Grand Prix: San Francisco Coverage
Grand Prix San Francisco is as close as a public tournament gets to
a Pro Tour. The who's who of pro Magic attended this event, with
players coming from as far as Germany to play. Held at Neutral Ground:
San Francisco (formerly known as MatchPlay), the Grand Prixattracted
so many competitors, the organizers were forced to rent an empty store
next door in order to accomodate everyone.
A total of 324 players competed in the Grand Prix playing Urza's
Saga sealed deck, with top 64 advancing to day two and competing
in booster drafts. A 5-1-1 record was needed to make day two. Surprisingly
many of the top pro players in attendance were unable to make it. Randy
Buehler, Dave Price, Brian Hacker, Steve O'Mahoney Schwartz, Scott Jones
and several others of the Magic elite were eliminated surprisingly
After day one, three players remained undefeated. John Yoo of The
Hitmen, Tony Tsai of the Deadguys and, in the first place, an underdog
Day two featured two booster drafts and six rounds of intense competition.
Finally, top 8 were announced. As it included two already-qualified
players, the invitations were awarded to 9th and 10th place finishers
- Tony Tsai (Deadguys) and Brian Weissman (The Legion).
Top 8 Draft and Playoff
Alan Comer quickly became Public Enemy #1, once other top 8 competitors
learned that he passed Mark Schick a Morphling - one of the most powerful
cards available in this set.
Comer denied ever passing the card, but Dan Gray confirmed that Comer,
drafting red-green, took a Blanchwood Treefolk over it. "I did not pass
a Morphling," said Comer, "but I probably would have. It was not in
In the first round, Comer faced Mike Craig, who after doing extremely
well in the swiss rounds drafted a very weak deck in the top 8. Comer
was able to destroy all of Craig's permanents by pulling off a Smokestack-two
Fiery Mantle combo.
Meanwhile Mark Schick and Hashim Bello faced off in a blue-black vs.
blue-black matchup. It was the most interesting match of the draft,
as both players packed swampwalk creatures and Veiled Serpents, making
their decks very powerful against each other. Bello won the first game,
but lost the consecutive two because of the abovementioned Morphling.
Van Cleave's Skittering Skirge went all the way against Shawn Keller
in a close race, and John Yoo's green-white deck defeated Shawn Roush's
In the semi-finals, Richard Van Cleave managed to defeat Alan Comer
in a very interesting match, despite losing a game to Shivan Hellkite.
Schick got his Morphling on the table both games, and defeated Yoo,
whose deck was unable to stop the versatile creature.
Inevitably, Schick drew Morphling in his opening hand. He played a
few creatures early in the game which got removed by Van Cleave's pair
of Pit Traps. Eventually, Schick played his Morphling, leaving a blue
mana untapped. However, he severely underestimated the amount of creature
removal Van Cleave's deck was packing. During Schick's discard phase,
Van Cleave attempted to cast an Expunge on the Morphling, forcing Schick
to tap out. Then, on his own turn, Van Cleave cast Befoul to kill Morphling.
For a dozen turns afterward, Schick kept drawing land while Van Cleave
stockpiled removal. Van Cleave had a Vile Requiem and two Torch Songs
in play, all accumulating counters. Eventually, Van Cleave was able
to win the game dealing 13 points of damage via Torch Songs.
Van Cleave ritualed out a first turn Looming Shade followed by a Skittering
Skirge a few turns later. Schick simply didn't draw any way to deal
with the Skirge and had his own creatures removed quickly. He lost the
game in about a dozen turns, making Van Cleave the winner.
Van Cleave, 23, of Louisville, KY has been playing Magic since
The Dark expansion set, but only began playing competitively
about six months before PT Paris. He qualified for that and two other
Pro Tours but did not place highly in any of them.
Cleave has an excellent Grand Prix record lately, having finished
4th in GP Austin and 16th in GP Zurich
"I do not care which colors I play, as long as I draft enough removal,"
Van Cleave explains his strategy. "This format is much slower than Rath
cycle, so you can afford to play few creatures." This strategy obviously
worked for him, as Van Cleave won playing a total of 8 creatures in
his final draft.