disappeared pretty quick) were sporting the Jund manabase and powerful cards. Chock full of removal, giant creatures and the popular Falkenrath Aristocrats, the deck doesn't do anything fancy, but it does a lot of things well.

    Trailing just behind it but putting up strong numbers as it has all tournament, Bant Spirits is still going strong, followed by Angel of Glory's Rise reanimator and Boros or Red-White Aggro, piloted to perfection so far by Paul Rietzl.

    And while the Miracles deck continues to look anemic overall, Eric Froehlich has been lurking at or near the top of the standings all day. Remember, it only took one strong showing from a Miracles player in Barcelona to take down the entire tournament.

    Round 13 Top Tables Meta Breakdown



     

  • Sunday, 1:05 p.m. - Deck Tech - UR Control with Christian Calcano
    by Frank Lepore

  • Christian Calcano is on the fast track to becoming a household name. He took the trophy at grand prix Minneapolis with UR Delver, and he once again sleeves up Sulfur Falls and Desolate Lighthouses on his was to his 11-1 records this weekend. We wanted to get a few words with Christian to see how his deck has been treating him and how he feels about his odds this weekend.

    Christian Calcano – now with more Sulfur Falls!

    Why did you choose to play UR Control?
    I think it has a lot of game against a lot of decks. There are problematic cards, like Falkenrath Aristocrat, Wolfir Silverheart and Restoration Angel, but if I can find my answers to those cards, I have good game against everything else.

    What matchups is your best? How about your worst?
    My best is probably the Miracle deck. I haven't really played against it much, but I have more Dissipates, and also Snapcasters.

    My worst is probably Aggro Jund probably, with Strangleroot Geist. That guy is pretty hard for me to deal with.

    What do you think the best deck in the format is?
    I think it's Jund. It just won the MOCS on MTGO this weekend. I got pretty lucky against Brian as well (referring to his Round 11 victory against Brian Kibler).

    How come so few Harvest Pyre? They seemed pretty crucial in game one against Kibler.
    A third is a real stretch, if you draw multiples they're just dead if you don't have a sizeable graveyard.

    So who came up with the deck?
    Eduardo Borges and Grand Prix Providence winner, James Rynkiewicz; they were in my testing group. It went 7-3 at the PT. I told myself if I come to this tournament, I was going to play this deck.

    Christian is on the fast track to a second Top 8 in as many weeks. He has his eye on the trophy and he's in a good position to snag it! Best of luck, Christian!

    Christian Calcano - UR Control
    Grand Prix Anaheim 2012 - Block Constructed




     

  • Round 13 Feature Match - Michael Hristis vs. Noah Koessel
    by Frank Lepore

  • "Nice color sleeves," Noah commented as both players sat down and shuffled up their matching purple sleeves."

    Noeh Koessel has had some success in competitive play. He has Top 8'ed a Nationals, an SCG Open, and has cashed at a couple of Grand Prix before today.

    "I Top 8'ed States..." Michael commented half-heartedly in response to Koessel's impressive resume. This was Hristis's first Grand Prix and he was doing well thus far.

    Game 1

    Hristis won the roll, and Koessel went back for a new six. Thankfully they were good enough. A couple lands from Hristis led him to a Mulch, putting one land into his hand and a notable Faithless Looting into the yard.

    Koessel played a turn two Gather the Townsfolk and made some humans, while a Cathedral Sanctifier gained Hristis three life. Hristis missed a land drop, while Koessel declined to make any plays despite hitting all of his lands. When Hristis finally hit his fourth, a Huntmaster of the Fells made it to the board only to meet a Brimstone Volley. A Fiend Hunter came down to remove the wolf.

    But Koessel had another Huntmaster and all Koessel could manage was a Stromkirk Noble. When Hristis attempted to play a Falkenrath Aristocrat, Koessel made sure to respond with a Brimstone Volley and killing the Huntmaster. A second Aristocrat joined Hristis's team and Koessel dropped to 8 life. He revealed his top card as his ninth land and scooped up the pile.

    Hristis 1, Koessel 0

    Game 2

    "That was...a lot of lands," Koessel remarked.

    "Yeah it was," Hristis agreed.

    Both players kept, and Koessel led off with a Champion of the parish, while Hristis dug through a few cards with a Faithless Looting. Unfortunately there was no turn two play from Koessel.

    Michael Hristis

    With four lands, Koessel still had only a single Champion in play, while Hristis added a Huntmaster of the Fells to the party.

    "Cards?" Koessel asked.

    "Five," Hristis responded.

    A Silverblade Paladin came down from Hristis, pairing with the now 2/2 Champion of the parish. A Pillar of Flame would do away with the Huntmaster before Koessel swung with the doublestriker. Hristis found a Swamp with a Borderland Ranger then gained three from a Cathedral Sanctifier. A second Champion joined Koessel's army and it was looking quite formidable. Hristis took four from Koessel's team, but only dropping him to a hearty 18 life. All of Hristis's lifegain seemed fairly relevant in this matchup.

    "What the heck is in your hand," Koessel wondered when Hristis passed the turn with zero plays.

    Koessel played a second Paladin, followed by a Fiend Hunter. When he targeted the Borderland Ranger, however, Hristis snuck in a Restoration Angel for the save.

    Koessel sent the team in and the board became a lot smaller for Hristis as he went to 14 life. But not for long, it seemed: Hristis had a Blasphemous Act for all of Koessel's pressure.

    Noah Koessel

    An Angel of Glory's Rise from Hristis would return a Fiend Hunter, a Cathedral Sanctifier, and a Borderland Ranger, in addition to the 4/6 flier. Hristis now had a massive eight power on board, and all Koessel could respond with was a Stromkirk noble. Things were looking bleak.

    Koessel dropped to 12 while Hristis sat at a healthy 17 life. When Koessel played a Hellrider, Hristis responded in the combat step with a Restoration Angel. A fiend Hunter from Hristis did away with the Hellrider, and Koessel could not change his fate He did some quick math and realized the game was lost.

    Hristis 2, Koessel 0




     

  • Round 14 Feature Match - Shuhei Nakamura vs. Paul Herr
    by Blake Rasmussen

  • Shuhei Nakamura and Paul Herr were unlikely to be in contention for the Top 8 at this point at 11-3, but a Top 16 was very much on the line between these two who were sporting the tournament's most dominant decks.

    Nakamura, like much of field on Day 2, came armed with Falkenrath Aristocrat and Wolfir Silverheart in the popular Jund deck. So many of the players near the top of the standings were packing Swamps, Forests and Mountains that there were probably more Jund mirrors represented last round than most archetypes had single decks.

    If Anaheim belongs to Jund, Barcelona belonged in many ways to the Bant Spirits deck Paul Herr was facing off with this round. It appeared to be second only to Jund in its success this weekend. However this particular match played out, this matchup was certainly played over and over and over again this weekend.

    Game one

    Herr had to mulligan his first hand, but his second was scripted pretty close to perfectly. He led with two Hexproof beaters in Invisible Stalker and Geist of Saint Traft right on cue.

    Nakamura, meanwhile, ramped his Jund deck quickly with Avacyn's Pilgrim and two Scorned Villagers, building up to a pretty devastating counter punch. All of that Ramping allowed him to use a nonmiracle Bonfire of the Damned to clear Herr's board an erase any early advantage he might have had. Nakamura even had the Wolfir Silverheart follow-up to, pairing with a Scorned Villager, to drop Herr to 10 quickly.

    Paul Herr's quick start gave him reason to smile, but a Bonfire of the Damned erased that pretty fast.

    After the Bonfire cleared him out, Herr fought back with an Invisible Stalker and a Dungeon Geist, locking down the Silverheart.

    But it wasn't near enough as Nakamura kept the beats coming. A second Wolfir Silverhart made the other Scorned Villager as big as the first, and when Dungeon Geist had to block to keep Herr alive, it wasn't much longer until they moved until the second.

    Nakamura 1 – Herr 0

    Game two

    On the play this time, Herr's mulligan was much less forgiving. His mana issues force him to go down to just five cards, though he was able to cast Avacyn's Pilgrim and Strangleroot Geist early on.

    Nakamura spent his early turns this game fixing his mana rather than ramping it, casting both Abundant Growth and Borderland Ranger That let him drop a fourth turn Falkenrath Aristocrat and send Herr to 16 hastily.

    Herr continued to attack with his Geist, but had drawn a succession of cards he couldn't cast. With two Forests, Cavern of Souls (on Spirits) and Avacyn's Pilgrim, his hand of two Wolfir Silverhearts, Dungeon Geists and a Silent Departure was essentially a blue source away from being strong enough to compete. The mulligan hadn't been good, but his draws since then hadn't particularly helped.

    Shuhei Nakamura is still alive for the Top 16 after moving to 11-3 on the weekend.

    Meanwhile, Nakamura added to his board with another Borderland Ranger and Liliana of the Veil. He even had the Tribute to Hunger to punish Herr for casting an Increasing Savagery.

    Still without the right mana, it just took few attacks from the Aristocrat and the Borderland Rangers to mercifully end a game Herr was never really in.

    Nakamura 2 – Herr 0





    Day 2 of Grand Prix Anaheim is underway!

    One hundred and twenty-nine players made the return trip today to battle for the trophy, but four players have a leg up after navigating the field with perfect Day 1 records. Paul Rietzl, Eric Froehlich, San Young and Jason Rosellini all emerged unscathed after nine rounds, putting them in prime position to make the Top 8.

    What's more, each of them made it with different archetypes. Jund, Red-White aggro, Miracles and Bant Spirits all cracked the ranks of the undefeated, with a variety of archetypes represented among the rest of the field.

    Of those, there are plenty of names you'll recognize. Brian Kibler, recently crowned GP Minneapolis Champ Christian Calcano, Pat Cox, Shuhei Nakamura, Patrick Chapin, Jackie Lee and Conley Woods are all still in the hunt.

    Stay tuned all day as we bring you text and video coverage through all six rounds and the Top 8 as we look to crown the Grand Prix Anaheim Champion!











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  • Round 10 Feature Match - Paul Rietzl vs. San Young
    by Blake Rasmussen

  • Day 1 yielded just four undefeated players emerging from a field of 938

    Game 1

    Rietzl had an explosive draw on the play, turning a Cloistered Youth into Unholy Fiend and pairing it up with Silverblade Paladin to hit for a quick six.

    But Young was cruising along just as well. Avacyn's Pilgrim and Strangleroot Geist let him come out quickly, and a Dungeon Geists locked down Rietzl's flipped Unholy Fiend.

    Devil's Play dispatched the Dungeon Geists while the Strangleroot took one for the team to keep the Silverblade Paladin at bay. Young, still humming along thanks to two Cavern of Souls set to Spirits, played another Strangleroot Geist and a Geist of Saint Traft to clog up the board further.

    The board was getting clogged quickly, causing Rietzl to pause every turn, thinking carefully before making a move.

    "Found it," he said as he played a Lightning Mauler and paired it with a Mikaeus, the Lunarch set to 2. He then attacked with both the Cloistered Youth and the Silverblade Paladin. One Strangleroot Geist stepped in front of the Unholy Fiend, but Young still took six from the Paladin, dropping to 8. Young simply passed the turn after opting not to attack.

    San Young had an explosive draw in game one, but it was no match for Rietzl's doublestriking team.

    "This is a much cooler game than this matchup usually produces," Reitzl said, laying a Fiend Hunter take out Strangleroot Geist. He attacked again, and Young chump blocked before falling to five life.

    The board was now five creatures for Rietzl and just a Geist of Saint Traft for Young, who drew surveyed the board and shrugged a bit before scooping up his cards.

    Rietzl 1 – Young 0

    Game 2

    "I hope you win this game, and it's really interesting, and then I hope I win the third game and it's really interesting, because that was a good game," Rietzl generously offered up as the players shuffled for the second game.

    "Can I win the third one?" Young asked.

    "Don't be greedy," Rietzl said. "I have a master plan."

    At 9-0 it was hard to argue the guy had a plan of some kind.

    Unfortunately for the audience – which at 9:30 in the morning was just one generous guy with some dice – the "interesting game" plan didn't really pan out.

    Young was stuck on just a Forest and Island and Rietzl made things worse with a Brimstone Volley on an Avacyn's Pilgrim after casting Gather the Townsfolk on turn two.

    A Silent Departure killed one token, though Rietzl didn't appear phased.

    "It's going to take you a long time to fight through that Gather the Townsfolk. You're going to need a lot more mana," Rietzl said.

    Paul Rietzl

    But the mana wasn't forthcoming. Young found a Hinterland Harbor and eventually an Abundant Growth, but kept passing with no real action.

    Meanwhile, Rietzl had stacked his board with a Silverblade Paladin, Champion of the Parish and Midnight Haunting. The resulting attack was, well, big.

    "I'm at one?" Young said, somewhat hopefully.

    "Quite a bit more," Rietzl said, casting Rally the Peasants to add approximately a billion more damage to his attack.

    "That's too much. Overkill!" Young said.

    "Yesterday I was at two and my opponent Bonfired me for 9. You don't want to just burn the body, you want to make it unrecognizable," he said, before wishing his thoroughly torched opponent good luck the rest of the way.

    Rietzl 2 – Young 0




     

  • Sunday, 10:09 a.m. - MOCS Metagame Breakdown
    by Frank Lepore

  • Alongside the Grand Prix this weekend, there was another large Innistrad Block Constructed event that ran its course. The Magic Online Championship Series - also known as the MOCS – came to a close early in afternoon the on Saturday, and with it came the Top 32 decklists from the event. We broke down the archetypes for your convenience and they look like this:

    Top 32 MOCS Metagame Breakdown

    As you can see from these results, there were two decks that appeared head and shoulders above the field: Boros and Bant Spirits.

    There were a couple varieties of the Boros decks, including one that was more human based and one that was more token based. MTGO player, Babones, played the following list which is one of the more human-based versions, utilizing the powerful soulbond mechanic from Avacyn Restored to great effect:

    The Bant Spirits list was the deck that put several players into the Top 8 of Pro Tour Avacyn Restored, including magic luminary Jon Finkel! Bant also takes advantage of the soulbond mechanic, but mostly it's looking to buff powerful hexproof creatures with spells like Increasing Savagery and Wolfir Silverheart in order to deal tons of damage. Kmaster took the following list to a 9th place finish in the event:

    Of course two more aggro offerings in the form of Jund and Monoblack Zombies were not far behind. The Jund list that won the event, played by Dzy, employed some of the more powerful four mana mythic creatures in the format, including Falkenrath Aristocrat, Olivia Voldaren, and Huntmaster of the Fells. We can also include Garruk Relentless among that lot despite not being a creature. Here was Dzy's list:

    Finally, Monoblack Zombies works pretty much how you would expect to: it attacks with a lot of small creatures while at the same time, trying to exploit their numerous synergies. The deck also uses Killing Wave and a full suite of Blood Artists to maximize the damage output. MTGO player, Sfida, took the following version to a 10th place finish in the event:

    MTGO Player: Sfida (Monoblack Zombie)
    MOCS Standard

    For all Top 32 decklists, be sure to check out the MOCS event page here.

    The Innistrad Block format has certainly taken center stage this weekend, and with some 10+ valid decks being showcased in the MOCS, it looks like quite the healthy environment. Will the Top 8 of Grand Prix Anaheim also reflect this diversity? Only time – and about six rounds – will tell.




     

  • Day 1 Undefeated Decklists
    by Event Coverage Staff

  • San Young
    Grand Prix Anaheim 2012 - Block Constructed

    Eric Froehlich
    Grand Prix Anaheim 2012 - Block Constructed




     

  • Round 11 Feature Match - Christian Calcano vs. Brian Kibler
    by Frank Lepore

  • These are two players that need no introduction. Kibler is a Hall of Famer that places consistently well in a majority of events he attends...which are numerous. Christian Calcano is the next in a long line of burgeoning magic players who further cemented his success by winning Grand Prix Minneapolis merely a week ago. This is truly a who's who battle that leaves the victor with an 10-1 record.

    As both players shuffled up, Kibler joked to Calcano, "So, I know you have Sulfur Falls in there..."

    "Yeah, I finally picked up a fourth," Calcano responded. Ever since he played his UR deck at Grand Prix Minneapolis, a running joke had been Calcano's mere three Sulfur Falls.

    Game 1

    Kibler won the roll and they were off. A quick keep from both players left Calcano to Thought Scour himself on Kibler's end step. Kibler dropped a turn three Borderland Ranger and found a Mountain; Calcano responded with a Desperate Ravings.

    The Ranger met a timely Pillar of Flame and Kibler brought Olivia Voldaren into the world. Calcano had no choice but to pass after another Thought Scour targeting himself. A turn five Silverheart attempted to bond with Kibler's Olivia, but Calcano had the Harvest Pyre...he only had to choose which creature to target. He decided to remove the Olivia, leaving Kibler with the lone wolf.

    Christian Calcano is coming to Anaheim fresh off a win at GP Minneapolis.

    Calcano was certainly playing draw-go while Kibler kept putting out threats. He attempted a second Wolfir Silverheart, but Calcano had the Snapcaster Mage to flashback the Harvest Pyre.

    "On the old one right?" Kibler asked, confirming which Wolf was leaving

    No, on the new one...wait, yeah, the old one!" Calcano responded. "You knew what I meant."

    He got into the red zone with his Snapcaster and Kibler took two. A Rolling Temblor from Calcano killed his own Snapcaster, but a Second Snapcaster brought a Pillar of Flame back to finish off the 4/4 wolf.

    Kibler took his turn and played a Scorned Villager and a Falkenrath Aristocrat which immediately dealt Calcano four. Calcano responded by adding a Lone Revenant to the board.

    "You have how many cards?" Kibler asked.

    "Just one."

    With no plays from Kibler, the Villager flipped into a Moonscarred Werewolf. Kibler declined to attack, presumably to prevent any Lone Revenant shenanigans on the following turn, but he took four unblocked damage from the spirit nonetheless. The score was now 14 to 16 in Calcano's favor. A Desperate Ravings from Calcano put a second Devil's Play into his graveyard and a Pillar ended up dealing with Kibler's werewolf.

    Kibler landed a second Aristocrat and bashed for eight, halving Calcano's life total.

    "You only have so many Sulfur Falls in there. You can't just be throwing them away like that!" Brian quipped as Calcano discarded the land to Desolate Lighthouse.

    "I know...they're a hot commodity! Calcano shot back.

    Calcano got into the red zone for six damage of his own which also brought Kibler down to eight life. A Devil's Play for one of the vampires gave Calcano some breathing room, but the pressure was still on.

    Kibler played his eighth land and flipped the Bonfire of the Damned in his hand back and forth. One more land and he could deal the final four points to Calcano. He declined an attack, knowing that a crack back from Calcano would leave him at two: a dangerous total against any red deck.

    Calcano revealed a Bonfire of the Damned for two clearing Kibler's board, and forcing Kibler to use his Tragic Slip on the Snapcaster simply to survive. Kibler drew his ninth land and when he attempted to Bonfire Calcano for four, Calcano revealed the Dissipate.

    Calcano 1, Kibler 0

    Game 2

    "Holy crap, Calcano is unstoppable!" LSV said, as he stopped by to check in on his friends.

    "I think he even has the fourth Sulfur Falls!" Kibler shot back, never one to leave a good joke on the sidelines.

    Kibler made a quick choice to ship his hand and Calcano followed him to Paris.

    "Better luck to both of us," Kibler remarked.

    But it was not to be as Kibler went back for a new five and Calcano stuck.

    "I said for BOTH of us," Kibler continued.

    He kept his five, but an Evolving Wilds made his turn one Avacyn's Pilgrim arrive on turn two. Back to back lands for Kibler led him to an easy turn three Garruk, granting him a Wolf token. Calcano was content playing lands and passing.

    Kibler dropped Calcano to 17 then played a Borderland Ranger for a Mountain while Calcano played Thought Scour and Desperate Ravings

    "You have two cards right?" Calcano asked, as he did some tricky math in his head. He was facing down seven power from Kibler's board and an active Garruk Relentless. Calcano resorted to playing a Pillar of Flame on Kibler's Ranger and passing. Calcano was at 12 life after the attack and a second Borderland Ranger joined Kibler. Calcano needed an answer. He dug with Ravings once more which undoubtedly helped him find the Bonfire he needed to wipe away Kibler's board. Kibler's field was demolished and Garruk was now at a more manageable one loyalty.

    A Snapcaster from Calcano allowed him to replay his Pillar and remove the Garruk from play altogether. A simple Scorned Villager was all Kibler could muster onto the board as Calcano regained control. Calcano dropped a Tamiyo, the Moon Sage and kept Kibler's would-be werewolf tapped. Another 1/1 from Kibler and Calcano continued to dig. A third 1/1 from Kibler elicited a "draw two" from Calcano as he removed two loyalty from the planeswalker. With no spell from either player, Kibler's 1/1's would becomes 2/2's. Kibler found a Garruk but Calcano had the Dissipate. Olivia Voldaren joined Kibler's ranks and Calcano was once again on the backfoot.

    Calcano had to tap the Olivia with Tamiyo and he was able to counter Kibler's Zealous Conscripts with a Dissipate. Tamiyo dropped to a mere one loyalty after an attack but Calcano was hanging on. A timely Bonfire for four damage definitely helped his return.

    With no action from Kibler, Calcano was once more on the rise. Kibler managed to find a Huntmaster of the Fells off of an Abundant Growth. Calcano had another Bonfire, this time for five, putting Kibler at 13.

    "Boom!" Kibler windmill slammed an Avacyn's Pilgrim onto the empty table, eliciting a laugh from the crowd. "Can you deal with that guy? I don't think you can deal with that guy."

    Brian Kibler falls to Calcano

    Calcano proceeded to keep the human tapped down with Tamiyo. "Yeah, I knew you were afraid," Kibler responded.

    Noticing Calcano's diminishing library, "can you actually kill me?" Kibler asked.

    "Hold on, I wanna check my sideboard real quick. I need to see if I still have Devil's Play in here," Calcano joked but still checking all the same.

    "Found it! I should totally have fourteen mana! Devil's Play you for thirteen!"

    "Thank you...for putting me out of my misery!" Kibler joked

    The two players shook hands and Calcano took the match!

    Calcano 2, Kibler 0




     

  • Round 12 Feature Match - Eli Linzi v. John Sittner
    by Blake Rasmussen

  • Eli Linzi is one of those Grand Prix stories that seem to happen every tournament from out of nowhere. Hailing from Hawaii, Linzi is playing in his first Grand Prix and is doing so with some pretty phenomenal success.

    After collecting three byes, Lizni faced Luis-Scott Vargas immediately in Round 4. Despite facing one of the game's greats, Linzi won and used that to propel himself into Day 2 and, now, at 10-1, into position to fight for a spot in the Top 8. He's even packing a Zombie deck that has been flying under the radar in the format.

    His opponent, John Sittner is a name that pops up from time to time near or at the front of the standings in major events. He has yet to really break through, but the way he's been piloting the Bant Spirits deck this weekend, Anaheim could be the performance he's been looking for.

    Game 1

    Linzi curved out like Zombies does, with a Gravecrawler into Highborn Ghoul, following up with an Appetite for Brains to exile an Increasing Savagery.

    And right on time, too. Sittner had led with a Strangleroot Geist and an Invisible Stalker, which would have looked awfully good suited up with five counters on it. Instead he "settled" for a Geist of Saint Traft.

    Linzi, meanwhile, was light on lands, but was able to play a pair of Diregraf Ghouls, which, importantly, entered the battlefield tapped.

    "Win or lose, someone's dying on turn six," said Eli Linzi. In game one, that someone was him.

    That allowed Sittner's Geist of Saint Traft to apply some serious beats alongside the rest of his team once a Silent Departure took Linzi's only available blocker out of the way. Falling to four and with no way to stop the Geist of Saint Traft, Linzi was quick to pack up his zombie horde.

    Sittner 1 – Linzi 0

    "The games in this matchup are all really fast," Linzi said. As one of only a very few Zombie players here on Day 2 in a field full of Bant Spirits, he would certainly know. "Win or lose, someone's dying on turn 6."

    Game 2

    Both players started out with their key one-drops, Gravecrawler for Linzi and Avacyn's Pilgrim for Sittner. Sittner used the Pilgrim to ambush a Gravecrawler on turn two with Wolfir Avenger, but it quickly took a Tragic Slip on the way to the graveyard.

    An Appetite for Brains revealed two Dungeon Geists and a Tree of Redemption along with a Cavern of souls and Abundant Growth. The tree was exiled and Linzi rebought the Gravecrawler before passing back.

    Dungeon Geists locked down a Highborn Ghoul, but Bloodflow Connoisseur gave Linzi a new angle to pursue, potentially pumping it sky high with Gravecrawler.

    But Linzi's deck was firing on all cylinders. A Silent Departure virtually timewalked Linzi, bouncing the Connoisseur, and Wolfir Silverheart turned Dungeon Geist into a 7/7, coming in as an 8/8 itself.

    Could this be John Sittner's breakout tournament?

    Linzi was able to use Tragic Slip took out the Wolfir and even gain a few life with a newly cast Blood Artist, but a second Wolfir Silverheart repeated the last turn and put Lizni within range of the lethal flier.

    Facing a 7/7 flier, Linzi's only hope was to play and chump block with a Demonlord of Ashmouth. However, a flashed back Silent Departure forced Linzi to sacrifice it and bring it back with undying, but at the cost of his Bloodflow Connoisseur. He gained a few life and lived through the turn, but things looked pretty grim.

    He knocked the top of his deck, pulled his card and paused before extending his hand.

    "That's my worst matchup. You're just as fast as me," Linzi said, still with a smile on his face.

    Sittner 2 – Linzi 0




     

  • Sunday, 12:04 p.m. - Deck Tech: Boros with Paul Rietzl
    by Blake Rasmussen

  • No player is hotter this weekend than Paul Rietzl and his blisteringly fast Boros deck. While the talk coming out of Pro Tour Avacyn Restored was all Wolfir Silverheart, Bant Spirits and Miracles, Rietzl seems to have found the right mixture of cards to make Boros really pop in Anaheim.

    The core of the deck doesn't deviate much from the standard block Boros lists. Eight one-drops in Stromkirk Noble and Champion of the Parish backed up by Gather the Townsfolk, Silverblade Paladin and Hellrider are all pretty stock and make the deck hum, but Rietzl was able to make a few key changes that he thinks put it over the top.

    The key to the deck, he said, was when he noticed players were running the full four Midnight Haunting in most lists. He had only had three in Barcelona and often sided them out, finding them low impact most of the time. There was the obvious combo with Hellrider, but beyond that he had thought they were underwhelming.

    "I thought, 'What if that was what I was missing?'" Rietzl said.

    So he went up to four and started leaving them in even in his bad matchups. It was when he added the single Rally the Peasants that things clicked, as he suddenly felt like he had enough ways to make the Hauntings especially deadly.

    "It just needed a little pop."

    A little pop.

    Speaking of Rally the Peasants, it has been absolutely wrecking people all weekend. At one point Rietzl turned to Matt Sperling and proclaimed Rally the Peasants to be the best card in the format.

    So why only one?

    Rietzl said drawing multiples was always bad, and that it wasn't very good in removal heavy matchups like Jund. Plus, with Devil's Play and Mikaeus, the Lunarch in addition to Rally the Peasants, the deck has a number of ways to break stalls or utilize mana flood.

    The results have been pretty powerful for Rietzl this weekend. He even had to mulligan to a mere four cards in game 3 of Round 9 yesterday, but the deck's powerful draws let him race through a slower Jund deck before the extra cards even mattered.

    The deck also pretty readily translates to standard, Rietzl said, figuring that the mana probably gets better if you swap in some more white Humans like Elite Vanguard, Hero of Bladehold and Mirran Crusader for the Stromkirk Nobles, Hellriders and Midnight Hauntings of the deck.

    So while Anaheim may be the last hurrah for this block format, Boros gets the Rietzl stamp of approval for Standard as well. If attacking is your thing, give it a whirl at your next FNM




     

  • Sunday, 12:43 p.m. - Top Tables Round 13
    by Blake Rasmussen

  • With the Day Two cutoff several rounds behind us and the Top 8 quickly approaching, Round 13 gives us one of the last opportunities to look at a snapshot of the metagame before the end of the day.

    So what did we learn with three more rounds to play?

    Jund is kinda good.

    People apparently paid attention to Brian Kibler and the Magic Online Championship Series, because Jund is out in force late in the tournament. Eleven of the 37 decks looked at for this Top Tables (three players disappeared pretty quick) were sporting the Jund manabase and powerful cards. Chock full of removal, giant creatures and the popular Falkenrath Aristocrats, the deck doesn't do anything fancy, but it does a lot of things well.

    Trailing just behind it but putting up strong numbers as it has all tournament, Bant Spirits is still going strong, followed by Angel of Glory's Rise reanimator and Boros or Red-White Aggro, piloted to perfection so far by Paul Rietzl.

    And while the Miracles deck continues to look anemic overall, Eric Froehlich has been lurking at or near the top of the standings all day. Remember, it only took one strong showing from a Miracles player in Barcelona to take down the entire tournament.

    Round 13 Top Tables Meta Breakdown



     

  • Sunday, 1:05 p.m. - Deck Tech - UR Control with Christian Calcano
    by Frank Lepore

  • Christian Calcano is on the fast track to becoming a household name. He took the trophy at grand prix Minneapolis with UR Delver, and he once again sleeves up Sulfur Falls and Desolate Lighthouses on his was to his 11-1 records this weekend. We wanted to get a few words with Christian to see how his deck has been treating him and how he feels about his odds this weekend.

    Christian Calcano – now with more Sulfur Falls!

    Why did you choose to play UR Control?
    I think it has a lot of game against a lot of decks. There are problematic cards, like Falkenrath Aristocrat, Wolfir Silverheart and Restoration Angel, but if I can find my answers to those cards, I have good game against everything else.

    What matchups is your best? How about your worst?
    My best is probably the Miracle deck. I haven't really played against it much, but I have more Dissipates, and also Snapcasters.

    My worst is probably Aggro Jund probably, with Strangleroot Geist. That guy is pretty hard for me to deal with.

    What do you think the best deck in the format is?
    I think it's Jund. It just won the MOCS on MTGO this weekend. I got pretty lucky against Brian as well (referring to his Round 11 victory against Brian Kibler).

    How come so few Harvest Pyre? They seemed pretty crucial in game one against Kibler.
    A third is a real stretch, if you draw multiples they're just dead if you don't have a sizeable graveyard.

    So who came up with the deck?
    Eduardo Borges and Grand Prix Providence winner, James Rynkiewicz; they were in my testing group. It went 7-3 at the PT. I told myself if I come to this tournament, I was going to play this deck.

    Christian is on the fast track to a second Top 8 in as many weeks. He has his eye on the trophy and he's in a good position to snag it! Best of luck, Christian!

    Christian Calcano - UR Control
    Grand Prix Anaheim 2012 - Block Constructed




     

  • Round 13 Feature Match - Michael Hristis vs. Noah Koessel
    by Frank Lepore

  • "Nice color sleeves," Noah commented as both players sat down and shuffled up their matching purple sleeves."

    Noeh Koessel has had some success in competitive play. He has Top 8'ed a Nationals, an SCG Open, and has cashed at a couple of Grand Prix before today.

    "I Top 8'ed States..." Michael commented half-heartedly in response to Koessel's impressive resume. This was Hristis's first Grand Prix and he was doing well thus far.

    Game 1

    Hristis won the roll, and Koessel went back for a new six. Thankfully they were good enough. A couple lands from Hristis led him to a Mulch, putting one land into his hand and a notable Faithless Looting into the yard.

    Koessel played a turn two Gather the Townsfolk and made some humans, while a Cathedral Sanctifier gained Hristis three life. Hristis missed a land drop, while Koessel declined to make any plays despite hitting all of his lands. When Hristis finally hit his fourth, a Huntmaster of the Fells made it to the board only to meet a Brimstone Volley. A Fiend Hunter came down to remove the wolf.

    But Koessel had another Huntmaster and all Koessel could manage was a Stromkirk Noble. When Hristis attempted to play a Falkenrath Aristocrat, Koessel made sure to respond with a Brimstone Volley and killing the Huntmaster. A second Aristocrat joined Hristis's team and Koessel dropped to 8 life. He revealed his top card as his ninth land and scooped up the pile.

    Hristis 1, Koessel 0

    Game 2

    "That was...a lot of lands," Koessel remarked.

    "Yeah it was," Hristis agreed.

    Both players kept, and Koessel led off with a Champion of the parish, while Hristis dug through a few cards with a Faithless Looting. Unfortunately there was no turn two play from Koessel.

    Michael Hristis

    With four lands, Koessel still had only a single Champion in play, while Hristis added a Huntmaster of the Fells to the party.

    "Cards?" Koessel asked.

    "Five," Hristis responded.

    A Silverblade Paladin came down from Hristis, pairing with the now 2/2 Champion of the parish. A Pillar of Flame would do away with the Huntmaster before Koessel swung with the doublestriker. Hristis found a Swamp with a Borderland Ranger then gained three from a Cathedral Sanctifier. A second Champion joined Koessel's army and it was looking quite formidable. Hristis took four from Koessel's team, but only dropping him to a hearty 18 life. All of Hristis's lifegain seemed fairly relevant in this matchup.

    "What the heck is in your hand," Koessel wondered when Hristis passed the turn with zero plays.

    Koessel played a second Paladin, followed by a Fiend Hunter. When he targeted the Borderland Ranger, however, Hristis snuck in a Restoration Angel for the save.

    Koessel sent the team in and the board became a lot smaller for Hristis as he went to 14 life. But not for long, it seemed: Hristis had a Blasphemous Act for all of Koessel's pressure.

    Noah Koessel

    An Angel of Glory's Rise from Hristis would return a Fiend Hunter, a Cathedral Sanctifier, and a Borderland Ranger, in addition to the 4/6 flier. Hristis now had a massive eight power on board, and all Koessel could respond with was a Stromkirk noble. Things were looking bleak.

    Koessel dropped to 12 while Hristis sat at a healthy 17 life. When Koessel played a Hellrider, Hristis responded in the combat step with a Restoration Angel. A fiend Hunter from Hristis did away with the Hellrider, and Koessel could not change his fate He did some quick math and realized the game was lost.

    Hristis 2, Koessel 0




     

  • Round 14 Feature Match - Shuhei Nakamura vs. Paul Herr
    by Blake Rasmussen

  • Shuhei Nakamura and Paul Herr were unlikely to be in contention for the Top 8 at this point at 11-3, but a Top 16 was very much on the line between these two who were sporting the tournament's most dominant decks.

    Nakamura, like much of field on Day 2, came armed with Falkenrath Aristocrat and Wolfir Silverheart in the popular Jund deck. So many of the players near the top of the standings were packing Swamps, Forests and Mountains that there were probably more Jund mirrors represented last round than most archetypes had single decks.

    If Anaheim belongs to Jund, Barcelona belonged in many ways to the Bant Spirits deck Paul Herr was facing off with this round. It appeared to be second only to Jund in its success this weekend. However this particular match played out, this matchup was certainly played over and over and over again this weekend.

    Game one

    Herr had to mulligan his first hand, but his second was scripted pretty close to perfectly. He led with two Hexproof beaters in Invisible Stalker and Geist of Saint Traft right on cue.

    Nakamura, meanwhile, ramped his Jund deck quickly with Avacyn's Pilgrim and two Scorned Villagers, building up to a pretty devastating counter punch. All of that Ramping allowed him to use a nonmiracle Bonfire of the Damned to clear Herr's board an erase any early advantage he might have had. Nakamura even had the Wolfir Silverheart follow-up to, pairing with a Scorned Villager, to drop Herr to 10 quickly.

    Paul Herr's quick start gave him reason to smile, but a Bonfire of the Damned erased that pretty fast.

    After the Bonfire cleared him out, Herr fought back with an Invisible Stalker and a Dungeon Geist, locking down the Silverheart.

    But it wasn't near enough as Nakamura kept the beats coming. A second Wolfir Silverhart made the other Scorned Villager as big as the first, and when Dungeon Geist had to block to keep Herr alive, it wasn't much longer until they moved until the second.

    Nakamura 1 – Herr 0

    Game two

    On the play this time, Herr's mulligan was much less forgiving. His mana issues force him to go down to just five cards, though he was able to cast Avacyn's Pilgrim and Strangleroot Geist early on.

    Nakamura spent his early turns this game fixing his mana rather than ramping it, casting both Abundant Growth and Borderland Ranger That let him drop a fourth turn Falkenrath Aristocrat and send Herr to 16 hastily.

    Herr continued to attack with his Geist, but had drawn a succession of cards he couldn't cast. With two Forests, Cavern of Souls (on Spirits) and Avacyn's Pilgrim, his hand of two Wolfir Silverhearts, Dungeon Geists and a Silent Departure was essentially a blue source away from being strong enough to compete. The mulligan hadn't been good, but his draws since then hadn't particularly helped.

    Shuhei Nakamura is still alive for the Top 16 after moving to 11-3 on the weekend.

    Meanwhile, Nakamura added to his board with another Borderland Ranger and Liliana of the Veil. He even had the Tribute to Hunger to punish Herr for casting an Increasing Savagery.

    Still without the right mana, it just took few attacks from the Aristocrat and the Borderland Rangers to mercifully end a game Herr was never really in.

    Nakamura 2 – Herr 0




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