Coverage of Grand Prix–Atlanta 2008

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684 players slaved for twelve hours today over hot cards to whittle the field down to a mere 64 players. The usual suspects have made their presence known again. Player of the Year contenders Tomoharu Saitou and Shuhei Nakamura justified their trips from Japan by both making Day 2. Luis Scott-Vargas managed to make it to the Saturday stage, though Tim Landale did not. Besting them all, however, is Marcio Carvalho from Portugal. He and two others sit alone at the perfect 9-0 mark. Hopefully their drafting chops are up to the challenge of six more rounds of Draft in order to make Top 8. Check back tomorrow for more exciting coverage of Grand Prix - Atlanta!


  • 8:41 pm: Round 9 Feature Match - Prime Example
    by Nate Price
  • 8:20 pm: Checking Back with Sonne
    by Nate Price
  • 7:38 pm: Round 8 Feature Match - Beat
    by Nate Price
  • 6:50 pm: Interview with Steven Wolansky
    by Nate Price
  • 6:25 pm: Round 7 Feature Match - Take Two Capsules and Call Me in the Morning
    by Nate Price
  • 5:14 pm: Round 6 Feature Match - Dream Crasher
    by Nate Price
  • 4:12 pm: Round 5 Feature Match - Obviously
    by Nate Price
  • 3:28 pm: Rocking Out
    by Nate Price
  • 3:14 pm: Double Your Pleasure
    by Nate Price
  • 2:01 pm: Round 3 Feature Match – Take a Walk on the Wild Side
    by Nate Price
  • 12:40 pm: Putting a Face to the Name
    by Nate Price
  • 11:22 am: Sealed Deck Building with Jon Sonne
    by Nate Price
  • 9:39 am: Ask the Pros - Which Shard is your favorite to draft?
    by Nate Price
  • Friday: Undefeated Decklists
    by Nate Price
  • Info: Fact Sheet
    by Event Coverage Staff
Pairings Results Standings



  • Friday Undefeated Decklists
    by Nate Price

  • 9:39 am - Ask the Pros - Which Shard is your favorite to draft?
    by Nate Price

  • Guillaume Wafo-Tapa – "Esper. It’s got great card advantage, and it’s blue. That, and I really like to draw cards."

    Carlos Romão – "Jund. All the best cards are red or green, and black has great removal."

    Brandon Scheel – "Naya. I like Exalted, and I feel it’s the deepest shard. I can tell you that I definitely don’t like drafting black."

    Cedric Phillips – "Jund. It’s got lots of interactions and synergy with tokens. And it has Broodmate Dragon."

    Shuhei Nakamura – "Esper. I like Courier’s Capsule and all the fliers."

    Luis Scott-Vargas – "Esper. I’m a fan of drawing cards."

    Mark Herberholz – "I don’t really like to draft shards. I really like to try and draft two colors. My favorite is black/red. It’s got a good curve, lots of synergy, and good removal. It’s the most complete deck when it works."

    Brett Blackman – "Bant. I. Love. Exalted. I guess I just like drafting aggressive decks. I’m not too keen on the control cards. Unless you count Cruel Ultimatum."

  • 11:22 am - Sealed Deck Building with Jon Sonne
    by Nate Price
  • Getting better is every player’s goal. Even those at the top of the game already would love to distance themselves as much as they can from their peers. I’ve always been firmly of the opinion that the best way to learn was to find the best and emulate what they do. When doing coverage at major events like this, we try our hardest to provide you with access to resources you may not have on your own. After all, we get to follow around and talk to the best players in the world and explain the processes they go through at all stages of the game.

    For Sealed Deck, players are given an opportunity to make small mistakes from the beginning. Sealed pools are hard things to build, and, in an ironic twist, the best decks can sometimes be the hardest. There are a ton of decisions that have to be made, and each card needs to be evaluated within the context it’s going. Shards of Alara emphasizes this, since each shard uses cards slightly differently. For example, Jund loves Dragon Fodder, since it combos well with the devour mechanic. However, it loses some of its value in a Naya or Grixis deck since they don’t really have much of a use for the tokens. Things like this have to go through your mind as you’re looking at your card pool, and you know it goes through the pros’.

    Jon Sonne has been around the block and then some in the land of Magic. He’s a former US National team member, he’s won a couple of GP’s in the past, and he’s even coming off a Top 4 finish in Kansas City. I would consider him a reliable source of information, to say the least. After shipping off his registered deck and taking part in the line-dance that is deck passing, he cracked open his card pool and began to check the cards off the list. After he was satisfied that all the cards were accounted for, he started to spread them out on the table in front of him and go to work.

    Step on was to separate out the unplayables. After all, if you aren’t going to use a card, why even bother yourself with it? The usual suspects like Thorn-Thrash Viashino and Onyx Goblet found their way to the cutting room floor. Eventually, after finishing up with his massive cuts, he singled (tripled?) out red, white, and green as his solid colors, and started to work on a Naya build. While his good Naya cards definitely went into the build pool, he kept a couple of off-color gold cards to the side as a consideration. Cards like Bant Charm, Sprouting Thrinax, and Waveskimmer Aven are good enough to warrant adding to a deck if they fill a need, even at the risk of slightly muddling a mana base.

    Jon Sonne agonizes over the last couple of cards to include in his deck.

    After a quick review of the cards Sonne was working with, the first thing that jumped out at me was that there wasn’t anything really flashy. He had some efficient little guys, some decent removal, and a few large beasts, but, with the exception of an Ajani Vengeant, he didn’t really have anything that would make an opponent cringe as it hit the table.

    Sonne worked and teased his card pool a bit, starting off with the cards split up into creatures and spells, divided up by cost. As he stared at his pool, he moved a couple of his cards in an out of various pools, though he didn’t seem to commit to anything. After returning any cards he had pulled out, he picked the cards up and started to break them down by color. After looking at the color breakdown of what he laid in front of him, it was clear that he was primarily green and red, with a smaller selection of white cards. He was still a bit over on cards, and started to pull some of the cards that didn’t really fit with his deck or mana base. Soul’s Fire got benched since he had a bunch of little men, and only a couple of larger creatures with which to use it. Sigil Blessing took a backseat since it put a larger strain on his mana base. He already had enough little guys, so Dragon Fodder hit the pine. That left him with a solid removal base, a good early game, and a couple of good late game threats. That’s usually a recipe for a solid Sealed Deck.

    "The deck seems a little underpowered," Sonne said after he had finished putting it all together. He almost decided to add those gold cards in his consideration pile to up the power level. "I really wanted to stretch the mana base for these," Sonne admitted pointing to Bant Charm and Sprouting Thrinax. He was already playing a Swamp for his Skeletonizes and Resounding Thunder, so it wasn’t that big a stretch, but it didn’t end up being worth it in the end. He wasn’t too incredibly pleased with what he ended up with, but he wasn’t distraught, either. He has three byes in the tournament, so he only really needs a 4-2 record in the playing rounds to make it to Day 2. When I asked him if he thought he and his deck had it in them, he just shrugged and told me "I hope so" with a smile.

    Here’s the card pool with which he had to work. Take a look at it and feel free to discuss how you might build it on the forums. I’ll check up with Sonne later in the day to see how his build choices treated him.

  • 12:40 pm - Putting a Face to the Name
    by Nate Price
  • Words are powerful. A phenomenal writer can transport you to places you’ve never imagined through nothing more than the careful arrangement of little symbols on a page. You take those little patterns and arrange them into something that your imagination can coalesce into a realistic picture within your own mind. Authors try to turn a story into images in your mind.

    Visual artists, on the other hand, try to tell stories using images. Simply by looking at a painting or drawing and soaking up all the details, a story begins to unravel, that is as unique to each member of the audience as their picturing of a character from a story they’ve read. Interpreting the art and appreciating it for more than it readily appears is part of the fun in observing works of art. Figuring out what perspective the artist came at a piece from. What stories did the artist have in mind for the subject in a painting? How did this author picture this character? The possibilities are endless.

    Magic‘s creative team does a wonderful job of melding the stories behind the events represented on the cards we all play with and the images of the important events and characters of those storylines. Through their use of style guides, they manage to get artists from every walk of life, experience level, and choice of materials on the same page. If anyone has heard the story behind the Mirage card Goblin Scouts, you know what I mean.

    Don’t call me an old man.

    Mark Poole has been around the Magic illustration community since it came into being. The original Counterspell? That’s his. The original Birds of Paradise? Yep, that’s him, too. He’s one of the grand old (although don’t let him hear you say that) men of the world of Magic as we see it. When I asked him how he got tangled up in Magic‘s web, he ascribed it mostly to being pretty lucky. "I actually did some stuff for TSR before that, so I was into the gaming and comic side of things, selling my own stuff and trying to break in back in the early nineties. It was really a matter of being at the right convention at the right time and meeting all those guys."

    "I always get asked what my favorite piece of art is, and I gotta say that it’s Kjeldoran Frostbeast. I don’t know why, it’s just always been a favorite." Everyone always has their own favorite piece of art, for reasons that are only readily apparent or relevant to them. Artists are no exception. We only see the final pieces, and even then, we see them without any of the ties that artists may create to them. Each time we see a piece of art for the first time, we see it untainted by the creative process. Artists always have unique views on their own works, and even their job itself.

    This guy has almost as much imagination as Mark Poole does.

    Working as an artist always seemed to me like it would be a blast. You kind of get to create your own hours, you get to spend your days doing something you obviously love, and you get paid for it. Since I started writing, I realize that there’s a little more to it, and it’s no different for visual artists. "This is something I love. Even if I wasn’t in the industry, I’d still be drawing, but to make a living out of it, that’s exactly what I’m looking for. But it’s like any other job. It’s got the ups and downs. There’s the lack of sleep. Things get really tight near the end of some bad deadlines. I’ll do three or four nights straight through the night sometimes. I don’t get to go home at five o’clock, work’s done, that’s it. When I’m at home, it’s always on. "

    With the wave of computers in recent years, everything has started to shift to enmesh itself with the digital age. Art is no exception. Some artists work exclusively with digital media, and some exclusively through more mundane media. Mark has to work with whatever the company he’s contracting to wants, but he does have his preferences.

    What a crappy day.

    "I love oil. There’s something about the smell; it smells earthy. It just has that natural, earthy kind of vibe."

    Artists at conventions and events such as this are famous for their unique works of art. People come up all the time with mats, cards, and a million other things to get them customized by the artists they love. I managed to catch up with Anthony Bonome, from Jacksonville, Florida, who got a unique sketch from Mark. Anthony had long wondered what exactly happened to the Counterspell guy to break his concentration. After checking out the other cards that Mark had illustrated, he amusingly decided that the Birds of Paradise had decided to. . .um. . .well, you’ll see.

  • 2:01 pm - Round 3 Feature Match – Take a Walk on the Wild Side
    by Nate Price
  • 2:01 pm - Round 3 Feature Match – Take a Walk on the Wild Side

    Nate Price

    This round features Gerry Thomspon, who is looking to capture a Limited Grand Prix title to go with the Constructed title he picked up at GP Denver earlier this year. His opponent this round is Mark Perdue, a local player from here in Atlanta. After a little difficulty getting a solid handshake established., they shuffled their decks up to battle. I’m not sure what the miscommunication was, but watching someone fail at a handshake is pretty funny. I blame Gerry.

    Mark led off with a Savage Lands on the first turn, and followed it up with a Seaside Citadel which met a “nice deck” from Gerry. He was just jealous that he wasn’t able to get two of the tri-lands in his sealed pool, much less in his opening hand. Mark’s Savage Lands made an Executioner’s Capsule on the second turn, which would be able to deal with Gerry’s first-turn Wild Nacatl, if he chose. A Plains on the second turn from Gerry made the Nacatl better than your average one-drop, and he passed the turn.

    Mark had a Tidehollow Sculler on his following turn, which met a sideways look from Gerry before he dropped his hand onto the table. After looking at a hand that contained a bunch of random little men and a Soul’s Fire, he chose to take the instant. Gerry also had a Court Archers, though, which allowed his Wild Nacatl to attack past the Sculler. A Rhox War Monk hit the table the turn after, though, and that caused Gerry to go into deep thought. Compounding his decision was the fact that he appeared to be stuck on lands. He used a Gift of the Gargantuan to fetch himself a Mountain, though, and the Wild Nacatl was now large enough to pound through the Rhox, or rather, around it. Mark was regaining ground with his lifelinker, and used his Court archers to shrink the Nacatl and remove a quite tenacious blocker. Gerry simply shrugged and replaced the Court Archers with a Druid of the Anima and a Steward of Valeron.

    Mark Perdue, holding down the ATL.

    Mark didn’t have much for the following turns other than his attacking War Monk, which Knocked Gerry to 14, and raised his own life total to the same. Gerry kept the pressure up, though, with a Bull Cerodon before attacking. Mark was ready, though, and had a Skeletonize to deal three damage to the Cerodon, allowing his Sculler to finish the beast off. This got him a regenerating blocker in the process, which would help tie Gerry down. An Agony Warp from Mark killed off Gerry’s Wild Nacatl and shrunk his Steward, which completely negated an attack. Gerry dropped a Knight of the White Order into play, but all that really accomplished was to put a second bear onto his pretty lackluster board. When he tried to double block the rampaging War Monk, Mark had a Jund Charm to pump the Monk. Gerry responded by using Soul’s Fire to hit the Monk for two before finishing it with Resounding Thunder. Getting rid of the fat lifelinker made his board of bears look a lot better, especially when all Mark had was an Incurable Ogre to play after mourning the loss of his Monk.

    Gerry sent his bears in on the following turn, knocking Mark down to five. He played a Yoked Plowbeast, which would unfortunately not be able to survive an encounter with the Ogre. Gerry remedied this with a Bloodpyre Elemental, removing the powerful Ogre. Mark made sure it killed the Plowbeast, though, by using a Soul’s Fire to shoot it before the Ogre died. The board, at this point, was more or less clear, and Gerry had the life advantage 11-5. When he got a Knight-Captain of Eos, it became clear that he could just start to swarm around Mark’s dwindling blockers. Gerry alpha struck next turn, and was able to trade one of his soldier tokens for all but Mark’s last point of life. For safety’s sake, a Magma Spray took out Mark’s Welkin Guide, and Gerry attacked for more than enough.

    Gerry Thompson 1 – Mark Perdue 0

    Gerry started off with a mulligan to five, and Mark with one to six. Mark’s six were a fine start, though, and he led strong on the opening turns. His fantastic lands kept coming, as he managed a Savage Lands and a Jund Panorama on the first couple of turns leading up to a Cylian Elf. Gerry had a Grixis Panorama to match Mark’s, but didn’t have either a turn one or two play. When he got Blightninged on the following turn, he sighed and put an uncastable Court Archers and Steward of Valeron into his graveyard. Blightning after a mull to five is pretty fun, at least for one side of the table. He passed his third turn with no play yet again, and Mark’s Elf dropped him to 13. His fourth turn met no land again, and things would have been looking dire for Gerry if it weren’t for the fact that Mark wasn’t playing any creatures other than his early Cylian Elf.

    Blightning is fun.

    Gerry’s deck provided him a fourth land for a Fatestitcher, which was set to hold down the fort against the Cylian Elf. Mark found another creature, this time an Akrasan Squire, and his Elf dropped Gerry to eight before the Stitcher came online. Gerry did manage to start tapping things on the following turn, and even managed to use a Resounding Thunder to take out the Elf, which was quickly replaced by a Steward of Valeron. Gerry also had a Deft Duelist, which prevented the Akrasan Squire from attacking.

    Mark kept drawing and passing, and Gerry kept drawing cards and playing threats. The game was definitely shifting in his favor. A Drumhunter hit the board, though it didn’t have any creatures large enough to turn it on yet. Mark stabilized the bleeding a little with a Skeletonize on Gerry’s Fatestitcher. A Tidehollow Sculler also managed to strip a Resounding Silence from his hand. At this point, things had reached a tenuous sort of parity. Gerry had a Bloodpyre Elemental to kill the Sculler, and dropped a bull Cerodon into play. The Cerodon sent for five (eating a block from the skeleton), and turned on the Drumhunter. Parity officially broken.

    Now Gerry was drawing more cards and had more creatures in play. I wise man once told me that that was how games were won. Mark had an Incurable Ogre to stand in the Cerodon’s way, but he couldn’t deal with the Drumhunter. A Yoked Plowbeast gave the Drumhunter a little insurance, as well as providing a second massive body to get through the regenerating skeleton and the Ogre. The Drumhunter had drawn Gerry enough cards that he was able to find a Magma Spray to off the Ogre, which cleared the path for large beaters. Gerry chose to widen the hole and unearthed his Fatestitcher to tap down the skeleton. This forced Mark to blow his Executioner’s Capsule on the Bull Cerodon, and he also chose to double block the Deft Duelist with two bears. After the dust settled, Gerry had a 5/5 and Drumhunter, and Mark had an Akrasan Squire and a skeleton. Gerry had a replacement Duelist, and sent the turn to Mark, way out in front of everything but the life totals.

    Mark tried to reestablish some control with a Rhox Charger, but Gerry kept burning away his smaller creatures with Magma Spray. When he attacked with his Plowbeast on the following turn, though, Mark was ready with an Agony Warp to bounce the Plowbeast’s attack and kill the Drumhunter. It had served his purpose and drawn him a million cards over the course of the game. One of them was a Wild Nacatl that came down for bolster Gerry’s forces.

    On the following turn, things got interesting once again. Mark calmly tapped five lands and played a Scourglass. On his next turn, he used it and regenerated his skeleton. Gerry had drawn enough cards from his Drumhunter, though, that he had plenty of threats in reserve. Another Yoked Plowbeast and Knight-Captain of Eos hit play and that was good enough for Mark to scoop it up.

    Gerry Thompson 2 – Mark Perdue 0

  • 3:14 pm – Double Your Pleasure
    by Nate Price
  • Some players have all the luck. You smash your way through the tournament, only to be finally derailed by the player who was fortunate enough to get a Broodmate Dragon. It hits play, and two Dragons pound your face to a bloody pulp. Well, what if I told you that there was a more fun way to beat your opponent with two dragons. Apparently, Owen Turtenwald was lucky enough to be the recipient of a card pool containing two copies of Flameblast Dragon, which he described as "a little like Christmas." Coincidentally enough, another player at the same table managed to receive a card pool with a pair of Flameblasts for himself! That seems fair.

    I’m not even sure how many dragons this is, but it’s a lot.

    Not all doubles are good though. Turtenwald’s neighbor at his table had a whopping four copies of Onyx Goblet. Turtenwald gets dragons, his neighbor gets cups. C’est la vie. And don’t think that dragons are the only ones able to get in on the doubles craze. Evan Erwin, of The Magic Show, was packing a couple copies of Kresh the Bloodbraided. Must be nice.

  • 3:28 pm - Rocking Out
    by Nate Price
  • It's always cool when the tournament organizers go the extra mile to make sure that there's fun stuff for players to do, even if they aren't in the main event. The organizers for Grand Prix - Atlanta, Unity Entertainment, took things to the next level. There has never been a group or party game quite like Rock Band, and Unity has provided a playset, as well as a massive projector on which players with nothing better to do can get their rock on. I will admit, though, the seventeenth time through Say it Ain't So is not as good as the first.

    Rock Band at a Grand Prix? Say It Ain't So!

  • 4:12 pm - Round 5 Feature Match - Obviously
    by Nate Price
  • Wow, does Steve Sadin have a story for you. Apparently, he was flying standby on his way here from New York. He was able to board, but was told that they were out of overhead space for his carry-on luggage. So, they took it to check it for him, but they failed to give him a check receipt for it. So when he landed, his luggage wasn't on the carousel. When he went to the luggage claim area, he was obviously asked for his claim ticket, which he obviously didn't have. He ended up having to go back to the airport during his byes today to see if they had come in, which they obviously hadn't. "Sometimes, you know you're really running hot in life."

    His opponent this round is Tomoharu Saitou, who is currently sitting in the second place spot in the player of the year race, and is known for trotting around the globe playing on the Grand Prix Circuit along with current player of the year leader Shuhei Nakamura. He's had his fair share of bad experiences with travel, and even he had to hang his head after hearing about Sadin's "running hot."

    Have you seen my luggage?

    Sadin won the die roll and chose to draw first. He and Saitou matched second-turn Druids of the Anima, but the fact that Saitou was on the play let him use a Blister Beetle to kill Sadin's before he could use it. Both players spent the next few turns jockeying for board position, with Saitou getting a Hissing Iguanar and a Cavern Thoctar, while Sadin had to settle for a Naya Battlemage and a Elvish Visionary. An Oblivion Ring from the New Yorker ate Saitou's Thoctar, removing the largest threat on the table. Saitou had a Sprouting Thrinax to replace it and maintained the big man advantage.

    That is until Sadin dropped a Mosstodon into play. At this point, neither player could really attack. Saitou's Thrinax was being held at bay by the Battlemage, and Sadin's Mosstodon was being held off by Saitou's three-power creatures. Saitou broke the stalemate by using Naya Charm to kill the offending Battlemage, but he was still not in a very good spot. Even less so when Sadin attacked in with his Mosstodon on the following turn and used a Sigil Blessing to allow it to survive being blocked by the Iguanar. A Knight of the Skyward Eye gave Sadin another potentially huge threat, but Saitou Magma Sprayed it before it could get online.

    A Waveskimmer Aven met an "oh, ok," from Saitou, but Sadin couldn't risk an attack with his Mosstodon. He instead opted to rely on his Aven to go at Saitou. A kiss From the Amesha put him high enough that he could start taking the beats from the Sprouting Thrinax. Sadin was willing to play three life a turn to tap the Thrinax, especially if it meant he would be able to get in with his Mosstodon at some point. Saitou had other plans, though. A massive Tar Fiend from Saitou knocked a Titanic Ultimatum, Branching Bolt, and Guardians of Akrasa out of Sadin's hand, and got him a 10/10 and three 1/1 tokens in the process. Quite the turn! He also had a Vithian Stinger to finish what the Tar Fiend couldn't.

    Sadin paused for a bit before deciding to send his two creatures in at Saitou. Saitou paused in return and did some math before deciding to send his three little pigs to their doom in front of the Mosstodon. The 'don trampled over and left Saitou at six. Saitou went to draw his card.

    "Whoahoho! Good!"

    You must feel the turtle. You must *become* the turtle.

    It was a Court Archers, allowing the Tar Fiend to attack Sadin for eleven, conveniently enough leaving him at eleven. Saitou was at six, so it gave him not only the turn advantage over Sadin, it also gave him a creature to block the flier. It was a pretty good draw. All Sadin could do over the next couple of turns was drop a creature in play for the Tar Fiend to eat. Eventually, he ran out.

    Steve Sadin 0 - Tomoharu Saitou 1

    The first play of the second game was a Hissing Iguanar from Saitou. Sadin had the perfect defense for it though, and his Guardians of Akrasa looked poised to hold the Iguanar at bay. Saitou had a Court Archer, though, and the now 4/2 Iguanar smashed straight into Sadin's life total. A Branching Bolt took care of the Archers on the following turn, though, and Sadin was again set to defend the Iguanar. Saitou smashed in as though his Archers were still in play, perhaps seeing if Sadin would bite and let it through. When Sadin chose to block, Saitou revealed that he was just bluffing, and chose to just play a Tar Fiend to hit Sadin for one card. That card was a Waveskimmer Aven, which Saitou remarked was a "good card." Steve agreed, and seemed sad he had to let Big Bird go.

    He couldn't have been too displeased, though, because one of the cards h got to keep was an Oblivion Ring, which took care of the Tar Fiend. He also had a Jungle Weaver, which was a huge addition to the board, and followed that up with a Mosstodon. Sadin went from having an incredibly defensive board to a quite aggressive on in just two turns. Saitou tried to keep pace with a Carrion Thrush since he had Sadin at eleven. He chose to attack on his following turn, and Sadin decided that the Mosstodon would serve him better on offense, and he let the Thrush hit him down to seven. He also used Resounding Thunder's cycling ability to clear out the Jungle Weaver. The Mosstodon smashed Saitou down to ten. Sadin also had a Feral Hydra as a 6/6 to put a cap on things.

    Saitou kept things rolling, though, and dropped a Blightning on Sadin. It hit another huge monster out of his hand, and dropped him down to four. He smiled as he flipped the top card of his deck and triumphantly exclaimed "cycling!" His Resounding Thunder did the deed and finished Sadin off.

    Steve Sadin 0 - Tomoharu Saitou 2

  • 5:14 pm - Round 6 Feature Match - Dream Crasher
    by Nate Price
  • How lucky. I peruse the pairings every round to find matches I think might be interesting or of note, and send those to the feature match area. Usually, I have to search for a little while before I get to a good one, but this one jumped off the page almost immediately. Tim Landale is fresh off a win at Grand Prix-Kansas City, proving he knows the format pretty well. His opponent this round is none other than Luis Scott-Vargas, who won a little event recently that we like to call Pro Tour-Berlin. It's rare that you get the winners of the two most recent tournaments in the same field, let alone playing undefeated and matched against each other. Waiter, I'll have that, please. Landale made sure I included the fact that he wanted to say "Hi," to Pat, which I was more than happy to oblige. Winning a GP gets you that right.

    LSV got on the board first, with a Rip-Clan Crasher that literally came into play sideways. After that two points of damage, he got a Topan Ascetic into play alongside it before Landale had even had his third land. He did find one, though, and he made a Bant Battlemage that slowed LSV up a little. He was forced to send his Topan Ascetic in instead of both of his creatures, and, while he got to use the Crasher to pump it up, Landale still only took three instead of four, which adds up.

    A Court Archers hit play on Landale's side, which let his Battlemage send in for his first three. The life totals sat at 10-17 in favor of LSV, and when he tried to further his lead, Landale threw his Court Archers in the way. After LSV used his Crasher to try and pump the Ascetic, Landale used a Bant Charm to send it away. LSV did have a Cavern thoctar, though, and the fat stayed firmly glued on one side of the table.

    When Luis sent his creatures in on the next turn, Landale dropped his Battlemage in the way of the Crasher, and used a Resounding Silence to remove the Thoctar from the game. That left Landale's court Archers as the only creature in play. He tried to make a Realm Razer on his turn to seal things, but Luis had a Branching Bolt to get rid of it.

    I'm Crashing your head!

    With Landale having the only board presence, both players went into build mode, but they were doing it slowly. Eventually, Landale was able to pull ahead with a Jungle Weaver, and LSV had no answer.

    Luis Scott-Vargas 0 - Tim Landale 1

    Game 2 started familiarly for LSV, and he hoped that his second-turn Rip-Clam Crasher would yield a better result than the last game. LSV kept the board clear, killing a Drumhunter with a Branching Bolt, which allowed his Crasher and some goblins made from a Dragon Fodder to attack unabated. Landale had a Vithian Stinger that would soon be able to start dealing with the little beaters, but LSV just went big with a Rhox Charger.

    After sending his team in, LSV had dropped Landale to five. In addition, before Landale could start stinging his 1/1s, he sacrificed them to a Thunder-Thrash Elder. Landale was forced to chump his creatures away and drop to two. He untapped and played an Executioner's Capsule before sending the turn back to LSV. LSV wasn't sure if there was something he was missing, but he chose to send his two men in anyway. Landale Capsuled the Rhox Charger and went to adjust his life total down to two. LSV asked him, "aren't you at two?" "Oh yeah, I guess I forgot to take the damage last turn. Oh well, not much I could do there."

    Luis Scott-Vargas 1- Tim Landale 1

    I bet Tim Landale can think of a few reasons why not. . .

    "Why not," LSV said as he dropped a third consecutive Rip-Clan Crasher into play on the second turn. This time, it was accompanied by a Cylian Elf instead of a Topan Ascetic. When Landale tried to get defensive with a Druid of the Anima and a Court Archers, LSV burned them away with Resounding Thunder and Magma Spray. A little Wild Nacatl was all he could get to stay on the board, and LSV just kept adding to his. He dropped a large Rhox Charger into play, and Landale was dropped to eight, and reeling on the defensive. He made a Blood Cultist on his turn, but it didn't look like he had enough life left to stabilize to where it might get big enough to be really useful. He traded his Nacatl with the Cylian Elf thanks to a Bant Panorama to pump it, but was still facing down two creatures while at three. To make matters worse, LSV added a Vithian Stinger to his board, which is a guaranteed point of damage. When Branching Bolt was aimed at Landale's Cultist, Landale just packed it in.

    Luis Scott-Vargas 2 - Tim Landale 1

  • 6:25 pm - Round 7 Feature Match - Take Two Capsules and Call Me in the Morning
    by Nate Price
  • Have you heard of Craig Edwards or Steve Wolansky before? Both of these players got to the feature match area and started to look around and wonder why they had been picked for a feature match. I was even asked by Tim Aten as he walked by. When I told him that I had been informed that Steve, who goes by Stoyven on Magic Online, was a bit of a ringer, and especially good at Limited, I saw a chance to get him in the Feature Match area. Aten confirmed what I thought by giving a bit of praise, which is rare from him, by letting me know that "Steve is good." Good as in he managed to get 27 Pro Points last year, most of which came from Limited events? Seems good enough to me. His opponent this round hails from Louisiana, though he's spent a bunch of time living all around the country. He's lived in Boston and played with the YMGers. He's also had a bit of success, including a Top 32 finish at Pro Tour-London. Trust me. I know who I'm putting up on stage!

    Wolansky got on the board first with a third-turn Court Archers, which was met by a Naya Battlemage from Edwards. Wolansky tried to make one of his own, but it got stuck in an Oblivion Ring soon thereafter. Both players kept playing cheap, aggressive creatures, with a Wild Nacatl for Edwards and a Knight of the Skyward Eye from Wolansky. A Fleshbag Marauder ate itself and the Court Archers in the process, reducing Wolansky to one bear. Edwards' Wild Nacatl met a quick end at the end of a Resounding Roar, though, and things went back to more or less even.

    Each player did his best to unbalance things over the next couple turns, and ended up trading creatures in play with random removal cards in hand. Wolansky began to pull slightly ahead when he dropped a Carrion Thrash and a Cavern Thoctar into play to battle Edwards' Skeletonize token and Sanctum Gargoyle. Edwards passed a turn without playing anything, and Wolansky wondered what was up. Eventually he decided he didn't care what was happening and sent his two burly beaters in. When Edwards blocked the Carrion Thrash with his Gargoyle and the Thoctar with his skeleton, Wolansky thought he had it figured out. "You have two of those guys? How lucky," he guessed referring to the Gargoyle. When Edwards went to Magma Spray the Thrash to finish it off, Wolansky realized he was probably wrong. "I guess that makes sense, too."

    Edwards had a massive turn after that, using Covenant of Minds to fill his hand up, and he used his newfound cards to start to take the game over. A Necrogenesis made up for the fact that Wolansky was able to kill his skeleton token with a Resounding Thunder, and he proved Wolansky's earlier speculation right with a Sanctum Gargoyle to return his other Gargoyle. "Going off, I see." Wolansky ended things before they got too out of hand, though, with a Resounding Silence on one of Edwards' Gargoyles. "Gotta put a stop to it before you go too crazy." After Edwards got back his Capsule with the other Gargoyle, Wolansky remarked, "I wonder if I would have drawn as many cards as you if I had a Drumhunter in play."

    When you've drawn as many cards as this guy, you have to shuffle a lot.

    He kept adding to his fat in play, though, and a Yoked Plowbeast provided a way to get around the Necrogenesis, but left him still unable to deal with Edwards' flying creature. Eventually, though, his deck gave in and shipped him a Branching Bolt, but not before Edwards used an Executioner's Capsule to kill the Cavern Thoctar. That left Wolansky with a single fat body, and even that went away when Edwards cycled a Resounding Thunder.

    Edwards built his side up now, and a large Wild Nacatl and Viscera Dragger gave him a pair of 3/3s. A Carrion Thrush from Wolansky gave him a creature large enough to kill any of Edwards' attackers. However, with two 3/3s and three 1/1s from the Necrogenesis, he surely had enough creatures to kill Wolansky. A couple of turns later and Wolansky's defenses were overrun.

    Steve Wolansky 0 - Craig Edwards 1

    "And now the deck transformation begins," Wolansky smiled as he went to his sideboard.

    When Edwards started to talk about his skeleton token, and the lengths Wolansky had to go through to kill it, Wolansky chuckled and said "no no, let's not talk about that." Edwards was reminiscing about how good it was and brought up that he wished the card worked the same way as it had during a short-lived Magic Online bug where casting Skeletonize could sometimes cause a player to lose or win right out or maybe it would just work. You never new, but it was always an adventure.

    Wolansky had to mulligan his hand, and Edwards decided to go with him. Wolansky got on the board on the third turn by playing an Obelisk of Bant and using it to play a 3/3 Wild Nacatl, thanks to the fact that he had only plains and a mountain in play. An Akrasan Squire and Manaplasm bolstered his squad once again. Edwards tried to slow him down with an Executioner's Capsule, to kill the Manaplasm, but his Wild Nacatl wasn't large enough to deal with Wolansky's. A Court Archers from Wolansky gave him an attacking 5/5 Wild Nacatl, which was bigger than anything that Edwards had, but Edwards had yet another Executioner's Capsule. The Capsule ate the Nacatl, and left Wolansky without a large body.

    He thought he had a remedy to this with a Cavern Thoctar, announcing that he was "all in," but an Oblivion Ring from Edwards put the beast away. Wolansky had knocked Edwards to five, but he wasn't really in any position to do anything. Considering that Edwards had a Sanctum Gargoyle to get back an Executioner's Capsule, and Wolansky had nothing in hand, it looked like there was nothing Wolansky could do to win. However, his deck provided him with a Naya Charm to tap down all of Edwards' team and then the Resounding Thunder to finish things off. Two cards off the top from no cards in hand, and Wolansky had stolen the game away.


    Steve Wolansky 1 - Craig Edwards 1

    Wolansky laughed a little at how Edwards had downplayed his deck's quality.

    "Your deck must be good. 'No, no. . .' Nice one."

    Edwards just chuckled to himself. As Wolansky was setting his first cards face-down on the table, he pleaded with his deck.

    "Just give me a land I can keep. . .why?! Why?! Two one-landers on the play."

    He was a little disappointed.

    "You did pretty well with your last hand," Edwards reminded him.

    "Yeah, yeah. I guess that's true."

    Both players had mana acceleration, though Wolansky's Obelisk of Jund left him a turn behind Edwards and his Druid of the Anima. That second turn elf allowed him to play a Court Archers and Wild Nacatl before Wolansky had anything in play. A Covenant of the Minds let Edwards replace the cards he had just played, although it seemed to listen to Wolansky as he chanted "land, land, spell" before Edwards flipped over the cards. The one spell it provided him, though, as an Executioner's Capsule. That prompted Wolansky to lament, "This is the only five this guys going to do," as he played a Bull Cerodon and got in to Lava Axe Edwards.

    Edwards used a Fleshbag Marauder to kill the Cerodon instead, opting to save the Capsule for a different threat. As Wolansky played creatures, Edwards played removal. The pattern continued as such until Edwards' little men had gone the distance. Eventually, Edwards finished him off with a resounding thunder.

    Steve Wolansky 1 - Craig Edwards 2

  • 6:50 pm - Interview with Steven Wolansky
    by Nate Price
  • You may know him better as Stoyven. If you've played against him on Magic Online, you may have spent the next few minutes cursing your bad luck, or how lucky he was. I have vague recollections of being on the receiving end of some of his beats. He's pretty good at the game of Magic.

    Hailing from south Florida, Wolansky is a player that has been solidly been putting up finishes over the last couple of years that warrant some discussion. Somewhat of a Limited specialist in the vein of Richie Hoaen, Wolansky and his friends draft a lot. And that's an understatement. He, Ben Stark, Geddes Cooper, David Irvine, and a few others must have "drafted about eleven cases" before heading here to Atlanta. That's more drafting that I've done in the last couple of years, let alone the last couple of months.

    Draft pls.

    When he was asked about what he learned drafting more than the continent of Africa had, he told me something I had heard from Mark Herberholz earlier in the day. "I don't really like to draft a shard; it's too much of a commitment. I'd rather just try to solidly be in two colors, though it doesn't always work out. Black/red is the best, but I'll try to take what I can get. There's just so much synergy in the red/black deck, that when it comes together it's great, but the cards are good enough even when it doesn't."

    He was a little apprehensive when I told him why I wanted to feature him. "I just don't want people to start thinking I'm too good, and then I can't get drafts," he laughed when I asked him how he felt about what I had heard. I reassured him that as competitive as Magic players are, I think he'll be alright. You should draft against him if you get a chance. I bet you can't beat him.

  • 7:38 pm - Round 8 Feature Match - Beat
    by Nate Price
  • "There's no one here that can beat me." I heard it from a very reliable source (read "a guy in the crowd") that Jon Sonne said that early this morning. Sonne definitely has the pedigree to back up a statement like that, but when I last left him, he was lamenting the averageness of his Sealed Pool. He wasn't sure he was going to be able to amass the requisite four match wins to make it to Day 2. His opponent this round, Yoel Izsak, has been around the game for a while, but only started playing seriously recently. Apparently he means business when he plays seriously, because he finished in 11th place in Grand Prix - Kansas City, and has played to an undefeated record thus far here. If anyone could beat Sonne, Izsak was definitely up to the challenge.

    Sonne tried to start building his army of 1/1s with a second -turn Druid of the Anima, but Izsak was prepared for it with a Magma Spray. In fact, Izsak jumped out to an early lead with a Tidehollow Stryx, Goblin Deathraiders, and a couple of 1/1s from a Dragon Fodder. These fragile creatures looked like they could potentially provide some fantastic food for Sonne's turn-four Algae Gharial if he could ever find a way to kill them. Unfortunately, Izsak's incredible aggressive start had left Sonne sitting at a mere eight life, and after a Blightning hit him square between the eyes, a quarter of his starting total.

    Ajani Vengeant came down though, and Sonne immediately used it to kill the Stryx. That put him out of danger, as well as removing the one creature he couldn't block and making his Gharial large enough that it could take care of the little goblins across the table. It did put him down to one loyalty, though, which allowed Izsak's two goblin tokens to force one damage through and finish it off. Sonne's Gharial kept growing, though, and he added more fat to his side in the form of a Rakeclaw Gargantuan.

    According to his supporters, this guy is supposedly unbeatable.

    Before the Rakeclaw Gargantuan could do anything of value for Sonne, though, it was Skeletonized by Izsak. An Executioner's Capsule took out a Naya Battlemage, which prevented Sonne from truly gaining control of the game. It did keep his Gharial Growing, though, and it soon reached a whopping 7/7. A Ridge Rannet from Izsak gave him his own large body, though, and an Esper Battlemage provided him some defensive and offensive options.

    Sonne kept chumping smaller creatures with his Gharial, which kept growing, and he used a Resounding Silence to take care of the Rannet. Now, Sonne was left with the only large creature on the table. Izsak had more creatures, though, and each turn, a couple had been getting through to eat at Sonne's life total. Down to his last three creatures, he was finally able to get Sonne low enough that his men could slip through the cracks and finish him off.

    Yoel Izsak 1 - Jonathan Sonne 0

    Izsak started the second game off small with a Dragon Fodder and a preemptive Executioner's Capsule. His third turn brought him a Vithian Stinger, and his first three turns, though providing tiny men, were blazing fast and had plenty of potential answers. Just as Sonne's Gharial had grown out of control in the first game, Izsak had a Rockslide Elemental that threatened to get big fast. Sonne only had a Cylian Elf and a Court Archers to try and stem the tide.

    Sonne did have some removal, though, and used an Oblivion Ring to remove the Elemental after using a Magma Spray to effectively kill off Izsak's two goblin tokens. A Tidehollow Stryx let Izsak potentially take it to the air, though a Court Archers from Sonne was holding it at bay. Sonne did eventually find his Algae Gharial, though after most of the fragile creatures were gone. Who am I kidding, with all of the little men in Sonne's deck; there is no end of fragile creatures. He simply played a Rip-Clan Crasher and sent his four men in.

    Izsak was ready with a trick, though, He used a Grixis Charm to bounce Sonne's Oblivion Ring, freeing up his Rockslide Elemental to get rid of Sonne's Algae Gharial. Sonne's attack still knocked Izsak down to seven, and he looked to be gaining ground, though the men were drying up. He replayed his Oblivion Stone and attacked Izsak down to five. After trading a Bloodpyre Elemental for Izsak's Stinger, Sonne had the only creature on the board and the lead in life.

    That was before Izsak drew and played a Ridge Rannet. Now he had the size advantage, but was going to be hard pressed to attack. Even more so when Sonne played a couple more 1/1s on his following turn. A Blightning from Izsak stripped all but one card from Sonne's hand and dropped him to ten. Izsak also used his Stinger one last time to kill off one of Sonne's 1/1s.

    All Sonne could do was keep attacking. When Izsak blocked the Cylian Elf with his Rannet, Sonne had an Ajani Vengeant to finish it off. Now, Sonne had the only creature on the board, a planeswalker, and his opponent at four life. It only took one charge of Ajani and one attack to finish matters for Sonne.

    Ajani? Really?

    Yoel Izsak 1 - Jonathan Sonne 1

    The final game started out a little slower for both players, and I wasn't sure who that favored. Sonne hit first with a Naya Battlemage, but Izsak had a Vithian Stinger to start getting in for unhindered damage. Izsak added a Battlemage of his own to the party, this one of an Esper Variety. He could now own combat. Consequently, Sonne had to blow it up with a Bloodpyre Elemental. Izsak responded with a Magma Spray on the Naya Battlemage, and the game was left with a Stinger staring down an unimpressive Thorn-Thrash Viashino.

    Sonne got to play a Vithian Stinger of his own, which meant that Izsak's was going to die one way or another. Things weren't looking too uneven until Izsak tapped six and dropped a Flameblast Dragon into play. That'll skew things really quick. Sonne was in a tight spot. The 5/5 monster was going to be incredibly tough to deal with, and was going to end the game in very short order if he didn't magically find a way. In fact, the Dragon swung in for an activation of five, hitting Sonne for ten and dropping him to eight. When the dragon swung in for a final salvo, Sonne dropped to zero.

    Yoel Izsak 2 - Jonathan Sonne 1

  • 8:20 pm - Checking Back with Sonne
    by Nate Price
  • After a solid day of play, Sonne had piloted his deck to a 7-1 record. He got the four wins he probably needed to make Day two, which he had hoped he would. He admitted that his deck was just as lackluster as he had expected. "I built it as well as I could, and any changes I could have made would have just worsened the mana. All I really did was side in or out a card or two for the faster and slower matchups." All in all, he said that he was as pleased with his deck as he could be considering his card pool, but he would have been more comfortable with a better deck.

    This is what he played:

  • 8:41 pm - Round 9 Feature Match - Prime Example
    by Nate Price
  • Patrick started wanted to start things off with a prime die roll, so the highest prime number got to go first. Owen looked a little flustered, probably thinking prime was just a cut of steak, and refused. "I don't trust any of your voodoo. Let's just high roll." When Pat pulled out a different die for the high roll, Owen just laughed and said, "You have a different die for the high roll? Hah! What is that prime die your only loaded one?"

    "Right on time," Turtenwald said as he dropped a second-turn Wild Nacatl into play. Chapin had an Agony Warp for it, as well as a Blister Beetle for the Hissing Iguanar that followed it. Chapin wasn't the only one with removal, though, and Turtenwald used a Soul's Fire to kill Chapin's Tidehollow Stryx, clearing the skies for his sanctum Gargoyle.

    I swear that Chapin's stare has killed before and will kill again.

    Chapin was stuck on two lands, unfortunately, and was forced to use a Call to Heel returning his own Blister Beetle to cycle into a land at the end of Turtenwald's turn. It failed him, as did his draw step, and he passed the turn with a hand full of cards and only a Courier's Capsule in play. He finally found a third on the following turn, though by this point, Turtenwald had a Jungle Weaver and a Knight of the Skyward Eye in play. Chapin managed to get an Oblivion Ring to deal with the spider, but it wasn't enough, and Turtenwald showed him the Resounding Thunder to finish him off.

    Patrick Chapin 0 - Owen Turtenwald 1

    After being fairly chatty in the pregame routine, both players shuffled up in silence before Game 2. Chapin was fairly nonplussed when he found nothing he could use in his opening draw. His following six were better, and he started the game off on the play, but only down one. He made a Sighted-Caste Sorcerer on the second turn of the game, but didn't have anything to get exalted with to follow it up. Even worse, Turtenwald had played a Knight of the White Orchid into play. The first strike completely shut the little Sorcerer down.

    Silly Chapin, your stare won't work on me!

    Patrick found an Oblivion ring to deal with the Knights, but Turtenwald just upgraded them to a 3/3 Wild Nacatl. A Steward of Valeron came down to make sure that Chapin had at least something offensive going on. When Turtenwald upped the ante with a Yoked Plowbeast, Chapin responded with a Wooly Thoctar. The two behemoths collided on the following turn, and though the world shook, they were the only casualties. Turtenwald kept filling the empty space, though, and a Rockcaster Platoon hit play for Turtenwald, as well as a Knight of the Skyward Eye. When he found a Branching Bolt to kill Chapin's

    "So Mr. Turtenwald defeats Mr. Chapin?" "Uh, no that should be Mr. Chapin won."

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