Over 830 players came to battle Saturday morning, but only 128 will rise early Sunday to continue. At the beginning of the weekend we highlighted a number of West Coast players trying to defend their home title as well as a number of rampaging pros who had traveled from abroad to steal it. Leading the standings undefeated headed into the second day of play? Hall of Famer Robert Dougherty! The Your Move Games patriarch burst out to a 9-0 lead with 27 points headed into the second day of play. Joining him at a perfect record was Justin Stanley.
There were a number of big names still nipping at the top tables' heels. Fresh off his National Team Championship at Worlds, Sam Black was sitting solidly in 4th place, with former National Team Member Gabe Walls in 5th. Carlos Romao represented Brazil in 7th, with Luis Scott-Vargas in 10th and Mark Herberholz in 11th.
Which archetypes reigned supreme? Faeries and Death Cloud were the big talk at the beginning of the event, but the top tables were riddled with diversity. Elves was seeing a resurgence, Astral Slide could be seen at the high tables, even Serum Powder in All-In Red! Check back tomorrow to find out who will be the champion of Grand Prix-Los Angeles as well as all the decklists, blog entries, photo essays, and feature matches you can handle!
Grand Prix Los Angeles 2009 Trial Winners Decklists
by Event Coverage Staff
Feature Match Round 2: Brian Kibler vs. Zachary Gray
by Bill Stark
“I miss the days when I couldn’t get a Feature Match Round 2 because I wasn’t playing!” Brian Kibler lamented as he sat down to square off against his opponent in the second round of Grand Prix-Los Angeles. Kibler is an old school pro who saw a great deal of success on both the Pro Tour and Master’s Series a half decade ago. With a Grand Prix in his home state, he was shaking off the dust to battle again. His opponent for the round was Zachary Gray, a Chicago resident who worked in the pharmaceutical industry.
The two shuffled in silence as Brian’s headphones drowned out all exterior noise. Famous for the CD player he used to keep focused in between rounds on the Pro Tour, Brian had made the technology upgrade to an iPod. Zach calmly shuffled, giving no sign he was intimidated by his opponent’s professional pedigree.
“I wonder how many of your cards I’m going to have to read?” Brian teased as Zach took a mulligan.
Former Pro Tour sensation Brian Kibler.
Brian opened on Wooded Foothills while Zach made an Overgrown Tomb and Swamp. A quick peek at Kibler’s hand revealed a possible Rock versus Rock mirror match. It looked likely Gray was playing Death Cloud of some variety, but with a red splash the same couldn’t convincingly be said of Brian. Kitchen Finks on Gray’s side of the board was the first creature in play, but Brian quickly answered with Putrefy. Of course, thanks to persist the Finks was right up to bat again as a 2/1. Kibler went to town on Zach’s hand with a Raven’s Crime, but Gray calmly discarded a Life from the Loam. Having spent his early turns cycling Tranquil Thickets, the two-mana sorcery nee card drawing engine did not bode well for Kibler.
The first dredge with Life from the Loam revealed a Raven’s Crime for Zach Gray, and he immediately went to work on Kibler’s hand. Returning three lands he was able to hit his land drop, then force his opponent to discard two cards. With just one left in hand, Brian drew for his turn, surveyed the board, and conceded.
“Let’s just go to the next one. This could take a while, but I’m not winning.”
Zach Gray 1, Brian Kibler 0
“I think this is my second Round 2 I’ve ever played at a Grand Prix,” Brian Kibler said as the two shuffled for their second game.
“I believe it’s mine also.” Zach added.
“Yeah, but I’ve played at a lot of Grand Prixs.” Kibler responded.
Many years ago beatdown superstar David Price wrote a genre-shattering article about playing the Red Beatdown mirror match. In the article, he made the claim that when paired in the mirror, one should choose to draw instead of playing. The adage at the time was revolutionary, and many struggled to buy into the notion. After considering his play or draw options for the second game, Kibler revealed he was a subscriber to the tenant, opting to draw first and putting Zach Gray on the play. Gray, stoic as ever, didn’t reveal any emotion over the decision.
Both players had a creature on the second turn with Brian making a Darkheart Sliver while his opponent had Sakura-Tribe Elder. Looking to get a lead on the game state, Zach cycled a land on his turn, used a sac land, then played Life from the Loam to recoup the cards from his graveyard. It was a risky play, however, as it left him tapped out and his Loam was at risk of being hit by any graveyard removal Brian happened to have drawn.
Sure enough, Brian revealed a Shred Memory to nab the Loam, and Zachs engine was, momentarily, offline. While many players were playing cards like Extirpate, Brian’s deckbuilding genius shone through on Shred Memory. It couldn’t extract his opponent’s remaining Life from the Loams from his deck, but if they were playing from the top of their decks in a long game, he would be able to use the Shred’s transmute to find a Life from the Loam of his own. That meant he was effectively playing more Loams than Zach, and through tight play with cycling lands he could keep the card semi-protected from his opponent’s graveyard hate.
Challenger Zach Gray is all business.
Zach Gray had a grip full of cards, but he wasn’t putting them to much use. Darkheart Sliver had gone on a mini-rampage putting the totals at 17-14 in Brian’s favor. He added three Worm tokens by way of Worm Harvest, and then watched as his Harvest was RFGed from his opponent’s Extirpate. Strangely, Gray didn’t bother to search through Brian’s library or hand for more copies, instead wiping the board of creatures with Damnation. Brian re-armed with Kitchen Finks, which ate a Putrefy, and continued working on his opponent’s hand with a Raven’s Crime.
While the board was relatively even, Kibler got Life from the Loam going in conjunction with Raven’s Crime and it quickly looked like the California native was going to run away with things. Playing from the top of his deck, Zach found a Ravenous Baloth to stem the bleeding. Kibler took a turn cycling through lands and building up his manabase with Life from the Loam, but when he tried to return the sorcery one final time, realized he had miscalculated and couldn’t get the card back. He was forced to leave it in his graveyard for the turn, which gave Zach the chance to take advantage.
Ripping from the top he round himself a Life from the Loam of his own, and started the process cycling and playing lands. He passed the turn, but again left Life from the Loam in the graveyard. Kibler was all too happy to play another graveyard removal spell, this time an Extirpate, to end the Loam problem once and for all, and put himself firmly back into control of the game.
Digging for removal to clear his opponent’s board and go on the offensive, Kibler furiously cycled, Loamed, and drew each turn. Zach Gray was left playing from the top of his deck again and couldn’t find any help. When he finally found an Extirpate, he sent it at a Loam in Kibler’s graveyard (left there from earlier dredging of his original copy) and remembered to search Brian’s hand and library for the remaining copies.
Finally the moment came. Kibler used a convoluted play of attacking to kill his opponent’s Sakura-Tribe Elder, Death Cloud to get Baloth off the board, and Crime/Punishment to reanimate the 4/4 on his side of the board. Another Tribe Elder hit play for Brian a turn later, and Zach struggled to find help. Kitchen Finks stemmed the bleeding, but as a Treetop Village joined the warpath for Kibler, it just didn’t look good for Zach.
A second Death Cloud left Zach with just two lands, and Brian with a Treetop Village; a few turns later, the game ended with Kibler on top.
Zach Gray 1, Brian Kibler 1
The two players entered the rubber game mirroring one another with dueling Sakura-Tribe Elders. After they traded in combat, Kibler made a second creature in the form of Kitchen Finks, but Gray used a Putrefy to make it a 2/1. He followed up with Thoughtseize nabbing Brian’s Life from the Loam, then hit the sorcery with an Extirpate. The game hadn’t even reached the midpoint and Brian was already down his engine.
A desperation Death Cloud
for two from Kibler left Zach with only three lands in play, but he had Life from the Loam running and quickly set about building back up. The Cloud had emptied Gray’s hand, but Kibler had been left with one final card. Was it something tricky for the Loam? He didn’t reveal, instead passing the turn and giving Zach a second chance to use Loam. Instead the Chicagoan left the sorcery in his graveyard and played a Ravenous Baloth.
A second desperation Death Cloud for two from Brian cleared the board of the 4/4 but Zach quickly jumped back ahead with Life from the Loam. Up at five lands to Kibler’s three, Zach was finally caught with Loam in the graveyard as Brian topdecked an Extirpate. Zach used an Extirpate of his own to put an end to Brian’s Extirpates, but time was called as he finished the turn. With the totals at 19-18 in Zach’s favor, it didn’t look probable the two players would finish the match. When Gray’s Ravenous Baloth was answered with a topdecked Darkheart Sliver from Kibler, the two ended things in a draw.
Brian Kibler draws against Zach Gray.
Saturday, 11:17 p.m.: The Making of a Playmat
by Bill Stark
the beautiful Stoic Angel
One of the great freebies players have been able to enjoy just for showing up Grand Prixs over the last few years are one-of-a-kind playmats commemorating each event. This weekend participants at Grand Prix-Los Angeles found themselves the proud owners of not only a special premium Chrome Mox, but a brand new mat just for showing up to play (and while supplies lasted, of course).
But have you ever wondered what goes in to making one of these playmats? Thanks to your crack reporting team on Magicthegathering.com, we now know!
It all starts with a fantastic piece of card art. Since Shards of Alara was filled with so many, picking one was a challenging proposition, but with fan favorite Volkan Baga in the house for the weekend to sign cards and greet fans, it made sense to choose one of his. The card in question? The beautiful Stoic Angel:
Once the art was selected, a commemorative mat graphic was created specific to Grand Prix-Los Angeles. Of course, to get it to print correctly on a mat, it had to be printed in reverse:
The playmat reverse image.
From there, hundreds of playmat blanks had the image adhered to them via a large combination presser and steamer, similar to a super industrial strength iron. Here’s what a blank playmat looks like:
You can see how the image faded over time from being pressed at such high heat.
And finally, Randy Williams of Manassas, Virginia poses with the end result!
Saturday, 1:30 p.m.: West Side!
A fan with the Grand Prix-LA playmat.
by Dane Young
It’s go time for the 2009 Magic season and 834 people showed up to celebrate it here at Grand Prix Los Angeles. One of the most interesting stories on the weekend has been a developing tale between players from the Western U.S. defending their turf against invading pros from Europe, Asia, South America, and other portions of the United States. Some of the West coast players were kind enough to share their views on the Extended format.
Pro Tour-Valencia Top 8er Sam Stein.
California native Sam Stein showed up this weekend ready to send his trusty robots into battle. Sam piloted Affinity all the way to the Top 8 at Pro Tour Valencia in 2007 and is looking to repeat that success here with the help of three byes. "I’m pretty confident with the deck. All the decks are pretty good, but I’m comfortable with this one. I played Faeries at Worlds because my friends told me Affinity wasn’t good, but now it’s good again." Sam moved to Las Vegas last year and said this might be one of his last tournaments as he will be working full-time.
Adam Prosak represents for Arizona.
Adam Prosak decided to bring the Arizona heat to the Grand Prix in already warm Los Angeles. A veteran of six Pro Tours and more than a dozen Grand Prixs, including a top eight at Grand Prix Cleveland in 2002, Adam is very happy with his efficient R/G Burn deck. The deck became public information after he won a Magic Online Premier Event with it, but Adam doesn’t mind. "I hate playing burn spells, but the deck is good, so I’m playing it. We tested Zoo and always wanted to burn my opponent with Oblivion Ring
, so I built this. It’s got the best of Zoo’s creatures, but with the ability to burn them out, and it’s flexible enough to have a different plan against most of the decks. Against Zoo you can just kill all of their creatures and win with yours as they don’t have much burn. You force Faeries to deal with your little creatures before burning them out, and you can outrace or disrupt combo decks."
Adam feels that his brew is solid against the field, and looking around the room, it seems that a lot of people agree with him.
Old school pro Brian Kibler is rockin’ out this weekend with Death Cloud. "I’ve always been a fan of Death Cloud as a card and I also think Life from the Loam is very powerful. I like the style of the deck so I figured I should play it. It helps that the deck has been doing reasonably well in tournaments." With a career in California, Brian hasn’t had as much time to play Magic as he used to, but he still loves the game and reads a ton of articles. He laughed about having only one bye this weekend, but hopes to do well in spite of it.
"Oh how times have changed."
Saturday, 1:30 p.m.: "Rest" Side!
Times have indeed changed for Brian Kibler.
by Bill Stark
Dane did a great job covering some of the West Coast players you can look forward to doing well this weekend. But what about the seasoned pros who have traveled from all over the world this weekend? We certainly can’t forget about them.
While Ben Rubin represented the Hall of Fame from the West Coast, Your Move Games’ founder Rob Dougherty was present defending the honor of the red dragon. In the region for business, he had decided to take advantage of his HoF status to get his game on. But could he relive the glory days of YMG Extended domination from Pro Tour-Houston, where his team finished 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in the standings? We’ll know by the end of the weekend.
Hall of Famer Rob Dougherty.
Another prominent East Coaster and Magicthegathering.com columnist was also present, looking to repeat past Grand Prix glory. His name? None other than Steve Sadin. The New Yorker has one Grand Prix title already, and would no doubt love to add another one to his mantle. He’s got a long road to get there, of course, but his byes no doubt help!
New York traveler Steve Sadin.
Of course, the Grand Prix circuit is famous for its international flair, not just the players who travel from all over the home country to play. This weekend Europe, Asia, and South America are all represented. In town with American testing partners Mark Herberholz and Patrick Chapin, Manuel Bucher came all the way from the Old Country. One of the 2008 season’s most celebrated deck builders (his Quik ‘N Toast is responsible for inspiring the Five-Color Control decks that are so popular in Standard now), fans wait on baited breath to see what crazy concoction he’s brought to battle this weekend. Will it be something the world has never seen before? Or will he stick with a tried and true industry standard?
European superstar Manuel Bucher.
Finally, from Japan are two Players of the Year: current champ Shuhei Nakamura, and 2007 champ Tomoharu Saito. Nakamura gets to take advantage of a hefty pro payout simply for showing up, no doubt a help in justifying the traveling expenses of flying all the way from Japan. The two pros have spent the past few seasons traveling to every event they could sink their teeth into, grinding out enough events to earn the Player of the Year titles. That determination at winning one of the most prestigious crowns in the game is no doubt at play this weekend, as the two push to gain an early edge in the Player of the Year race, both looking to repeat.
Former Player of the Year Tomoharu Saito.
So who will take the weekend? Will it be one of the West Coast stalwarts, successfully defending their own turf? Or a rampaging pro from across the globe? Or have we yet to hear of the player who will make his or her name known this weekend, bursting onto the Grand Prix stage to make their grab at fame and glory? Stay tuned to Magicthegathering.com all weekend long to find out!
Round 3 Feature Match: Kurt Burgner vs. Peter Szigeti
by Dane Young
This round’s feature match pits two old school Californians against each other. Kurt Burgner has a tight resume and was Hall of Fame Eligible, while Peter Szigeti was the resident class clown during his years on tour. PTR wasted no time taking the mantle back up as he sang “To Live and Die in L.A.” and “Killing Me Softly” while the two friends shuffled.
Kurt won the roll and decided to play, while Peter chose to flip the matt so his deck would be on his right. Kurt sent his first hand back and then led off with a Bloodstained Mire into a Mountain and Mogg Fanatic. Peter answered with a Great Furnace and Springleaf Drum.
Ghost Quarter Stone Rained the artifact land after the Mogg Fanatic got in for a point. “Luckily I have one in my deck,”Szigeti said after reading the card. Suprisingly he chose not to find one after looking and could only ship the turn back after whiffing on land.
Burgner followed up his Time Walk with “like the best creature ever,” Wild Nacatl. Peter found a Vault of Whispers and played Arcbound Worker, tapping it for Frogmite before letting Kurt get back at it. Undaunted, Burgner sent his army of beaters in for 3 damage, putting PTR on 15. After combat he loaded up his board with an untapped Stomping Ground into Mogg Fanatic number two and Tarmogoyf, which PTR had to read.
Peter pondered over what to do with his full grip before deciding to use his Springleaf Drum to cast Thoughtcast after a verbal prodding from the judge. He found no action, so the turn went back to Kurt, who dispatched the untapped Frogmite with Seal of Fire before filling the red zone and getting in for 8. Mogg Fanatic took out Arcbound Worker and PTR packed up his remaining two permanents before reaching for his sideboard.
Szigeti – 0
Peter chose to play first and both players kept. Seat of the Synod and Arcbound Worker kicked things off, but Kurt had a Seal of Fire to slow the robots down. Vault of Whispers enabled Arcbound Ravager, but Incinerate melted the fairy godmother. PTR reloaded with Darksteel Citadel, Frogmite, Thoughtcast and Ornithopter. Kurt fired back with a 6/7 Tarmogoyf.
“He’s a big boy. He doesn’t fly does he?” asked PTR, pointing to the ‘Goyf. The answer was no, so Master of Etherium allowed him to send his Ornithopter over for a point.
Kurt tried to keep the robot army at bay with another Tarmogoyf and a Mogg Fanatic. He was successful, as the jolly green giants forced PTR to just deal another point with the Crusaded Ornithopter. Kurt had no plays, so Ornithopter got in again before he found a twin model. “The clock doubles,” Kurt mused.
Wild Nacatl was no answer to the winged attackers, so Kurt took two more down to 12. “Not gonna lie, I drew something good,” Kurt said, pointing Krosan Grip at the Master of Etherium before sending his squad over. Frogmite traded with Mogg Fanatic before Atog joined the team, potentially with a craving for Peter’s seven artifact lands. Kurt pointed Flame Javelined at Peter’s face on end step, knocking Szigeti down to 4.
“Am I dead?”
“Depends on what I draw.”
Kurt passed without any plays, and Peter asked for a Broodstar as he peeled his card for the turn. He only found a Frogmite and played it before sending the Atog into the waiting pair of Tarmogoyfs. Land after land went to the bin as the Atog gorged himself. Peter did some math before deciding to lose both Ornithopters and a Vault of Whispers to pump the Atog up to 14/15. Peter was left with Atog, Seat of the Synod, Great Furnace and Frogmite, while Kurt had six lands. Incinerate put PTR on 1 as Kurt hoped to peel one of his many outs.
Atog and Frogmite came over for three as Kurt whiffed and Peter decided to move in on his next turn, feeding all of his lands to the Atog for lethal damage, but the wily old veteran had Gone to send the Atog back. Mogg Fanatic rolled off the top to put an end to the match.
Burgner – 2
Saturday, 2:21 p.m.: Ask the Pro
Szigeti - 0
by Bill Stark
What Extended archetype is strongest?
Gavin Verhey: Death Cloud is strongest but easily hated. Faeries is best.
Tim Landale: Faeries, but I think Tron is probably the right deck to play.
"The" Ben Seck: Monoblue Faeries. It’s the deck everyone knows is best out of Worlds. Death Cloud has too many "medium" draws.
Rashad Miller: Faeries or Wizards is pretty strong.
Mike Jacobs: Faeries. I’m not sure whether it’s blue-black or other. Basically any deck with Riptide Laboratory.
Saturday, 3:30p.m.: Dave Williams
Gerry Thompson: Elves. Combo in general is most powerful in a vacuum. People are actually aiming for the blue deck for once...
by Dane Young
Former Pro Tour standout Dave Williams woke up at a relatively early 9:00 this morning and decided, "I don't feel like sitting around at home all day," so he hopped on a plane to play in the first Grand Prix of the year.
"I've been practicing with all the decks on Magic Online a lot and it feels like the format is very fast," he said. Aggressive decks aren't really Dave's thing, so he picked up a tricked-out Faeries deck from Patrick Chapin, but he lost in his first round of play against an aggressive R/G deck.
Regardless of what happens in the main event, Dave is looking forward to playing in his favorite event tomorrow, the Win-a-Mox tournament, in which the winner walks away with a near-mint Mox Jet. Dave may feel that Extended is too fast, with its first turn 3/3s and second turn 5/6s, but turn three kills are just what the doctor ordered when Ancestral Recall and Black Lotus are involved.
Round 5 Feature Match: Patrick Sullivan vs. Carlos Romao
by Dane Young
The first thing I heard from Patrick yesterday was "Hey do you have any Spark Elementals?" Standard. His opponent, Brazilian Carlos Romao is a former World Champion who brought South America to prominence.
The two chatted it up about basketball while they shuffled, as Carlos is apparently pretty good and Sully is a huge roundball fan. Sully won the roll and both players kept.
Mountain and Lava Spike sent the action over to Carlos who cracked a Polluted Delta for a Swamp and tanked before playing Raven's Crime. Sullivan discarded Flames of the Blood Hand and followed up with Great Furnace and Keldon Marauders. Sakura Tribe Elder got in its way before Rampant Growthing.
Sulfuric Vortex and put Carlos on 9 after he cracked another Polluted Delta and tore apart Pat's hand with Raven's Crime. Worm Harvest made four tokens and the race was on. Another harvest put a ton of guys on the board and Sullivan packed it up with nothing left in the tank.
Romao - 1
Sullivan - 0
Pat led off the second game with a Blinkmoth Nexus and Carlos answered with Windswept Heath. Pat swung with the Nexus on turn two and got Stone Rained by Darkblast via Godless Shrine. Unhindered, Pat domed Carlos with Incinerate through a fresh Circle of Protection: Red. Mutavault put Pat slightly ahead as Carlos dredged his Darkblast to deal with Pat's new Tattermunge Maniac. Garruk Wildspeaker gave Carlos some board presence and untapped a pair of land.
The circle prevented the Maniac's damage but the Mutavault rumbled right on through, dropping Carlos to 10. Another Maniac was all Pat could muster as Carlos cycled a land before taking his turn. Darkblast took out the first Maniac and Persecute ripped a Rift Bolt and Sulfuric Vortex from Pat's hand with a shrug.
Patrick Sullivan, perturbed.
Mutvault put Carlos on seven and the Brazilian dredged Darkblast. Raven's Crime put a grimace on Pat's face as he pitched Rift Bolt into the graveyard. Garruk made a Beast. Pat sighed as he passed the turn back to Carlos after the circle stopped the Maniac and Garruk made another token which got Incinerated. Sakura Tribe Elder number two joined the team and Carlos was way ahead.
The circle kept preventing damage and the beasts kept rumbling in and Pat extended the hand.
Romao - 2
Sullivan - 0
Saturday, 4:54p.m.: Volkan Baga
by Dane Young
Pinned behind a table full of beautiful art and a line of adoring fans and flanked by an original painting of Doomed Necromancer and other prints, German artist Volkan Baga somehow manages to greet everyone with a smile despite the fact that his hand is likely ready to fall off. At least he will have enough practice to get his signature perfected.
The 31-year-old Baga went to school for communications design with a focus on illustration before taking an internship with longtime Magic artist Donato Giancola, who did Chrome Mox, this weekend's promo card. That internship turned into a contract to illustrate Magic cards in 2005 and he hasn't looked back since.
Players and fans alike are piling into the artist signing room to get powerful and popular cards signed. Mirari's Wake, Ranger of Eos and Elspeth, Knight Errant are getting a fresh coat of silver ink alongside some of Baga's personal favorites: Stoic Angel and Doomed Necromancer. Come down to say hello to Volkan and pick up some stunning signed original pieces (if you're into, you know, awesome art). Don't miss out!
Saturday, 5:30p.m.: Public Events
Doomed Necromancer original art
by Dane Young
If you're not here this weekend, you're missing out. Even if you don't feel like playing in the Grand Prix or you didn't fare well in the main event, the public events are ready to sate your Magic appetite. In addition to nonstop drafting, take a gander at the Sunday schedule:
10:00 PTQ Honolulu
11:00 Standard Win-a-Box
11:00 Mox Tournament
11:30 Vintage Win-a-Box
12:30 Japanese Shards of Alara Sealed Deck
13:00 Extended Win-a-Box
14:00 Legacy Win-a-Box
15:00 Vintage Win-a-Box
16:00 Standard Win-a-Box
17:00 Booster Draft Win-a-Box
18:00 Extended Win-a-Box
19:00 Legacy Win-a-Box
That's a lot of boxes! Come down to the International Ballroom at the Radisson LAX, bring some friends (they can play in the Learn to Play Magic tournaments if they don't already know how) and scoop up some loot. Be here or be some kind of quadrilateral.
Day 01 Feature Match Round 6: Andrew Vargas vs. Shuhei Nakamura
by Bill Stark
Reigning Player of the Year Shuhei Nakamura sat down to face off against American Andrew Vargas in the sixth round of play at Grand Prix-Los Angeles. The 2008 season for Shuhei kicked off with a Grand Prix victory. Nearly 12 months later he raised the trophy as the Player of the Year, bolstered by a hectic Pro Tour season of traveling to every event he could. As one of very few Japanese players present at the event this weekend, it looked like he was planning on making a run at repeating the title, no doubt hoping to do it in the exact same fashion with a Grand Prix win at the opening event of the season.
The Japanese super pro started on a mulligan, but came out of the gates quickly with a Mutavault, dropping Andrew to 18. Not wanting to fall behind, Andrew followed suit making a Mutavault of his own that could threaten a block. Vargas, who hails from Houston, Texas, continued making efforts to get on the board by dropping an end-of-his-opponent's-turn Spellstutter Sprite. Nakamura responded by sacrificing his Polluted Delta, then played a Spellstutter Sprite of his own, activating Mutavault to give himself two Faeries and the ability to counter.
Player of the Year Shuhei Nakamura.
Vargas took the chance to resolve an Umezawa's Jitte unmolested (Shuhei had been forced to tap out), but he missed his land drop and passed the turn with only an Island and Mutavault keeping the equipment compnay. Shuhei attacked to put the totals 19-17 in his favor, then played a Vendilion Clique on Andrew's draw step. Liking what he saw in his opponent's hand and not wanting to give him anything better, Shuhei left Vargas' grip as it was. Not to be outdone, the Texan soon dispatched Shuhei's 3/1 with a legendary copy of his own.
A second copy of the Clique hit for Vargas, who had finally come into some lands, and managed to connect with it wearing Jitte once. Shuhei had quickly moved his Spellstutter to block, but the two counters from the pointy stick would spell problems for his future army of X/1 creatures. Andrew managed to land a Glen Elendra Archmage which quickly found itself wearing the Jitte. Feeling the game slip away, Nakamura forced a counter battle over Ancestral Vision as it unwound on his upkeep, but Andrew came out on top and Nakamura whiffed on finding a Jitte answer, scooping up his cards and sending the match to a second game.
Andrew Vargas 1, Shuhei Nakamura 0
A first-turn Thoughtseize from Shuhei Nakamura revealed his opponent to be holding two lands, two Umezawa's Jitte, Sower of Temptation, Mana Leak, and Spell Snare. Nakamura forced Vargas to bin the 2/2 Sower, and Andrew volleyed back with a meager Island, go.
The first counterwar was over a Vendilion Clique from Nakamura, played during Vargas' draw step. Andrew's Mana Leak wasn't enough, however, as Shuhei had a Spell Snare to riposte and Vargas was forced to send a second Sower of Temptation to the bottom of his library for a free draw. The 3/1 quickly made short work of his life, and, after being joined by a Spellstutter Sprite from Shuhei, Andrew fell to just 6. With Nakamura at a healthy 16, it looked like the match was headed to a Game 3.
The next attack, combined with a sac land, sent Andrew to 1 and he had but a single draw step to find a miracle. After looking at his last card, Vargas surveyed the board, did some math, and nodded in defeat.
Andrew Vargas 1, Shuhei Nakamura 1
From Houston, Andrew Vargas.
Andrew Vargas revealed a one-land hand as he missed both a second- and third-turn land drop. The reason? He showed why as he suspended first one Ancestral Vision, then a second. Shuhei had a suspended Visions of his own, and even managed to hit four land drops. What he lacked was something with which he could put pressure on his opponent.
Vargas prepared to draw three cards from his first Ancestral Vision unsuspending, but Nakamura revealed a Stifle to trump, and, missing yet another land, Vargas was forced to discard. On the other side of the table, the Japanese pro had found the threat he needed, making a Vendilion Clique but not changing Andrew's hand for fear of helping him draw into the lands he needed.
Glen Elendra Archmage hopped into play for Shuhei to counter Vargas' second Ancestral, and at 8 life it wasn't looking good for Andrew. He continued drawing cards, missing land drops, and discarding. Shuhei kept the pressure on, and it was all over in tow turns.
Shuhei Nakamura defeats Andrew Vargas 2-1.
Saturday, 6:29: Photo Essay
by Bill Stark and Dane Young
Some of the many, many sites around Grand Prix-Los Angeles…
Guest artist Volkan Baga.
One of the many chandeliers in the Main Ballroom.
A familiar Grand Prix sight: Chandra Nalaar.
And her counterpart, the brooding Jace Beleren.
Head Judge Scott Marshall addresses the troops prior to Round 1.
A birds-eye view of the hundreds of LA competitors.
Round 7 Feature Match: Gerry Thompson vs. Adam Prosak
Ben Bleiweiss models foil Chrome Moxes, free to Grand Prix participants.
by Dane Young
"Hey Luis, you got any articles about Gerry's deck?"
Arizona player Adam Prosak is rockin his R/G burn deck against Gerry Thompson's U/R TEPS combo. Adam won the roll and mulliganed into Stomping ground and Wild Nacatl.
Unimpressed, Gerry cracked a Flooded Strand for an Island and cast Sleight of Hand for a Remand. Wooded Foothills bolted Adam as a Sacred Foundry came in untapped. Gerry turned the Nacatl sideways while Adam shuffled and Kird and and Seal of Fire hit the table.
Gerry played Dreadship Reef and Remanded Adam's second Wild Nacatl. Adam simply played another Stomping Ground to recast it before bashing. Gerry Sleighted again and went to 3. Adam showed him a Lightning Helix in response to Gerry tapping out to charge his land, keeping the initiative in spite of his mulligan.
"Must be nice."
Prosak 1, Thompson 0
Gerry shipped his hand back immediately and shrugged his reluctant acceptance of the second batch. Adam mulliganed once, then sent the second one back without a second thought.
Cascade Bluffs was dwarfed by Stomping Ground and Wild Nacatl. Gerry played an untapped Steam Vents, giving away the fact that he had a Remand in his hand. Adam played an untapped Sacred Foundry and bashed with the cat. Kird Ape got Remanded once, then arrived.
Gerry didn't feel like thinking anymore so he threw three Rite of Flame and a Mind's Desire onto the table. Manamorphose, Manamorphose, Desperate Ritual and Dreadship Reef. Gerry turned his Manamorphoses into blue and black mana before aiming Tendrils of Agony at Adam's nugget.
Prosak 1, Thompson 1
Adam threw his first hand away again for the deciding game, and his opponent followed suit. They both kept their second hands and Adam cracked Windswept Heath for Stomping Ground and Kird Ape.
Gerry had a Flooded Strand and Lotus Bloom for his turn, taking two from the Ape and another from his land as Tarmogoyf joined Adam's team.
Dreadship Reef was all Gerry could muster and he waved the turn back to Adam. Seal of Fire Shocked Gerry and pumped up the 'Goyf, bringing Gerry down to 10 after Gerry cycled Remand on the Seal. Ponder set Gerry up for a big next turn and Echoing Truth Boomeranged Tarmogoyf after Mogg Fanatic pumped it up mid-combat. Adam replayed the 'Goyf and shrugged the action over to Gerry.
"I'd try to kill me this turn if I were you."
Gerry turned his hand face-up and cycled Manamorphoses into more Manamorphoses.
"It could be anything!"
He found a Seething Song off of Ponder, allowing him to pump up the storm count for the eventual Mind's Desire. 8 cards rolled off the top before Gerry played a free Peer Through Depths for Rite of Flame. He revealed his last card, which was Desperate Ritual. Gerry went nuts and eventually flipped over his library with a second Desire. Tendrils of Agony sucked the life out of Adam.
Gerry Thompson defeats Adam Prosak 2-1.
Saturday, Blog 8:02, Tournament Organizer, or Player?
by Bill Stark
Historians of the game know well the name Trevor Blackwell. A long time pro, he nabbed a title for himself as the 2001 U.S. National Champion. California players are more likely to recognize his brother's name, Conan Blackwell, as the Tournament Organizer for many of their premier events. With a Grand Prix practically in his backyard being run by Glenn Godard of Sun Mesa Events (who credits the spectacular turnout this weekend in part to Conan's efforts publicizing things in the northern section of the state), Conan took the chance to do some battling of his own. The coverage team took the opportunity to speak with Conan about how playing a Grand Prix was different than handling things as a Tournament Organizer.
So what made Blackwell decide to come out and play? "I think it's good to actually play the game. I like to see how other TOs run things and learn. Plus it's good to hear from players and see firsthand the things that they want."
What deck had the former Grand Prix organizer decided to play? "Monored. One of my customers gave it to me and told me how to sideboard." Blackwell added, a bit sheepishly, "I didn't really playtest." How did that affect his record? "3-4..." he smiled, even more sheepishly.
As to which he preferred, TOing or playing, Conan played coy. "Really that's like comparing apples to oranges. I love playing because you get to meet people. I saw people today that I met at a tournament in Kuala Lumpur. TOing is a job, but this helps me do my job better!"
Round 8 Feature Match: Michael Jacob vs. Asher Hecht
Tournament Organizer and Grand Prix competitor Conan Blackwell.
by Dane Young
Squaring off at the top of the standings are reigning U.S. National Champion Michael Jacob and self-proclaimed "Ringer," New Yorker Asher Hecht.
Asher led off with a Flooded Strand for a Steam Vents and suspended Lotus Bloom. MJ cracked a Polluted Delta for a swamp while Asher just played Dreadship Reef and Remanded MJ's Bitterblossom. Ponder found Asher a third land as his Lotus got ready to come off suspend.
MJ tanked for a bit before playing Twilight Mire, cycling Tranquil Thicket and playing Bitterblossom. Asher's Lotus came into play and Flooded Strand grabbed another Steam Vents. Asher cashed in his Lotus for red mana and played a triplet of Seething Songs before eventually cycling a Gigadrowse for an extra copy of Mind's Desire.
MJ shuffled Asher's deck and the door card was another Mind's Desire. MJ declared, "I've seen enough," and reached for the board.
Hecht 1, Jacob 0
Both players kept and MJ started things off with Bloodstained Mire, fetching a Swamp before playing Raven's Crime. Asher tossed a Desperate Ritual in the bin before playing Cascade Bluffs and Relic of Progenitus. MJ used Windswept Heath to get Overgrown Tomb and played Bitterblossom while Asher just played Dreadship Reef after his Relic ate a land. Asher sacrificed the artifact during MJ's draw step and MJ decided to do some math before playing his second Bitterblossom. He wasn't going to win the long game without the Raven's Crime, so this was his chance to race.
Asher played an Island and a second Relic of Progenitus while MJ made some Faeries and played a Tarmogoyf. Asher charged his Dreadship Reef before tapping out for Seething Song. The big ritual enabled a Desperate Ritual with another spliced onto it and Manamorphose turned his red mana blue before the other ritual turned on a Mind's Desire for five.
Lotus Bloom, Seething Song, Brain Freeze and two lands rolled off for Asher, who thought about Remanding his Mind's Desire but didn't pull the trigger. Asher confirmed his opponent was at 13 before using the Lotus and the Seething Song to Brain Freeze MJ for 24 cards. He sent Grapeshot at MJ's face before Remanding it and playing it again to end it.
Asher Hecht defeats Michael Jacob 2-0.
Saturday, Round 8 Feature Match: Manuel Bucher vs. Martin Juza
by Bill Stark
"Traveling 6,000 miles to play a friend!" Martin Juza complained as he squared off against travel mate Manuel Bucher in the next-to-last round of Saturday play.
"Having more space is fantastic!" Responded the exuberant Bucher, clearly excited to have extra elbow room in the luxurious feature match area.
Manuel started the match with a Steam Vents and Chrome Mox, revealing Spellstutter Sprite to imprint on his artifact. His opponent also looked to be playing Faeries opening on three Islands and using Mana Leak to counter a Thirst for Knowledge from Bucher. The crowd pressed in from all around to watch the European heavy hitters battle.
Martin Juza battles a friend in the Feature Match area.
Looking to land the first creature, Martin played a Vendilion Clique
seeing a Bucher hand of Chrome Mox
, double Spellstutter Sprite
, Mana Leak
, and Spell Snare
. "Uh-oh," the Pro Tour-Berlin Top 8er muttered under his breath before making Manuel put Mana Leak
on the bottom of his library. Juza went on the offensive with his 3/1 putting the totals at 18-17 in his favor. Post-combat he tried for, and landed a Glen Elendra Archmage
. The 2/2 Eventide
rare was a breakout hit of the weekend, moving from Faeries' sideboard to the maindecks of some of the game's best and brightest.
Starting to fall behind, Manuel made a tiny, yet odd play: he dropped Overgrown Tomb. The crowd pressed in to see what was going on. Overgrown Tomb? What could Manuel possibly be planning with that? Whatever it was, it was going to have to be good as Juza played an Umezawa's Jitte and charged it up by attacking with Clique after equipping. Bucher's shoulders slumped as he felt the game slip out of his grasp. He moved to the top of his library for a peek at one more card, but instead of dragging the inevitable out conceded with a life total well in the double digits.
Martin Juza 1, Manuel Bucher 0
"That's the fastest first game I've played all day." Martin Juza exclaimed while shuffling his deck for the second.
"Really?" Manuel asked back, before smiling good naturedly as Juza had to mulligan.
Manuel kicked things off with a Polluted Delta, finding a Watery Grave. "So you don't have Stifle..." He teased his opponent. Juza responded:
"You know I don't have Stifle."
Manuel laughed, then fired right back. "Maybe you sneaked one in for exactly this situation!"
Antics aside the game quickly developed into a back-and-forth affair. Juza flinched first playing a Jace Beleren, then opting to allow both players to draw a card. Manuel put the ability on the stack and responded by sacrificing another Polluted Delta, minimizing his chances of drawing a land from Jace. Bucher then played a Spellstutter Sprite so he could attack Jace to keep the planeswalker from getting out of control.
The next Spellstutter Sprite also came from Manuel and targeted a Martin Juza Chrome Mox. The artifact pseudo-land was important enough to Martin for him to use a Spell Snare to counter the Sprite and force it into play. The match was turning into a grinder with both players looking to squeak out small edges in an effort to win the long game.
Vedalken Shackles hit play for Manuel and successfully resolved while Juza opted to suspend two Ancestral Visions. That left him low enough on mana to lose a counter war over Bucher's follow-up: Glen Elendra Archmage. For the second time in the match, the 2/2 threatened to put one of the players too far ahead for the other to catch up, but this time it was the Swiss Bucher instead of Juza.
Trying to contain the situation, Martin played a Sower of Temptation to steal his opponent's Archmage. Manuel seemed nonplussed, untapping and playing a Sower of his own to steal it right back, then using Shackles to steal a Venser, Shaper Savant Juza had landed earlier in the game. By the time Bucher was playing Bitterblossom, he seemed to be piling on, even though the life totals were tied at 12.
The game stretched on for three more turns, but Martin didn't have any action simply suspending an Ancestral Vision and slowly dying to his opponent's fliers. Inevitably, the 1/1 Faerie Rogues finished off the job started by Sowers, Archmages, and Spellstutter Sprites.
Martin Juza 1, Manuel Bucher 1
Could Manuel Bucher beat one of his own friends?
The final game of the match saw Martin Juza jump to an early lead by suspending an Ancestral Vision
, but Manuel Bucher didn't appear intimidated. He slowly accumulated dual lands in the form of River of Tears
, Overgrown Tomb
, and Steam Vents
before finally playing a basic Island
. Juza tried for an end-of-his-opponent's-turn Vendilion Clique
, but Bucher had Mana Leak
It was all a ploy! With Bucher down to just two untapped mana, Juza could freely resolve his Ancestral Vision, using a Mana Leak to counter Bucher's attempt at Spellstutter Sprite. Martin peeled four cards off the top of his library, three for the Vision and one for his normal draw step. "Man, all those cards and still no land?" He lamented, before passing the turn true to his word without a land drop.
What he did have were plenty of draw spells, suspending a second Ancestral Vision and playing, then activating a Jace Beleren over the course of two turns. Bucher played Vedalken Shackles, then Spellstutter Sprite to go aggro. Card after extra card came off the top for Martin, but still he couldn't find a fourth land. "Come on!" He pleaded, plaintively. The final counter on Jace was removed, killing the planeswalker, but netted Juza the land he so desperately wanted. Bucher was ahead on the board, but with only a 1/1 to attack, wasn't exactly presenting an imposing threat.
Finally the heavy hitter came, but not in any form anyone could have guessed. Tapping nearly all of his mana, Bucher played...Triskelion? The artifact caught many by surprise, but considering he had Academy Ruins to make it "infinite," the 1/1 wasn't actually all that out of the question. It could machine gun the opponent's X/1s very easily, and because it played as a 4/4 was quite the imposing threat. Juza tried to use Sower of Temptation on the robot, but Bucher removed two +1/+1 counters on it to kill the 2/2. When Martin tried a second copy of Sower, Bucher used the final counter to have Triskelion shoot itself, then put it back on top of his library with Academy Ruins.
Juza was finally finding the lands he needed, but it didn't look like it was doing him much good. He played a Glen Elendra Archmage, but the 2/2 was underwhelming for the first time in the match. Because he was so far ahead, Manuel probably wouldn't need to play many non-creature spells to win, and Juza needed to find a solution to the Triskelion. In the background, head judge Scott Marshall called for time in the round.
Moving in to overdrive, Juza desperately dug for a solution. Jace Beleren netted him one card further, but he had to tap out to play Glen Elendra Archmage. Manuel was all too happy to steal the 2/2 with his Shackles and bash Martin to 3. When Juza couldn't come up with a miracle, Triskelion and the Faerie hordes took it home for Manuel Bucher. Or they would have, had the players had one more turn with which to finish the game. The two reached the final turn of play, and sat staring at one another. Clearly the victor with sufficient time, Manuel laid it all out. "Will you concede?" He asked his friend.
Juza grimaced. He had to consider carefully the correct course of action. A concession hurt his chances overall, but his friend was going to win if they had enough time. He mulled his options over carefully, then nodded. He would concede, but cautioned his friend. "I'm going to be really mad if I lose next round..."
Manuel Bucher defeats Martin Juza 2-1.
Round 9 Feature Match: Tomoharu Saito vs. Scott Barrentine
by Dane Young
Japanese superstar Tomoharu Saito likely needs no introduction, considering he has at least a million premier level top eights and was Player of the Year in 2007. His opponent, Texan Scott Barrentine isn't intimidated as he has a top 16 finish at Grand Prix Denver last year. Both players need to win this round in order to make it to the second day.
Scott won the roll but had to send his first hand back. "I'm going to powder," Scott declared as he removed his hand from the game. Saito puzzled over the Menacing Ogre mixed in with two Mountains, a Chrome Mox, Blood Moon and the Serum Powder. His next six was not good either, so he went down to 5. A second Serum Powder sent Seething Song, Magus of the Moon, Blood Moon and a Mountain to the removed pile. Saito's grip looked a little slow but definitely playable, especially with his opponent down to 5 cards.
Scott laid a Mountain and passed, while Saito cracked Wooded Foothills for a Forest and played Llanowar Elves. Scott had just another Mountain, while Saito loaded up with Wirewood Hivemaster and Nettle Sentinel, making an insect.
Deus of Calamity entered play via Desperate Ritual and Rite of Flame, but Saito already had his deck up and running. He played Glimpse of Nature followed by Elvish Visionary and Llanowar Elves, making two more insects in the process. One of them jumped in front of the incoming Deus to avoid the Stone Rain. An innocuous Blood Moon arrived, but Saito merely crashed into the red zone for 8 before playing a Nettle Sentinel and making an insect. He used the new insect to take a measly 5 from the Deus, going down to 8.
Ironically, Saito was able to hard cast Predator Dragon off of the Blood Moon and Scott scooped 'em up.
Saito 1, Barrentine 0
Scott Powdered his first seven, revealing Chalice of the Void, Demigod of Revenge and Seething Song plus three Mountains. His next seven were spicy, enabling a turn one Demigod of Revenge thanks to Chrome Mox, Simian Spirit Guide and Seething Song. He'd only be left with a Serum Powder, but it doesn't get much better for the All-In Red deck.
Saito mulliganed down to five after tanking for a long time about his opener. The Demigod entered play in the red zone and Saito had a Forest and Llanowar Elves to try to catch up. Overgrown Tomb knocked Saito down to 8 after two smashes from the Demigod, but his board was filling up. Wirewood Symbiote, Birchlore Rangers, Llanowar Elves and Wirewood Hivemaster (along with two pals) were all in play as the Demigod put Saito on 3.
On his last leg, Saito found a Glimpse of Nature and used the Symbiote to draw a card but nothing was forthcoming and the players moved onto the rubber game.
Saito 1, Barrentine 1
Saito did more than a bit of fine-tuning while Scott simply randomized his deck. The former Player of the Year went deep into the tank before deciding to keep, while Scott kept his opener immediately.
Windswept Heath found a Temple Garden that was followed by Burrenton Forge-Tender. Scott had to ask a judge a mysterious question and nodded before playing a Mountain and Martyr of Ashes. Saito's hand was clearly very complex as he took his time before making each play. He used Wooded Foothills to search out a Forest and sent his Forge-Tender across for a point. After combat he played Nettle Sentinel and Heritage Druid, while all Scott could do was pass the turn with two Mountains up.
Saito played Windswept Heath and sent Nettle Sentinel and Burrenton Forge-Tender over before he ended his turn. Scott revealed four cards to his Martyr and Saito allowed it, putting both of his elves in the yard. Scott followed up the almost-wrath with some rituals into Deus of Calamity. Saito fetched Overgrown Tomb with his Heath before he untapped and played Thoughtseize, taking Arc-Slogger away from Scott. All he had was a Gilt-Leaf Palace and his Forge-Tender absorbed a point from the Deus. Scott played his freshly-drawn Martyr of Ashes before allowing Saito to go back at it.
Saito just had another land and passed the turn back. He had Chord of Calling in his hand and virtually six mana available, so he used it to pluck an Elvish Visionary out of his deck before blocking the Deus with his immune Kithkin. Saito played his sixth land and shipped back over to Scott. Chalice of the Void off the top shut out the rest of Saito's hand and Saito wished his opponent good luck in day two.
Scott Barrentine defeats Tomoharu Saito 2-1.
Saturday, Blog - 9:33 p.m.: Marshall Laws
by Bill Stark and Dane Young
If you play competitive Magic, you are probably going to be trying your hardest to qualify for Pro Tour-Honolulu (and who wouldn't?). If that's the case, Grand Prix-Los Angeles Head Judge Scott Marshall has some things you probably want to know about the Extended format and about Magic in general as we wind down the end of play on Saturday.
First up were the cards that had caused the most confusion for players, and Scott had two that immediately jumped to mind. "Chalice of the Void is the big one. There are two problems. First, players just forget that it's in play. The second problem that comes up a lot is confusion over how spell copies that are played and spell copies that are put into play work." When pressed for further explanation he clarified. "Chalice of the Void on two will counter Grapeshot, but will not counter the copies because they are put onto the stack. A Chalice of the Void for six will counter Mind's Desire, but the copies it creates will be put onto the stack and resolve. However, any spells flipped from Desire that cost six would then be countered by the Chalice because they are actually played."
The second problem card? Blood Moon. "Players often get confused about this card, so here are some easy guidelines: artifact lands still count as artifact lands. Non-basic lands still count as non-basic lands, even though they're Mountains. And comes-into-play-tapped lands, like Ravnica duals, still come into play tapped but you can pay 2 life to have them enter play untapped."
Outside troublesome cards, what were the most frequent rules infractions? "The number one problem was definitely communication. Players frequently fail to communicate efficiently, about when they're playing spells or what's being targeted, etc. It's particularly dangerous because no matter what is said or done, a judge can't truly know what happened. So no matter what, when lack of communication occurs, at least one player is going to be upset. When both players communicate, both players are happy."
There were some out of the ordinary rulings that had come up on the weekend as well, even afflicting big name players. "We had a situation come up twice in which a player assumed they were attacking for the win. They resolved combat damage, and the attacking player scooped up all of his cards. When it was later determined the attacked player was actually still alive due to a mis-count on the life total by the attacking player, the judge had no choice but to rule the attacking player had conceded." The big name who got snagged by the mishap? None other than Player of the Year Shuhei Nakamura.
Scott offered up some final words on interesting cards and decks he had seen on the weekend, pointing out at least one player had brought Battle of Wits and another was sitting high in the standings using Nihilith. Wise words from a judge who knows. Study up for your Pro Tour-Honolulu events; that's the Marshall law!