Day 1 Coverage of Grand Prix–Auckland 2008

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Day one is over here at Grand Prix: Auckland, and four undefeated players remain, Justin Cheung, Dominic Lo, Max Botkov and Tony Wootton, two from Australia and two from New Zealand. These guys aren't in for a good nights sleep however, as right on their heels are a pool of sharks, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, Luis Scott-Vargas, Shuuhei Nakamura, Gerry Thompson and Olivier Ruel are all on X-1. Tomorrow they dive into the draft, and there'll be a great deal of blood in the water before we cut to the top 8. Who will survive and be playing off for the trophy and the over-sized cheque after 13 rounds of play? Tune in tomorrow while we find out!


  • 4:48p.m.: Round 7 - Gerry Thompson vs Gene Brumby
    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • 4:01p.m.: Round 6 - The last Quick Questions for the day.
    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • 2:47p.m.: Round 5 - Scott Richards vs Paul Cheon
    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • 2:34p.m.: Round 5 - Quick Questions
    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • 1:36p.m.: Round 4 - Luis “LSV” Scott-Vargas vs Patrick Pepper
    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • 12:42p.m.: Round 3 - Quick Questions
    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • 11:21a.m.: Round 2 - Sam Kwang vs Andrew Plinston
    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • 10:13a.m.: Round 1 - Quick Questions
    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • 8:12a.m.: Trials Decklists
    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • Info: Fact Sheet
    by Event Coverage Staff

  • Saturday, December 06: 8:12a.m. – Trials Decklists
    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • When you have to battle through 7 to 8 rounds of play to make day two of a Grand Prix, some byes would certainly help. Something especially important for players in the antipodes, as the average rating down this way is somewhat lower than the rest of the world. A total of six trials ran yesterday, as players dueled to earn three priceless byes in the main event, and as usual, I have the winners decklists below.

  • Saturday, December 06: 10:13a.m. – Round 1: Quick Questions
    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • Play or Draw in Shards of Alara Sealed?

    Tomoharu Saito.
    James White.
    “It depends, I prefer to play.”
    Luis Scott-Vargas.
    “Draw usually.”
    Kerel “Bear” Laycock
    “Play with this deck.”
    Paul Cheon.
    Digby Carter.
    “I’ll go with the conventional answer and say Draw.”

  • Saturday, December 06: 11:21a.m. – Round 2: Sam Kwang vs Andrew Plinston
    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • These players are most definitely Olde School Aucklanders, Andrew Plinston and Sam Kwang are both respected and feared regulars at the annual National Champs, Plinston even appearing on the National Team a couple of times.

    Kwang got in first, his Topan Ascetic and Jund Battlemage teaming up to make a formidable attack force, while Plinston made a Rockslide Elemental. A Rhox Charger from Plinston allowed him to start swinging back, and Kwang was forced to stop attacking and start using up his hand full of removal. Once the smoke had cleared, Kwang landed a Vein Drinker, which looked good, until a Resounding Thunder from Plinston finished it off after it had squared off against one of Plinston’s men. Plinston then rallied with a pair of Skeletal Kathari, that which evaded Kwang’s blockers, taking him down to a mere 2 life. When Kwang unearthed a Viscera Dragger to go all in, Plinston calmly made his blocks, and Kwang scooped ‘em up.

    Plinston 1 – Kwang 0

    Game 2 began much as the first had, with both players playing medium-sized creatures, but this time Plinston landing the early blows. That is until Kwang, finally coming off the back foot somewhat, dropped a bomb, Broodmate Dragon. Plinston knocked a Cavern Thoctar out of Kwang’s hand with a Blightning, but only had a single Skeletal Kathari in front of the pair of Dragons, who were now joined by a particularly promising Carrion Thrash. An unearthed Vithian Stinger helped take one of the Dragons down, but unfortunately it wasn’t the token, which meant the Thrash was now Officially Online. However, Kwang had taken enough early damage that all Plinston had to do was chump correctly, send his guys in and then cycle a Resounding Thunder to take the match out from under Kwang’s powerful rares.

    Andrew Plinston defeats Sam Kwang 2-0

  • Saturday, December 06: 12:42p.m. – Round 3: Quick Questions
    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • What is the best deck in Standard right now?

    Olivier Ruel.
    “Faeries, but I don’t want to play it at Worlds, I hate the mirror match.”
    Tomoharu Saito.
    “All the Japanese Pros say Faeries. I don’t test.”
    Cole Swannack.
    “Faeries? I’m guessing Faeries. Yes, Faeries. I’m 100% sure of it.”
    Paul Cheon.
    “Find out next week (laughs)”
    Gene Brumby.
    “Red Deck Wins.”
    Gerry Thompson.

  • Saturday, December 06: 1:36p.m. – Round 4: Luis “LSV” Scott-Vargas vs Patrick Pepper
    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • Round four always signifies the grand entrance of the Pro Players, those with the much-envied trio of byes. Both Luis Scott-Vargas and Patrick Pepper have three byes each, Scott-Vargas from having had such a successful run so far this year and last, recently winning Pro Tour: Berlin, and then Grand Prix: Atlanta a week later. Patrick Pepper from winning the first Grand Prix Trial yesterday.

    After LSV won the roll and chose to draw, Pepper lead with some Dragon Fodder and Grixis Battlemage, only to drop his jaw after LSV played a pair of Rhox War Monks. An Executioner’s Capsule took out one of them, but a Rhox Charger made the remaining one that much more dangerous. Pepper swung back with the Battlemage, backed up now by a Court Archers, but was unable to drop LSV’s life total much below his starting 20. Pepper’s Dragon Fodder mitigated some of the incoming damage, but he was soon forced to leave his Battlemage at home with the Hissing Iguana that he’d just played. Together they double blocked the incoming War Monk, only to see LSV play a Sigil Blessing on the unblocked Rhox Charger. Pepper drew his next card, but could only shake his head and pick up his cards with a laugh.

    “I take it that’s your good draw?”
    “It is, yeah.” LSV replied with a grin.
    “Time to side in my protection from Green guys,” Pepper joked as they shuffled.

    Luis Scott-Vargas 1 – Patrick Pepper 0

    “I guess I’ll draw,” Pepper decided, “my deck’s not Naya and not aggressive enough to want to play.”
    “I think I still like to draw with that deck,” LSV chuckled.

    Despite being on the draw, Pepper missed his third land drop, while LSV got in some early chops with a Kathari Screecher. Pepper’s third land arrived, but ironically, was an Arcane Sanctum. Thankfully, LSV wasn’t beating down for much more than 2, while he dug up some more threats with Gift of the Gargantuan, dropping another Screecher and a Jhessian Infiltrator. Pepper finally made a play, erasing LSV’s board with a Jund Charm. LSV recovered with a Mosstodon and an Akrasan Squire, causing Pepper to lapse into thought. He now had six mana and an Executioner’s Capsule in play. He finally decided to kill the Mosstodon with a Resounding Thunder, and then shore up the table with a Court Archers. LSV played a Waveskimmer Aven, allowing the Squire to swing past anyway, dropping Pepper to 11.

    “You have two Screechers in the graveyard, right?” Pepper confirmed, before killing the Aven with a Grixis Charm. Looking for more threats, LSV topped up with a Kiss of the Amesha, which prompted a smile from Pepper, who was no doubt finally pleased to not be taking anything about the face. Pepper played a Jund and a Grixis Battlemage, and then chumped an unearthed Screecher with his Court Archers. LSV added a Topan Ascetic and returned the turn. Another Court Archers came down for Pepper, who was slowly but surely gaining control of the game. When LSV sent in his Ascetic, Pepper finally cracked the Capsule to kill it. LSV simply replaced it with a Jungle Weaver. Pepper just gummed up the table with some Dragon Fodder, promising to add more tokens in the future with his Jund Battlemage. LSV added a Rockcaster Platoon to his team, which could certainly help LSV get there in the face of the growing swarm of tokens.

    But Pepper instead fed them to a Tar Fiend, and emptied LSV’s hand of a pair of land and an Oblivion Ring. The second unearthed Screecher was chumped by the second Court Archers, and an Oblivion Ring took away the Rockcaster Platoon before it could finish Pepper that way. An Excommunicate delayed the Tar Fiend a turn, but when it came down again, it ate another fresh token and the Grixis Battlemage. LSV’s draw yielded nothing, and he was happy to take 8 to the face on the following turn, dropping to a healthy 16 life. Pepper then added a Mosstodon, suddenly make chumping the Tar Fiend a great deal less attractive. LSV’s next draw also yielded nothing, so he picked up his cards for Game 3.

    Luis Scott-Vargas 1 – Patrick Pepper 1

    “It’s best of five, right?” someone in the audience asked.
    “I don’t know if my nerves could take best of five,” Pepper replied.

    LSV again elected to draw, as both players wished each other good luck for the third game. LSV came out of the gates with a turn two Jhessian Infiltrator, which earned itself a Magma Spray, and followed that up with a turn three Rhox War Monk.

    “As you can imagine,” Pepper said, “I don’t like him. You know, your life total has gone up more than it’s gone down in this match,” Pepper pointed out as the Monk trundled in with the help of an Akrasan Squire, and then doubly so with a Waveskimmer Aven. A Grixis Charm took down the Monk, but the Aven just stepped into the Red Zone in its wake. Pepper only managing to make a Goblin Deathraiders and a Court Archers in defense. A Jund Charm allowed the Archers to block the Aven and live to talk about it, while LSV added a Rockcaster Platoon. Stuck on four land, Pepper could only play a Hissing Iguana and pass it back. An Oblivion Ring took out the Archers.

    “Do you have any concept of how much that hurts?” Pepper asked with a smile.
    “Yeeep, but I don’t care,” LSV grinned, swinging in with his team.
    “Hrmm, maybe a smidgen late,” Pepper remarked as he finally played his fifth land, showing a Bloodpyre Elemental and a Bull Cerodon in his hand, and offering it in concession.

    “At least this guy’s gonna give me good resistance!” Pepper pointed out to the spectators with a laugh.
    “I hope so, good luck,” Scott-Vargas returned as they shook hands.

    Luis Scott-Vargas defeats Patrick Pepper 2 – 1

  • Saturday, December 06: 2:34p.m. – Round 5: Quick Questions
    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • What is your favorite Shard or color combination to play in Shards of Alara Sealed?

    Dan Bretherton.
    Guillaume Wafo-Tapa.
    “5 Color.”
    Paul Cheon.
    “Whatever the lands allow me to play.”
    Shuuhei Nakamura.
    “Jund or Naya.”
    Aaron Nicastri.
    Gerry Thompson.
    “5 Color.”

  • Saturday, December 06: 2:47p.m. - Round 5: Scott Richards vs Paul Cheon
    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • Paul is the reigning US National Champion, and won Grand Prix Vancouver earlier this year, while Scott Richards, a New Zealander, is the reigning Latin American Champ. Yes, you read that right. While living in Uruguay in 2001, he entered and won the last ever Latin American champs.

    Both players screamed out of the gates, Cheon with a Wild Nacatl, pumping it on his second turn with a prompt crack of a Naya Panorama, and Richards with a Rip-Clan Crashers. Cheon made a Naya Battlemage, but using his own Nacatl, Richards quickly burnt it to a crisp with a Soul's Fire. Cheon could only pass his turn with four mana and no play. A Bloodpyre Elemental took out Cheon's sole blocker, and Richards came in again, dropping Cheon to 6. Cheon fetched up a fourth color at the end of turn with a Grixis Panorama, and played a Deft Duelist. When the 3/3 Nacatl attacked, the Duelist took it down with the help of a Magma Spray. Cheon made a Courier's Capsule, while Richards, also now with four colors of mana in play, made a Jungle Weaver. Naya Charm returned the Naya Battlemage and the Capsule gave Cheon an Esper Panorama. He again passed to turn back with four mana open. Respecting the possible Resounding Silence, Richards ended without attacking. Cheon played a seventh land, made the Battlemage and again passed with Silence mana up. Richards played an Executioner's Capsule and then took out the Battlemage at the end Cheon's turn. He untapped and had a good long think about his board position, before finally sending it the Weaver. Cheon did indeed have the Silence, which removed the Weaver from the game.

    Cheon then made a Sigiled Paladin and a Guardians of Akrasa, allowing the Deft Duelists to swing in for 4, dropping Richards to 11. Richards again without play, dropped to 7, but before Cheon could drop him further, a Jund Charm took out everything but Cheon's Wall. An Exuberant Firestoker from Richards could only bounce off the Guardians, but were quickly joined by a Scourge Devils. Cheon on 6 life, decided to take aside the Devils with an Oblivion Ring. Richards then made a Blood Cultist. When his men came in on the following turn, Cheon had the Resounding Thunder to survive a cycled Resounding Roar on the Firestoker. Richards on 7 life, then played a Vithian Stinger, while Cheon played a Yoked Plowbeast, and then another Oblivion Ring to send the Blood Cultist to wherever the Devils were hiding. When another Resounding Roar was cycled on the Stinger to try and take out the Plowbeast, Cheon was forced to Bant Charm it to the bottom of Richards' library. Richards made another Wild Nacatl, and then let the Plowbeast drop him to 2. He cycled a Viscera Dragger at the end of turn, played an Elvish Visionary into a Bull Cerodon in his turn, unearthed the Dragger and swung in to take a hard-fought Game 1.

    Richards 1 - Cheon 0

    Both players mulliganed in Game 2, but neither had the aggressive starts they had in Game 1, instead using their second turns to Panorama up various colors of mana. Cheon developed a reasonable attack with a Cylian Elf powered up by both a Guardians of Akrasa and a Squire of the same. An Executioner's Capsule took out Elf, and a Scourge Devils came out for Richards, who then killed a Fatestitcher with a Soul's Fire. A Waveskimmer Aven allowed the Squire to get in for 4, and on the return, a Sigil Blessing helped the Devils take down the Guardians. Cheon kept attacking however, his Aven swinging for 4 and then played a Cloudheath drake. Richards still only had the Scourge Devils, and enough mana to play practically anything he could draw, which apparently wasn't much. Cheon added a Sanctum Gargoyle to his team, and Richards packed up for Game 3.

    Richards 1 - Cheon 1

    Going against the common trend of drawing in Shards of Alara sealed, Richards opted to play in the deciding game, powering out a Wild Nacatl and a Vithian Stinger with the help of a Druid of the Anima, after both players had mulliganed to six. Cheon, who looked like he was going to hold the fort with a Deft Duelist, did not like the look of the Stinger, and removed it with an Oblivion Ring, and then attacked with his 2/1, knowing that it probably wouldn't last forever. Richards then added an Incurable Ogre, while Cheon played a Court Archers and again attacked with his Deft Duelist. A second Nacatl came out for Richards, who only had the lands to make them 2/2. Cheon's Duelist again slipped back into defensive, while he tried to dig up some more answers with a Courier's Capsule. When the Duelist tried to take down an incoming Nacatl, a Jund Charm pushed the point, Cheon dropping to 13 life and crushing his first striker.

    Cheon sank into the think tank. He had six mana, while facing a Druid of the Anima, an Elvish Visionary and two Wild Nacatls, one of which had a pair of +1/+1 counters. To make matters worse, Richards also had an Executioner's Capsule in play for whatever Cheon played on playing next. A Bant Charm dealt with one Nacatl, and a Sanctum Gargoyle got back the Courier's Capsule. The Executioner's Capsule knocked out the Gargoyle, and Richards dropped Cheon to 5. Cheon dug with his Capsule, and could only pass the turn back with six mana up. Before attacking, Richards played an Algae Gharial, and Cheon fogged the turn with an Angelsong. Cheon then passed the turn back with eight mana up. Richards pondered what a cycled Resounding Silence would do to his board, and only sent in the Visionary and the Gharial. Sure enough, Cheon cycled it, only managing to hit the Elf. He then tapped out to play a Cloudheath Drake and a Naya Guildmage, sitting on a perilous 4 life.

    Richards played a Realm Razer, and then a Mountain.

    Cheon had no play and passed it back, having to trade his Cloudheath Drake for the remaining Nacatl when Richards then had the Plains to make it a 3/3. On his following turn, Richards sent all of his men, and Cheon promptly offered his hand.

    Scott Richards defeats Paul Cheon 2 - 1

  • Saturday, December 06: 4:01p.m. - Round 6: The last Quick Questions for the day.
    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • What card do you most want to open in Shards of Alara Sealed?

    James White.
    "Savage Lands."
    Luis Scott-Vargas.
    "Broodmate Dragon."
    Olivier Ruel.
    "You should vary your questions more, it's still Broodmate dragon. Wait, Ranger of Eos, because it's my brother! And I like him very much."
    Gene Brumby.
    "Oblivion Ring."
    Gerry Thompson.
    "Kiss of the Amesha."
    Guillaume Wafo-Tapa.
    "Broodmate Dragon."

  • Saturday, December 06: 4:48p.m. - Round 7: Gerry Thompson vs Gene Brumby
    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • Gerry Thompson recently finished second at Grand Prix: Atlanta to his friend Luis Scott-Vargas, and is looking to capitalize on that finish here this weekend before the World Champs in Memphis next weekend. Gene Brumby puts himself at the front of New Zealand Magic, doing everything he can to represent the troops on the Pro Tour again and again. As top 50 APAC, he too will be playing at the World Champs in a few days time.

    Thompson won the flip and chose to draw, putting out an Executioner's Capsule for later. The next play came from Brumby a few turns later, who summoned Ajani Vengeant to his side and tapped down Thompson's Swamp. Thompson played a Stoic Angel, which could survive Ajani, but not the Resounding Silence it ran into. Brumby continued to keep Thompson's Swamp locked down, eventually playing a Drumhunter to Thompson's Fatestitcher. The Executioner's Capsule took out the Drumhunter and the 'Stitcher got in to take a loyalty counter from the Planeswalker. Brumby then locked down the tapper, keeping Ajani's loyalty count high. Thompson finally got it off the table with a Kederekt Leviathan.

    Sitting on eight mana, Brumby pondered his options. Ajani wouldn't last long in the face of the 5/5, so instead he dug for something else to play with Gift of the Gargantuan, taking Forest and Topan Ascetic. Thompson filled out his hand with a Kiss of the Amesha, while Brumby pointed out just how unfair it was that Thompson now had all five colors of mana. "And it's only turn 12!" Thompson finished his turn by burying a Kathari Screecher with a Corpse Connoisseur. Brumby made a Sigiled Paladin, and then finally replayed Ajani, locking down the Leviathan. Thompson played a second Kiss of the Amesha and used his Fatestitcher to untap his Plains so he could then remove the Topan Ascetic with an Oblivion Ring. He sent in his Corpse Connoisseur to tangle with Ajani, but it had to content itself with running over the Paladin in the way.

    Ajani continued to lock down the Leviathan, but an unearthed Kathari Screecher and the Connoisseur teamed up to take down the Planeswalker. Brumby then played an Oblivion Ring of his own to take care of the Leviathan, now that it was finally free to untap, while Thompson continued to come in with his 3/3 and a new Kederekt Creeper.

    "I have some bad cards in my deck," Brumby sighed sarcastically, playing a Flameblast Dragon. Thompson drew even more cards with a Courier's Capsule, and dropped a Fleshbag Marauder. Brumby could only shake his head and scoop up his cards with a smile.

    Thompson 1 - Brumby 0

    "You looking forward to drafting tomorrow" Brumby asked. At X-1, both players were at least in day two at this point.
    "I prefer my chances drafting." Thompson replied with a nod.
    "Yeah, I like getting to play with the cards I chose instead of the ones I was given," Brumby continued, "I was too slow building my deck so the judges made it for me."
    "Really?" Thompson asked, surprised, and apparently not used to what locals could describe as quintessential Gene Brumby.

    Brumby got in first with a Topan Ascetic, while Thompson sat on an Executioner's Capsule and only two colors of mana. He still managed to make a Corpse Connoisseur on turn five.

    "I will find nothing," Thompson announced finally, after looking through his library.
    "Wow, you fail at finding things," Brumby replied.
    "No creatures left," he said with a shrug and a smile.

    Brumby then made and swung with a Bull Cerodon, which Thompson dutifully took to the face, before untapping and spending the Executioner's Capsule on it. He was however, still stuck with only Blue and Black mana, and had to pass the turn back without another play. Brumby made a Cylian Elf before going for his Ajani, which landed without any Cancels fouling things up. Brumby then locked down an Island and passed it back. Thompson played yet another card drawing spell, this time picking up a Fatestitcher and a couple of lands from a Covenant of Minds, while Brumby again chose to keep an Island tapped down. The Topan Ascetic ran in, now with the Elf and a Qasali Ambusher as back up. The Connoisseur naturally declined to block. Thompson made an Esper Obelisk, and a Naya Panorama, finally diversifying his mana base.

    Brumby again swung in with his Ascetic, and Thompson placed his Connoisseur in front of it before trying to play a Bant Charm on the Ascetic, "Oh, I don't have any Green mana, awkward!" he exclaimed, and placed his 3/3 in the graveyard.
    "I had a read that you had a trick," Brumby said, clearly pleased with how that turn had played out.
    "So did I," Thompson shrugged with a grin, finally fetching a Forest at the end of Brumby's turn and then using the Bant Charm to protect the unearthed Connoisseur to take a few counters away from Ajani. Brumby swung back with everyone and cycled a Resounding Roar to take the second game.

    Thompson 1 - Brumby 1

    Brumby kept his hand, while Thompson went back for six, before dropping a turn two Tidehollow Strix and moving Brumby's Bant Panorama to his graveyard, preempting the sacrifice.

    "Oh, thanks man!"
    "Just trying to speed up the process," Thompson replied with a smile.

    As if in agreement, Brumby shuffled his deck quickly and presented it... when the table judge stepped in to inform him that two face-up riffles and an over-hand shuffle was not sufficient randomization, and issued a game loss. Unfortunately ending what was shaping up to be an enjoyable match with these two animated players.

    "Sorry man, I guess I got caught up in the moment," was all Brumby could say.

    Gerry Thompson defeats Gene Brumby 2 - 1

    They continued to play it out, and Brumby's Flameblast Dragon soon sent Thompson's mulligan packing.

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