Notes on the first two rounds of play
by Randy Buehler
It was standing room only at Neutral Ground New York for the first two rounds of the Extended constructed Masters event. Things felt tense during the Gateway as 103 players fought for the last two invitations into the exclusive field, but the heat turned up dramatically as arguably the best 32 players in the world sat down to start dividing up $150,000. Everyone in the field was guaranteed at least $2,000 and a first win would up the guarantee to $4,000.
Longtime teammates Alex Shvartsman and Zvi Mowshowitz got paired up against each other. They will be teammates in the Pro Tour (playing as "Zero Tolerance Policy with Trevor Blackwell"), but not on Thursday. Mowshowitz was excited that this might finally be the event he could win with his Turbo-Land deck, but Shvartsman won the match by Misdirecting a Time Warp onto himself! Shvartsman played Illusions of Grandeur on his first turn and Donate on his next.
Jason Zila hasn't played on the Pro Tour since 1997, but he's been playing Extended regularly in a weekly tournament at a store that's five minutes from his house. His rating was 2nd best in the world so he received an invitation to this event. Many people wondered if the somewhat flighty, enigmatic Californian would actually show up to collect his guaranteed 2 grand. Well, he did. Then in the first round he got paired up against #1 seed Kai Budde and decked him by Disenchanting Budde's Necropotence hen Budde only had two cards left in his library. Budde was one turn from winning with Phyrexian Negator beatdown, but instead Zila moved on to round 2.
Your Move games showed up with a teched-out Survival deck that includes several different combos that can be accessed using Survival of the Fittest and/or Academy Rector. It looks similar to their "Wheaties" deck from PT Chicago, but it wasn't nearly as successful. Of the four team members running the deck in the Masters, only Rob Dougherty won his first round, and Dougherty lost in the second round.
The second round of the Masters was also played on Thursday evening. The two remaining Germans in the field - Dirk Baberowksi and Christian Luhrs - played each other. Luhrs won game one because his second turn Curiosity allowed him to draw enough permission to keep Necropotence off the table. Baberowski then sideboarded Negators into his deck and won both sideboarded games with his 5/5 tramplers.
Trey van Cleave showed Kurt Burgner both sides of his hand in their match. Van Cleave's Crystalline Sliver prevented Burgner and Burgner's Sligh deck from killing any Slivers in game one. Then in game 2 van Cleave had not just Crystalline Sliver, but also Worship. Van Cleave has many Erases in his sideboard and they should really help him out in hi quarter-final matchup against Baberowksi's Necro-Donate deck.
Billy Jensen seemed to have an easy time of it in his Survival mirror-match against Olivier Ruel. He'll get to play another Survival on Survival match in the quarters against Bob Maher. Sigurd Eskeland dispatched Shvartsman thanks in part to a misplay by Alex in the first game. After casting Illusions of Grandeur, Shvartsman Necroed for 17 cards looking for Donate and Force of Wills. But then Eskeland managed to get a Spike Feeder into play and Shvartsman didn't have enough life left over to pull off his combo a second time. Eskeland advances to the quarters where he'll play another Necro-Donate deck, this one being played by Warren Marsh. Marsh won his own second round match (against Kyle Rose) the same way Baberowksi did - he sideboarded out his combo and transformed himself into Negator/Firestorm-Necro! Marsh played out Necropotence and two Negators. Rose tried to line up blockers, but three Firestorms destroyed his position. It warmed my heart to watch Firestorm/Necro in action again.
Ben Rubin has a pretty good match-up against Trevor Blackwell in the battle for Nothern Cali superiority. Rubin's green/blue Survival deck with lots of permission might be the best deck in the field. Blackwell's Secret Force deck just couldn't deal with Tradewind Rider or Spike Weaver. Interestingly, Brian Schneider ran a Secret Force variant in the Gateway where he used Snow-Covered Forests and Gargantuan Gorilla to solve exactly this problem, but Blackwell didn't have the Gorilla or a berth in the quarters.
The final second round match was also the most controversial. Gateway qualifier Tony Dobson took his Stasis deck into battle with Jason Zila's 4-color blue. Zila's deck is nothing if not old-school. He's got Wrath of God, permission, Gaea's Blessing, and a bunch of dual lands to make the manabase work. He managed to deck Dobson in the first game as their Morphlings stared over at each other. Then Dobson won game 2 by getting Back to Basics into play. Zila won a permission war early in game 3 and put Seal of Cleansing into play, but Dobson played not one, not two, but three different copies of Back to Basics. That left Zila completely pinned down. Dobson had many untapped islands and Zila had basically no chance. However, since Dobson knew the game was over, he started playing fast and sloppy. While Zila just sat there looking morose, Dobson was talking to the crowd and counting his money. Dobson drew an Impulse and randomly decided to play it during his main phase. Then, since he had just cast Impulse he figured it must be his turn now so he drew a card.
A spectator pointed this out to a judge, the judge did a card count, and yep - Dobson was up a card. At rules enforcement level 5 that's a game loss caliber offense. Dobson was understandably upset since he had the game won, but that just wasn't relevant and the judges stuck to their guns. Thus Jason Zila has now won at least $6,500 and he'll be taking on Ben Rubin while Dobson watches.
The quarter-finals will be played as feature matches after the Pro Tour on Friday evening. Then the semi's will be on Saturday and the finals will be on the big screen with full commentary on Sunday afternoon.