Saturday, 11:54 a.m. - Modern: One Month Later
by Mike Rosenberg
Last month, Avacyn Restored made its impact on the Modern format loud and clear, as Restoration Angel put Birthing Pod decks on a whole new level of awesome. However, despite the fact that four players found their way into the Top 8 with variations of the different Birthing Pod decks, none of them were able to battle their way through their competition for win.
What ended up claiming the title at Grand Prix Yokohama was Jyun'ichi Miyajima, and his deck of choice for the event was White-Black Tokens. And his opponent in the finals, Kei Umahara, wasn't playing Pod either, but instead a mono-blue Faeries deck!
What do the results from last month's tournament mean for Grand Prix Columbus? Well, that's simple: the format may have some defined decks, but this tournament is still open for anyone! And with M13 now part of the format, it's likely that things have changed up even more!
While there may be some wild new strategies being played here this weekend, it always helps to take a look at what was big in the previous events before diving into a weekend full of all-new Modern action. Let's start off by taking a look at the Pod variants.
Toshiyuki Kodooka's Naya-Pod
Youichi Nagami's 5-Color-Pod
Modern – Grand Prix Yokohama
The first deck is entirely based on the synergy between Restoration Angel and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. If you haven't played the combo, it goes like this: you play a Restoration Angel at the end of the opponent's turn, then untap and cast Kiki-Jiki. When you activate Kiki-Jiki, targeting the Restoration Angel, you get a token copy of the Angel, which then flickers Kiki-Jiki out. He comes back in, untapped, and you can use him to get another Restoration Angel token, which then flickers out Kiki-Jiki, etc etc. You get the idea.
Restoration Angel is the new Pestermite, and provides a lot more utility that gives this Pod deck a number of ways to interact with the opponent. Heck, you can even use extra Restoration Angels withBirthing Pod to jump up to Kiki-Jiki!
The second deck, piloted by a number of players at the last Modern Grand Prix, combines the Restoration Angel/Kiki-Jiki combo with the other popular Pod combo: Melira, Sylvok Outcast and Murderous Redcap combined with Viscera Seer. This combo kills opponents by sacrificing Murderous Redcap a billion times which, thanks to Melira, doesn't come into play with -1/-1 counters, so its persist will continue to...uh, persist.
The strategy that meshes the two combos together, known as 5-Color Pod, looks to attack the opponent from two angles. One strategy uses two cards, but relies on four and five mana creatures, while the other strategy requires three cards but can be a lot easier to assemble out of nowhere. What results from this is multiple ways to threaten 0 to a million in the span of a turn, and it means opponents need to be on their toes when playing against this version of the Pod deck.
That said, the winning deck from GP Yokohama is sure to make waves. Are tokens going to take down Columbus?
Jun'ichi Miyajima's White-Black Tokens
Modern – Grand Prix Yokohama
This deck takes me back to the days of Lorwyn/Shadowmoor and Shard of Alara block Standard. Ahh, memories...
With tokens, the name of the game is beat downs. Windbrisk Heights can set the deck up for some free cards easily thanks to its large number of token generators. Lingering Souls even goes so far as to rival Spectral Procession as the top-dog of token generators for white, and a package of disruption with Thoughtseize and Tidehollow Sculler give the deck ways to combat some of the format's more frightening concoctions.
Combo decks and aggressive decks are prevalent in Modern, but what about control? Players who fancy themselves some counterspells will be happy to know that the strategy is still viable. Faeries might be down a Bitterblossom, but that's not stopping them from showing their stuff.
Kei Umehara's Faeries
Modern – Grand Prix Yokohama
Faeries have gone mono-blue, as Kei Umehara piloted the Faerie army to a second place finish at the last Grand Prix Modern tournament. The deck packs plenty of classic cards such as Vendilion Clique and Mistbind Clique, and this version also runs a double-digit number of counterspells to keep the opponent off of their game-plan. While card draw such as Ancestral Visions may no longer be available to the the deck, it gets by with access to things like Cryptic Command.
Also, since your flying Faeries are capable of crunching in for large amounts of damage, who cares about over-the-top card draw when the opponent is dead? Faeries might be controlling, but it's still about playing threats, and keeping the opponents from doing anything to stop their assault. What better way of keeping long-game winners like Pod in check than putting a clock on how long they have to assemble a combo?
I could go on about what decks are viable for Modern, but I'd be spending the entire day doing that. The format truly is wide open, with a massive card pool and new sets now added into the mix. I'll leave you with one final decklist.
This one came from one of the Magic Online daily events, and holds a place close to my heart as a man who loves casting big creatures with big mana.
Modern – MTG:Online
The day is just getting started, and Modern is bound to be packed with plenty of surprises!
Saturday, 2:25 p.m. - Dealer's Metagame
by Marc Calderaro
Knowing a metagame for any given weekend is a crapshoot. You can follow all the Magic Online dailies you want; you can read all the coverage possible; you can take a huge poll of all the best players; but in the end, what 1,050 people choose to play is impossible to discern. I've found the best way to take a sampling of the field is to talk to the people who are the players' right hand – the dealers. Whether it be a last-minute deck audible, a sideboard tweak, or a full-fledged hail mary, dealers accommodate the players in their time of need. Seeing what cards they have and what cards they don't can be great intel into the mind of the field, without conducting a thousand-person poll.
The story of this tournament, according to the dealers, is Kamigawa. The two hottest selling cards are both Champions of Kamigawa Legendary rares – Eiganjo Castle and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. The 2/2 red haster is a centerpiece in three distinct archetypes –Naya Pod, Splinter Twin and Storm decks (some of them transform into Splinter Twin out of the sideboard). As Naya Pod seems poised to garner the title of "current best deck"– if such a title exists at all in the broad format – if you don't play Kiki-Jiki, you'd better have an answer for it.
From the dealers, that answer seems to be Windborn Muse. A fantastic way to stop the infinite creatures that Kiki-Jiki and Restoration Angel make is to make a two-mana gate to attack. And though the Ghostly Prison-on-legs is more expensive than its enchantment counterpart, it's searchable via Birthing Pod. This allows Pod decks of all stripes to answer the constant threat of endless hasted dudes. Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker has always been a splashy, swingy card, and in this format, it requires a solid response.
On the other end of the "splashy, swingy" scale is the humble land Eiganjo Castle. The Legendary land may seem out of place and a bit underwhelming, but it's becoming a necessary staple in White-Blue Delver. With more and more Pyroclasm effects rearing their heads (think of the Ice AgePyroclasm art), the Delver variant needs a way to protect the Geist of Saint Traft which is so important to the deck's success. Eiganjo Castle allows an elegant solution to the pyro-problem without sacrificing card slots.
Outside of those two Kamigawa rares, another CHK-block card that has been selling like gangbusters is Sowing Salt – the land-hater reprinted in Betrayers of Kamigawa. Alongside cards like Molten Rain, Fulminator Mage and Spreading Seaa which have also been selling well, the red uncommon does worlds for stopping the Urza Lands from becoming a big problem (Urza's Mine, Urza's Tower, Urza's Power Plant, for the players who are a touch younger than I am). The Mono-Green deck, UginTron, has made a big splash online, but has yet to break out in Grand Prixes yet. However, if the sale of all these land-killing spells is any indication, players are predicting UginTron will be a force with which to be reckoned this weekend. But only time will tell.
One of my favorite parts about getting a dealer snapshot is just how misleading it can be. As often as dealer sales predict Wolfir Silverheart or Life from the Loam success, they also can be a red herring. Sometimes it doesn't show what the metagame actually is, but what players think the metagame is. Will Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker or Eiganjo Castle actually propel a player to the top eight? Though it's likely, how you get paired, and what other players brought with them, without the help of the dealers, can sometimes be all the difference.
Round 3 Feature Match - Joshua Cho vs. Derek Reda
by Mike Rosenberg
Joshua Cho came out of nowhere at Pro Tour Avacyn Restored. He attended his first Pro Tour back in May and exploded onto the scene, earning himself 22 Pro Points and a fire to go for the gold in the 2012-2013 season. His opponent, Derek Reda, wasn't going to make it easy for the StarCityGames player.
Cho kept his opening seven, but Reda was not as fortunate with his opening hands, as he went down to five before finding something he was content with keeping. Cho led off with a Hallowed Fountain and a Steppe Lynx, while Reda was had to let the cat beat down on him with a tapped Celestial Colonnade. The Steppe Lynx attacked for only 2, as Cho sat back on some burn, Snapcaster Mage, and some lands.
Derek Reda is off to a rocky start courtesy of a couple of mulligans.
Cho threw a Lightning Helix at Reda at the end of turn three, and the Lynx put Reda to 11. Reda sent the cat on a Path to Exile at the end of Cho's fourth turn, which Cho allowed. Reda struggled to hit his land drops, while Cho's Lightning Bolt dropped Reda to 8. Another two Steppe Lynxes forced Reda to try for an end-of-turn Snapcaster Mage, but the flashed back Path to Exile was hit with a Remand.
The two Steppe Lynxes marched in, and Reda flashed in another Snapcaster Mage to chump the two cats after Cho popped his fetch land. A Spell Snare from Reda stopped Cho's end-of-turn Snapcaster Mage. Cho, who needed his Steppe Lynxes to begin an offense, was not finding lands. He did find a Delver of Secrets though, which Reda tried to stop with Spellsutter Sprite, but Cho's Lightning Bolt thwarted the faerie's countermagic.
Reda attempted to stay alive with another round of flashy creatures for chump blocking, as Cho's deck began to cough up lands to power up his Steppe Lynxes. A Spell Pierce from Cho locked away Reda's chance at stalling the game any longer via Cryptic Command, as the two Lynxes gave Reda some good licks.
Cho 1 - Reda 0
Both players kept their initial hands in the second game, but Cho was the one with information thanks to a zero mana Gitaxian Probe, revealing two Islands, Mutavault, Restoration Angel, Kitchen Finks, and Spellstutter Sprite from his opponent. Cho followed up with Delver of Secrets, going to 16 but starting with a commanding lead. Cho didn't flip his second-turn Delver, and sent the 1/1 in. Reda thought for a moment before flashing in Spellstutter Sprite, which butted heads with the Delver. A follow-up fetch-land for a Plains let Cho main phase a Snapcaster Mage, which let him flashback Gitaxian Probe. Cho went to 14, drew a new card, and saw that his opponent drew another Mutavault.
Joshua Cho leads off with a lot of lost life, but when you're saving on mana, it's usually worth it.
Reda had no action on his third and fourth turns, as he was missing the white for his Kitchen Finks. Cho played out a new Delver of Secrets, and transformed it into Insectile Aberration on his fourth turn's upkeep. However, before he could crack a new fetch-land to get rid of the Spell Pierce that he was going to draw, Reda forced a Remand from Cho with Restoration Angel. Reda added a Tectonic Edge to his board and passed with Restoration Angel on deck.
Cho attempted to cast Geist of Saint Traft, which resolved after Reda debated on attempting to counter it. Reda continued to add to his lands, while Cho cracked an Arid Mesa, going to 9 all through self-service damage. Cho sent the Geist in, which Reda's Restoration Angel took out. Cho followed up with a new Geist of Saint Traft, which Cho attempted to counter with Spellstutter Sprite and two Mutavault activations. Cho responded with Lightning Helix on one of the Mutavaults, causing Reda to fall short. Reda drew for his seventh turn and immediately passed, still missing a second white source. Cho sent in his team, and Reda woke up Mutavault to block.
However, when he attempted to Dismember Cho's Insectile Aberration, he walked into a trap. Cho countered it with Dispel, and Reda's Mana Leak was thwarted by a Spell Pierce when Cho pointed a now-lethal Lightning Helix at his opponent.
Joshua Cho defeats Derek Reda 2-0
Round 4 Feature Match - Brandon Nelson vs. Mary Jacobson
by Marc Calderaro
There's a bit of pressure on Mary Jacobson this weekend. Her Top 8 finish and Grand Prix Lincoln earlier this year was one of the first Modern Grand Prixes. Could she follow it up? Today she sleeved up a lightly adjusted version of the Affinity deck that catapulted her to the top in the Nebraska. She took out the Shrapnel Blasts for Master of Etherium, and added a Springleaf Drum to help get to three mana.
Brandon Nelson, who finished in the Top 4 at Nationals last year brought the ever-solid Mono-Blue Faeries. I've heard some poo-pooing on the Mono-Blue builds, but as Nelson eloquently put, your not taking any damage from your lands, and Vedalken Shackles is real good.
Jacobson offered Nelson a Red Bull.
"Thanks, but I try not to drink any drinks." Nelson smiled. They both laughed and Jacobson knowingly rolled her eyes. He's got a point; Magic tournaments are long.
Nelson went to Paris, and started with a Faerie Conclave. Jacobson responded with a Blinkmoth Nexus, Vault Skirge and a Mox Opal. Though not the most aggressive start out of Affinity, her second-turn Steel Overseer, second Vault Skirge and Memnite quickly threatened to turn up the heat. Nelson used a Spellstutter Sprite to stop the only spell he could, the Memnite, but it wasn't going to stop the ten-life swing that would happen next turn with the Nexus and two Skirges all pumped by the Overseer.
It was 13-21 in Jacobson's favor when Nelson got his fourth turn back. His last-turn Vedalken Shackles came online. After his land drop, he still had only two Islands, but that was just enough to take any of the two-powered creatures across the board from him. He took the Steel Overseer and passed the turn back with a Faerie Conclave and an Island up. He braced for the Vault Skirge smash. The totals became 9-25 and a post-combat Etched Champion hit the table.
Nelson's turn was empty, but he had some tricks. When the Nexus and two Skirges came in, Nelson flashed a Vendilion Clique. Jacobson aimed her Galvanic Blast at Nelson's face and his board of Spellstutter Sprite and Clique melted away. It was 3-29, but with a second Vedalken Shackles and the mana to use it, Nelson was likely going to stave off death for at least a turn. And with Jacobson handless, she her destiny was tied to her draws.
Jacobson watched her Vault Skirge play for the other team as she sipped her Red Bull. Nelson used a Tectonic Edge to wipe out the 2/2 Nexus and put a counter or two on the Vault Skirge which was now his, with the Steel Overseer which was now also his. Jacobson thought about a way to get out of this pickle, and she figured it out. She scooped.
Brandon Nelson 1 – 0 Mary Jacobson
Jacobson lamented her choice to use the Galvanic Blast when she did, but wasn't quite sure how she should have acted differently, or even if it would have mattered. She said she couldn't have really guessed the second Shackles plus the mana to activate it. Like Nelson said, Vedalken Shackles are good.
Jacobson won the all-important pre-early game with Affinity – she got to go first. She opened with a Signal Pest and an Ornithopter, following the next turn with a Memnite. When a post-combat Ornithopter came out Nelson decided he'd had enough of such lower-powered, artifact shenanigans and used a Spellstutter Sprite to take it out. Jacobson returned the favor by using a Galvanic Blast to keep the air clear. Jacobson had started slowly, but she had an Arcbound Ravager rearing to go.
Nelson cast a Spellskite, but sadly for Jacobson, he left just the right mana up to Spell Snare Jacobson's Ravager. Jacobson was a bit sore about that. Understandably so. Her luck continued to get worse as a mid-combat Vendilion Clique took out a Signal Pest, while a second Spellskite guaranteed the last Galvanic Blast wouldn't be hitting anything good anytime soon.
Jacobson's last hope was her Master of Etherium in her hand, but Nelson used his Mutavault to up his Faerie count to three when she cast it. That was just enough to bin it with the help of Spellstutter Sprite. It was getting desperate. Jacobson became a bit more animated as she lost hope in the game. I couldn't blame her. After the Vedalken Shackles came down and took a Memnite, it just seemed like Nelson was rubbing salt in the wound. And plus, the Red Bull was kicking in.
Jacobson lasted for a few more turns and took her opponent to 8, but she knew it wasn't going to happen. Her two-card hand was not in fact two Galvanic Blasts; they were two Mox Opals.
Brandon Nelson 2 – 0 Mary Jacobson
Round 5 Feature Match - Gerry Thompson vs. Gaudenis Vidugiris
by Mike Rosenberg
Gerry Thompson and Gaudenis Vidugiris sit down and shuffle up for a StarCityGames grudge match. However, one player was about to see something that one would not call expected. Vidugiris is playing a traditional White-Blue Faeries deck, but Thompson is playing something a little bit more out of the ordinary.
While Vidugiris searches his bag for some dice, Thompson "yoinks" a couple from Gerard Fabiano and Brandon Nelson's feature match. Vidugiris won the role, and both players were off!
Vidugiris led with a first-turn Hallowed Fountain, while Thompson opened with Blackcleave Cliffs. Vidugiris played Steam Vents before passing, but had to grab Thompson's Boseiju, Who Shelters All to clarify its full effect. Thompson's land was sure to provide him with a path through Vidugiris and his countermagic.
Vidugiris thought for a moment before leading out with Geist of Saint Traft. Thompson, meanwhile, passed the turn, lying in wait.
When Vidugiris attacked with Geist of Saint Traft, Thompson fired away with Lightning Axe on the Angel token, discarding Griselbrand. Goryo's Vengeance brought the legendary demon back into play, which Vidugiris could not counter due to Thompson's Boseiju. The Griselbrand ate Vidugiri's Geist, and the 7 life gained transformed into 14 cards for Thompson.
One Wild Guess and a Goryo's Vengeance on the discarded Emrakul, the Aeons Torn later (during the small window in which Emrakul rests in the graveyard), and Vidugiris had a completely annihilated board and 5 life remaining.
Two turns later, and Thompson was binning a new Griselbrand with Wild Guess. Goryo's Vengeance #3 brought back the dead demon, but Path to Exile bought Vidugiris another turn. He used another Path to take out Thompson's Simian Spirit Guide. Thompson, who was out of threats, dug into his deck with some Wild Guessing and some Faithless Looting.
This found him another Griselbrand, which entered play thanks to Through the Breach. Vidugiris stayed alive with Spellstutter Sprite. Time of Need for Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, followed by another Through the Breach, sealed it up.
"I don't suppose there's any way I'm getting out of that one," Vidugiris said.
"Well, it took a few tries from me," Thompson responded.
Thompson 1 – Vidugiris 0
Vidugiris led the game off with a mulligan. He started with a Celestial Colonnade, while Thompson led with Faithless Looting, discarding Time of Need and Griselbrand. Relic of Progenitus from Vidugiris gave him a way to fight against Thompson's Reanimator strategy. Thompson played a Verdant Catacomb, and used it to find an untapped Blood Crypt in order to feed Vidugiris' Relic. He attempted Goryo's Vengeance to bring back Griselbrand at the end of Vidugiris' turn, but the Relic of Progenitus was popped, leaving the instant without a target.
Gaudenis looks for a path that his faeries can cut through.
Thompson drew and attempted Faithless Looting, but Spellstutter Sprite from Vidugiris put that to a halt. On the next turn, Thompson played Time of Need to find Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, but Vendilion Clique from Vidugiris robbed Thompson of his extra Goryo's Vengeance at the end of the turn. Thompson now had to contend with Vidugiris and his faeries.
A flashback Faithless Looting met Restoration Angel on Spellstutter Sprite. One turn later, and Thompson was picking up his cards.
Thompson 1 – Vidugiris 1
Thompson led off with Faithless Looting, putting Time of Need and Torpor Orb into the bin. Vidugiris led with an untapped Hallowed Fountain, while Thompson drew and...passed without a second land.
Gerry Thompson's deck can be explosive, but it still needs lands to run properly.
Vidugiris sat back on his fetch-lands, while Thompson struggled to find land #2. A second Faithless Looting met Spellstutter Sprite from Vidugiris, and when Thompson responded with a removed Simian Spirit Guide and Lightning Axe on the faerie (discarding a second Torpor Orb), Vidugiris fetched and Island and used Dispel to keep his faerie alive.
Thompson found a second land on the next turn, but then had his hand became exposed to Vidugiris thanks to Vendilion Clique. Through the Breach went to the bottom, and Vidugiris went into the red zone with his blue dudes. Restoration Angel on Spellstutter Sprite shut down Thompson's attempt to flashback with Faithless Looting, and a turn later, Cryptic Command sealed Thompson's fate.
"I assume that deck is not known...right?" Vidugiris asked.
"Well, other than two articles I wrote about it, I guess not!" Thompson replied.
Gaudenis Vidugiris defeats Gerry Thompson 2-1
Round 6 Feature Match - Josh Utter-Leyton vs. Owen Turtenwald
by Marc Calderaro
I doubt either of these American Magicians need much introduction, but I'll do it anyway. Owen Turtenwald, you know, Player of the Year, pretty much can't lose. Ever. Even when he's playing Zoo. Like right now. Especially when he's playing Zoo.
Josh Utter-Leyton, tied 4th with 57 Pro Points, 3 Pro Tour and 4 Grand Prix Top 8s to his name, barely loses either. I guess this is what makes these feature matches so fun. Immovable force, Unstoppable object, etc. etc.
Utter-Leyton has brought a little Four-Color Pod variant to the show. He and Luis Scott-Vargas are both slinging similar cardboard.Scott-Vargas explained to me how they just felt the mana-base for three-color Birthing Pod was just too good, so they had to add Blue. However, there are some great ways to win with a one-drop and a two-drop if you add things like Deceiver Exarch and Phantasmal Image into the mix. Also along for the ride is Glen Elendra Archmage.
The two shuffled up and readied for battle.
Owen started by pinging the crap out of himself. He used two fetchlands to find two shocklands, and used them to cast a Grim Lavamancer and a Kird Ape. Utter-Leyton helped him out by leading with a Grove of the Burnwillows to get Owen back up to 16.
Owen burned both of Utter-Leyton's mana-producers, Noble Hierarch and a Birds of Paradise, then continued to burn his next creature, a Phantasmal Image. Grim Lavamancer, though not great at attacking, helped Own keep his graveyard nice and tidy while pretty much devastating everything Utter-Leyton cast. It was 17-16 in Utter-Leyton's favor before Owen started to kick it into high gear. But when that gear shifted, Wrapter's life total quickly sank.
Owen's pressure of choice washate bears. A Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and a Gaddock Teeg joined the fight to the team, and Owen pushed on. Wrapter was trying to keep his head above water and cast the current star of the weekend, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. But the funny thing about the legendary 2/2 is he's more of an ensemble guy than a real star. He needs his support cast to help him out. When he's alone on an empty board, it's not that great – especially when there's an active Grim Lavamancer on the other side of the table.
Owen tapped the 1/1 Wizard and killed the Goblin, then swung in repeatedly until Utter-Leyton was good and dead.
Owen Turtenwald 1 – 0 Josh Utter-Leyton
Utter-Leyton kept a bit of a risky hand. It only had one land in it. And though it also had three one-mana accelerators, if they lived the average length of time they had lived last game, they wouldn't even lose summoning sickness before entering the graveyard.
Utter-Leyton led with a Noble Hierarch and two Birds of Paradise. Though neither of the Birds lived, thanks to a Grim Lavamancer and a Lightning Bolt, the Hierarch was able to help power out a Phantasmal Image before he bit the dust himself.
The first damage of the game came relatively late (not counting the requisite fetchlands, of course). By the time Owen got a creature through, he already had a Loam Lion, Tarmogoyf, Gaddock Teeg joining his Lavamancer. Utter-Leyton was busy restocking his mana producers so that he could do anything at all. The Phantasmal Image, an Eternal Witness, two Birds of Paradise (one was returned), and a second Noble Hierarch were all on the field. He had the combo pieces in his hands, he just needed the time to cast them. It was 13-11 in his favor.
The five mana needed to cast Kiki-Jiki seemed almost impossible. Just a turn later, Utter-Leyton was down to just a Birds of Paradise, a Deceiver Exarch and an Eternal Witness. A turn later, the Birds was gone. Another turn after that, the other two creatures were kaput as well. Grim Lavamancer, combined with the fetchlands and burn were creating a nightmare scenario for Utter-Leyton that he couldn't seem to wake up from.
Utter-Leyton had reached three lands, but had nothing to do with them. Ironically, Owen had more lands than he needed, because he'd already cast everything he needed to close out the match. Turtenwald turned his creatures sideways and went to town. The zoo full of bears destroyed the Wrapter.
Owen Turtenwald 2 - 0
As he packed up his cards, Utter-Leyton turned to Owen and said, "How good is that Lavamancer?"
Round 7 Feature Match - Jeffrey Blyden vs. David Ochoa
by Mike Rosenberg
Team ChannelFireball member and all-star American David Ochoa was playing the team's streamlined version of Naya-Pod. The deck includes blue and can go off with Birthing Pod with a one and two mana creature in play, which is impressive to say the least.
His opponent, Jeffrey Blyden, is an all-around gamer who has a particular love for the bling. His White-Black Tokens deck is completely foiled out, and if there's a rarer version of a typical card in his deck, you can bet that he has it, and is playing with it.
Ochoa led off with Birds of Paradise into Wall of Roots, but had no second land. Blyden led with a Windbrisk Heights (hiding a main-deck Timely Reinforcements away), and a second-turn Inquisition of Kozilek revealed Restoration Angel, Eternal Witness, Birthing Pod, and two Chord of Callings. Blyden discarded the Eternal Witness, and play shifted back to Ochoa.
Ochoa drew and played his Birthing Pod, going to 17. He passed, as Blyden played another Windbrisk Heights followed by a Tidehollow Sculler, which relieved Ochoa of his Restoration Angel.
Ochoa, still deprived of mana, used Birthing Pod to trade Birds of Paradise into another Wall of Roots. Spectral Procession and a third Windbrisk Heights gave Blyden more options once he could get a big attack through. An end-of-turn Chord of Calling got Ochoa another Wall of Roots, and despite being stuck on one land, he now had access to a lot of mana.
David Ochoa passes pack with mana to spare and plays to make.
However, he wasn't doing anything with said mana. Ochoa passed without any further action. Blyden attacked with his three Spirits, bringing Ochoa to 10. He used a Windbrisk Heights to play a hid away Lingering Souls. Ochoa ran out a Chord of Calling for four at the end of Blyden's turn, fetching out a Restoration Angel. Blyden used Windbrisk Heights to send the angel on a Path to Exile before Ochoa untapped, but the Restoration Angel reset the most used Wall of Roots for Ochoa before leaving.
Ochoa counted, and then decided to go for it. Birthing Pod traded in a Wall of Roots for Deceiver Exarch, which untapped the Pod. He played a Noble Hierarch, and podded away the Hierarch for Phantasmal Image. The Image copied Deceiver Exarch, untapping the Pod. Ochoa used the Pod again, trading Phantasmal Image for Restoration Angel. The Angel reset Deceiver Exarch, which reset the Pod, the Pod traded in Restoration Angel for Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. The legendary Goblin made a Deceiver Exarch copy, which untapped Kiki-Jiki, which let him make another Deceiver Exarch, and so on, and so on, and so on.
From 0 to a million in only one turn. Blyden wasn't quite ready for that one, as he dropped game one to a million attacking Deceiver Exarchs.
Blyden 0 – Ochoa 1
Blyden led with a Marsh Flats while Ochoa kicked off his first-turn with Noble Hierarch. A second-turn Torpor Orb from Blyden would shut down any immediate Birthing Pod shenanigans from Ochoa, who had a second-turn Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.
A third-turn Windbrisk Heights was all Blyden had, as he dropped to 16 from an exalted attack via Thalia. Ochoa passed after that without any new plays or lands, while Blyden fired off Spectral Procession. Ochoa had Phantasmal Image to copy his Noble Hierarch, which let Thalia attack for 4. Blyden chump blocked, and then cracked back with his two Spirits before leveling the playing field with Wrath of God.
A follow-up Dark Confidant on the next turn elicited "that's gross" from Ochoa, as Dark Confidant started to do his thing for Blyden. Grafdigger's Cage received a nod of acknowledgment from Ochoa, who rebuilt with a third land and Wall of Roots.
Jeff Blyden wipes away Ochoa's initial creatures and reloads with Dark Confidant.
Dark Confidant swung in, and Ochoa responded with Restoration Angel to block. Blyden shrugged and activated his Vault of the Archangel, content with trading his creature for Ochoa's. Ancient Grudge took care of Blyden's Grafdigger's Cage, and an end-of-turn Restoration Angel gave Ochoa some muscle, but not before Blyden bounced back with Timely Reinforcements.
Ochoa used the flashback on Ancient Grudge to dispose of Blyden's Torpor Orb before shipping action back to Blyden, who used an end-of-turn Raise the Alarm and attacked with his five soldiers. This freed up the Path to Exile under his Windbrisk Heights, which he played after Ochoa chose not to block on the Restoration Angel.
Ochoa responded with Chord of Calling for Spellskite, which ate the Path to Exile instead. Once Ochoa untapped, he cast Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.
Blyden looked at the creature and Ochoa's in-play Restoration Angel, nodded, and offered the handshake in the face of Ochoa's combo.
David Ochoa defeats Jeff Blyden 2-0!
Round 8 Feature Match - Brian DeMars vs. Max Tietze
by Marc Calderaro
This matchup is a fun one. Brian DeMars is a well-known Legacy staple, writing many columns for Star City Games and finishing Top 16 at Pro Tour Philadelphia in 2011. And Max Tietze, though he's finished in the Top 8 of three Grand Prixes, his first ever was back in Columbus in 2007. You know, right here. The format there was also Legacy. Modern, the new eternal format, offers a great opportunity to players who cut their teeth on Legacy to extend that deck-building and playing expertise into newer sets.
DeMars is playing with a Bant swath of Tarmogoyfs and Vendilion Cliques and Mana Leaks while dipping into Red for some choice removal, while Tietze is on the WBR Delver list with the featured hit Geist of Saint Traft and friends.
Brian DeMars started with a Noble Hierarch which was quickly dispatched by a Pillar of Flame. A Tarmogoyf soon followed and was already a 3/4. Max Tietze's Delver of Secrets was unable to grow so quickly, and it sat as a lonely 1/1. However, he grew in spirit when he was joined by a Geist of Saint Traft.
Brian Demars playing a Bant deck
A Path to Exile took out Tietze's Delver and then DeMars's Restoration Angel. Tietze sunk to 11 after Tarmogoyf ripped out another sizeable chunk of his flesh. It was 16-11. He retorted by casting a Snapcaster Mage and flashing back another Path to Exile removing the Tarmogoyf. The road was clear for the Geist of Saint Traft to get in for full damage each turn.
Though DeMars attempted to get back into the game after that, the Geist was too much to overcome.
It was a quick game one and we were shuffling up for game two.
Max Tietze 1 – 0 Brian DeMars
The players both kept their opening seven cards and DeMars started with another Noble Hierarch. Tietze showed his sideboarding skill with a Twisted Image, turning the creature into a 1/0 and relegating it to the dust bin. Again DeMars followed up with a 3/4 Tarmogoyf and hit Tietze down to 17 to even the scores (DeMars had some fetching of lands to do).
A Vendilion Clique brought a surprise to DeMars's face. When Tietze flashed his hand, it was five lands and a Snapcaster Mage. Looking at Tietze's graveyard, DeMars said, "You can keep those," and they proceeded to knock Tietze down to 10.
Tietze's early Delver of Secrets turned into a 3/2 and threatened to at least do some damage to DeMars, but it was unlikely he had too significant of a follow-up, based on, you know, the infinite land in his hand. Though DeMars knew thanks to the Delver flip that Tietze also had a brand new Lightning Bolt to play with, which gave DeMars a pause.
But that's all it was – a pause. After some thoughts, DeMars sent both his Clique and his Goyf in there. Tietze used both cards in his hand to try and save himself from damage. But his Snapcaster Mage hit a Mana Leak, and then his Lightning Bolt did as well. The score became 9-3 in DeMars's favor, and he knew that his opponent only had lands in his grip.
Tietze found a Geist of Saint Traft, but when DeMars flashed the Path to Exile for the Insectile Aberration, Tietze packed his cards in for the third game. A 2/2, with or without Hexproof, was not going to save the day.
Max Tietze 1 – 1 Brian DeMars
DeMars had to go down to five cards, and kept three lands, a Tarmogoyf and a Bant Charm. Tietze, who was on the play, started with a full seven cards and a Steppe Lynx + Arid Mesa. Yes, it was nice. What was also nice was DeMars's top-decked Noble Hierarch. As he had started with it the last two games, he figured he should let it become eaten by a Pillar of Flame again. It was.
When Tietze flipped his second-turn Delver of Secrets on turn three, then dropped another fetch land, this time a Scalding Tarn, DeMars threw his hands up in the air. This was a sad ending to a good match. DeMars listlessly flipped around cards in his hand as he sunk from 20 to 16 to 9. There wasn't much he could do.
The next-turn fetch land from Tietze just earned a chuckle. DeMars sacrificed his own land to find white mana for his Bant Charm, going down to 6 in the process. Before blockers, he tried to Charm the Insectile Aberration. If anything was going to happen for him, it needed to happen now.
Tietze asked, "You're at six?" When DeMars confirmed his life total, Tietze responded to the Charm by casting Path to Exile on his own Aberration. This net a land and made Steppe Lynx grow. He then used Path to Exile #2 to take out the Tarmogoyf. With one more fetch land to use and no blockers for his meek Steppe Lynx, it was all the damage Tietze needed.
Brian DeMars lost a tough third game in a good match.
Max Tietze 2 – 1 Brian DeMars
Saturday, 8:33 p.m. - Grand Prix Columbus Trial Grinder Winning Decklists
by Event Coverage Staff
Grand Prix Columbus Grinder Winning Decklist
Grand Prix Columbus Grinder Winning Decklist
Grand Prix Columbus Grinder Winning Decklist
Grand Prix Columbus Grinder Winning Decklist
Grand Prix Columbus Grinder Winning Decklist
Saturday, 8:52 p.m. - Quick Hits: What card or archetype has potential in Modern but is yet to have its day in the sun?
by Mark Calderaro
Josh Utter-Leyton – "Dark Confidant. It's good, but there's yet to be a deck to really use it to its full potential." Brian Kibler - "Can I say Doran even if I’m the only one playing the deck? Yes? Ok, then Doran, the Siege Tower."
Jackie Lee – "Tron. There are so many ways to play it, so easy to assemble and so much potential."
Christian Calcano - "Doran, the Siege Tower. The only reason it’s not good right now is because playing Red is better than playing Black. " Gerry Thompson – "Hold on, lemme take out my notebook. [Thompson reaches into his bag and pulls out his notebook filled with deck lists and archetype lists.] Well, Chalice of the Void is a pretty great card. The Hexproof Bant deck is really good, but with Pod as popular as it is right now, it's just a bit too slow. There's also a lot of potential for Birthing Pod in Affinity. Myr Enforcer lets you get up to the big guys quickly."
Orrin Beasley – "Rakdos Augermage. I'm playing one in my Jund deck because all of the other available three-drops are terrible. We tested Kitchen Finks, Burning-Tree Shaman and Boggart Ram-Gang and they didn't help at all. Rakdos Augermage at least feels relevant to many different match-ups. Also, Marc you are an extremely intelligent person, and quite the sharp dresser. And your Magic skills are so advanced, I would like you to take my deck and just finish up the tournament for me."
[Note: Orrin Beasley did not actually answer this question. Though we had talked about this card in his deck at some point, I really wanted to highlight its inclusion and he in no way suggested that Rakdos Augermage’s Modern potential is yet to come to fruition. Also, some of the dialogue here was made up.]
Saturday, 9:29 p.m. - Top Table Round-Up
by Mike Rosenberg
Round 8 Round-Up
You've seen how people in the feature match are doing. But what about the top tables in general? What are players piloting, and are any of the faces you've seen earlier sitting pretty as we near the end of Day 1 here in Grand Prix Columbus?
Let's take a look at what was seen in the top 20 tables of round 8:
|20|| B/R Burn vs. Pod|
|19||Living End vs. W/U/R Delver|
|18|| B/R Burn vs. U/B Control|
|17||Finished before I could see what's going on|
|16|| W/U Faeries vs. Splinter Twin|
|15||Jund vs. W/U/R Control|
|14|| B/R Burn vs. W/U/R Delver|
|13|| Storm vs. W/U/R Delver|
|12|| W/U/R Control vs. Jund|
|11|| W/U/R Delver vs. 4-Color Control (Max Tietze vs. Brian DeMars) |
|10||Affinity vs. Pod|
|9||Zoo vs. Storm (Zoo piloted by Owen Turtenwald)|
|8||W/U Faeries vs. U/R/G Control (Faeries piloted by Gaudenis Vidugiris)|
|7||Affinity vs. Fish|
|6||Affinity vs. W/U/B Control|
|5||Jund vs. Jund|
|4||Jund vs. Pod|
|3|| B/R Burn vs. Fish|
|2||Pod vs. U/R/G Control (Luis Scott-Vargas pitted against Gerard Fabiano)|
|1||Pod vs. Pod (with David Ochoa)|
Breaking this down further, this means the following decks are in the top 20 tables right now:
| W/U/R Delver||4|
Out of the 38 decks that I managed to record from the first 20 tables, there's your spread. It appears that the spread of decks for Day 2 should be pretty diverse, since there are more than 10 different decks on that short list.
But one quick question...where did UginTron disappear to? The mana-hungry big-spell deck was hyped earlier this morning, but it failed to hold up to its scare. We'll re-visit what happened with UginTron tomorrow.
Round 9 Feature Match - Orrin Beasley vs. Aaron Estrin
by Mike Rosenberg
I'm not going to lie. The siren's call for me when it came to picking this feature match was Orrin Beasley. The reason?
Rakdos Augermage. Terry Soh, it's been a long time since I've seen you at a feature match table. The tech-happy three mana creature has been a key component of Beasley's Jund deck. Would Aaron Estrin be able to effectively handle the Dissension rare?
Estrin led off with Noble Hierarch, while Beasley used Verdant Catacomb for a Blood Crypt (dropping to 18, thanks to Estrin's Grove of the Burnwillows) in order to Lightning Bolt the one mana creature. Estrin fired back with a tapped Stomping Ground and Birds of Paradise, while Beasley got his card draw on with Dark Confidant.
Estrin untapped and played Birthing Pod, and then passed action back to Beasley, who revealed Blood Crypt with Dark Confidant. Beasley's creature swung in for 2, and then played Liliana of the Veil. The black Planeswalker lost two loyalty counters to take out Estrin's sole creature. Estrin untapped and played Spellskite, and the pod upgraded the artifact creature into Cunning Sparkmage. The Sparkmage immediately shot down Dark Confidant.
Beasley untapped. An Inquisition of Kozilek revealed two more Birthing Pods in Estrin's hand. Liliana of the Vial forced one out of Estrin's hand, and Jund Charm cleared away the Cunning Sparkmage. Estrin untapped, shrugged, and played the Birthing Pod. Liliana went up another point in loyalty, and forced Estrin to discard. Beasley got on the offensive with Tarmogoyf and Treetrop Village. A turn later, and Estrin went to 9 due to Beasley's attacks.
Aaron Estrin attempts to Pod his way out of a hole.
Estrin drew into a Wall of Roots. The Pods upgraded the Wall of Roots into Kitchen Finks into Restoration Angel, and suddenly, Estrin was one turn away from winning and had Liliana protection with a fresh new Kitchen Finks, courtesy of Restoration Angel. Beasley drew a land, and used Liliana. An attack from Tarmogoyf earned no blocks from Estrain, who had a life cushion thanks to the Pod and Finks tricks.
Playing it safe, as Beasley didn't play his land, Estrin sent the Restoration Angel into Liliana, and then Pods with the Birds of Paradise that he drew got another Kitchen Finks. A turn later, and Estrin was willing to pull the trigger on Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker by upgrading the fresh Kitching Finks (which became Restoration Angel, which became the red legend).
When Estrin activated Kiki-Jiki, Beasley conceded.
Beasley 0 – Estrin 1
While Beasley was satisfied with his open seven, Estrin didn't take a liking to his first seven or his next six. Going down to five against Jund can be pretty rough. Estrin drew his five, shook his head and said, "Okay...".
Beasley saw what Estrin was reacting to with a first-turn Inquisition of Kozilek, which robbed Estrin of a wall of Roots and revealed two lands, Birthing Pod, and Cunning Sparkmage. Beasley fetched out a Swamp with Marsh Flats on turn two and...passed, with Grim Lavamancer, Overgrown Tomb, and Tarmogoyf in hand. Estrin played a new land and passed, as Beasley untapped and dropped Liliana of the Vial into play. Liliana went into discard duty, as Beasley ditched Bloodbraid Elf and Estrin discarded Birthing Pod.
Orrin Beasley comes out swinging with his Jund deck. Liliana, by the way, loves to put opponents in a no-win situation.
Estrin untapped and played Birds of Paradise, but Liliana's discarding and Lightning Bolt left Estrin with almost no gas, and Tarmogoyf have Beasley a win condition. Estrin untapped, played his land, and rand out Birthing Pod. Then he promptly lost it to Beasley's Maelstrom Pulse, as Tarmogoyf swung in.
Estrin top-decked Kitchen Finks, which gave him a little leverage, but Dark Confidant from Beasley buried Estrin, as he was unable to fight against a ticking Liliana and the two powerful creatures.
Beasley 1 – Estrin 1
Estrin led off with Birds of Paradise, while Beasley kicked things off by fetching up a Swamp and casting Inquisition of Kozilek. Staring back at him was a hand full of creatures: Birds of Paradise, Fulminator Mage, two Kitchen Finks, and Eternal Witness. "Wow..." Beasley said, as he tried to figure out what to rob Estrin of. He opted to get rid of Estrin's bird. Estrin drew, and reluctantly passed after thinking for a moment.
Beasley used another Verdant Catacomb, this time finding a Forest, and Tarmogoyf gave Beasley some muscle. Estrin found wall of Roots waiting on top of his deck, giving him much needed mana. Beasley played a Treetop Village and Grafdigger's Cage after Estrin chose not to block the attacking Goyf.
Estrin drew into a Razorforge Thicket, and he cast Eternal Witness and the Birds of Paradise that he brought back. Beasley woke up his Treetop Village and got aggressive, sending his two creatures in. Estrin untapped and cast Sigarda, Host of Herons, before attacking with Eternal Witness for 2.
Beasley drew and played Thoughtseize, revealing a monstrous hand of three Kitchen Finks and Fulminator Mage. He discard the Fulminator Mage, and then swung with his Goyf. When Estrin didn't block, Beasley used Ancient Grudge on his own Grafdigger's Cage to pump up the Tarmogoyf.
However, it was not going to help in the face of Sigarda, Host of Herons. The legendary angel put Beasley on a clock that was difficult to race, and the two copies of Kitchen Finks that Estrin played next turn, made racing an impossible task. When Beasley drew another land, he offered the handshake.
And sadly, no Rakdos Augermage during this match. Not even in his hand. Drat...
Aaron Estrin defeats Orrin Beasley 2-1!