Grand Prix Atlanta – Undefeated Day 1 Decklists
by Frank Lepore
Joshua Howe -- Faeries
Grand Prix Atlanta – Undefeated Day 1
Ari Lax -- Faeries
Grand Prix Atlanta – Undefeated Day 1
Matthias Hunt -- UG Prismatic Omen
Grand Prix Atlanta – Undefeated Day 1
Adam Reiser -- Wargate
Grand Prix Atlanta – Undefeated Day 1
Craig Wescoe -- RUG Seas’n
Grand Prix Atlanta – Undefeated Day 1
Owen Turtenwald -- Faeries
Grand Prix Atlanta – Undefeated Day 1
Feature Match - Round 10: Matthias Hunt (Turbo Land) versus Owen Turtenwald (Faeries)
by Bill Stark
Owen Turtenwald started Grand Prix Atlanta off with an unblemished, 9-0 record. It was the fourth time in his career he had managed the feat, starting a Grand Prix Day 1 undefeated, and he had previously finished as high as the Finals on the circuit. His opponent, a fellow Midwesterner in Minnesotan Matthias Hunt, was also undefeated through Day 1, but then few of the members on his team, each playing the same deck, had lost. Headed into the final round of competition the five players were an astonishing 33-3-0 before play had ended Saturday.
Though he lost the die roll, Owen Turtenwald came out swinging. He cast a first-turn Thoughtseize, playing a Secluded Glen untapped by revealing a Bitterblossom in his hand. That meant his second turn was likely going to see him casting the powerful enchantment and immediately putting Matthias Hunt under the gun. The Valakut player didn't seem happy by the turn of events, losing a Rampant Growth and whiffing on an extra land from Explore on his second turn. He found it on the third, however, casting a second copy of Explore but was soon taking a whipping from Faerie tokens.
Hunt missed his fourth land drop despite casting Preordain, and had to Mana Leak a Mistbind Clique, missing a land drop yet again. He used a second copy of Preordain to try to dig himself into the land he desperately needed, and finally managed to come up with Halimar Depths. It was a good find for the player, allowing him to set up three future draws. Unfortunately for him, Owen's Bitterblossom generated Faeries whether the opponent was mana screwed or not, and the Wisconsinite's ever-growing army of 1/1s kept ticking upwards in size.
A Tectonic Edge from the beatdown deck took out Matthias Hunt's Flooded Grove, and he had a Ponder countered by Mana Leak, passing on three mana once again. Hunt tried to battle on, finding a fourth land and using it to cast Oracle of Mul Daya, but his 2/2 couldn't find him an additional free land and his opponent was ready with Grasp of Darkness to take the creature out. That gave all the time in the world to Owen's team of 1/1 Faeries, and when a Creeping Tar Pit joined in on the combat effort, Hunt found himself down a game.
Owen Turtenwald 1, Matthias Hunt 0
The second game started off almost identically to the first for Owen Turtenwald, who opened on Inquisition of Kozilek into Bitterblossom. His discard spell robbed his opponent of a Prismatic Omen, but Matthias Hunt had the benefit of consistently making his land drops over the ensuing turns. In fact, an Explore and Rampant Growth made sure he did more than that, but when Owen tried to cast Vendilion Clique, Hunt used Cryptic Command to counter and draw himself a card.
Still, Matthias couldn't sit back and do nothing; his opponent was giving him a dunking with a host of Faerie tokens and Turtenwald managed to resolve a Mistbind Clique, robbing his opponent of a turn by forcing him to tap out on his upkeep. On 9 life and potentially dead in two more attacks, Matthias worked on putting together a plan of action. He cast Ponder, shuffling his library and drawing a card, then cast Explore. The two cantrips didn't find him what he needed, and he passed.
Owen sent his team in for 7, dropping Matthias to 2, then played a Mutavault and passed the turn. Hunt cast Oracle of Mul Daya on his turn, finding a free Misty Rainforest waiting on top of his deck. He didn't have anything else, however, and passed. Owen moved to turn his team sideways one more time, and when Matthias revealed Cryptic Command to fog his opponent's attack, Turtenwald revealed his own to counter, clinching the match.
Owen Turtenwald 2, Matthias Hunt 0
Sunday, 10:27 a.m. – Garvas Elscott, MTGO Cop
by Bill Stark
A few weeks ago, StarCityGames.com writer Geordie Tait wrote an article with a very special guest appearance by level 8 Pro Tour star and champion Luis Scott-Vargas. In the article, LSV appears as "Garvas Elscott, MTGO Cop," and helps his fellow characters solve "the case" (really a complicated series of plays on Magic Online). Luis was pictured with some modest photo shopping, including a set of "C.H.I.P.S" style shades and a rather ridiculous moustache.
(You can read the full article and see the picture here: http://www.starcitygames.com/Magic/scarslimited/20813_On_The_Case.html).
The ludicrous juxtaposition of Scott-Vargas quickly made the rounds on the internet, hitting up Facebook, Twitter, forums, and more as the complicated, pages-long joke was actually a setup for a one-liner. Luis, who has a reputation for being something of a pun lover himself, didn't seem offended by the article this weekend. In fact, in a feature match during the early rounds on Day 1, it even looked like there was an appearance by none other than Mr. Garvas Elscott himself…
Feature Match – Round 11: Kurt Spiess (Naya) vs. James Zornes (66 Card Special)
by Brian David-Marshall
Truth be told there were more than a few higher profile matches to be found this round but I really wanted to get a close-up look at James Zornes -- perhaps better known as Jway on Magic Online -- and the deck he has named The 66 Card Special. How did it get that name you might ask? Pretty simple really, it has 66 cards -- something that flies in the face of the conventional wisdom -- and has been winning Daily Events like crazy. After going 8-1 yesterday and defeating Guillaume Wafo-Tapa in the first round of play today it was time to take a closer look at the player from Little Rock, Arkansas and his unconventional build.
His opponent this round was Kurt Spiess who made the Top 8 of the StarCityGames.com Open Series in Boston with his blue-white Proliferate deck which drew some attention from DailyMTG's own Mike Flores.
"Why did we get a feature match? We're not famous," asked Zornes as the players shuffled up to start the match. He narrowed his eyes and turned to his opponent. "Are we? You are not holding out on me are you Kurt?"
Spiess had nothing to say to that and they went back to shuffling.
"Maybe they ran out of Pros," shrugged Zornes.
Noble Hierarch led off the action for Kurt Spiess which became a turn two Knight of the Reliquary. Zornes Pondered into Lightning Bolt and killed the factory sized Knight. Spiess had Bloodbraid Elf which rolled into Woolly Thoctar. I wanted to see what Zornes deck did but it did not seem like Spiess was going to give him any time as he attacked for four with exalted.
"Ewwwwww," said Zornes who fell to 8 a turn later. He dug one card into his deck with Manamorphose and conceded.
"Well at least I only have a vague idea of what you are playing," said a visibly confused Spiess.
"I like this table. It is a nice surface," said Zornes, enjoying the more spacious accommodations of the Feature Match area as opposed to the closer quarters of the regular tables. "I would like to play here every round."
"You have the red zone," agreed Spiess as he looked down at the play area which contains no red whatsoever. "The black zone. The gray zone?"
Zornes kept a one land hand this game which was Mountain, triple Manamorphose, Explore, Lightning Bolt, and Ponder. He killed a turn one Bird of Paradise but he missed two land drops while Kurt went to three lands to play Woolly Thoctar and added Vengevine a turn later while Zornes was discarding Broken Ambitions.
It was too much for him to overcome and Spiess was going to walk away from the table with a 10-1 record but he still did not know what his opponent was playing.
"Are you Scapeshift? Pyromancer's Ascension?"
"I call the deck 66 Card Special."
That did not seem to answer the question but Spiess left it at that.
Kurt Spiess 2, James Zornes 0
Sunday, 1:02 p.m. – Atlanta History Lesson Part 2
by Bill Stark
Yesterday my esteemed colleague Brian David-Marshall brought you a brief history lesson about Grand Prix events which have been held in Atlanta. But the Peach State has been home to many, many Magic events. Like three Pro Tours and a U.S. National Championship!
The second season of the Pro Tour saw Atlanta's first major tournament, way back in the dark ages of 1996. The event was won by Frank Adler, one of the game's early greats. He bested Darwin Kastle in the Finals; Kastle would go on to a Hall of Fame worthy career, in the Top 5 all time of most Pro Tour Top 8 appearances.
Frank Adler was the first Pro Tour-Atlanta champion.
It was nearly a decade before the Pro Tour would return to Atlanta, but in March of 2005 the bright lights of the Feature Match stage made their way back for some Team Kamigawa Block Limited. The winners? Team Nova led by future Hall of Famer Gabriel Nassif. It was his first Pro Tour title (though he would go on to earn an individual title in Kyoto, Japan), and he earned it alongside Gab Tsang and David Rood.
The second Pro Tour in Atlanta saw a team win for Gabriel Nassif.
While the Pro Tour hasn't been back to Atlanta since that event, the U.S. National Championship has! In fact, it was there in 2006 that Paul Cheon burst onto the scene alongside his teammate and fellow future superstar Luis Scott-Vargas. The two created a dream team alongside Ben Lundquist, fielding one of the top U.S. teams in a long line of very historic teams. The Ravnica era Standard format proved no match for the three who made mowing down the competition all weekend long look easy.
Paul Cheon won the National title when it came to Atlanta.
If you want to take a trip down memory lane with a look back at the event coverage from Atlanta's storied Magic history, check out these links:
Pro Tour Atlanta 1997
Pro Tour Atlanta 2005
U.S. Nationals 2006
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. – Talking to JWay About the Sixty Six Special
by Brian David-Marshall
Amidst all the Magic celebrities in attendance this weekend few have prompted more whispers than James Zornes. If you follow the Magic Twitterverse you might be more familiar with him as JWay. Everyone from Patrick Chapin to Evan Erwin and back again has been buzzing about his performance in the Magic Online Daily Events with a 66 card Omens deck. Reactions have ranged from outrage to fascination. Not playing more than 60 cards is one of the first things ingrained in a Magic player's psyche when they start to play. When there is an exception to that rule it prompts strong feelings.
The deck delivered on Day One with Zornes going 6-1 in actual matches losing only to Patrick Chapin in round four. He faced off against Guillaume Wafo-Tapa to start Day Two and won the match in three games. I sat down with the player who hails from Little Rock, Arkansas to talk about why he plays 10% more cards than just about everyone else in the event.
BDM: Why did you build this deck?
Zornes: To win.
BDM: Okay but when you began testing this deck I have to assume you started with 60 cards and it evolved to 66? Is that accurate?
Zornes: Everybody knows that you play 60 cards; no more, no less. That's the rule. That is optimal performance. That is what I always believed for a long time. Working on this deck I wanted to play Scapeshift and I wanted to play nine Mountains. I wanted to play counterspells but when you add it all up there is just not enough room. You can't play 9 Mountains, 4 Valakut, 4 Prismatic Omens, all your blue mana sources -- Misty Rainforests and Islands. You have to have at least 3 Forests in the deck. You have to have all these cards and then when you get to all that there is just not enough room. It doesn't work at 60 cards. It will not perform optimally.
BDM: You just beat Guillaume Wafo-Tapa to start out Day Two and are X-1. Does that feel like some sort of vindication for the deck?
Zornes: The deck is very solid at 66 cards. if the deck was 60 cards I would not be X-1. I would not have mulliganed just the once. I would have had to mulligan many times. I have kept a one land hand four times and won all four times. I did mulligan a one-lander against Wafo-Tapa but I did not have a good feeling about Fire-Lit Thicket.
BDM: What is your worst match-up?
Zornes: Faeries is my worst matchup -- my nightmare matchup. When I built this deck in testing I thought it was unbeatable. I thought Monored would be the worst and that it would beat everything else. Actually Monored is not so bad but Faeries with their Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek, Mistbind Clique, and Tectonic Edge? And Vendilion Clique? It is like another Thoughtseize with a body. It is a nightmare -- a nightmare.
BDM: What is your best matchup?
Zornes: Wafo-Tapa by far. Not him personally but the Esper Charm 5-Color Control style of deck. It is my dream matchup.
BDM: There has been a lot of talk about your deck on the various forms of social media. How have you reacted to that?
Zornes: I have seen a lot of fist banging, chest pounding, and "go back to Arkansas". People don't understand how to think differently. They are used to the same mindset. I can kind of understand how they would feel that way. I am used to playing 60 cards and only 60 cards.
James Zornes -- Sixty Six Special
Sunday, 2:17 p.m. – An Interview with Jace Beleren
by Bill Stark
There was an interesting murmur going around the hall during Saturday play at Grand Prix Atlanta. The murmurings seemed to hint that there had been a Jace sighting. No, not that someone had been playing Jace (there were plenty of THOSE sightings), but that Jace was actually at the event himself! Well, perhaps not THE Jace Beleren, but a cosplaying David McDarby who, I found, was indeed a dead ringer for the blue planeswalker. I took a moment to sit down and chat with the college student from Knoxville, Tennessee and here's what he had to say.
So when did you start playing?
I played for the first time at Gen Con two years ago. My first tournament was a Zendikar Prerelease. I used to play fighting games like Street Fighter, but there aren't a whole lot of people to play, I had to drive 3-4 hours to compete. I knew Magic was popular, so I thought I'd try that. It's my favorite game now; I have a passion for it.
How did the Jace costume come into existence?
I've dressed up as a couple fighting game characters before. When I started playing Magic a lot I thought, "I like playing blue, and Jace is awesome!" It's almost a rule now that I have to play Jace in every format; it's kind of the running gag.
How much effort/expense went into the outfit?
The costume was fairly easy. I did most of the sewing, I had a friend who did some of the harder sewing. She has more experience and took care of it for me. But I made it all, the gloves and boots. The funny part is that some of the black parts are Under Armor brand, so when I purchased them the store clerk was like "Great, are you going skiing or something?"
I made the Jace runes out of Sculpy and paint. I made it for Gen Con last year. I was under time constraints to do it, so I made it in three days or something. I plan on repainting it in the future and maybe remaking the runes. It was hard to attach them on. There are discrepancies on all the Jaces depending on the artist, so I kind of looked at Beleren and the Mind Sculptor and modeled it after them.
At Worlds we saw a cosplay Chandra. Do you feel like if you saw her you'd have to battle?
I have never seen a Chandra. I've seen Sorin and Sarkhan Vol and another Jace (which was really crappy…) and Serra Angel. Chandra? I would definitely battle; we're rivals yo! I haven't seen Liliana yet, but I'd have to pay her back for what she did to me…*at this point David looked off into the distance with a sly grin.*
It's hard, I try to be able to be in character, to do the quotes from the cards and stuff. I love Magic, I really want to get better at it. We have good people in Knoxville, but I want to move to San Francisco or something and get a job. I haven't devoted a whole lot of time to playing; I'm not the best player around but I'm proficient. I have a StarCityGames.com Open Finals appearance. I've been to one GP, Grand Prix Nashville, and made Day 2. I did terrible here in Atlanta; the fates did not align. I've been to two PTQs, making Top 16 at one. I haven't really been…I work a lot, generally on weekends. I study international business and Japanese; I want to get a job internationally. Working with a Magic company is a dream job because it's big in Japan. I read every article that's on every website pretty much every morning, and I'll be done with college this semester.
Long term, what's your goal with the game?
My goal is to work with Wizards or any kind of Magic company in the business side of things. Magic is something…when I played fighting games there was a community but it wasn't as strong. The game is more social. The best thing I like about it is meeting new people and making new friends, going to these places and traveling around. Experiencing the world. That's what I want to do.
Feature Match – Round 13: Pascal Maynard (Valakut) vs. Guillaume Wafo-Tapa (Cruel Control)
by Brian David-Marshal
Coming into this round both players were 10-2 with one loss on each day for Wafo-Tapa and two losses on Day One for Maynard. Maynard was on the Canadian National team last year and his 6-0 run at the end of Day Three, playing Steel Artifact, was a big part of that team finishing 5th in the Team Standings. Maynard racked up a Top 64 finish in the individual portion as well.
His opponent did a little better at that event. Guillaume Wafo-Tapa reached the Finals of that event against his good friend Guillaume Matignon and -- after getting back to the Pro Tour mid-year via a PTQ -- locked up Level 8 benefits for this season.
Maynard led off the match with Khalni Garden and a plant token. He followed up with Rampant Growth a turn later. Guillaume had led off with a vivid land and an actual reflective Reflecting Pool -- as per usual his deck was made entirely of foil versions of all his cards. Wafo used his two mana to Manba Leak a Growth Spasm.
Maynard played two more lands and cast Explore to go up to six mana. Wafo was on four lands. Neither player was doing anything while they waited for the big turn that would decide the game one way or the other. Maynard mixed things up and sent his plant token into the red zone to see if he could get a laugh from Wafo, who had no blocks.
Guillaume just played a fifth land and mouthed "go". He did not even say it out loud. Pascal decided to thin his deck with an Evolving Wolds and Terramorphic Expanse at the end of the turn. He attempted Primal Command bouncing a land and searching but Wafo was able to fend him off with Cryptic Command countering and drawing a card. Maynard cast Volcanic Fallout at the end of the turn to get two damage in.
He untapped and played Scapeshift with three mana floating and Wafo played another Cryptic Command. With the floating mana Maynard played Rampant Growth. Wafo used that opportunity to Esper Charm away his last two cards and they were both Scapeshift. To its credit, the Volcanic Fallout sitting in his graveyard said nothing.
Wafo-Tapa evoked Mulldrifter and then played Jace, the Mind Sculptor. He looked at the top of Maynard's deck and left Khalni Heart Expedition on top. Maynard played it on his turn but conceded in the face of back to back Baneslayers from Wafo over the next two turns.
The total number of words I have heard Wafo-Tapa say in game over the last two days that were not "Go", "Your turn", or "Cards?" might be fewer than a dozen and most of those were tied to the various modes on Cryptic Command. If he could answer with a polite nod, a fan of cards, or by simply pointing to the top of his deck instead he would.
Maynard did not have a ramp spell on turn two when Wafo had only a tapped Vivid land in play and when he went for Cultivate a turn later it was Mana Leaked. Guillaume gave him another window when he tapped down to play Wall of Omens in order to draw a card. Maynard could not exploit that window and passed the turn simply by playing a fourth land. Wafo decided to see what was up and played Thoughtsieze. Maynard revealed a hand with two Primeval Titans, Primal Command, Guttural Response, and a Mountain. Wafo took the Command.
Maynard played Rampant Growth and Wafo-Tapa crossed the Mountain off of the cards he had seen and now had full knowledge of Maynard's hand. He played
Jace and immediately Brainstormed knowing a Primeval Titan loomed in his immediate future.
"How many cards?" asked Maynard.
Wafo fanned a hand of five and Maynard played his Titan fetching a pair of Valakut. He now had nine lands in play with two Valakut, three Mountains, and the rest being Forests. Wafo-Tapa Thoughtsiezed the other Titan. He left a card on top with Jace and played Doom Blade on the in play Titan. It was an efficient little turn for the French player. Maynard had no play on his turn and Wafo-Tapa played Vendilion Clique and targeted himself at the end of the turn.
He untapped and attacked for six with the Clique and a Creeping Tar Pit. Maynard took the Rampant Growth that Wafo-Tapa had left for him and fetched his fourth Mountain. Wafo-Tapa played Mulldrifter and left Evolving Wilds on top of his opponent's deck.
Suddenly there was some chance of an out for Maynard -- since he could shuffle his deck with the Evolving Wilds. Wafo-Tapa attacked with his two fliers and the Tar Pit then bounced his Clique with Jace to play it again on Maynard's draw step. Maynard showed him a hand with Explore and the Guttural Response. Wafo sighed and let him keep both cards.
Maynard cracked the fetch for a fifth Mountain and rolled the dice on his Explore. If he drew a Scapeshift he could defend it with the response but he drew Khalni Heart Expedition and Extended the hand.
Final result: Guillaume Wafo-Tapa - 2 Pascal Maynard - 0
Sunday, 3:09 p.m. – CawVenge with Brian Kibler
by Bill Stark
One of the world's most freshly minted Pro Tour Hall of Famers, Brian Kibler has been on a competitive tear over the past two years that few players in the history of the game can hold a candle to. This weekend he showed up with an innovative pseudo-Naya decklist that immediately caught the attentions of the coverage team. He spoke highly of it (though if you know Kibler, that in and of itself is not wholly surprising), and his results were backing up many of his claims. I took a chance to talk to Brian about the deck and the applications it may hold for the Pro Tour Qualifier Nagoya season.
So tell us where the deck came from. How did you design it?
I've been playing a lot. I started looking at beatdown decks in Extended and learning about the format on Magic Online. I started with Doran and wasn't impressed by Doran the card or the mana which was ugly. Murmuring Bosk became difficult to play if you didn't have a bunch of Treefolk Harbingers, and I didn't think those were good anymore. I moved to Naya and realized having a bunch of four-costing things with Bloodbraid Elf and Vengevine gave me a lot of slow draws.
The thing that won me a lot of games was the singleton Tectonic Edge I had to Knight of the Reliquary for. I thought "Why am I playing red?" so I cut it for just green and white and went up to 4 Edge. If Knight lives, opponents don't. They usually lose all their lands and you have a giant creature. It's really a Knight of the Reliquary deck more than anything else. I found a lot of beatdown decks were having problems with Wurmcoil Engine, so I thought "Well, I'm just not going to let my opponents CAST Wurmcoil Engine. I'm just going to kill their lands."
Which matchups do you feel are your most favorable?
Jund and Faeries. I have a lot of powerful cards. Against Jund it's difficult for them to win an attrition war against Vengevine. I have found that Linvala is actually a really good card against Jund. It's a flyer so it breaks ground stalls, but it stops Putrid Leeches and Fauna Shamans. Squadron Hawk is really good against Jund, letting you get in, discard to Blightning, and chump Demigod of Revenge.
Against Faeries you have a lot of strong pressure cards for them to deal with. I have Fauna Shaman, which they have to deal with quickly or they'll die to Vengevine. I have Knight of the Reliquary which can just kill them. I have both Gaddock Teeg and Qasali Pridemage which can interfere with what they're trying to do. Path to Exile is really good against them because it prevents them from racing you with Mistbind Clique. Tectonic Edge is actually really good against them; it takes away their ability to play to their strengths.
I also think Wargate decks are petty insane. You have Edges against them, and Qasali Pridemage and Gaddock Teeg are really good against them. They don't have a way to deal with Knight of the Reliquary, so if it stays around it just starts killing all their lands.
Which matchups do you feel are your worst?
Red-green Valakut is really tough. You don't race as fast as the Naya decks do, and they can already outrace those. Your disruption isn't as good against them because they have a lot of basic lands. They can go over Gaddock Teeg because they have Primeval Titan. You can't disrupt them fast enough to kill them.
The green-white hideaway decks are pretty tough. You can't beat their nut draws, and even just getting a Primeval Titan into play is tough for you.
Are there changes you think you'd suggest for the PTQ season?
I've been super happy with the deck. It depends on what becomes more popular. If RG Valakut becomes more popular, you need to have answers for them. You need an answer for GW Hideaway. One card I added at the last minute is Oust. Oust is the white Deathmark, it's just so good. So many of the creature matchups don't come down to racing but creating dominating board positions with things like Fauna Shaman and Linvala. Oust plays really well with Tectonic Edge, unlike Path to Exile. With Oust, because they have to redraw the creature, you can pin them on mana because they can't draw more of it.
Let's take a step back and talk about the season at large. What are your goals for 2011?
My goal is to win every tournament I play in. That remains my goal despite not being able to win here. It's not completely realistic, but I want to come in to every tournament I play in feeling like I can win. I didn't take every GP seriously last year, but this year I'm playing a lot more Magic Online. I'm preparing for the events pretty substantially. I'm playing a lot more Magic than I was this time last year…
Sunday, 4:13 p.m. – Metagame Breakdown
by Frank Lepore
|Urw Pester Twin
|WW splash B
The breakout deck of the format this weekend has definitely been RG Valakut which catapulted 23 players into day two. The deck is basically a standard port with the addition of Firespouts, Volcanic Fallouts, Scapeshifts, and Prismatic Omens.
While Valakut doesn't compete with Faeries in sheer number, which had 32 players representing it on day two, it was a deck that was highly under the radar and under discussed going into the event.
Behind those are solid midrange contenders in Naya, Monored and Jund. These decks have come into Extended basically unchanged from last season with the exception of minor tweaks and additions from the changes new sets undoubtedly bring. Neck and neck with these decks is the UGr Prismatic Omen combo deck which had eleven players seeing day two play.
Of course no list would be complete without control decks. It's worth noting that two of the four 5CC lists making it into day two were piloted by none other than Patrick Chapin and Gulluame Wafo-Tapa. The third control deck in the format coming in behind Faeries in numbers was none other than UW Control. With innovations ranging from Sunblast Angels and Squadron Hawks, to a plethora of Planeswalkers, this deck is definitely a force to be reckoned with.
Outside of that there is still an excess of decks that are extremely viable. Innovation is not lacking in this format, from the Necrotic Ooze combo deck, to White Weenie splashing black for Tidehollow Sculler and Zealous Persecution, to Craig Wescoe's RUG deck that looks as though it had come straight outta Standard! No matter what your taste, Extended is shaping up to be a very delicious melting pot.
Feature Match – Round 14: Owen Turtenwald V. Ari Lax
by Frank Lepore
These two players are no strangers to day two of competitive play, nor to the top eight stage. Owen is currently a level five pro aiming for Paris later this year, while Ari is a young up-and-comer who's quickly making a name for himself as a consistent and formidable opponent with three 9-0 starts at constructed Grand Prixs under his belt. Both players are piloting Faeries, arguably one of the best and most complex control decks in the format, and both players have stellar records thus far with Owen sitting at 9-0 and Ari at an also impressive 8-1
Ari wins roll and choose to play. Ari lamented that his hand was "not even close," and shiped to six cards. Owen kept his initial seven while Ari went down to five. While Ari shuffled the two discussed their previous histories on the competitive circuit including their wins and losses. Ari kept on five and lead off with a tapped Tar Pit before passing the turn. Owen played a Thoughtseize and Ari revealed an Agony Warp and two lands before discarding a Vendilion Clique. The two played lands for four turns before Ari played a Preordain which was countered by a Spellstutter Sprite. Ari then followed up with a Thoughtseize to which Owen revealed a Mana Leak, a Mistbind Cique, two Tectonic Edges, and a Cryptic Command. Ari choose the Mistbind Clique and passed the turn after attacking with his Mutavault.
Owen drew and played a Bitterblossom off the top.
"I've seen enough," Ari bemoaned, and they shuffled up for game two.
As they're shuffled Ari queried to Owen, "Is there a deck that beats Faeries?"
"I'd be the wrong guy to ask," Owen quipped, sitting on top of a 13-0 record.
Ari began on the play and both kept seven. Ari lead with the dreaded Bitterblossom and Owen failed to play his own before passing his turn. Ari then Preordained, which Owen attempted to counter with a Spellstutter Sprite, which Ari then countered back with a Sprite of his own allowing his Preordain to resolve. When Owen's turn came around, he Thoughtseized having Ari reveal the loaded hand of Bitterblossom, Scion of Oona, Disfigure, and Cryptic Command. Owen mulled over his options and finally chose the Cryptic Command before he followed the Thoughtseize with a second Thoughtseize nabbing the Scion of Oona as well. Owen then passed the turn leaving Ari only to attack for two before playing a second Bitterblossom.
Owen, who finally drew something of substance, landed a Jace, the Mind Sculptor. He then fatesealed himself to bring Jace to five counters. Ari went down to 16 life from Bitterblossom before he attacked Jace down to two counters passed the turn. Owen Brainstormed, played his fifth land and passed back before Ari went to 14 life. Ari attacked Jace with three faerie tokens and sent two directly to Owen's dome. Owen played a Sprite to block, but before blocks Ari announced a Disfigure on the freshly played 1/1. Before it resolved, however, Owen Pepersmoked a faerie, enabling him to draw a card, but went to 12 life as his Jace hit the bin.
Owen then sent his Mutavault in and Ari chumped with a fairy token before Owen played a Jace Beleran. Both players drew a card from Jace and at the end of Owen's turn a Vendilion Clique hit the field courtesy of Ari Lax which revealed three lands in Owen's hand.
Ari then sent five damage at Jace and three at Owen. With Owen at nine life and unable to stop the ten or so tokens Ari has on board, it's on to game three.
The game began once more with some playful banter as the players discussed their monetary finishes at competitive events.
Owen was on the play and decided to go down to six cards. Ari decided to keep his seven and Owen then kept his six. Ari lead off with an Inquisition of Kozilek revealing three lands, a Bitterblossom, and a Spellstutter Sprite, to which Ari obviously chose the Blossom. Ari then played his own Bitterblossom followed by both players playing lands and passing turns. With five lands, Owen cast a Thoughtseize. Ari revealed three Thoughtseize of his own, an Island, and a Disfigure. Owen chose Disfigure, and Ari playful responded with an "obviously." Owen then attacked with a Mutavault. Ari activated his own Mutavault but before blocks were declared Owen targeted it with Tectonic Edge and passed the turn.
Though Ari had little gas in his hand, he was beginning to form a small army. He then played an Inquisition of Kozilek which he drew off the top and chose a Spellstutter Sprite leaving Owen with a lone two lands in his hand. He passed the turn, Owen bashed with Mutavault, and the two players continue to trade blows both in the air and on the ground – or rather with the ground in the case of the battling Mutavault.
Owen played a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and fatesealed himself, choosing to leave the card on top. Ari went to ten life before attacking Jace down to zero counters. Owen played a Secluded Glen revealing a Sprite from his hand and then attacked for five with a Tar Pit and a Mutavault. Before blocks, Ari played a Vendilion Clique and Owen revealed a Spell Pierce and the aforementioned Sprite. Ari counted the damage on the board aloud and they both realized Owen was dead next turn with no aerial blockers.
Ari Lax defeats Owen Turtenwald 2-1
Sunday, 4:30 p.m. – Going Green with Matt Boccio
by Brian David-Marshall
With one round to go in the Swiss rounds New York's Matt Boccio was one win away from potentially locking up an invite to Pro Tour Nagoya with only three losses to this point. His weapon of choice for the event was a mono-green Elf deck that he had borrowed the cards for from Matt Nass. Elves borrowed from Matt Nass may conjure up images of looping Primal Commands and a combo kill but this deck is much more straightforward. It is all about playing out a bunch of green creatures and overwhelming your opponent with them and featured some old favorites from the Lowryn Block Standard era like Bramblewood Paragon, Wren's Run Vanquisher, and Imperious Perfect.
Originally, Boccio had intended to play Naya -- a popular deck choice this weekend -- but played against this Elf deck on the plane ride here and was impressed with its ability to burst out of the gate and its resilience against mass removal like Volcanic Fallout. The key to that was in stocking his deck full of Warriors and putting them out of range with Bramblewood tokens or in getting a pair of lords out so that they are both 3/3.
"I would love to play some Primal Commands in the sideboard," said Boccio of the card that has become synonymous with Elf decks over the past couple of seasons. "If I could have an 18 card sideboard I would definitely play three of them. The thing is that you have all these good matchups game one but they change for game two. Like I have to have Plummets for Linvala."
It is rare to see a deck play the full four copies of a legendary creature but Boccio could not imagine playing with Ezuri, Renegade Leader and not having access to all four of them.
"If this guy lives you just win," he said simply. "They kinda have to kill him so you don't mind having extra copies. It is not just the overrun effect that makes him so good either -- the regenerate ability is relevant against Day of Judgment for example."
Matt credited the deck to the crowd sourcing that is Magic Online.
"I feel like I have been playing against this deck a lot the last two weeks online," said Boccio who felt like he had seen an unusual amount of turn two Elvish Archdruids in his playtesting for this event. "That card just lets you dump your hand on the table."
Boccio got his intial decklist for this event from Chris Mascioli -- another New York player -- whose claim to fame is being part of the crew that innovated the Makeshift Mannequin decks from a few years back. Boccio tweaked and tuned the deck overnight but ended up tearing out all those changes -- which would have come at the cost of cards like Bramblewood Paragon.
For players looking for a deck to play in the PTQ season -- something Boccio was hoping to sidestep if he could secure a Top 16 finish -- he felt it was an easy deck to pick up and the cards were not very hard to come by. Having a mana base that is only 19 Forests doesn't hurt when it comes to card availability either.
Matt Boccio - Elves
Sunday, 1:45 p.m. - Final Round Showdown
by Bill Stark
For the final round of Grand Prix Atlanta, a host of Top 8 hopefuls sat down to their matches hoping they could win and sneak into the single elimination rounds. Rather than bring you the tale of just one, I railbirded all four.
Table 7: Christian Valenti (RG Valakut) versus Navin Ram (UW Control)
Christian Valenti thought he was going to get a free game 1 when Navin Ram took a long time to sit down to the match. But head judge Jason Lemahieu had given Navin extra time in the match, and he made it to the table in plenty of time with his extension. Quickly putting his opponent on UW, Valenti played the anti-control role to a T. He built up his manabase, something his RG Valakut list is spectacular at, then used a smattering of test spells to finally stick Primeval Titan. That allowed him to search up the lands he needed to fuel Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, and Christian found himself up a game.
In the second game, Navin switched gears with an early Figure of Destiny he had boarded in. That allowed him to play the role of the beatdown player, but Christian took ample opportunities to sneak in a Prismatic Omen, then later an Avenger of Zendikar. His opponent had a Path to Exile for the Avenger, which clearly surprised Valenti. What Navin didn't have was a counter, however, and after building up his land count Christian pulled the trigger on a Scapeshift. With Omen on the battlefield, the sorcery was enough to seal the game and the match. On 36 Swiss points, however, and having been paired down, Christian was still a longshot to make the Top 8.
Christian Valenti 2, Navin Ram 0
Navin Ram, left, lost to Christian Valenti.
Table 6: Jody Keith (UW Control) versus Joseph Greer (GW Trap)
The first game didn't start off well for Joe Greer, who had to mulligan to four cards. His opponent, the UW Control-playing Jody Keith tried to shut the Green-White player down entirely by pulling the trigger on a Mana Leak for Lotus Cobra on Joe's second turn. What Jody wasn't expecting, however, was what came next: Summoning Trap. The instant found an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Greer took an unexpected first game despite the triple mulligan.
The second game saw Jody use a Vendilion Clique to beat his opponent down while Oblivion Ring and Path to Exile kept Joe's attempts at building an army at bay. He managed to put up a fight by eventually cheating out an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, but Sun Titan for Oblivion Ring out of the UW player aced the 15/15 and the players headed to the third game.
Their Top 8 dreams on the line, Jody and Joe settled in for the last game. It started off a bit weak for the UW player, who had to use Tectonic Edges to keep his opponent off Windbrisk Heights and Stirring Wildwood. From there he stabilized with Kitchen Finks and Vendilion Clique, and soon had Jace, the Mind Sculptor active. With the coast clear, he turned it against his opponent to fateseal Joe each turn. That allowed him to cast Baneslayer knowing his opponent had no action in hand and none coming from his deck. The powerful 5/5 locked things up from there and Jody took the match.
Jody Keith 2, Joe Greer 1
Joe Greer, left, lost to Jody Keith.
Table 5: Jason Ford (Turbo Land) versus Jonathan Hickerson (RDW)
The GGsLive.com match was at table 5, and it featured Jason Ford playing the Minnesotan Turbo Land deck that has been a breakout hit this weekend. His opponent, Jonathan Hickerson, was with Red Deck Wins, the tried but true strategy that has been racking up dubyas for years. It was an old fashioned race with Jason attempting to use Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, Prismatic Omen, and Scapeshift to combo his opponent before he could be burned to a crisp. Jon gave it his best effort, but with Ford at 3 life the Minnesotan managed to put together exactly the three cards he needed to steal the first win of the match.
Game 2 went much better for Hickerson, who benefited from a one land hand out of Ford to start. Jason quickly drew an additional land on his third turn, and used Rampant Growth to try to catch back up, but the relentless beatdown of Goblin Guide proved too much when backed with burn and Jonathan evened it to one game a piece.
In the final game, Ford put an exclamation point on the match. He started by gaining life with Kitchen Finks, then accelerated into Primal Command. A few turns later he landed Wurmcoil Engine, and the massive amount of life he had gained over the course of the game with the impending doom of the 6/6 lifelinker meant Jonathan's little red critters couldn't do enough damage to stay even.
Jason Ford 2, Jonathan Hickerson 1
Jason Ford, left, defeated Jonathan Hickerson.
Table 4: Charles Gindy (Jund) versus Kurt Spiess (Naya)
Former Pro Tour champion Charles Gindy looked to return to the Top 8 stage in Atlanta, but found his Jund deck's journey being blocked by the Naya creatures of Kurt Spiess. Fortunately for the champ, he got a lucky break when Kurt started the first game off mana screwed. He had been hoping, after a mulligan to five, that a one land, double Birds of Paradise start would be good enough to get there. Instead, Charlie used Lightning Bolt to blow up the 0/1s and beatdown with Fauna Shaman and Bloodbraid Elf.
The second game saw Kurt with a better start opening on Woolly Thoctar and Vengevine. Unfortunately for him, his opponent's black, red, and green deck was filled with removal and used Maelstrom Pulse and Terminate to keep the creatures contained. When the game stalled, Gindy got Fauna Shaman active and was able to set up a huge Demigod of Revenge turn. That allowed him to attack for the massive swing he needed to end his opponent's run, and Charles found himself once again headed to the Top 8 tables.
Charlie Gindy 2, Kurt Spiess 0
Charles Gindy, left, defeated Kurt Spiess.