Grand Prix Denver Day 2 Coverage

  • Print
  • by Nate Price
    Feature Match: Round 15
    Eduardo Dos Santos Vieira vs. Christian Calcano

  • by Nate Price
    Sunday, 5:00 p.m.: Road Warriors
    From Paris to Denver

  • by Bill Stark
    Sunday, 4:00 p.m.
    Quick Hits What Draft Archetype Do You Want to Draft?

  • by Bill Stark
    Sunday, 3:30 p.m.
    Invitational Qualifier Top 8

  • by Bill Stark
    Feature Match: Round 13
    Owen Turtenwald versus Eduardo Dos Santos Vieira

  • by Bill Stark
    Deck Tech:
    Draft Walkthrough with Owen Turtenwald

  • by Nate Price
    Feature Match: Round 12
    Josh Mitchell vs. Paul Cheon

  • by Nate Price
    Sunday, 1:15 p.m.
    Drafting with Paul Cheon

  • by Bill Stark
    Sunday, 12:00 p.m.
    AJ Has a Posse

  • by Nate Price
    Sunday, 11:30 a.m.
    Power by Numbers

  • by Bill Stark
    Feature Match: Round 10
    Conley Woods versus Brad Nelson

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Sunday, 10:00 a.m.
    Day 1 Undefeated Decks

  • Sunday, 10:00 a.m. – Day 1 Undefeated Decks

    by Event Coverage Staff
    Martin Juza
    Grand Prix Denver 2011 - Day 1 Undefeated Decks

    Main Deck

    40 cards


    17 lands

    Chrome Steed
    Dross Ripper
    Myr Battlesphere
    Palladium Myr
    Perilous Myr
    Phyrexian Rager
    Plague Myr
    Razorfield Rhino
    Vedalken Anatomist
    Wall of Tanglecord

    14 creatures

    Contagion Clasp
    Heavy Arbalest
    Piston Sledge
    Spread the Sickness
    Steel Sabotage
    Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
    Virulent Wound

    9 other spells

    Accorder Paladin
    Accorder's Shield
    Acid Web Spider
    Auriok Sunchaser
    Banishment Decree
    Bladed Pinions
    Blisterstick Shaman
    Concussive Bolt
    Copper Carapace
    Copper Myr
    Copperhorn Scout
    Copperline Gorge
    Fangren Marauder
    Flayer Husk
    Flesh Allergy
    Frantic Salvage
    Ghalma's Warden
    Glissa's Courier
    Hexplate Golem
    Kemba's Skyguard
    Kuldotha Flamefiend
    Kuldotha Rebirth
    Kuldotha Ringleader
    Lead the Stampede
    Loxodon Partisan
    Magnetic Mine
    Master's Call
    Melira's Keepers
    Mirran Spy
    Molder Beast
    Nihil Spellbomb
    Nim Deathmantle
    Ogre Resister
    Origin Spellbomb
    Oxidda Daredevil
    Plated Seastrider
    Razor Hippogriff
    Rot Wolf
    Saberclaw Golem
    Salvage Scout
    Scoria Elemental
    Signal Pest
    Sunspear Shikari
    Tangle Angler
    Tangle Hulk
    Turn the Tide
    Turn to Slag
    Vault Skyward
    Vector Asp
    Vedalken Certarch
    Viridian Corrupter
    Viridian Revel
    Vulshok Heartstoker
    Vulshok Replica

    61 sideboard cards

    Lokman Chen
    Grand Prix Denver 2011 - Day 1 Undefeated Decks

    Main Deck

    40 cards

    Inkmoth Nexus

    16 lands

    Copper Myr
    Corpse Cur
    Golem Artisan
    Ichorclaw Myr
    Iron Myr
    Oxidda Scrapmelter
    Perilous Myr
    Pierce Strider
    Rot Wolf
    Steel Hellkite
    Tangle Mantis

    14 creatures

    Arc Trail
    Decimator Web
    Flayer Husk
    Rally the Forces
    Strider Harness
    Turn to Slag
    Untamed Might
    Viridian Claw

    10 other spells

    Alpha Tyrranax
    Ardent Recruit
    Bladed Sentinel
    Bonds of Quicksilver
    Culling Dais
    Darkslick Drake
    Dross Ripper
    Echo Circlet
    Fuel for the Cause
    Glissa's Courier
    Halt Order
    Hexplate Golem
    Ichor Wellspring
    Kemba's Skyguard
    Koth's Courier
    Leaden Myr
    Loxodon Wayfarer
    Lumengrid Gargoyle
    Master's Call
    Metallic Mastery
    Molten Psyche
    Moriok Reaver
    Myr Reservoir
    Nested Ghoul
    Phyrexian Rager
    Phyrexian Revoker
    Plaguemaw Beast
    Plated Seastrider
    Psychosis Crawler
    Quilled Slagwurm
    Razorfield Rhino
    Revoke Existence
    Scrapdiver Serpent
    Screeching Silcaw
    Seize the Initiative
    Serum Raker
    Spin Engine
    Spiraling Duelist
    Steady Progress
    Steel Sabotage
    Stoic Rebuttal
    Tainted Strike
    Tangle Hulk
    Treasure Mage
    Trigon of Thought
    Turn Aside
    Turn the Tide
    Virulent Wound
    Wall of Tanglecord
    Whitesun's Passage
    Wing Puncture
    Withstand Death

    59 sideboard cards

    Gaudenis Vidugiris
    Grand Prix Denver 2011 - Day 1 Undefeated Decks

  • Feature Match – Round 10: Conley Woods versus Brad Nelson

    by Bill Stark
  • Teammates Conley Woods and Brad Nelson are two of the biggest stars in the Magic scene today. Conley is a hometown hero of sorts, living a short drive from the tournament site in Denver, Colorado. Brad is the reigning Player of the Year, the first American in a decade to hoist that title after his dramatic playoff against Guillaume Matignon during Magic Weekend Paris. The two chatted amiably before getting the game underway.

    With an opening of Swamp, Forest, Plague Stinger Conley loudly proclaimed that he was playing infect. His third turn was spent on a Cystbearer while his opponent used Gold Myr to accelerate out an Ogre Resister. The two began exchanging blows with their creatures, a shatter from Nelson taking out a Trigon of Corruption from his opponent.

    Plaguemaw Beast from the poison deck traded for the Ogre Resister, and Conley made good use out of his Plague Stinger, bashing turn after turn to slowly increment up his opponent's total of poison counters. Brad finally trumped by casting Indomitable Archangel, only to see his creature in turn trumped by a Phyrexian Juggernaut from Woods.

    Brad Nelson

    The pace of the game was lightning fast, each player whizzing through their turns in a flurry of cast spells and attacks. Kuldotha Flamefiend allowed Brad to turn an Ichor Wellspring into a 4/4 while crisping his opponent's Plague Stinger and Cystbearer. It was an utterly backbreaking turn in tempo, and with only the Juggernaut left as a creature and unable to block his opponent's attackers, Woods soon found himself packing it in for the second game.

    Brad Nelson 1, Conley Woods 0

    "Man, you must have got some goodies," Nelson smiled at his opponent and friend as they shuffled for the second game.

    "Yeah, I got some goodies..." Woods replied.

    The tempo of the second game was no slower than the first. Conley opened on Blight Mamba before adding a second a turn later. Across the table his opponent cast Ichor Wellspring, then Myr Galvanizer and Spin Engine. The 2/2 Galvanizer chumped a Blight Mamba twice, but couldn't trade for the 1/1 due to regeneration.

    A second Spin Engine for Brad traded for a Contagious Nim from his opponent, but a Trigon of Rage for the poison deck meant the Blight Mamba's were a serious force to be reckoned with. Because they regenerated, Brad had few means of dealing with them permanently and Woods was a high caliber player; there was no way he would risk losing his 1/1s to not having enough mana up to regenerate.

    With the writing clearly on the wall, it was Brad's turn to scoop as Conley evened the match.

    Brad Nelson 1, Conley Woods 1

    After a back-and-forth affair in the first two games, the third slowed in pace as Conley was forced to mulligan to six cards. He hesitated over keeping the second grip, but opted to. Brad wasted no time coming out with Perilous Myr and Spin Engine over his first two turns while Conley had no creatures, his first spell being a third turn Strata Scythe.

    A second Spin Engine for Brad put a huge clock on his opponent, and the pace of the game picked right back up. Was there a way for Conley to draw out of his early mulligan and get into the game? He cast Trigon of Corruption, and if the artifact survived it would help a great deal, handling the Spin Engines on back-to-back turns. Unfortunately for the Coloradan, his opponent was ready with a Shatter.

    Conley Woods

    Finally the creatures came for Woods, as he cast a Blight Mamba and Contagious Nim on 8 life. Brad replied with a Blade-Tribe Berserkers on metalcraft, then sent most of his team to the red zone. When the smoke cleared Conley was back to zero creatures while Brad was missing a Spin Engine and had a Blade-Tribe that was a 1/1 due to infect counters.

    Down but refusing to be out, Conley cast Tel-Jilad Defiance on his opponent's creature to cantrip. He passed without casting any other spells and sent Brad into the tank to try to figure out what plays Woods might have left to keep himself alive. The answer? Grasp of Darkness on Spin Engine, allowing Woods to survive for one more turn though he fell to 3 life to do it.

    A Cystbearer for the infect player bought him yet another opportunity to remain in the game, but the 2/3 was felled by Turn to Slag. That was enough to do it, and Conley revealed his grip of nothing and extended his hand in defeat.

    Brad Nelson 2, Conley Woods 1

  • Sunday, 11:30 a.m. – Power by Numbers

    by Nate Price
  • Scars of Mirrodin Sealed Deck provides players three boosters of both Scars of Mirrodin and Mirrodin Besieged to become the card pool from which they must build their decks. Considering the equal contributions both sets have towards the Sealed Deck pool, you would expect the compositions of the Sealed Decks that are built to be roughly the same. Since most players consider Mirrodin Besieged to be a slightly stronger set, I was curious as to whether or not the perceived difference in power level could be noticed when looking at some of the winning Sealed Decks from the weekend.

    After breaking down both the undefeated lists from Day One of the Grand Prix, as well as the winning Grand Prix Grinder lists, I noticed some very interesting things. First, the composition of the decks purely based on set was effectively equivalent. There were 179 cards from Scars of Mirrodin and 172 from Mirrodin Besieged. This showed that the number of quality cards available in the average (or I guess above average) Sealed Deck pool are roughly equivalent. If there was some sort of sense of increased power level in Mirrodin Besieged, it must be coming from something else.

    Digging a little deeper, I took a look at the spots where most of the perceived "power" of a Sealed Deck comes from—the bomb rares and the removal. In the winning decklists, there were 18 bombs from Scars of Mirrodin to 22 from Besieged. This was the first place that Besieged started to pull ahead. It wasn't a big lead, but considering it was slightly behind in terms of raw cards played, it was a start. The most played bomb was the Mirrodin Besieged card Phyrexian Rebirth. The absurdly powerful mass removal spell was the centerpiece of three of the Grinder lists. If anything, the difference in bombs can really be attributed to the rest of the cards available to fill the players' decks than anything. For every two Slagstorms, there were two Contagion Engines. For every Bonehoard, there was a Sword of Body and Mind. Maybe the removal would show something...

    For this section, I included any rares that also functioned as removal, such as Phyrexian Rebirth and Contagion Engine. I also included any creatures that double as removal, such as Perilous Myr and Leonin Relic-Warder. After breaking things down, Besieged came out on top once again by a margin of 40 to 33. Again, this is just a slight ten percent lead by the cards from Besieged, but it lends just a little more credence to player's observations. I think one major thing to note is that while the number of the cards may be similar, the power level is where the real difference lies. There are equivalent cards across both sets. In place of Galvanic Blast, Slice in Twain, and Revoke Existence, you have Burn the Impure, Viridian Corrupter, and Divine Offering. Black goes from having Grasp of Darkness and Skinrender to getting hard removal like Go for the Throat and Spread the Sickness. It's just a slight increase in power level, but a bunch of slight increases across the set lead to a larger noticeable difference in power.

    I think that one of the most important things to note about this relates to the impact that Mirrodin Besieged has had on the format. With the sliding of certain cards into new colors and functions, Besieged has opened up color combinations and strategies that would previously have been unavailable. Having the support for more color combinations makes it so that less cards sit unused in sideboards because they couldn't be fit into a deck. This has led to generally richer decks, featuring more removal and bombs, and it happens to be thanks to Mirrodin Besieged. Perhaps this opening up of the format has led people to the conclusion that it's a stronger set. Regardless of players' observations, the numbers for the decks show that things are fairly equivalent, which goes to show how well designed and put together this block is.

  • Sunday, 12:00 p.m. – AJ Has a Posse

    by Bill Stark
  • One of the stories we wanted to get to Saturday but ran out of time for was the tale of AJ Sacher. You might know AJ from his Pro Tour and Grand Prix finishes or his columns for a number of different websites online. For Grand Prix Denver AJ brought something special to the event: a posse.

    A posse? A crowd of people wearing "Team AJ" shirts were following the young pro everywhere he went at the venue, and I had to find out what was going on. I cornered three of the four team members to find out what was up. It turns out the whole thing was the brainchild of one Sam Sacher, AJ's older sister (that's her on the far right in the picture). A big supporter of AJ's professional gaming career, Sam happens to live just up the road in Boulder, CO and wanted to take the opportunity to get out and support her little bro'.

    "We used to play Magic together," she explained when I asked how AJ got started gaming. "AJ always beat me though, so I quit playing!"

    With Sam were her friends and coworkers from the radio station she manages: Sally Boyle and Michael Odbert. For Sally and Michael, the world of competitive Magic was entirely new. "I didn't know the Magic scene at all, so I came to learn about it," explained Sally. "It's really fun!" Michael expressed a similar sentiment, saying, "This is completely new to me, but I think it's the coolest thing ever. I wish I was a part of this culture!"

    So what does being a member of a posse actually include at the Grand Prix level? "They keep bringing me snacks and water," AJ pointed out. Anyone who has experienced a two-day Magic event like a Grand Prix knows hydration and food can be huge factors in one's mental game, and ultimately one's final finish. In addition to the food, the group could also be found marching behind Sacher like a scene straight out of West Side Story (complete with finger snaps at one point during the day) in an effort to intimidate potential opposition, and of course cheering him on from the peanut gallery during feature matches.

    So does having a posse make a difference? We'll see after the trophy is hoisted on Sunday, but for AJ Sacher it seemed having one certainly didn't damper his spirit for playing.

  • Sunday, 1:15 p.m. – Drafting with Paul Cheon

    by Nate Price
  • "So many pictures," Cheon joked as I stood across from him trying to get a good shot. An upper echelon player, who lived in Denver for the better part of his Pro Magic career, he was a perfect face for us to follow over the course of the event. Add in the fact that he's been away from the game for a couple of years now and still managed to go undefeated on Day One, and you've got yourself someone worth keeping a close eye on.

    Yes, this is ANOTHER photo of Paul Cheon.

    "My first draft with this format was last night," Cheon laughed when I asked him how much experience he had. "LSV helped me draft the deck last night, and the most important lesson I learned was to not draft that deck ever again. It was basically mono-green with a bunch of fat monsters. I couldn't win a game. He said he wanted to try it because infect is weaker now, so the non-infect green cards should be around to draft. It didn't work out too well for us."

    Taking the wise words of Luis Scott-Vargas to mind, Cheon set about drafting the first of his decks for Sunday. His opening pack offered him little in the way of options. Besides a Mortarpod and a Skinwing, the pack was a nightmare. Twelve cards of very little value, except for maybe a Phyrexian Rager, which made Cheon's choice an easy one. He ended up deciding on the Mortarpod over the Skinwing. Killing one-toughness creatures is really good in this format. In addition, Cheon revealed after the draft that he wanted to try to go infect, despite LSV's warnings. His logic was actually quite sound.

    "I figured I was at a pretty decent pod. I recognized all but two of the players in my draft. Since most of the good players don't like infect nearly as much anymore, I figured this might be a good chance to take advantage of that and draft it."

    He started this strategy off with a Blightwidow, one of the best infect cards in the format. In addition to being larger than your average bear, the spider deals with the aggressive white fliers deck, which traditionally puts up a pretty good race against the infect decks. His next pick gave him a Plaguemaw Beast out of an otherwise uninteresting pack. When his fourth pack held no infect creatures, he was forced to pick a Phyrexian Rager despite passing two others already. The next pack put him to the test.

    The pack held no infect creatures and very little of value in green or black. The best card in the pack by far was a Divine Offering. This was the first white card he'd even seen, let alone passed. For a card of this caliber to still be in the pack this late, it was a strong signal that white was open. Taking a chance that his read was right, Cheon snapped up the powerful instant.

    The rest of Mirrodin Besieged was fairly unkind to him. The only cards he picked up of note were a Priests of Norn and an eighth pick Septic Rats. The late rats gave him some pause, as he wasn't sure whether or not it was a signal that infect was actually open, and the packs just didn't really have the cards for it. He took it just in case that proved correct as the second pack got started.

    His first pack of Scars of Mirrodin definitely pointed him solidly in a direction. In addition to a Glimmerpoint Stag and Cystbearer, Cheon opened the very powerful Elspeth Tirel.

    "Take whatever bombs you see, LSV said. So I did."

    At that point, he switched gears. He abandoned the infect strategy and started running in a different direction. His next picks gave him a Glint Hawk Idol, a couple of Copper Myrs, and an Origin Spellbomb. He'd gone from infect to metalcraft in the blink of an eye. The final pack of the draft gave him some more all-stars for his newly-minted metalcraft deck. He opened the incredibly powerful True Conviction, giving him one more sign that moving into white in the first pack really was a Divine Offering. His next pack gave him a tough decision. Considering his new metalcraft status, he had to choose between the powerful removal of Slice in Twain or the big and burly Ezuri's Brigade. While Slice in Twain is obviously an incredible removal spell, an 8/8 trampler is nothing to pass over idly. He thought for a few minutes with the Brigade on top before settling for the removal spell.

    Prime birding real estate.

    "That was actually a tough one. I really wanted the Brigade, but I just had no removal, so I ended up having to take Slice in Twain. Besides, I thought there might be a chance that it would come back since it's not anything special if you aren't metalcraft."

    The next two packs gave him some interesting things to think about as well. He passed a Shatter pick three for a Gold Myr, perfect in his GW metalcraft deck as both an enabler and some acceleration for his bombs. When he was faced with a second Shatter in the next pack, he paused for a minute and took it.

    "I took it first because I'm metalcraft and the only other option was another mana Myr. I don't really want to play four of those. Also, I'd passed a couple of Iron Myr at that point, and I figured I might get lucky and have one of those come back."

    The rest of the pack was pure metalcraft treasure. He picked up a Glint Hawk, Snapsail Glider, Rusted Relic, and Chrome Steed. Despite starting off shakily, his deck seemed to be coming together quite well.

    Laying his cards out on the table after drafting, his deck really came into focus.

    "I really want about fourteen artifacts to be metalcraft. I have...thirteen, and that's with the Dross Ripper in as a Hill Giant and this Neurok Replica. I'm going to be cutting it close. Missing those early picks in the first pack really hurt me. I'm going to be playing a couple of cards that I really don't want to be. I do have Elspeth and True Conviction, though, so there are going to be games that I just win."

    As he pored over his deck, he kept glancing back at the Shatter in his sideboard.

    "I really wouldn't mind playing this. I don't have a whole lot of removal, so having a little more would really help. But...the mana is going to be rough. I want like nine or ten white sources for this True Conviction. I do have a Gold Myr, I guess. I have to watch out for Slice in Twain, too. These two Copper Myr should help there. I guess I can add a couple of Mountains and fit it in."

    This is what his second deck ever in this format looks like. Not too bad.

    Ultimately, his deck ended up just a couple cards shy of where he would have liked to end, mostly thanks to his early attempt at infect. Fortunately, he'd come around to white and metalcraft at just the right times to salvage his draft and give him a deck that has a chance to finish 2-1 or so.

    "Yeah, I think I can win a match with this."

    He did better than that. After the first pod was complete, Cheon emerged with a 2-0-1 record.

    "I'd say that I'm pretty pleased with this result for this deck," he said with a generous amount of implied understatement.

  • Feature Match – Round 12: Josh Mitchell vs. Paul Cheon

    by Nate Price
  • "You did say Josh Mitchell, right," he asked as he sat down to the Feature Match area. The Las Crusas, New Mexico native and former New Mexico State champion was fairly new to the spotlight. He had sat at table one for most of the day yesterday, having feature matches called all around him. Today, it was his turn.

    "I watched your last game, so I know what you have," Mitchell told Cheon as he sat down to the table.

    Mitchell was watching you Cheon. Closely.

    "You probably saw me throw the game away, then," Cheon sighed.

    "Nah, I had to go to the restroom before that," Mitchell said with a laugh.

    Cheon won the die roll and chose to draw first. Mitchell made a Sylvok Lifestaff on his first turn, but didn't have a creature on the following turn to give it to. On the other side, Cheon had a Copper Myr. It lasted all of one turn, as Mitchell blew it away with a Red Sun's Zenith.

    "Yesterday, I drew it four times against Conley," Mitchell admitted.

    "So that's the plan? I don't like it," Cheon deadpanned.

    Red Sun's Zenith, eh? I don't like it.

    Cheon simply rebuilt a second Copper Myr, a Blightwidow, and a Bladed Sentinel over the next couple of turns. Mitchell simply added a second Lifestaff and an Infiltration Lens to his side.

    "Two Lifestaffs? I do not want to kill whatever creature those end up on," Cheon mused out loud.

    Mitchell finally made a Kuldotha Ringleader to put his equipment on. Cheon played a Viridian Revel and passed the turn to the impending attack. After untapping, Mitchell put all his pants on the Ringleader and attacked in. Before blockers, Cheon Shattered the Lens, drawing a card from the Revels, and stuck his two 2/4s in front of the Giant Berserker. After Mithcell gained his six life from the Lifestaffs, Cheon remarked, "There goes all my damage."

    Mitchell is well equipped to handle this situation.

    Cheon kept adding to his team. A Rusted Relic and Dross Ripper joined his side over a couple of turns, joined by a Mortarpod. Mitchell Crushed the Mortarpod and Turned the Relic to Slag. He also managed to find a Leonin Relic-Warder to get rid of the Bladed Sentinel and pick up all of his equipment. The players traded blows over the next couple of turns, with Cheon hitting alternately with his Dross Ripper and a flying Snapsail Glider. Mitchell made a Myrsmith to block off the ground. Cheon found a Divine Offering to get rid of one of the Lifestaffs, making the lifegain keeping Mitchell alive a bit more manageable.

    Mitchell traded his Myrsmith for Cheon's Dross Ripper, ready to replace it with a more powerful and reliable Myr Turbine. Despite Mitchell's lifegain and increasing army of creatures, Cheon kept his Snapsail Glider chipping away at Mitchell's life. He dropped to six with Cheon still at twelve. Then he fell to four. Then two. Cheon, meanwhile, dropped to ten from two consecutive attacks. Holding his breath, Cheon tapped his Snapsail Glider for the final attack.

    "Fireball," he asked?

    "Good game," Mitchell said as he packed up his cards. He'd have to wait until next game to draw his Red Sun's Zenith a second time.

    Josh Mitchell 0 – Paul Cheon 1

    "I saved all my topdecking for this game. And the next one," Josh said with a huge grin on his face.

    Both players had an early artifact parade. Cheon started with an Origin Spellbomb and a Copper Myr, which Mitchell matched with an Infiltration Lens and an Iron Myr. Another mana Myr joined Cheon's team the turn later.

    "Let's go! Army of 1/1s!"

    After playing a Dross Ripper, Cheon sent his Origin Spellbomb token into Mitchell. Having passed his turn with three mana still up, Mitchell had a Master's Call to trade for the token. On his turn, Mitchell took advantage of his metalcraft to play and send a Blade-Tribe Berserkers at Cheon. Before blocking, Cheon used Divine Offering to kill the Lens the Berserkers were holding and traded them with his Ripper.

    2-0-1 with a deck you thought you'd barely get a match with? I'd smile, too!

    Once again, Mitchell passed the turn without a play. Cheon kept pressing. He added a Glint Hawk Idol to his side, sending it in alongside his mana Myrs to attack. Mitchell chose to ue Turn to Slag to kill Cheon's Copper Myr, leaving him with one green source. Cheon just played a second Forest and added a Carapace Forger to his team. A Banishment Decree sent the Iron Myr to the top of Mitchell's deck. After replaying it and blocking it, Mitchell was one turn away from dying he drew his card and tapped all of his lands. Red Sun's Zenith hit Cheon for nine. He was at eleven. Mitchell extended his hand and congratulated Cheon on his win.

    Josh Mitchell 0 – Paul Cheon 2


  • Deck Tech – Draft Walkthrough with Owen Turtenwald

    by Bill Stark
  • Owen Turtenwald is on a bit of a tear in the world of Scars of Mirrodin Limited. Since the introduction of Mirrodin Besieged to the format, the ChannelFireball star has yet to lose a professional draft match. He was 6-0 through the weekend at Pro Tour Paris, and so far this weekend he has yet to lose on Day 2. That put him in good company for the last draft of the Swiss here in Denver, sitting alongside Paul Cheon while vying for a spot in the Top 8 of the tournament. I tucked in behind Owen to see what strategy he would be putting together as he aimed for the single elimination rounds.

    The Mirrodin Besieged pack offered up some goodies for Owen, giving him a choice between Burn the Impure, Serum Raker, Rot Wolf, and Phyrexian Rager. The Rot Wolf would allow him to set off on infect early, while Serum Raker would put him into blue with a strong flyer. After flipping through the cards for almost all of the time allotted, it was the burn spell that made the cut, and for good reason. Burn the Impure has been credited by many as being one of the top red commons to come from the new set.

    The second pick was a bit weaker and Turtenwald narrowed the options down to Treasure Mage and Flesh-Eater Imp rather quickly. Despite passing the infect card in the first pack, he opted to take the Imp in the second. He didn't get any poison support for his next pick, however, and took Vedalken Anatomist instead; if he did go blue, he might regret having passed on the Treasure Mage.

    No sooner had that thought crossed his mind, however, than he opened the next set of picks to find a second copy of the 2/2 staring back at him! Not exactly a bomb, but still a solid creature and he took that Treasure Mage over Phyrexian Rager. He went back into black with a Nested Ghoul over Virulent Wound a pick later, but got a third shot at Treasure Mage next. He took it, but hesitated glancing at a Fangren Marauder. The 5/5 is a bomby common in the new format, and many a pro has spoken fondly of the "Dinosaurs" archetype which has made good use of it. Rounding out the first pack Owen picked up some Hexplate Golems to go with his Treasure Mages, a Mirran Spy, and a Silverskin Armor.

    With a short period of time to review his picks, Owen flipped through the cards, organizing them into the outline of a deck. He seemed to have a solid blue core, but had both black and red as possible second colors. His Burn the Impure was attractive as a removal spell, but Flesh-Eater Imp and Nested Ghoul gave him the out of going a different path. Or could he possibly hybridize across three colors and play some sort of blue-black-red control? There were two packs left to finalize the decision.

    Owen Turtenwald

    The first pack of Scars of Mirrodin offered up a murder's row of top picks, featuring nearly every top common removal spell. Owen flipped through Galvanic Blast, Grasp of Darkness, and Arrest in addition to Contagion Clasp and Golem Artisan from the uncommon slot. Such a strong pack meant using the maximum amount of time to make a pick, but ultimately he settled on Contagion Clasp. The artifact was a shrewd choice; not only is it powerful, but taking the colorless card allowed him to stay flexible as to his color choices.

    The second set of Scars picks were as weak as the first set were strong; Owen settled on Leaden Myr over a Wall of Tanglecord. Myr are good and often under valued, but they are not generally the dreams of second picks. A Galvanic Blast third tipped the scales further in favor of red, and a Darkslick Drake fourth helped cement blue as the main color. Working on his creature base Owen then took Saberclaw Golem over Disperse, and a Soliton in an otherwise weak pack.

    A late Plague Stinger drew Owen's gaze, and he took it as a possible defensive draft. Then again, he did have that minor core of black cards; could he afford to switch gears to a poison plan if it presented itself? The answer seemed to be no as Turtenwald passed on Cystbearer one pick later in favor of Gold Myr, but it was impossible to entirely count out the fact he might run the infect plan with just black creatures.

    As the tournament reviewed its picks from the first two packs, Owen seemed to be headed towards blue with red as opposed to blue with black. His Galvanic Blast to go with Burn the Impure was a strong sign, and his black cards individually were simply not as powerful. However, even after two packs it still was impossible to entirely discount the notion that Owen might switch if the bombs came his way in the final pack or that he would hybridize his picks from all three colors and play blue, black, and red.

    With just 14 cards left to go, Owen again found himself with a hot opening pack. Staring back at him? Contagion Clasp, Skinrender, Spikeshot Elder, and Darksteel Axe. If Owen planned on going black, it was hard to argue there were many cards better than Skinrender, and sure enough the 3/3 hit the stack for inclusion into his deck. The real question now was whether he was audibling to blue/black, or whether he would opt to keep his red?

    A weak second pack yielded up only a Palladium Myr, though the 2/2 would certainly be useful in helping him to accelerate out Hexplate Golems. He took Bleak Coven Vampires next over Vulshok Replica, adding more fuel to the black fire, and then picked up a second Palladium Myr over a Darkslick Drake. His fifth pick set him back on red as he nabbed Embersmith, then took Myr Galvanizer to pump up his mana accelerants.

    The packs tapered off in pick quality significantly after that, with a Disperse, Silver Myr, and Soliton being the notable late picks that came back around to Owen. So what build did he decide to go with? Have a look:

    Owen Turtenwald
    Grand Prix-Denver 2011 Draft

    He did indeed include the black for Nested Ghoul, Flesh-Eater Imp, and Skinrender while also playing blue and red. Nihil Spellbomb helps him get the artifacts he needs to hit metalcraft or, when not needed, can simply cantrip into a different card. After he finished building, I asked him for his thoughts on the deck. He replied, "It's okay, but not great. It has some good cards, but it's not spectacular." The true question was whether it would be good enough to allow him to remain unblemished in the Scars of Mirrodin/Mirrodin Besieged Draft format…

  • Feature Match – Round 13: Owen Turtenwald versus Eduardo Dos Santos Vieira

    by Bill Stark
  • If you're looking for someone who knows a thing or two about Scars of Mirrodin draft, look no further than Owen Turtenwald. The ChannelFireball team member has yet to lose a professional match in the format after going 6-0 at Pro Tour Paris before 3-0ing his first pod in Denver. His opponent is Brazilian star Eduardo Dos Santos Vieira, who at one point had the lead for the Magic Online Player of the Year race.

    After winning the die roll, Eduardo kicked things off with Spin Engine. His 3/1 was quickly felled by Galvanic Blast, however, while Owen accelerated into Nested Ghoul via Leaden Myr. Bellowing Tanglewurm gave Santos Vieira a powerful board threat, and he began using it to crash in for 4 each turn. Afraid of falling behind, his opponent cast Razorfield Rhino, but without metalcraft the 4/4 was soon outclassed by Quilled Slagwurm from the Brazilian side of the battlefield.

    Owen Turtenwald

    The 8/8 was quite formidable, particularly considering the fact it had intimidate thanks to the Bellowing Tanglewurm, but a Skinrender from Owen cut it down to size. The 3/3 pseudo-Flametongue forced the two into a stalemate. Owen tried to break it with Contagion Clasp, putting a -1/-1 counter on his opponent's Tanglewurm and threatening to proliferate both green fatties into oblivion.

    Sure enough, the little artifact that could slowly ground down Eduardo's team, dispatching the Tanglewurm before making the Slagwurm too small to do anything except chump block Razorfield Rhino. That gave Turtenwald initiative, and he began going on the offensive. His Rhino and Nested Ghoul began getting in successfully while a Wall of Tanglecord from his opponent locked down a Darkslick Drake. When Eduardo drew Molder Beast as a blocker, Owen was ready with Burn the Impure.

    Down but not out, Santos Vieira finally came up with a trump: Slagstorm. He used it combined with some Perilous Myr triggers to wipe the field of creatures save for his Wall of Tanglecord. His American counterpart had managed to knock him to 6 life, but all of a sudden he had managed to stabilize. The two settled back into a game of drawing and passing, both sitting on boards full of mana. A Flesh-Eater Imp allowed Turtenwald to switch gears to the poison plan and Eduardo once again needed to come up with a path to victory.

    Burn the Impure for the Brazilian wasn't a win condition, but it did put an end to the Imp, allowing him to stay alive longer. His opponent just fired back with a Hexplate Golem, then a Treasure Mage to hunt up a second copy of the 5/7. For a moment the marathon game looked like it might come down to who had drawn the most cards and would be decked first, but eventually Owen's tag team of Hexplate Golems wore down his opponent's blockers and were able to go lethal.

    Owen Turtenwald 1, Eduardo Dos Santos Vieira 0

    After the marathon first game, Eduardo opted to force his opponent to play first in the second. The two had precious little action early, working on building up mana with Horizon Spellbombs for team Brazil and Gold Myr for team America. Hexplate Golem from Turtenwald was the first real threat of the game, but it was killed instantly with Slice in Twain.

    Eduardo Dos Santos Vieira

    A turn later a Treasure Mage hunted up a second copy of the 5/7 while Santos Vieira had Alpha Tyrannax for his own fatty. The 6/5 began dominating the red zone after its owner used Arc Trail, Burn the Impure, and Galvanic Blast to take out the Hexplate, but the Tyrannax was locked down by Bonds of Quicksilver not long after attacking.

    Switching gears from fatties to weenies, Owen began attacking with Treasure Mage and Palladium Myr, but after a single swing had them wiped out by his opponent's Slagstorm. That let Santos Vieira reload with Tangle Mantis and Perilous Myr, but they were handled in turn by Contagion Clasp and Skinrender. The 3/3 began putting the hurt on Eduardo who started to mana flood and after three land draws in a row while his opponent hit spell, spell, the Brazilian packed it in to the American.

    Owen Turtenwald 2, Eduardo Dos Santos Vieira 0

  • Sunday, 3:30 p.m. – Invitational Qualifier Top 8

    by Bill Stark
  • Looking for some guidance in the world of Standard? Check out these Top 8 decklists from the Invitational Qualifier at Grand Prix Denver this weekend!

    Chris Otwell
    Grand Prix Denver 2011 - Invitational Qualifier

    Brian Grewe
    Grand Prix Denver 2011 - Invitational Qualifier

    Brook Gardner-Durbin
    Grand Prix Denver 2011 - Invitational Qualifier

    Benjamin Morris
    Grand Prix Denver 2011 - Invitational Qualifier

    Erik Peters
    Grand Prix Denver 2011 - Invitational Qualifier

    Gregory Gale
    Grand Prix Denver 2011 - Invitational Qualifier

    Nicholas Jensen
    Grand Prix Denver 2011 - Invitational Qualifier

    Marcus Viney
    Grand Prix Denver 2011 - Invitational Qualifier

  • Sunday, 4:00 p.m. – Quick Hits What Draft Archetype Do You Want to Draft?

    by Bill Stark
  • Matt Nass: I go with bomb rares, even if it's pack 2. In general the bombs are more relevant than the mediocre cards in this format, so I try to stay flexible.

    Pat Chapin: I want to draft Ichor Wellspring the deck. I like to combine any two colors between blue, red, and white. I don't win much with black-green compared to those colors, plus I know the archetype well.

    Luis Scott-Vargas: Dinosaurs. I feel it's consistent and flexible. You get to play the best cards you open and blank some of their cheaper removal. Plus you get to hum the Jurassic Park theme song whenever you cast a creature!

    Brad Nelson: I want to be red because the early cards that put you in red are awesome. I don't like going infect, but I will. I prefer red-green.

    Conley Woods: Grixis Control or black-white control. I like all the removal, and counterspells are pretty sweet. It's pretty good against Infect, and you have a lot of removal for Dinosaurs.

    Matt Sperling: Dinosaurs, green paired with any other color. I think they have the most consistency. The other archetypes I feel have to have the packs kind of break their way.


  • Sunday, 5:00 p.m.: Road Warriors – From Paris to Denver

    by Nate Price
  • These past two weeks have been an extremely long ride for a handful of Magic players. First, you've got Magic Weekend Paris, which stretched from Thursday to Sunday, encompassing a Grand Prix, Pro Tour, and the Player of the Year playoff. It was as long as Worlds, and just as grueling for the players. Follow that up with Grand Prix Denver this weekend, and it was possible that some players were playing Magic seven out of the last eleven days!

    I caught up with a few of the road warriors that made the trek out here to Denver just a few short days after having left Europe. Some, like Brad Nelson and Ben Stark, didn't even bother to go home after the event. Both players came straight to Denver, Stark choosing to crash with Conley Woods for a bit while Nelson visited an uncle from the area. Both players had a great time in Paris, and enjoy the opportunity to travel for Magic.

    Player of the Year Brad Nelson

    "This has been great. I mean, Paris was pretty tough, and I made some big mistakes on Day two, but I still had fun," Nelson told me. When I asked him how it felt to be a newly crowned Player of the Year, he told me, "It's all starting to finally sink in now. People are coming up to me and congratulating me. It's an amazing experience."

    Pro Tour Paris Champion Ben Stark

    Stark had quite the weekend himself. "I didn't really get out to enjoy the city, but I won the Pro Tour. How much more fun can you have? Maybe next time I'll take my girlfriend with me and check more things out." Despite the grueling schedule that Stark had to adhere to along the way to winning Pro Tour Paris, he was still willing to come right back out the next week and battle for more points. In fact, he really enjoyed the schedule. "I wish every Pro Tour but Worlds was just like that. Four days, a Pro Tour and a Grand Prix at the same time… it was nice. It's always terrible when you don't Day Two or Top 8 a Pro Tour. This time around, if that happened, you could just sign up and play in the GP."

    Pro Tour Paris Finalist and Ironman Paul Rietzl

    Or as his finals opponent Paul Rietzl did, play in both at the same time. Rietzl had a significantly different week from Stark and Nelson. "Yeah, I went right back home and worked a full week," he told me when I asked if he had gotten to go home after Paris. "I did learn something while I was there, though. Don't draft white. I never saw a good white deck in the entire time I was there. I avoid it like the plague. We were talking earlier and we talked about taking Spread the Sickness first over Mirran Crusader and I think it's right and not close." Considering his performances in Paris and here, I'm not going to argue with him.

    'The Man So Famous He Goes By Three Letters' Luis Scott-Vargas and the Handsomest Man on the Pro Tour Brian Kibler

    I also took a few minutes to ask Luis Scott-Vargas and Brian Kibler about their trips. "I got to go home for a couple of days between events," Scott-Vargas told me. "I only live a two hour flight away from Denver, so it was easy to relax a little before showing up." Kibler was less fortunate. "I was in town for exactly one night," he told me.

    When I asked LSV if he'd learned anything from his trip, he told me that it was more about getting to know what others thought than anything else. "I mean, we had drafted so much before the event that we really knew what we were doing. We knew all the pick orders. But we didn't know how other people valued cards. It was nice to test that out in the wild. We found out that there were cards that were really high picks in our drafts, but we could pick up pretty late when we drafted with other people."

    Whether they got to stay at home for a week, or came straight back out here the next day, it was clear that there are quite a few road warriors willing to make the back-to-back trip, even on the heels of an event as thick as Magic Weekend Paris. These guys came for the love of the game, and to smash some faces. As Paul Rietzl put it, they came to game.


  • Feature Match: Round 15 – Eduardo Dos Santos Vieira vs. Christian Calcano

    by Nate Price
  • Some interesting developments shook up the top pod as the pairings for the final round came out. Players with 36 points and high enough tiebreakers to draw into Top 8 got paired down, forcing them to play for their slot in the elimination rounds. One of those players was Christian Calcano, who has been on a tear of good finishes recently. Standing between him and a Top 8 berth was Eduardo Dos Santos Vieira. Making the long trip from Brazil, Vieira had hovered near the top tables all day by virtue of an undefeated run on Day One of the Grand Prix.

    Game 1

    He started things off a tad ominously, mulliganing down to five. Calcano's draw was quite aggressive, punishing Vieira with an early army made up of Memnite, Glint Hawk Idol, and a Myr token from an Origin Spellbomb. The Glint Hawk he added to his team on the fourth turn gave him four creatures to Vieira's zero. Vieira finally made a Bellowing Tanglewurm on his fifth turn, but he was already down to ten, and Calcano had a pair of 2/2 fliers. A second Glint Hawk Idol hit the board, posing a potentially lethal swing next turn. Vieira drew his card and packed them in. Calcano's incredibly aggressive draw punished Vieira's weak post-mulligan hand mercilessly.

    Christian CalCAWno

    Eduardo Dos Santos Vieira 0 – Christian Calcano 1

    Game 2

    Vieira looked a little disgusted after drawing his initial hand for game two. Fortunately, Calcano was kind enough to throw his hand back as well, allowing them both to start on even footing. On Vieira's third turn, he flipped the top of his deck onto the table with a vengeance, finding the third land he needed to play a Spin Engine. Calcano thought for a minute before clearing the Engine away with a Divine Offering. Calcano's draw was considerably slower than his last, offering just a Copper Carapace until he made a Moriok Replica on turn five.

    Vieira was not much better, having to spend his turns building his mana with a Horizon Spellbomb and waiting for things to do. Eventually, he found the beginning of his dinosaurs. Tangle Mantis, Molder Beast, and Alpha Tyrranax came down in succession, providing a scary amount of fat for the Brazilian. Calcano had an Arrest for the Tyrranax and an Accorder's Shield for his blocker, but Vieira still had an abundance of power and toughness on his side. Calcano played a Glimmerpoint Stag, Glint Hawk, and Memnite on his side, but Vieira dealt with them with Arc Trail and Burn the Impure before attacking in with his Molder Beast.

    Calcano found a little something to stem the bleeding with a Sunspear Shikari. Equipped with the Accorder's Shield, it became a lifelinking blocker, but only for one turn, as it immediately jumped in front of the Molder Beast alongside the Moriok Replica. A second dinosaur down, Calcano was in better straits. He made a Phyrexian Rager to draw a card and put the Accorder's Shield on his Replica. Vieira was down to a Tangle Mantis and Ezuri's Archers for his attackers, neither of which could get through the Shield. When he added a Bellowing Tanglewurm, the dynamic changed. Now able to send two large creatures on the attack, Vieira began creeping back ahead.

    Calcano had to find something. He blocked the Tanglewurm with his Replica before sacrificing it to draw some cards. That left him unable to block Vieira's intimidating creatures. Instead, he used Divine Offering to push the Wall of Tanglecord out of the way, clearing his 4/7 Rager to attack. The swing back put Calcano to six. When Vieira went to attack him on the next turn, Calcano used Fulgent Distraction to tap Vieira's two large men. That left his Archers alone on the attack, dropping Calcano to five. That one point of damage was enough, as Vieira revealed an Arc Trail and a Slagstorm to do the final five points of damage and take the game.

    Eduardo Dos Santos Vieira 1 – Christian Calcano 1

    Game 3

    For the first time in the match, both players found seven card hands they liked. Calcano got out of the gates early with a Sunspear Shikari, but Vieira stopped him cold with a Wall of Tanglecord. Calcano began the slow process of getting rid of the Wall by playing a Contagion Clasp and giving it a counter before returning the Clasp to his hand with a Glint Hawk. He was now attacking for two around Vieira's Wall. Things got even worse for Vieira when Calcano followed that attack with a Hero of Bladehold. All he could muster was a Tangle Mantis for defense, but Calcano's Contagion Clasp came down to shrink it.

    Does this look like a man threatened by a massive army of attackers? I think not.

    Calcano's massive army attacked. The Hero made two Soldiers, both of which heard the battle cry. The Mantis blocked the only creature it could kill and survive, a Memnite, and Vieira dropped to eight. The Mantis swung back, dropping Calcano to eighteen. The only reason I could see that Vieira would make that attack was if he planned to wipe things with Slagstorm. Sure enough, the red sorcery wiped the board, along with a little help from Arc Trail. Into the freshly cleaned board, Vieira added a Molder Beast and an Ezuri's Archers. They swung in, dropping Calcano to eleven.

    Calcano had a Glint Hawk Idol, which he used to attack in and kill the Wall of Tanglecord, but that was it. He did manage to find a Spread the Sickness for the Molder Beast, but Vieira just played another creature. All it took was a couple more attacks and a Burn the Impure to remove Calcano's Idol and the game was over, potentially knocking Calcano out of Top 8 and securing Eduardo Dos Santo Vieira a spot in the last draft of the tournament.

    Eduardo Dos Santos Vieira 2 – Chrisitian Calcano 1

    • Planeswalker Points
    • Facebook Twitter
    • Gatherer: The Magic Card Database
    • Forums: Connect with the Magic Community
    • Magic Locator