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Stern Stands Tall in Atlanta

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The letter F!or Jon Stern, Platinum appeared to be a hard-to-obtain goal. Going into this event, he was sitting at 32 Pro Points, and he would need a Top 16 finish or better in order to improve on his Pro Point total through a Grand Prix.

This weekend, facing down a field of 1298 players and two days of Theros block Limited here in Atlanta, Stern decided to go a few steps further and win the whole thing instead. After going undefeated in Day One and drawing into the Top 8 after two impressive drafts, Stern had to battle through three rounds in the Top 8, defeating No. 24 Ranked Player and Hall of Famer William Jensen along the way. After some epic matches, Stern dispatched Tomoharu Saito in two quick games, earning him his second Grand Prix title.

The top of the standings and the Top 8 was star-studded, featuring brilliant play and amazing performances from a plethora of pro players. In the end though, Atlanta's trophy is going home with Jon Stern to Canada, his goal of achieving Platinum status for this season now closer than ever.




Quarterfinals Semifinals Finals Champion
1 Jon Stern Jon Stern, 2-1
4 (12) Shaun McLaren Jon Stern, 2-1
3 Alex Majlaton (24) William Jensen, 2-0 Jon Stern, 2-0
2 (24) William Jensen
7 Tomoharu Saito Tomoharu Saito, 2-1
6 Vidianto Wijaya Tomoharu Saito, 2-1
8 Charley Murdock Charley Murdock, 2-1
5 (18) Chris Fennell












  Streaming video coverage of Grand Prix Atlanta provided by Marshall Sutcliffe, Pro Tour Hall of Famer Randy Buehler, Zac Hill, Rich Hagon, and Rashad Miller. For a complete playlist of all the matches, visit ggslive's YouTube page.


EVENT COVERAGE INFORMATION

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Top 5 Cards

  • by Olle Råde
    Finals
    Tomoharu Saito vs. Jon Stern

  • by Mike Rosenberg
    Semifinals
    Charley Murdock vs. Tomoharu Saito

  • by GGslive
    Semifinals
    (24) William Jensen vs. Jon Stern

  • by GGslive
    Quarterfinals
    (24) William Jensen vs. Alex Majlaton

  • by Olle Råde
    Quarterfinals
    Tomoharu Saito vs. Vidianto Wijaya

  • by Mike Rosenberg
    Quarterfinals
    (18) Chris Fennell vs. Charley Murdock

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Top 8
    Decklists

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Top 8
    Player Profiles

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Day 2 Blog
  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Day 1 Blog
  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Info: Fact Sheet
 1.  Jon Stern $4,000
 2.  Tomoharu Saito $2,700
 3.  William Jensen $1,500
 4.  Charley Murdock $1,500
 5.  Alex Majlaton $1,000
 6.  Shaun McLaren $1,000
 7.  Chris Fennell $1,000
 8.  Vidianto Wijaya $1,000
Pairings Results Standings
Final

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  • Top 8 – Player Profiles

    by Event Coverage Staff


  • Jon Stern

    Age: 36
    Hometown: Montreal, Canada
    Occupation: Gamer

    What was the best card in your sealed deck, what color combination did you play, and what was your record?
    Courser of Kruphix, Blue/Green, 9-0

    What was the best card in your first draft deck, what color combination did you play, and what was your record?
    Ordeal of Heliod, White/Green with a Blue splash. 2-1

    What was the best card in your second draft deck, what color combination did you play, and what was your record?
    Dawnbringer Charioteers, White/Black, 2-0-1




    William Jensen

    Age: 31
    Hometown: Millis, MA
    Occupation: Player and content provider for www.channelfireball.com

    What was the best card in your sealed deck, what color combination did you play, and what was your record?
    Fated Conflagration. White-Red siding into Blue-Red. 9-0

    What was the best card in your first draft deck, what color combination did you play, and what was your record?
    Fated Conflagration. White-Red siding into Blue-Red. 9-0

    What was the best card in your second draft deck, what color combination did you play, and what was your record?
    Silence the Believers. White-Black. 2-0-1




    Alex Majlaton

    Age: 29
    Hometown: Lanham, Maryland
    Occupation: Data Analyst and hype man for Ben Friedman

    What was the best card in your sealed deck, what color combination did you play, and what was your record?
    Green/White, Bow of Nylea. 9-0!

    What was the best card in your first draft deck, what color combination did you play, and what was your record?
    Dawnbringer Charioteers, Red/White, 2-1

    What was the best card in your second draft deck, what color combination did you play, and what was your record?
    Aqueous Form, Blue/Red, 2-1




    Shaun McLaren

    Age: 26
    Hometown: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
    Occupation: Magician. (Shoutout to MTGCanada.com)

    What was the best card in your sealed deck, what color combination did you play, and what was your record?
    Phenax, God of Deception, although I only got to use him once in my last game of the day. Blue/Black control. 8-1

    What was the best card in your first draft deck, what color combination did you play, and what was your record?
    Gnarled Scarhide. It's so efficient. Black/White aggro, 2-1

    What was the best card in your second draft deck, what color combination did you play, and what was your record?
    Bident of Thassa was the MVP, but most powerful was probably Eidolon of Countless Battles. I had a lot of good cards. 3-0




    Chris Fennell

    Age: 31
    Hometown: Fort Myers, Florida
    Occupation: Just finished law school and locked Platinum

    What was the best card in your sealed deck, what color combination did you play, and what was your record?
    Kiora, the Crashing Wave. I played Green/White, splashing Blue, but boarded into Green/Red splashing Blue many times. Xenagos was good after board. 8-1

    What was the best card in your first draft deck, what color combination did you play, and what was your record?
    Sigiled Starfish. I played Blue/Red scrycombo with all the fixin's. 2 Flamespeaker Adept, 2 Riddle of Lightning, 2 Sigiled Starfish. 2-1

    What was the best card in your second draft deck, what color combination did you play, and what was your record?
    Daring Thief. People keep passing me Daring Thief and regretting it. Green/Blue. 3-0.




    Vidianto Wijaya

    Age: =)
    Hometown: Jakarta, Indonesia / Rowland Heights, USA
    Occupation: Fake MTG Pro

    What was the best card in your sealed deck, what color combination did you play, and what was your record?
    Fall of the Hammer, Black/Red, 2-1

    What was the best card in your first draft deck, what color combination did you play, and what was your record?
    Kiora's Follower, Blue/Green 8-1

    What was the best card in your second draft deck, what color combination did you play, and what was your record?
    Agent of the Fates. Black/Red 3-0




    Tomoharu Saito

    Age: 30
    Hometown: Takadanobaba, Tokyo, Japan
    Occupation: Pro player, owner of SaitoCardShop and MTGSHOP Hareruya

    What was the best card in your sealed deck, what color combination did you play, and what was your record?
    King Macar, the Gold-Cursed, Blue/Black control, 8-1 with 3 byes

    What was the best card in your first draft deck, what color combination did you play, and what was your record?
    Forgestoker Dragon, Red/White, 3-0

    What was the best card in your second draft deck, what color combination did you play, and what was your record?
    King Macar, the Gold-Cursed again! Black/Blue, 2-1




    Charley Murdock

    Age: 28
    Hometown: Richmond, VA
    Occupation: Data Analyst

    What was the best card in your sealed deck, what color combination did you play, and what was your record?
    Keepsake Gorgon, White-Black. 7-2 (lost Round 3 and 9)

    What was the best card in your first draft deck, what color combination did you play, and what was your record?
    Courser of Kruphix, Blue-Green. 3-0

    What was the best card in your second draft deck, what color combination did you play, and what was your record?
    Akroan Mastiff, White-Red. 3-0




     

  • Top 8 – Decklists

    by Event Coverage Staff











  •  

  • Quarterfinals – (18) Chris Fennell vs. Charley Murdock

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • The letter F!or No. 18 Ranked Player Chris Fennell, this Top 8 was a big one. Before this weekend, Fennell was sitting at 41 Pro Points, needing one more point to lock Platinum status for next season, his remaining 3 points locked by simply attending Pro Tour Magic 2015.

    However, Fennell now has a new goal in reach. This Grand Prix is already improving upon one of his Grand Prix finishes that's currently counting toward his seasonal total. A win here would improve on that finish by 4 points, locking up Platinum for him before the Pro Tour, and giving him the benefits that come with it at the next Pro Tour. Free flight, accommodations, and a hefty appearance fee is certainly a nice bonus to a Pro Tour you're already planning on attending, and Fennell only needed one more win to make it happen.

    His opponent, whose goal was to make his first Grand Prix Top 8 a memorable one, was Charley Murdock. While Fennell has his goals, it was Murdock's goal to win as well. Would Fennell secure Platinum, or would newcomer Murdock steal his thunder?

    Let's find out.

    The Games

    Murdock's on-time Deathbellow Raider received a Fearsome Temper, a speedy start against Fennell's extremely late Disciple of Deceit. Before he could even attack with the Disciple, he was at 12 and staring down an untapped Pharika's Chosen to block a creature.

    Retraction Helix allowed Fennell to stem the bleeding from Murdock's Deathbellow Raider, and Pharika's Cure took out the Pharika's Chosen, giving him a cushion. Fennell triggered his Disciple's power, trading in the currently un-castable Rise of Eagles for Gold Forged Sentinel. When Fennell sent in his Disciple, Murdock blocked and went for Necrobite to take out the Disciple, warranting Hubris from Fennell to save his creature. The Sentinel came down on the next turn, giving him a threat against Murdock's replayed Raider and Mogis's Marauder.

    When Disciple of Deceit traded in Blood-Toll Harpy for War-Wing Siren, Fennell secured his defenses while building a sky-based offense. Cruel Feeding with strive let Murdock take out the Siren when it blocked an attacking Marauder with both his Disciple and Siren, but the card selection and two-for-ones was leaving Murdock low on action. A bestowed Nyxborn Eidolon on the next turn was all he could do for offense, which Fennell blocked with his Disciple, regenerating his creature with Necrobite.


    No. 18 Ranked Player Chris Fennell

    However, when he cast Marshmist Titan, Murdock was able to secure the game with a Harness by Force, borrowing three of Fennell's creatures (including both of the untapped ones) for a lethal strike.

    The first action of the second game – a Blood-Toll Harpy from Murdock – was hit with a Nullify. The Archetype of Aggression that followed stuck, while Fennell re-bought his Nullify with Mnemonic Wall. A bestowed Nyxborn Eidolon allowed the Archetype to easily attack through the Wall. Fennell shrugged, took the hit, then cast Rise of Eagles for his two flying creatures.

    Another attack from the Archetype dropped Fennell to 10. Blood-Toll Harpy made that 9. Sudden Storm locked down Murdock's two creatures when he went to combat, buying Fennell some time after his attack for 2. Another attack, this time with two enchantment birds, sent Murdock to 13 before Fennell deployed Marshmist Titan. An attack on the next turn warranted Feast of Dreams on one of the birds, and Murdock went to 7. Pin to the Earth dealt with the Archetype of Aggression, and Retraction Helix with Mnemonic Wall answered Murdock's Fearsome Temper on the Blood-Toll Harpy.

    Shipwreck Singer threatened to remove any attempt at blocking for Murdock, and when Fennell was able to replace one shot down flying creature with another after an attack, Murdock had enough, moving to the third game.

    Murdock started off on the wrong foot with a mulligan to six, and his only early action was Mogis's Marauder on the third turn. Fennell's only early action however was Shipwreck Singer on the fourth turn. When Murdock went for Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Fennell used Hubris on the five mana creature with its effect on the stack. Pharika's Cure disposed of the Marauder, an attack dropped Murdock back to 20, and the Gray Merchant successfully returned to play on the next turn.


    Charley Murdock

    Fennell simply attacked Murdock to 21 and cast Archetype of Imagination. An attack for 2 and a post-combat Drown in Sorrow earned a chuckle from Fennell, who suddenly went from slightly behind to far behind. Mnemonic Wall for Pharika's Cure on Murdock's post-Sorrow Archetype of Aggression helped alleviate that heavy loss, and Gold Forged Sentinel was a fine answer to Murdock's Kragma Butcher. Attacks warranted Fennell to block with only the Wall, going to 11, and then 10 to a post-combat Blood-Toll Harpy.

    Then Murdock cast Hythonia the Cruel. Suddenly he had a way to push. Attacks on the next turn left Murdock without a Blood-Toll Harpy, Fennell at 6, and with a damaged Sentinel. Retraction Helix saved the damaged Sentinel when Murdock aimed Bolt of Keranos at it. Pharika's Chosen gave Murdock another source of deathtouch, with it and Hythonia attacking on the next turn. Fennell cast Sea-Lock Monster, then threw the Mnemonic Wall in front of Hythonia, falling to 5.

    Attacks on the next turn dropped Fennell to 2. Blood-Toll Harpy made that 1. Drown in Sorrow from Fennell left Murdock with only a Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Fennell cast his Gold Forged Sentinel, but when Murdock revealed Reckless Reveler, Fennell could do nothing more than offer the handshake.

    Charley Murdock defeats Chris Fennell 2-1 and advances to the Semifinals!




     

  • Quarterfinals – Tomoharu Saito vs. Vidianto Wijaya

    by Olle Råde

  • The letter I!n a Grand Prix top 8 where the players in total have over 50 previous Grand Prix top 8 among them this match would feature the most seasoned of them against one of the more unfamiliar faces.

    Japanese shop owner and Pro Magic player Tomoharu Saito has four Grand Prix wins and a Pro Tour win to his name. Vidianto Wijaya on the other hand, only has one Grand Prix top 8 finish, but has won 100 per cent of the ones he has made top 8 in, after lifting the trophy in Denver last year.

    Both players decks looked among the stronger in the top 8. Tomoharu Saito's Red/White deck being a good mix of fast aggressive creatures and removal including bombs like Spear of Heliod and Eidolon of Thousand Battles. Vidianto Wijaya was also playing Red, but with Green as a supplement. His all-stars? Hammer of Purphoros and the god himself in Purphoros, God of the Forge.


    Tomoharu Saito

    The match started in an unexpected way, with both players opting to play very conservatively with their blocks into the opponents open mana. Not risking running into tricks they both chose to take damage rather than trade creatures.

    This led to an interesting board state with a Bladetusk Boar, Lagonna-Band Trailblazer, Wingsteed Rider for Saito and Purphoros's Emissary, Deathbellow Raider and Purphoros, God of the Forge for Wijaya. It wasn't until Wijaya tapped out to cast his legendary enchantment creature that Saito moved in. Enchanting his Trailblazer with Ordeal of Heliod and attacking with all his creatures. Purphoros's Emissary blocked the Bladetusk Boar, but with the coast clear Saito used Rise to the Challenge to save his Boar.

    Wijaya tried to recoup with a Two-Headed Cerberus, dealing two damage to Saito via Purphoros, but was behind in life totals, at 11 life with Saito on 16.

    Saito again sent his team, confidant with both a Divine Verdict and a Chained to the Rocks in his hand. Even though Wijaya got to 2-for-1 him with a timely Mortal's Resolve, the attack dropped Wijaya down to 4, while Saito gained 10 life from his Ordeal of Heliod. Chained to the Rocks took out Wijaya's last blocker next turn and the first game was Saito's.

    Both players kept their openers for Game Two, and although Saito's starting hand only has White mana it did have the powerful Eidolon of Thousand Battles. Wijaya took the initiative in the game with a Oakheart Dryads and Hammer of Purphoros, threatening big creatures with haste coming the following turns.

    Saito answered with a Oreskos Swiftclaw, but had no other play than to enchant it with Ordeal of Heliod, only to see it fall to Wijaya's Bolt of Keranos.

    On turn four Saito laid his fourth Plains and passed the turn, indicating two things. That he might be holding Divine Verdict again, and that he might not have any Mountains this game.

    He did indeed have Divine Verdict, which took out Stoneshock Giant that attacked with haste thanks to the Hammer of Purphoros. But when his next turn only produced a fifth Plains he scooped up his pile of Plains after yet another attack from Wijaya's Oakheart Dryads, joined by a Golem token from Hammer of Purphoros

    For the deciding game, for the first time being on the play in the match Tomoharu Saito tuned his deck into an even more aggressive shell. Bringing in Peak Eruption, Akroan Crusader and Nyxborn Rollicker, hoping to overrun his opponents somewhat slower Red/Green deck.

    "I start," he exclaimed loudly as the players shuffled each others decks for the last game.

    Mountain, Plains, Plains, Dragon Mantle, Eidolon of Countless Battles and Minotaur Skullcleaver looked like a fine opener for the Japanese veteran.

    His Skullcleaver was met by a Satyr Nyx-Smith by Wijaya, who opted to trade damage enabling him to create a 3/1 Elemental token during his next upkeep.

    Saito didn't mind trading damage, as he added another Minotaur Skullcleaver to his side, enchanting it with Dragon Mantle, attacking with both, bringing the life totals to Saito 17 – Wijaya 10.

    Wijaya abandoned his race plans, built a 3/1 Elemental in his upkeep and passed the turn after playing a fourth land.

    Saito already had his plans made out and put Eidolon of Countless Battles on the Skullcleaver with Dragon Mantle making it a 6/6 fire breather. Wijaya chose to take the damage, dropping to 3, which looked very low. Especially as Saito now held two copies of Rise to the Challenge in his hand.

    Wijaya took a good long read on Eidolon of Countless Battles. Attacked with 3/1, dropping Saito to 15, before he cast a Nylea's Disciple, going back up to 5 life.

    Ordeal of Heliod from Saito on his other Skullcleaver forced two blocks from Wijaya. Offering a trade of Ordeal + Skullcleaver for the Nylea's Disciple, but Rise to the Challenge made sure that didn't happen. Wijaya now left with only a 3/1 token against the two Skullcleavers.

    A hand full of cards, but the mana only to cast one spell a turn seemed to be the way the game would end for Vidianto Wijaya. He did however have a few tricks up his sleeve. Once again attacking with his 3/1, bringing Saito to 12. Then summoning a Akroan Line Breaker, which he on Saito's turn cast Fall of the Hammer on, to take out one of the Skullcleavers, and chump blocking the other.

    Saito looked out of action, and when Wijaya summoned a Fanatic of Xenagos it looked like he might actually be able to take the game. Even more so since he held a Portent of Betrayal in his hand, and a Sedge Scorpion that could block and kill the last Skullcleaver, leaving Saito with just a 1/1 Eidolon of Countless Battles.

    He attacked with the Fanatic, which Saito took out with Divine Verdict. And when Saito had Rise to the Challenge to let his Skullcleaver survive against the Sedge Scorpion things were again looking close.


    Vidianto Wijaya

    "I think I might have actually played a bit too conservatively there, trying to play around Chained to the Rocks. If I would have attacked with my 3/1 as well I could have brought him low enough with Portent next turn to finish him off with a Bolt of Keranos," Wijaya explained after the game.

    As it turned out, he could only attack Saito to 8 with Portent the next turn, since he had to keep his 3/1 home to block. And without another blocker, he was forced to extend the hand facing lethal from the Skullcleaver, boosted by a Oreskos Sun Guide.

    Final result: Tomoharu Saito 2, Vidianto Wijaya 1




     

  • Quarterfinals – (24) William Jensen vs. Alex Majlaton

    by GGslive

  • Competing in his insane seventh Grand Prix Top 8 this season alone, No. 24 Ranked Player and Hall of Famer William Jensen squares off against Alex Majlaton to see if he can improve on what has been a stellar season.

    To see this Quarterfinal in its entirety, check out the match below!




     

  • Semifinals – (24) William Jensen vs. Jon Stern

    by GGslive

  • No. 24 William Jensen improving on an already very difficult to improve season in his seventh Grand Prix Top 8 this season. In order to go after a win though, he would have to overcome Jon Stern, who is looking to pick up enough points to make Platinum a more easily achievable feat for this season.

    To see this Semifinal in its entirety, check out the match below!




     

  • Semifinals – Charley Murdock vs. Tomoharu Saito

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • The letter C!harley Murdock is more than happy to be here, just two matches away from a Grand Prix victory, in his first-ever Grand Prix Top 8.

    His opponent, Tomoharu Saito, is adding his eighteenth Grand Prix Top 8 to his resume. The Japanese pro has locked up his return to the Pro Tour with this Top 8 finish, ensuring that he will once again have a shot at Pro Tour glory.

    While Murdock's Black-Red deck served him well against Fennell, Saito's White-Red deck is blisteringly fast and features a couple of powerhouses, including cheap removal such as Chained to the Rocks and the hard-hitting Eidolon of Countless Battles.

    The Games

    Murdock started off rough with two mulligans, while Saito quickly came out of the gates with Minotaur Skullcleaver. Murdock cast and attacked with Satyr Hoplite, then added Felhide Minotaur to his table. Saito, however, had Wingsteed Rider, which began to fly over Murdock's limited number of creatures with attacks. Bladetusk Boar added to the evasive creatures, Murdock short of any real Red creatures to block it efficiently.

    Forgeborn Oreads followed, taking out Murdock's Blood-Toll Harpy, which allowed Saito's Rider to keep attacking in. Murdock fell to 4 on an attack from the Bladetusk Boar. Feast of Dreams from Murdock disposed of the Oreads, and Cruel Feeding on his Satyr Hoplite allowed him to survive the Akroan Mastiff tapping down a new Blood-Toll Harpy, by blocking and trading with the attacking Bladetusk Boar.


    Tomoharu Saito

    However, another Mastiff was too much to handle, and Murdock picked up his cards for the second game in short order.

    A mulligan to six left Saito without any White mana, and his sole creature, Sigiled Skink, was dispatched by Bolt of Keranos, clearing the way for his Kragma Butcher and Bloodcrazed Hoplite to attack. Searing Blood disposed of the Hoplite, lessening the bleeding, and a Plains came off the top for Saito on the next turn. This enabled Chain to the Rocks, clearing away the Butcher, and leaving Murdock with his freshly played Pharika's Chosen. Blood-Toll Harpy brought life totals to 16 for both players, but Saito's Minotaur Skullcleaver made that 12, and a post-combat Lagonna-Band Trailblazer followed.

    Cruel Feeding with the Pharika's Chosen swung life totals back in Murdock's favor, bringing him to 17 and Saito to 11. Lash of the Whip disposed of Saito's Mastiff, and without a second Plains, Saito's sole spell – Spear of Heliod – was stuck in his hand.

    The Harpy continued its bleeding, and Hythonia the Cruel added to his lead. Saito found Dragon Mantle waiting for him, which drew him Divine Verdict and earned a deep breath, as Saito passed. Murdock went for an attack with everything, and when Saito went to block with the Skullcleaver, Murdock revealed his drawn Necrobite, clinching him the game, as Saito was out of action and time.


    Charley Murdock

    Saito started off fast with Oreskos Sun Guide into Lagonna-Band Elder, but no third land. He did, however, have plenty of tricks, with Ride to the Challenge being the first one from Saito when Murdock's Felhide Minotaur blocked the attacking Sun Guide. Bolt of Keranos disposed of the Sun Guide before it could untap again. Pharika's Chosen followed.

    Saito finally found a third land for his in-hand Wingsteed Rider, but he let out a reaction when Murdock sent in his 1/1. Weight of the Underworld took out he Rider before it could get off the ground, but that meant the Lagonna-Band Trailblazer Saito had was picking up Ordeal of Heliod instead, with Satyr Hoplite following after combat. The Trailblazer reached three counters on the next turn after the Pharika's Chosen was Chained to the Rocks. The Hoplite ate a Lightning Strike, but Saito gained his 10 life and had the best Pheres-Band Centaurs he could ever ask for in the form of his Trailblazer.

    It did not remain a 3/7 for long though. Rise to the Challenge when Murdock's freshly cast Gray Merchant of Asphodel blocked it made the centaur scout into a 4/8. When Murdock held his Bloodcrazed Hoplite back, Saito held back his Trailblazer in respect of Necrobite, instead casting Elite Skirmisher before passing back. Murdock bestowed Nyxborn Eidolon onto the Hoplite, but without a trick to represent, Saito was free to bestow Eidolon of Countless Battles onto the Skirmisher, tapping the Hoplite Murdock had and dropping Murdock to 9. That became 8 when Murdock cast Blood-Toll Harpy.

    After confirming that Saito and Murdock both missed a point of damage from the Eidolon of Countless Battles boosted Elite Skirmisher (neither counted the Chain to the Rocks), Saito played and sent in his Minotaur Skullcleaver, trading with the Harpy, and still wary of Necrobite.

    This mistake from both players ended up coming into play again on the next turn, when Murdock aimed Lash of the Whip at what was an 8/5 Elite Skirmisher, with Murdock failing to take out the imposing creature. The mis-step cost Murdock in a big way, and with the coast clear of any tricks, Saito cast Spearpoint Oread and Oreskos Swiftclaw before sending in his two creatures, dropping Murdock to 3.

    When nothing miraculous came for Murdock on the next turn, he offered the handshake, along with a shake of his head.

    "Not how I wanted to end my tournament," Murdock said, frustrated at his mistake.

    Tomoharu Saito defeats Charley Murdock 2-1 and advances to the Finals!




     

  • Finals – Tomoharu Saito vs. Jon Stern

    by Olle Råde

  • 1,298 players entered the convention hall Saturday morning, happy to play at Grand Prix Atlanta. Only two remain, and one will leave the hall happier than anyone else after claiming the Grand Prix title. In one corner, the 30-year-old Japanese shop owner and pro Magic player Tomoharu Saito of Japan, in the other 36-year-old Canadian Jon Stern, hoping to claim the title in his first ever limited Grand Prix Top 8.

    "Are you Canadian?" Saito asked before the start of the match.

    "Canada battles Japan in the finals of a Grand Prix of the USA, very funny, " he continued after Stern nodded, that he, indeed is Canadian.


    Tomoharu Saito

    Since Stern was the highest ranked player in the Swiss he got the choice to play first and and Saito slapped himself in the face before drawing his opening seven, hoping for a good one.

    Stern started things off with a Golden Hind, powering out a third turn Ravenous Leucrocota, a touch creature to deal with for Saito's army of 2/2:s.

    Saito's first plays were Oreskos Sun Guide, followed by the Skullcleaver that got in for four, dropping Stern to 16.

    Jon calmly untapped, cast Deepwater Hypnotist and Kiora's Follower, earning an "aaaah," from Saito, acknowledging the power of the multicolored uncommon.

    Saito debated whether to cast Bladetusk Boar, Wingsteed Rider or Akroan Mastiff, but went for the offensive play in the Boar, hoping to race Sterns team with evasion.

    Stern attacked with only his Hypnotist and Saito blocked with both Sun Guide and Skullcleaver losing his Sun Guide. Stern added Prognostic Sphinx and it looked like his deck was coming through like never before in the first game of the finals.

    Bladetusk Boar attacked Stern to 13, with Saito at 18 before Wingsteed Rider came down, a good creature, but powerless against Prognostic Sphinx and Kiora's Follower.

    On Sterns turn he cast Curse of the Swine to turn both Wingsteed Rider and Bladetusk Boar into 2/2 Boar tokens. Prognostic Sphinx attacked Saito down to 15 and Stern got to scry for three, filtering his deck for more powerful spells.

    Saito drew Satyr Hoplite for his turn, which would have been good on turn one, but added little to the game now. He cast his Akroan Mastiff and hoped for a miracle.

    Prognostic Sphinx attacked again, dropping the Japanese, now almost slouching in his chair, to 12.

    Saito drew for his turn and passed, and when Stern summoned Fleetfeather Cockatrice at the end of Saito's turn he knew the game was over.

    Akroan Mastiff tapped the Ravenous Leucrocota for the turn, but the fliers attacked Saito down to 6, and Rise of the Eagles prompted Saito to quickly pack up his cards.

    "Nice deck," he commented before moving to game two.

    Once again Saito had a solid hand with four lands, Minotaur Skullcleaver, Wingsteed Rider and Akroan Mastiff. But against Sterns deck, the risk was that the 4 damage from the Skullcleaver would be all he could be able to get in before the game was taken over by larger, more powerful creatures.

    Turn two once again saw Golden Hind from Jon Stern, the powerful mana accelerator we've seen win games all weekend by allowing Green decks to compete with faster decks by simply casting bigger monsters as fast as decks with lower mana curves and smaller, less powerful creatures.

    Saito cast his Skullcleaver and attacked Stern down to 16.

    Stern summoned his usual third turn Ravenous Leucrocota, while Saito drew a Rise to the Challenged for his turn and thought for a while, deciding whether to attack or not. Finally deciding not to, simply casting his Wingsteed Rider.

    Stern attacked with the Crocodile, evening the scores at 18 each, before using one of his decks three Time to Feed to take out the Wingsteed Rider, gaining 3 life in the process.

    Saito drew another Mastiff, cast one of them and passed the turn.

    Jon Stern, never looking anything else than confidant summoned Hunter of Mortals, and attacked with his Leucrocota, offering the trade with one of Saito's 2/2 creatures. Saito decided against it, at fell to 16.

    The second Mastiff joined the first on Saito's side and the pair of hounds looked like they'd be able to hold off Sterns offense until Saito could muster one of his own.

    Oakheart Dryads grew Sterns Leucrocota for the turn, allowing it to attack for 3, dropping Satio to 13, while the hunter of Mortals got tapped by a Mastiff. Stern ended his turn with a Divination, to keep up his streak of using all his mana every turn.

    Saito just laid a land and passed the turn, realizing things were looking bad as Stern surely would draw into more threats than he could tap with his Mastiffs in the long run. Rise to the Challenge on Minotaur Skullcleaver tried to take out the Oakheart Dryads, but a Savage Surge allowed 2-for-1:d Saito's by taking out both his trick and his Minotaur Skullcleaver.

    Saito summoned a Spearpoint Oread, and let out a small laughter in defeat as Stern once again cast end of turn Fleetfeather Cockatrice.


    Jon Stern

    The Mastiffs slowed the pain, Saito still taking 4, dropping to 9. A second Time to Feed took out one of the Mastiffs and Saito quickly drew for his turn, extending the hand and asked for the chance to look through Sterns deck after the game.

    "Three Time to Feed?," he asked in disbelief.

    The Grand Prix Champion Jon Stern could only smile and admit that his deck had came together very good in the draft.

    Jon Stern defeats Tomoharu Saito 2-0




     

  • Top 5 Cards

    by Event Coverage Staff



  • 1. Golden Hind

    Coming into Journey into Nyx last weekend most players listed the Hind as the best green common. But not a lot of players were willing to force Green as bad as Jon Stern did here this weekend. In the top 8 drafts he admitted to a bit of a gamble, by first picking a Fleetfeather Cockatrice, so he couldn't be happier when he also got a copy of the Golden Hind to his Green/Blue deck. All weekend we've seen him accelerate with either Golden Hind or Font of Fertility, maximizing the advantage to cast powerful Green creatures a turn earlier than you would expect. Both games in the finals saw him cast turn two Golden Hind, and in both games Tomoharu Saito never got more than four damage past the Hind.





    2. Rise of Eagles

    Arise, my birds! Rise of Eagles has proven to be a pivotal sorcery for many decks this weekend. In Sealed, the format is generally slower than Booster Draft, but the addition of Journey into Nyx in this Limited format hampered the speed across both Sealed and Draft. With the format now slower, being able to create two creatures with one card – all while getting a chance to scry – has made this sorcery a great top-end for many decks in this format.

    While we didn't see the interaction in his Quarterfinal match, the potential for No. 18 Ranked Player Chris Fennell to even recur this "four power of flying for six mana" spell with Mnemonic Wall. Add into the fact that this also turns any of your bounce spells into a way to reset this little combo, and you have a recipe for a lot of creatures if needed.





    3. Eidolon of Countless Battles

    With good bestow creatures being harder to come by with Journey into Nyx in the mix the super powerful rare from Born of the Gods is just what white drafters are hoping to open. Which is exactly what Tomoharu Saito did in the top 8 draft. It allowed him to overcome first Vidianto Wijaya in the quarterfinal and then Charley Murdock in the semifinal. The unpredictability of the Eidolon really changes combat math and allows for lethal damage almost out of nowhere. With the added bonus of some players miscounting and wasting removal spells on the bestowed creature that turns out to be bigger than they thought.





    4. Hubris

    Let's face it. Bounce spells matter in this format. A lot. In a format filled with big tempo players, bestow tricks, a variety of auras that really want to come into play, and monstrosity, spells that undo that hard work are at a premium, and Hubris is easily one of the best. The new blue bounce spell from Journey into Nyx can even go a step further than the already well-respected Voyage's End, returning bestowed cards on that creature you are returned.

    Aside from the huge swing in tempo this can give a deck in a racing situation, Hubris's effect also can be beneficial for yourself alongside auras that grant you good effects. Looking to save your creature that has a Stratus Walk attached? Go for it, and you'll even draw another card once you replay your Stratus Walk. What about Raised by Wolves? We saw this one happen in Jon Stern's Semifinal match against William Jensen, where he not only saved his enchanted creature, but also got to re-cast his five-mana aura in order to make two more wolves. Such a swing in cards can turn the tides, and Hubris is capable of it all.





    5. King Macar, the Gold-Cursed

    With Black being back on the menu, after dropping in popularity in Born of the Gods, the Gold-making king is high on many wish lists for rares to open. We saw it do a whole lot of work here this weekend. Tomoharu Saito had it in his sealed deck on Saturday, ending the day with an 8-1 record, and although it only showed up in Alex Majlaton's sideboard in the top 8 it is surely one of the most powerful cards from Journey into Nyx, allowing for complete lock downs unlike any other cards.






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