Let's Do The Time Warp Again!
Day 2 of Great Britain's Nationals is at an end! Where once there were 172 players, there are now just eight, competing for the title of champion, and a place on the National Team of Great Britain. After 8 rounds of Standard and six rounds of M11 draft, the final 8 will come back on Sunday for the top eight knockout. Topping the standings, Joe Jackson and Richard Bland, who built their deck the night before the tournament, have flown high with their Naya Shaman build. James Cleak of Oxford joins them with the Naya colours that won at Worlds last year. That is not the only Naya Shamans in the top 8 though. James and 2008 champion Jonathan Randle each have a set of Fauna Shamans in their Bant Conscription decks. We have another former champion, in Dan Gardner, who playing a similar blue/white deck to the one that took him to the title in 2009, is once again battling for the title. Finally, Andrew Morrison and Eduardo Sajgalik have the ever-present Jund.
All our competitors will be up bright and early to battle in best of five matches tomorrow. We hope you will join us, as we crown the Great Britain Champion for 2010!
Saturday 10.54am – Allez les Bleus!
by Rich Hagon
So, you probably know that this is Great Britain nationals, right? Well, apparently some people didn't get the memo, as an intrepid band of French raiders have variously Eurostarred, Easyjetted, Yachted, and in the case of Olivier Ruel walked on water, in order to attend what is an incredible line-up of public events this weekend.
I chatted with Grand Prix regular Anthony Dorle about the gallic warband.
'A friend who lives in London posted on the French Magic forums that there were going to be four PTQs. That never happens in France, never. We all came together on the forum, and the price was right, so here we are. The strange thing is, that from my local airport Bergerac, it's impossible to fly to Paris. London? Seven times a day!'
Here they are indeed, and the success has already been tremendous. Maxim Gateaud and Jonathan Valentime both made the top 8 of the PTQ yesterday. The fantastically-named Arnaud Villain was in the Thursday PTQ top 8, and has bagged himself three byes by winning a Grand Prix trial. Alexandre Riviere also has a trial top 8 to his name.
The big winner so far has been Guillaume Barbier. On Thursday he went all the way to the final of the PTQ, and late last night went one better, claiming the fabled blue envelope, guaranteeing him a seat at the first pro tour of 2011, wherever that may be.
Away from the PTQs, success has come for two well-known names. Lucas Florent is developing a reputation for himself as a contender at Pro Tour level, while Olivier Ruel probably doesn't need much of an introduction. Hall of Fame should be enough to jog your memory. Both of these players won their respective M11 Rotisserie drafts yesterday, meaning that they qualify for the final tomorrow, where they will draft a complete foil set rotisserie style. The winner gets an entire foil M11 set, which sounds a bit good to me.
Players with Pro Tour experience who have yet to get off the mark include Dorle, Liking Saiyesely, and Grand Prix Seattle winner Yann Massicard. For these three, two more PTQs beckon. But will they win? Not according to Richard Moore, the 2005 English national champion...
'Well, look at it this way. On Thursday, when all the good English players were available, an Englishman won the PTQ. (That Englishman was Moore, by the way.) Tomorrow, when most of the good English players will be available, apart from the nationals top 8, obviously an Englishman will win again!'
Win or lose, the French squad are determined to have a good time. Said Saiyesely, 'London's one of the great cities of the world. Four PTQs, other great public events, it's great!'
Saturday, 11:00 a.m. – A Tale of Two Drafts
by Tim Willoughby
I sat down at the start of day 2 of Great Britains nationals all ready to watch the lone undefeated player, Mr Stuart Horden. On Friday Richard Hagon filled me in on the 'Great Ginger Conspiracy'. Somehow or other all those flame haired individuals on the planet are working together for world domination, aided by the fact that nobody really sees the threat as credible. Tom LaPille at Wizards? Richard Hagon, the voice of the game? An undefeated ginger at the top of the standings after day one of GB Nationals? Something was going on, I just had to work out what.
The smile of the undefeated
Horden's draft started out with a strong pack, where the options were Serra Angel, Destructive Force and Foresee. Horden went with the angel, and stayed in white for the next few picks, with an Assault Griffin, Cloud Crusader and Knight Exemplar. At pick two he could have taken Cudgel Troll, and there was an option of following up with Fauna Shaman at pick three. It seemed that Stuart was not keen to commit to a second colour too early. It was Duskdale Wurm that finally put Horden into green, a necessary move as quality white cards dwindled in the latter half of the pack, leaving Horden's options a touch limited.
Pack two looked like it was going to be a blowout. Having jumped into green a little late, there was every reason to think that Stuart was not going to get a lot of green back. His first pick was a thoroughly underwhelming Sylvan Ranger, over Roc Egg and Inspired Charge. Stuart then nearly fell out of his chair when he was passed a Primeval Titan. While the rare is not the most devastating of Titans in limited, it still cleans up draws nicely, and is a very solid body with trample for its cost. A Blinding Mage 4th looked to make things promising, and by the end of the pack, Horden's green white deck seemed passing fair, albeit light on removal (the bane of green/white decks everywhere).
Somehow, the third pack, the wheels just came off. Whether it was due to colour manoeuvres, or simply weak packs, Stuart was left with slim pickings to fill out his deck. Stuart despaired over an Acidic Slime third pick that saw him passing a Conundrum Sphinx to Richard Bland on his left. His fifth pick of Suncoat Lion was a fair summation of the speed with which quality picks dropped off.
It's Saturday morning time to draft
By the end of the draft, Horden had to feel that something strange had happened. What had begun so promisingly had ended up rather shaky, requiring some good luck and good play to keep Horden's unblemished run going.
As I left the table, I caught a glance at Joao Choca's deck, and the devilish smile he was wearing to go with it. A busty collection of Arc Runners, Flings, and a brace of Goblin Chieftan, and an Inferno Titan as the cherry on top, it looked like exactly the sort of aggressive deck that could take apart an unsuspecting opponent.
Feature Match Round 8 – Stuart Horden v Richard Bland
by Rich Hagon
It's all a question of perspective. For Horden, this match is all about the winning. For Bland, it's all about the not losing. Horden sits undefeated on 7-0, and winning here would leave him in a fabulous position to make top 8. For Bland, defeat here would leave him at 6-2, well and truly back in the contending pack, and with a lot of work to do over the remaining six rounds.
For Horden, turn two Sylvan Ranger led to turn three Palace Guard. Not the most exciting opening in Magic history. Knight Exemplar on turn four improved things somewhat. On the other side of the red zone, Bland had spent turn three casting Crystal Ball, and turn four reversing Horden's turn four, with Aether Adept bouncing the Knight Exemplar.
Back we went to Horden, who cast Greater Basilisk, finding a second Aether Adept waiting for him from Bland. Yes, Bland was setting things up with the Crystal Ball, yes, he'd robbed Horden effectively of two turns, but meanwhile those Aether Adepts were sitting dead in the water. Bland added Canyon Minotaur, which is never a particularly good sign.
Down came the Knight Exemplar for Horden, and Greater Basilisk dropped Bland to fourteen. The board was starting to clog up, though, as Bland added Water Servant to his growing squad. When Horden sent the Basilisk again, Bland went for a double block to kill it. Horden used Safe Passage, but it's worth noting that Horden had accidentally dropped the Passage earlier in the game, suggesting that Bland was actively offering this scenario that saw him put Aether Adept and Canyon Minotaur in the graveyard.
The following turn the Basilisk couldn't be saved when Bland had Thunder Strike as a combat trick. He had more tricks up his sleeves when Horden aimed for a backbreaking Yavimaya Wurm. Mana Leak put paid to that. That was the cue for Bland to go on offence with Water Servant, until Horden attempted to cut the party short with Condemn. Once again, Bland had an answer, in the form of hard counterspell Cancel.
Harbor Serpent wasn't a threat with four Islands for Bland, but soon became one with five. At least Horden only had Forests and Plains. Bland continued to improve with Berserkers of Blood Ridge, while Horden found a potential answer in Blinding Mage. Turn after turn Bland was Scrying his way to a position of strength. That position of strength became a position of absurd strength as he ran out Inferno Titan.
'I can't see any way back from this' said Horden. He wasn't wrong.
Horden 0 – 1 Bland.
Sylvan Ranger and Knight Exemplar opened for Horden, while Bland had Augury Owl and Prodigal Pyromancer. Cloud Crusader was next for Horden, who now knew just how useful those Aether Adepts could be for Bland. Canyon Minotaur proved a solid roadblock for the Knight Exemplar, but Bland still took three from the Cloud Crusader – a Human Knight, no less. Even so, on the attack Horden would have wanted to cast something more exciting than a Palace Guard.
Bland went on offence, dealing four before dropping a Stone Golem. The Cloud Crusader went back to the air, and then Horden took advantage of a tapped out opponent to play a titan of his own. Primeval Titan found two land cards, including Mystifying Maze, and an Aether Adept plus Cancel combo looked like what Bland would be needing sometime soon. Still, Water Servant was another big body.
Aether Adept arrived, and bounced the Cloud Crusader, with Bland representing Mana Leak. The Cloud Crusader came down again unmolested, however, and Horden was back in business. This was turning into a good one, with Prodigal Pyromancer for Bland looking to whittle away turn after turn. Cloud Crusader dropped him to four, and Bland was obliged to counter Assault Griffin with Cancel.
Horden was down to ten, still in the box seat, with Augury Owl chump blocking the Cloud Crusader. Oh, and finally – finally – Bland missed a Prodigal Pyromancer activation. Perhaps he was getting excited about the Inferno Titan he was about to cast. Could he pull things back? The Cloud Crusader left him at one, and Horden added Serra Angel. Still, Bland had a lot of power across the table. Inferno Titan, two Canyon Minotaur, Water Servant, Aether Adept, Prodigal Pyromancer, and two cards in hand.
The Inferno Titan attacked, and sent all three damage to the Serra Angel. Prodigal Pyromancer finished off the 4/4 flyer. Horden blocked with Primeval Titan, making this particular combat, as Stuart Wright so thoughtfully put it, a 'Clash of the Titans'. Clever.
Lightning Bolt disposed of the Cloud Crusader, and now Bland was really in business, still ten to two behind, but massively ahead on the board. Horden used Mystifying Maze to dispose of Water Servant, while Condemn sent a Canyon Minotaur packing. And still the Prodigal Pyromancer sat there. Ping. Ping. Ping.
Things look bleak for Horden
Brindle Boar brought Horden some much-needed defense, allowing him to double block the remaining Canyon Minotaur. Mystifying Maze was doing him some serious good, and maybe the Yavimaya Wurm he drew would do the same. FLASHFREEZE from Bland! Gotta love them counterspells. Aether Adept came down for Bland, and with no mana left for the Mystifying Maze, Horden was at the mercy of the Water Servant.
A tremendous game of Magic. Horden comes back to the chasing pack in the first match of the day, and Bland manages to not lose. Both for top 8? Entirely possible.
Stuart Horden 0 – 2 Richard Bland.
Saturday 12.43pm Rotisserie!
by Rich Hagon
One of the joys of these multi-day events is the amazing array of public events on offer. A stone-cold smash hit this week has been the series of Rotisserie drafts that have taken place. It's a good bet that the overwhelming majority of readers haven't done one of these before, so here's how it works:
Every single card from the set – in this case M11 – is laid out on a table. Eight players draft one card at a time from anywhere on the table they like. The first eight picks go from player 1 up to 8, and then player 8 gets a second pick, before the picks work their way back down – 7,6,5,4,3,2, and finally player 1 gets pick 16 of the draft.
Rotisserie - whats your first pick
That completes the opening round, and then the 'button' passes to player 2, who gets picks 17 and 32 during his round. Let's show you how the first six picks for each player worked out in the inaugural Rotisserie of the weekend:
Player 1 (1) Grave Titan (16) Crystal Ball (24)Diabolic Tutor (25) Doom Blade (39) Jace's Ingenuity (42) Royal Assassin
Player 2 (2) Baneslayer Angel (15) Chandra Nalaar (17) Fireball (32) Condemn (40) Blinding Mage (41) Prodigal Pyromancer
Player 3 (3) Primeval Titan (14) Frost Titan (18) Jace Beleren (31) Obstinate Baloth (33) Sleep (48) Cultivate
Player 4 (4) Inferno Titan (13) Mind Control (19) Platinum Angel (30) Clone (34) Chandra's Outrage (47) Cyclops Gladiator
Player 5 (5) Sun Titan (12) Sword of Vengeance (20) Vengeful Archon (29) Angelic Arbiter (35) Pacifism (46) Whispersilk Cloak
Player 6 (6) Overwhelming Stampede (11) Garruk Wildspeaker (21) Lightning Bolt (28) Liliana Vess (36) Quag Sickness (45) Fauna Shaman
Player 7 (7) Ancient Hellkite (10) Hoarding Dragon (22) Pyroclasm (27) Gaea's Revenge (37) Magma Phoenix (44) Birds of Paradise
Player 8 (8) Day of Judgment (9) Ajani Goldmane (23) Conundrum Sphinx (26) Triskelion (38) Foresee (43) Serra Angel
As you can see, this is the kind of format where everyone gets very powerful spells. VERY powerful spells. You might be tempted to simply draft the cards that you most wanted to keep, but all the rares and mythics are redrafted at the end of the event, ensuring fair play throughout.
It's always been true that you can't stop Gamers from Gaming, and any time there's a fresh format available, it sparks fierce debate about the ideal early picks. Here's the 1-48 as they got taken off the table:
1 Grave Titan
2 Baneslayer Angel
3 Primeval Titan
4 Inferno Titan
5 Sun Titan
6 Overwhelming Stampede
7 Ancient Hellkite
8 Day of Judgment
9 Ajani Goldmane
10 Hoarding Dragon
11 Garruk Wildspeaker
12 Sword of Vengeance
13 Mind Control
14 Frost Titan
15 Chandra Nalaar
16 Crystal Ball
18 Jace Beleren
19 Platinum Angel
20 Vengeful Archon
21 Lightning Bolt
23 Conundrum Sphinx
24 Diabolic Tutor
25 Doom Blade
27 Gaea's Revenge
28 Liliana Vess
29 Angelic Arbiter
31 Obstinate Baloth
34 Chandra's Outrage
36 Quag Sickness
37 Magma Phoenix
39 Jace's Ingenuity
40 Blinding Mage
41 Prodigal Pyromancer
42 Royal Assassin
43 Serra Angel
44 Birds of Paradise
45 Fauna Shaman
46 Whispersilk Cloak
47 Cyclops Gladiator
Frost Titan at No.14? Is that a Platinum Angel going at No.19? Whispersilk Cloak at No.46? And Crystal narrowly beat Fire in the battle of the balls. One more tip while we're here: Squadron Hawk. Not necessarily a great pick. Ditto Relentless Rats.
Neil Rigby - not a Rotisserie chicken
Thing is, it's not all about bomb rares. In a subsequent Rotisserie, Neil Rigby took this collection of curve-alicious red-white goodness to a 2-1 record, beaten only by the Hall of Famer from France, Olivier Ruel.
2010 Great Britain National Championship - Rotisserie
Turn one Serra Ascendant into turn two Ajani's Pridemate was a highlight, and drafting Manic Vandal was one less way for opponents to deal with Platinum Angel.
Thanks to defeating Neil, Olivier advanced to the Rotisserie finals tomorrow, where the eight qualifiers will draft with a foil set of M11. And the winner of the whole event? A complete foil set of M11. Now that's a prize worth drafting for!
Saturday, 1:38 p.m. – A Bit on the Side
by Tim Willoughby
I love public events, and some of the events on here at Great Britain's nationals are pretty special indeed.
Last night I hosted Tim Willoughby's Five Headed Family Fortunes of Magical Cards, a rather manic game-show in which hundreds of rares were given away to a baying crowd of teams trying to work out what players might have picked as answers in my Magical Survey. For the record, here were a few of the questions. I'll let you think a bit before providing some of the answers later in the day.
What is the best Standard deck of all time?
Name a powerful land.
What is your favourite keyword mechanic?
I asked these questions of nearly 200 Magic players, and the results proved tricky ones for the teams playing to predict. Suffice to say, today will see Rich Hagon thoroughly outshine me with his game show 'Scrubout' – I hear that he has a suit to wear and everything.
There be gold in them thar packs.
Before the evening of course there is still an absurd amount of events on. As I type this there is Ravnica sealed deck going on in front of me. Beyond that, players are battling in the Vintage event. To my left, Quentin Martin is scribbling down decklist ideas for 15 card Highlander that takes place tomorrow, and over the tannoy, calls are going out for Standard Pauper Magic round 2, and M11 rotisserie draft – a format that has captured the imagination here in London, that Rich will be covering in more detail. I honestly cannot think of an event I've been at before with quite the strength and depth of games for players not qualified for Nationals. Even if you never play in any of the four PTQs this weekend, there is plenty to do.
Feature Match Round 10 Tom Reeve vs Craig Stevenson
I'm told this is a real man's format.
by Tim Willoughby
For round 10 we have Craig Stevenson, the last English National Champion (before the event changed into Great Britain Nationals), and editor of Starcitygames.com, against Tom Reeve, one of the London regulars who is fortunate enough to be able to sleep in his own bed while between days at Nationals. Tom started out at 0-2 and has been living on the edge ever since. Now at 7-2, he is gunning to get right back in position for top 8, but can't afford to drop many games.
Tom started on a Mulligan , and could only look on as Craig's Viscera Seer drew first blood. Craig was black/blue, while black/red was the colour combination for Reeve, whose first creature was a Steel Overseer that hit play in spite of a represented Mana Leak from Stevenson.
Craig was all about the scry cards, following up his Viscera Seer with Crystal Ball.
"That seems like a good idea" remarked Tom, as he played his own.
Nether Horror was the next play from Craig, while Tom had a Child of Night that happily the 4/2 for the trade, while Steel Overseer gradually grew itself to a respectable size.
Tom Reeve apparently has the touch.
Each player fixed their draws a little with Crystal Ball, and it seemed that Tom might have had the best of it, as his scrying allowed for Cyclops Gladiator to be cast. Craig chose not to scry in his upkeep, clearly valuing that extra mana more than a little extra card selection. He cast a Clone, which copied Cyclops Gladiator, and used Unsummon to mean that his was the only red 4/4 on the board.
Tom did not like this plan. He used a Brittle Effigy to remove Clone from the game, with Stevenson missing his free scry from sacrificing his creature to Viscera Seer. Stevenson did have Liliana Vess though, who forced Tom to discard a Nightwing Shade.
Tom used Stabbing Pain to kill Viscera Seer, allowing him to attack Liliana down to 2 loyalty. He then played Cyclops Gladiator and passed. Liliana did not look long for the world. She made Tom discard his last card (a Gravedigger), before Craig used Quag Sickness to turn Cyclops Gladiator into 2/2. Tom was still able to kill off Liliana, and got in for a couple of points on Craig on top before casting Child of Night. In all this, life totals for each player had barely dipped below 20.
Craig threatened to change the shape of things with an Air Servant. Thanks to Liliana, Tom was living off the top of his deck – although the card on top of his deck was being made ever better thanks to Crystal Ball. Craig had an Augury Owl to follow up, and build his air force.
The game looked to be turning into a race. Vulshok Berserker from Tom put that race well in his favour. He swung with his team, putting Craig on just 6, while gaining a couple of life himself, thanks to Child of Night. Aether Adept bounced Steel Overseer, and gave Craig a crucial blocker. All this did not look like enough though when Doom Blade was sent toward Air Servant. Craig had tricks though. Redirect turned the Doom Blade on Vulshok Berserker, and briefly restored parity.
Tom was still drawing better of Crystal Ball than his opponent. Aether Adepts from Craig did not build his position so much as stave off the inevitable, while Tom had Gravedigger to get back Vulshok Berserker, giving him enough gas to take things down over a number of turns.
Tom Reeve 1 – 0 Craig Stevenson
If game one was quite a slow one, game two was much faster. Craig quickly showed off a pair of Bog Raiders, which would be unblockable for Tom, and poor targets for Doom Blade. Tom's best bet was to race to force a trade, and this he did with Captivating Vampire and Vulshok Berserker. Life totals dropped close to single digits for each player before Tom got down an Crystal Ball, and started to stabilise things, forcing one of the Zombies to trade.
Mind Rot came from Stevenson to get ahead on cards, and an Aether Adept kept Nether Shade off the board for what looked like just long enough. Tom knocked Craig down to four, and with Cyclops Gladiator and Canyon Minotaur, was poised for the win, but Stevenson had Sleep, which just kept him ahead in the race. Craig knocked Tom down to 4, with 5 power on the board. Tom had a Brittle Effigy, meaning that he could take out one attacker, and only drop to one, but it still a scary position to be in.
Tom did use the Effigy on Bog Raiders, leaving him open to Liliana Vess coming out to play. She used some loyalty to fetch a card for Craig, who passed. Attacks from Tom put Craig to just one. That card he'd fetched would have to be pretty special. Stevenson looked pained after his draw. Was there a way out of this precarious position?
Aether Adept bounced Cyclops Gladiator, but it was not enough. Craig used Liliana to look through his deck once more, and extended his hand.
Tom Reeves wins 2-0!
Feature Match Round 11 - Graeme McIntyre vs. Stephen Murray
by Rich Hagon
Both these stalwarts of the Scottish Magic community arrive back in Standard knowing that another loss could see them in big trouble. Right now, both sit at 7-3, with the fourth loss putting them on the brink of elimination from top 8 contention. Both managed a 3-1 record in Standard yesterday, but even that might not be enough to book a place in the knockout stages.
Both players opened on manlands, McIntyre starting with Celestial Colonnade, and Murray having Raging Ravine. His turn two Noble Hierarch resolved unmolested, while McIntyre added lands to begin his blue-white control strategy. Vengevine resolved for Murray, but didn't get very far, meeting Path to Exile. Down came Elspeth, Knight-Errant for McIntyre, who wasted no time in making a Soldier token, leaving her loyalty at five.
With McIntyre tapped out, Murray used the free turn to cast Knight of the Reliquary, before sending the Noble Hierarch at Elspeth, the Soldier token getting in the way. Basilisk Collar completed the turn.
More Planeswalker action ensued for McIntyre, who added Jace, the Mind Sculptor, bouncing the Knight of the Reliquary. Elspeth was now at six, and climbing towards her ultimate steadily. Murray needed to do something about that, and began with Cunning Sparkmage. The Noble Hierarch once again swallowed a Soldier token, and we were back with McIntyre. Day of Judgment cleared the board, and Murray's next Cunning Sparkmage met Mana Leak. There's no doubt that Mana Leak is one of the massive additions to Standard from M11.
Stoneforge Mystic was a vanilla Squire for Murray, and Elspeth reached eight loyalty the following turn for McIntyre. Murray Cascaded Bloodbraid Elf into Fauna Shaman, which seemed good, but with Celestial Colonnade available to activate, McIntyre was well able to contain the threat. Path to Exile killed off the Fauna Shaman, Jace went to five loyalty, and Elspeth to nine. Can you say game over? Stephen Murray certainly could.
McIntyre 1 Murray 0.
'I've prepared so much for this' said McIntyre. 'Round about six hundred games of Standard.'
OK, I admit it, six hundred games is a lot. Really.
Basilisk Collar opened game two for Murray, but it was a while before the next play of the game, a turn four Vengevine. Still, it resolved and attacked for four, before Oblivion Ring from McIntyre sent it packing. Murray had his first Planeswalker of the match in Ajani Vengeant, trying to cramp McIntyre for mana. His reply was Elspeth, Knight-Errant, making a Soldier. That left him vulnerable, as Murray ran out Realm Razer. Away went all the lands, leaving McIntyre facing Realm Razer and Ajani Vengeant. Elspeth granted +3+3 and flying, allowing him to hit Ajani Vengeant down to one loyalty.
McIntyre continued to lay land, while Murray found none. Ajani Vengeant lost his remaining loyalty as Murray finally dealt with Elspeth. When Realm Razer attacked, McIntyre had Path to Exile ready, and suddenly both players had land and spells, rather than just spells.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor was up next for McIntyre, who decided to add two to Jace's loyalty, leaving a card on top of Murray's library. Tectonic Edge allowed Murray to blow up McIntyre's only available blue source, meaning Murray could cast Sun Titan with impunity, causing a considerable frown. McIntyre had Day of Judgment ready, and he pushed Jace, the Mind Sculptor to seven loyalty. Vengevine shenanigans dropped that back to three, but Murray was clearly worried about another Day of Judgment, and that's what happened.
The epic game continued, with Murray rebuilding on the board, and McIntyre rebuilding his hand with Jace's Ingenuity. The life totals stood at 33 to 13 in Murray's favor, but McIntyre had five cards to Murray's none. Jace Beleren drew McIntyre a card, Wall of Omens drew him another, and a second Wall of Omens meant he'd seen seven cards in a matter of moments. He was still stuggling to stave off double Vengevine, however, with Murray activating Raging Ravine to join the party.
Day of Judgment number three was good news for McIntyre, and so was aiming Flashfreeze at Knight of the Reliquary. Even so, Murray had a second creature in Cunning Sparkmage, and that brought him Vengevine back again. What a pain in the neck that card is. (Translation: Good against control.)
Jace, the Mind Sculptor went into Brainstorm mode for McIntyre, who passed the turn facing five damage while at nine life. The Vengevine opted to kill Jace, and Dauntless Escort met with double Mana Leak, just about keeping McIntyre alive. Four life played forty, as Murray looked to equalize. Moments later, he had.
Six hundred games of Standard? Six hundred and one was a good one.
McIntyre 1 Murray 1.
And again. Getting irritating, right?
McIntyre had to mulligan to six before opening the decider, and a turn one Noble Hierarch for Murray didn't improve his mood. Qasali Pridemage was Murray's turn two, and he already had Tectonic Edge to keep McIntyre away from his more expensive spells. Wall of Omens allowed him to draw a card, but there was no sign of a third land. Vengevine piled in, and the early going was all Murray.
Still no land for McIntyre, Vengevine number two for Murray, and Path to Exile had to go find McIntyre a land. Desperate times indeed. Twenty three life played just four as Murray added Dauntless Escort. There was surely no way back into this one for McIntyre. Murray was about to be rewarded for his epic persistence in game two with a comfortable win in game three, and McIntyre's Path to Exile and Condemn chicanery would all be in vain.
Graeme McIntyre 1 Stephen Murray 2.
Saturday 3:16 p.m. – Trading through the Formats
by Rich Hagon
There's plenty of formats to keep your eye on when it comes to trading. We took a whirlwind tour with Nigel Rowledge, the big cheese at Troll and Toad:
Standard – With the Constructed part of Nationals being Standard, players needed to complete their decks in time for the opening round on Friday. Obstinate Baloth went very quickly, and there was a lot of movement of cards for Vampire decks, especially Dark Tutelage. Inferno Titan was the most popular of the cycle, and it was a surprise to find that nobody was looking for Primeval Titan. Given how popular the card was once nationals started, we can only assume that everyone came prepared, knowing that they couldn't run their deck of choice without the green mythic.
With M11 now firmly established, it's inevitable that demand for the original Planeswalkers has slowed. Jace Beleren and Garruk Wildspeaker are still pretty popular, but Ajani Goldmane seems to have been the big loser from the reprint in M11.
Extended – The format for Pro Tour Amsterdam, Extended has undergone a seismic shift, meaning that new deck tech is hard to find ahead of the big event in the Netherlands next month. Even the traders, who can look at raw numbers of 'ins and outs' to detect trends are having a hard time getting a handle on the format. Until new archetypes come to public attention, many players are holding on to their recent Standard decks and adding a few cards here and there, rather than actively exploring the deckbuilding space afforded by the new format. Bitterblossom? Not yet a massively sought-after card. After Amsterdam? Who knows...
Legacy – There's no doubt that the hottest properties in Magic right now are the original dual lands. It's becoming increasingly difficult to find them, as the popularity of Legacy has just exploded in the last year or so. Of the duals, Underground Sea and Tundra seem to be the most popular. Intriguingly, each new iteration of the banned and restricted lists can radically shake up the trading environment. When Grim Monolith recently became unbanned, it's desirability changed massively, and the volatility of Legacy is part of the appeal.
Saturday 4:53 p.m. - An Odyssey Brewing
by Rich Hagon
Fifteen years ago, Guy Brew saw a group of friends playing Magic, and that was the start of something good. Now he's back to battle for the Historic Sealed Deck title using one of his favorite formats, Odyssey Block.
'I went to the first British Nationals in 1996. It was an open event – you could just turn up and play – and that was the first time British players were issued with DCI numbers.'
As an (ahem) slightly more mature player, Guy and I have shared many a happy roadtrip carting assorted young whippersnappers around the highways and byways of the UK.
'Magic has taken me all over the UK. I'm from London, but I've played in tournaments in Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow, Plymouth, Liverpool, Bristol...Magic gives you this fantastic opportunity to pit your wits against all sorts of people you wouldn't get a chance to meet. And, for me at least, it never really matters, win or lose.'
To be fair, Guy did plenty of winning back in the day, as his appearance at Pro Tour Osaka in 2002 can testify.
'The format for that event was Odyssey Block Constructed, and that's the main reason I wanted to play this particular Historic Sealed event, to bring it all back.'
Guy is a keen football fan, being a season ticket holder at Fulham. Does he see parallels between the two hobbies?
'For sure. Magic was never about just the games themselves, and football's the same. The match may be 90 minutes, but you leave at seven in the morning for an away game, and get back late at night, and in between it's all about the team, how they played last week, chatting on the coach, chewing it over on the way home...it's the whole experience, and Magic's the same.'
Whilst we may have aged gracefully, there have been big changes in the players we used to chauffeur to PTQs. They've gone from twelve to twenty-seven. Does Guy still recognize them?
'It's hard, that's for sure. It seems as if there's a complete new generation of Magic players that have taken hold of the top tables in the last five or six years. On the top ten tables, I probably only know two or three players. But in public events, I've got friends everywhere.'
Friends brought together by Magic.
Saturday, 5:23 p.m. – Transatlantic
by Rich Hagon and Nate Price
Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we had the chance for a quick cross-the-pond chat between yours truly, Rich Hagon, here in the UK, and Nate Price, ace coverage reporter at the second best nationals in the world in the US.
Nate, hi! How was day one at US? I was puling for Team Booth with BDM, but it was a guy I didn't know at all at the top of the standings. Shock?
Hi there, Rich! Day one at US Nats was extremely interesting. There were a few surprise deck choices by people, including Conley Woods and his monowhite "Soul Sisters" deck. As far as BDM and the Crab People go, they are still well represented by David Ochoa with only a single loss in the final round of the draft. As for Anthony Eason, I wasn't too surprised with his performance after watching him play. He's been playing and drafting well thus far, but we'll see if it can carry over to today. He's got a feature match on ggslive.com right now.
You mentioned this Soul Sisters affair. Former English Champion Richard Moore had a white weenie deck that was doing very well yesterday, thanks to working with Rich Hoaen and Mark Herberholz, amongst other stellar playtest partners. Is Conley super-aggressive too? Well, Conley's deck, anyway!
You can say that again! It is built around Ajani's Pridemate, which Conley refers to as "the white Tarmogoyf," and Serra's Ascendant. The deck generates a large amount of life gain through Soul's Attendant and Soul Warden (the Soul Sisters), translating into large beats with the previously mentioned creatures. I've heard stories from Conley about turn four kills with the deck, so aggressive is definitely the right call. He ended 3-1 in Standard yesterday, so the deck treated him quite well. How has Richard been doing with his version?
3-1 in Standard, but M11 draft didn't treat him well. We've got M11 Draft coming up as the middle part of Pro Tour Amsterdam in a couple of weeks. While the flippant answer appears to be 'open Mythic Titans', there's going to be a lot of subtlety on display in a couple of weeks. Have you seen any strategy that particularly caught your eye yesterday? Anyone running the Tome Scour gambit?!?
While I haven't seen the Tome Scour monstrosity rear its ugly head yet, I have had a chance to see some cool takes on the format. I did a Draft Tech yesterday with Brandon Scheel who has chosen to eschew the standard view on the format of drafting aggressive evasion creatures for a more controlling strategy featuring as many 2/4 creatures as his deck can hold. It has served him well in the past, though his draft yesterday didn't end up as a sterling example of the strategy. Another interesting deck I saw creeping around yesterday was Patrick Chapin's monored assault. He tore Brian Kowal to shreds in our feature match that round. Have you come across any extreme strategies such as that in your coverage?
I wouldn't say extreme precisely, but the mono-black deck with five Child of Night and three Corrupt took a lot of killing. Of course, we're quite a long way further along than you - that'll be timezones then. We're just about to start the penultimate round, and reigning national champ Dan Gardner is still fighting. A lot of the Scots are doing well, too. I guess one of the most entertaining aspects of the festival here is that there are so many French players! With a PTQ every day, a ton of them have come across the channel to try their luck. Lucas Florent, Yann Massicard, Liking Saiyesely, Olivier Ruel....Being British and winning a PTQ this week is hard work!
The Norman Conquest 2.0. Our PTQ just began here, though I'll admit we have considerable less Canadian players making the trip across the border than you have French, despite the proximity. Our first round of play just finished for Day two, so we still have a long way to go before things are decided here. Reigning US champ Charles Gindy is still in the hunt here, having gone 6-1 yesterday. Here's a fun tidbit for you: did you know that US Nationals is apparently a trial for the next year's event? After winning the event last year, Gindy was greeted with a round one bye. I guess it's good to be the champ!
It certainly is, and you can find out who becomes the next Great Britain and US champions, not to mention the German title-holder, right here.
Feature Match Round 12 - Dan Gardner vs. Tom Reeve
by Tim Willoughby and Mark Wraith
I was only going to cover one match this round, and in practice that is what I did, but for the 12th round I had a little help to get more bang from the feature match area, in the form of Mark Wraith, a former National Champion himself. Mark did coverage back in the old days, and was keen to keep his hand in, picking up a notepad and paper to kick it old school.
Dan was playing a blue/white deck similar to the one that took him all the way to the title in 2009, and had seen similarly positive results this year. Tom Reeve has had a bumpy road to his 8-3 record so far. After starting out 0-2, he has gone 8-1 since to put him in real contention for the top eight. With his Pyromancer Ascension deck, he had a fair matchup, but nothing was certain in this high pressure match.
Dan won the roll, and started off slowly. His turn three Jace Beleren was hit by Mana Leak. A second Jace did resolve for Dan, but Tom was unconcerned, he had already drawn some cards with a See Beyond, and rawdogged a Pyromancer Ascension while Dan was tapped out.
Dan tried an Oblivion Ring on Pyromancer Ascension, but in response to the enchantment, Tom played Into the Roil on his own enchantment, forcing Dan to use Oblivion Ring on Jace.
Gardner looks on, as Reeve goes off
"I'm so bad… at least I remembered to draw off Jace first…"
When the Ascension came back down, it soon picked up a counter thanks to the second See Beyond of the game. Another Oblivion Ring stopped the Ascension from getting there, but Tom didn't seem to mind. A Jace, the Mind Sculptor came out for Dan, but barely made a dent on the game, as Tom was focused on going off. An Into the Roil on Oblivion Ring got back Pyromancer Ascension.
Time Warp number one bought the time to cast Time Warp number two. Into the Roil got Pyromancer Ascension live, at which point things got a little silly. Double Foresee begat some Call to Minds. As soon as it became clear that there were a colossal amount of copied Lightning Bolts headed in his direction, Dan scooped them up.
Tom Reeve 1 – 0 Dan Gardner
While some people are playing transformational Runeflare Trap sideboards in their Pyromancer Ascension decks, Tom stuck to his guns, bringing in only Jace and some counterspells.
Reeve, though he isn't the control deck, is very much in control
Game two if anything looked harder for Dan than the first, as on the play he had to mulligan down to five. Tom's early turns saw a little Ponder/Preordain action, followed by Jace Beleren to draw some extra cards. A Pyromancer Ascension came down, with a counter soon added to it thanks to Ponder.
Dan had a Baneslayer Angel, but Tom wasn't too worried about life totals as long as his stayed north of zero. There was no bounce for the Angel from Reeve, who instead kept up mana to allow a Spell Pierce on Oblivion Ring. Tom played a second Ascension. When Dan tried for War Priest of Thune it met a Mana Leak. Dan tried a Negate, but met Spell Pierce. After Dan paid, another Spell Pierce came along, to both win the counter war, and ensure that both Pyromancer Ascensions became active!
With two active copies of Pyromancer Ascension, and a tapped out opponent, it is really not very hard to win the game. Tom quickly racked up about 7 turns in the bank with Time Warp/Call to Mind, and then began hitting Dan with Lightning Bolt x 3 quite a bit. It didn't matter that Dan was at over 30 before all this happened. Tom had all the time in the world, and burned Gardner out of top eight contention.
Tom Reeve wins 2 – 0!
Feature Match Round 12 - Richard Bland vs. James Foster
by Tim Willoughby
With just three rounds left before top eight is decided, there is much to play for at the top tables here in London. Both Richard Bland and James Foster are in a position where following this round, with a win they can start looking for draws in order to make top eight.
Before any of that could be worried about though, there was the little matter of getting one more win. Bland won the roll and led with a Misty Rainforest into Birds of Paradise. Foster just had a Seaside Citadel to start. One point at a time, Bland whittled down his life total, with a second fetchland allowing a turn two 4/4 Knight of the Reliquary. Foster had a Path to Exile for the Knight before it could become active, and another land that hit the battlefield tapped in Celestial Colonnade.
If looks could kill Cunning Sparkmages, James would be a murderer
Between Birds of Paradise, being on the play, and Path to Exile, Bland had a huge mana advantage on his opponent, but and used it to play Qasali Pridemage and Cunning Sparkmage for his turn. Another Path to Exile from Foster on the Sparkmage gave Bland still more lands. The Path did allow Foster to get a Noble Hierarch to stick unmolested, in the hope of catching up on mana.
Sun Titan for Bland did a fair impersonation of Primeval Titan, getting a fetchland from Bland's graveyard. The 6/6 vigilant body had the potential to end the game pretty fast, and was unconcerned by a Vengevine from Foster.
As Bland used his fetchland, Foster joked that he might just get there on fetchland damage. It was true that all the damage Bland had taken was from his own lands, but with Vengevine joining Bland's titan, it seemed hard to imagine him losing out too much from a little pain to develop his mana base.
Bland played a Birds of Paradise and a second Qasali Pridemage after his Vengevine had traded with Foster's, in order to get his back. Foster was on just 9 by this point, and on the ropes. He cast Baneslayer Angel, but it was uncertain to be enough. A Vengevine soon followed, but it had to stay back on defence.
Richard Bland, calmer playing for top 8 than I am having a leisurely morning stroll
Bland cast a Basilisk Collar, equipped his titan and swung in. He killed off a Vengevine, and gained 8 in the process, thanks to the Qasali Pridemages on James' mana accelerant.
Bland took a hit from Dauntless Escort, but gave as good as he got, in casting a Bloodbraid Elf which found Oblivion Ring. The Oblivion Ring took out Dauntless Escort, and Bland beat in. Foster's next play of Fauna Shaman was rendered ineffective by a second Cunning Sparkmage showing up, giving enough points of pinging power to off the powerful M11 creature.
A Vengevine from Bland was enough to finish things. With plenty of power in the red zone, and the ability to stop Foster from really building anything, Bland took the game and the match.
Richard Bland wins 2 – 0!
Double Feature Round 14 - The Fight for Top Eight
by Tim Willoughby
Going into the final round of the Swiss in the competition, there are still quite a few slots open in the top eight, and players fighting for them. In a devilish bit of multitasking on my part, I'll be covering two of them. On my left, Tom Reeve is playing James Cleak. A little unlucky to be paired down, Tom was unable to get into top 8 with an intentional draw, and would have to play the final round. On my right Vladimir Marko plays Stuart Wright. In the Wright Marko match, there would need to be a little luck between the players, as even if they won, their slot would not be assured.
Tom led in his match with a Preordain, looking to set up his Pyromancer Ascension, while James had a turn one Noble Hierarch. This was followed up by Fauna Shaman, and a Mountain indicating a Naya Shaman build. Tom had a Ponder, but was slow to do much more, looking on as a Bloodbraid Elf found a second Noble Hierarch. Tom used the fact that James was tapped out to bounce Fauna Shaman, but took his beats from the Elf.
Tom had little for his turn, and merely took the beats when James swung in. He had a Mana Leak for Qasali Pridemage, which would threaten his Pyromancer Ascension, but had nothing to stop the natural drawn Bojuka Bog that killed his graveyard.
It seemed that Tom was going to be in rough shape to go off, even after having cast Foresee to set his hand up. James was not inclined to afford Tom much time to get back in the game, using Fauna Shaman to fetch Sun Titan, which in turn got back Qasali Pridemage.
From there Tom was quick to scoop up and go on to game 2.
James Cleak 1 – 0 Tom Reeve
Vladimir started with a Halimar Depths, but lost his Lotus Cobra to a Path to Exile from Wright's Esper deck. Vlad didn't mind having extra mana one way or another with his Turboland deck, which soon had an Oracle of Mul Daya in play. He revealed an Into the Roil on top of his deck and after playing a couple more lands, he passed. Stu drew a pair of cards with Esper Charm and carried on.
Stu played Jace, the Mind Sculptor and bounced the Oracle, leading Vladimir to choose to play Garruk, before untapping some lands to play it again. Stuart used Jace's Brainstorm ability, and after a little thought played Oblivion Ring on the Oracle that just couldn't quite stay in play.
Vladimir took an extra turn with Time Warp, and used the time that afforded him to get Garruk on Beast making duty. Stuart killed off Garruk with his Creeping Tar Pit, and had a Wall of Omens, but was still very much on the defensive. Vladimir had another Garruk, and a Khalni Garden with which he got a Plant Token.
A well timed Esper Charm from Stuart hit Avenger of Zendikar in Vladimir's hand, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor started to sculpt the game with his fateseal ability. With Vladimir out of cards in hand, and Jace able to at least partially control the Slovakian player's draws it seemed there was little chance of him getting back in the game. Stuart played Baneslayer Angel as a win condition, at which point Vladimir simply scooped his cards to save time for game 2.
Stuart Wright 1 – 0 Vladimir Marko
Tom Reeve had to take a mulligan for his opener, and with 6 on the play, he started with an Island. A fetchland found James a Forest, but there was no accelerant with it. For game 2, Tom seemed happy to be the control, passing with two Islands up. Turn three saw a Preordain, still leaving Tom able to keep Mana Leak mana up.
The Mana Leak came along to stop the Knight of the Reliquary that Bloodbraid Elf found, but could do nothing about the elf itself, meaning that Tom dropped to 17 on attacks. A Fauna Shaman from James the following turn was enough to cause Tom to pull the trigger on a Pyroclasm. This didn't fully halt James' attacks though, as Raging Ravines were slowly filling Cleak's board.
Tom was in trouble, and dropped a raw-dogged Pyromancer Ascension. He took another set of beats from a now 5/5 Raging Ravine, and was left to stave off attacks with only two cards in hand.
When Celestial Purge on Pyromancer's Ascension came from James, Tom muttered 'could not draw any better…' to himself. It would be very much an uphill struggle from here for Reeve.
Foresee did not get Tom to what he needed, and in spite of much digging, his combo deck could never quite get there.
James Cleak wins 2-0
Vladimir led with Halimar Depths for the second game in a row, while Stu had a Glacial Fortress, getting him two of his three colours of mana. Vladimir's land count got further ahead with Explore on turn two, which let him play an extra Island. Stu seemed unconcerned. He had an Inquisition of Kozilek, which got hit by Negate.
Vladimir used Tectonic Edge to take out Glacial Fortress, but could not stop an Esper Charm making him discard two before the land hit the grumper. With cards to spare, Vladimir wasn't too worried, and he used his mana to resolve a Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
For the second game, Stu used Creeping Tar Pit to kill Jace. He had a Baneslayer Angel to follow up with, and was ready to go on the offensive. Vladimir, meanwhile, was ready to take some extra turns, and did so with Time Warp. Those extra turns only scored him land though, as he played a pair of copies of Rampant Growth.
Stuart's plan was a little bustier. He had Elspeth, Knight-Errant to make his angel colossal and dangerous on attacks. Stuart seemed almost nonchalant as Vladimir drew 5 cards with Mind Spring. Those cards would not affect his dangerous board position.
A Time Warp from Vladimir got him up to the point of having enough lands in play to cast Kozilek, Butcher of Truth.
"Draw all the cards you want." remarked Stu.
Vladimir drew four and extended his hand. It was all over.
Stuart Wright wins 2-0.