he Gods have spoken.
Thassa, God of the Seas is making waves in the new Blue Devotion archetype that splashes white for newfound friend Ephara, God of the Polis and Detention Sphere. Newly immortalized Xenagos, God of Revels is wrecking havoc, granting his monstrous minions haste and "double strike". Erebos, God of the Dead continues to be backbreaking in the Mono-Black Devotion mirror match, switching off opposing Gray Merchant of Asphodels and even Heliod, God of the Suns and Purphoros, God of the Hammer have also made appearances.
Grand Prix Melbourne is quite literally "Born of the Gods".
Day One of the largest Grand Prix in Australia has come to an end and only a 128 hopefuls remain. James Fazzolari and Wei Yifan are at the perfect 9-0 record, while Nam Sung-wook is at 8-0-1. Some notable players hot on their heels include Zheng Jingwei, Luke Mulcahy, Huang Hao-Shan, Roger Matthew, Wilfy Horig and Joe Soh, all at 8-1 records. Current Australian Pro Point leader Justin Cheung has also managed the cut, along with three-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor Terry Soh and ex-National Champions Adam Witton and Rick Lee.
With so much talent in the pool, be back tomorrow as we deliver to you the latest updates from the source, along with live streaming video coverage! Stay tuned!
by Chapman Sim
Grand Prix Melbourne (Trial Winner #01)
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Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – Born of the Gods in Standard
by Chapman Sim
With Pro Tour Born of the Gods in the books, we are now ready to welcome the first Grand Prix featuring the latest expansion. 902 players are assembled here in Melbourne, showing the world what they can do with the addition of Born of the Gods, loaded with goodies that could change the face of Standard forever. What can we be expecting this weekend?
Let's start with the obvious, shall we? Standard Powerhouse Mono-Black Devotion gains Bile Blight and Drown in Sorrow, two great options to complement an impressive removal suite that already has access Hero's Downfall, Devour Flesh, Doom Blade and Ultimate Price. Thoughtseize, Duress and Lifebane Zombie continue to strip your hand bare while Pack Rat and Desecration Demon attempt finish you off.
Azorius (and perhaps Esper) Mages who swear by their Sphinx's Revelations and Supreme Verdicts now have improved manabases thanks to Temple of Enlightenment, as well as a few more tricks up their sleeves. Revoke Existence is a handy way to nullify an opposing indestructible god, as is Nullify itself. Fated Retribution is also a great option despite it's slightly prohibitive mana cost, but looks promising considering the last "instant speed" Wrath of God effect was printed way back during the Invasion Block (Rout). Azorius Mages will be happy to sweep the board clean (while keeping their own Detention Spheres intact) before untapping to resolve a backbreaking Elspeth, Sun's Champion.
World Champion Makihito Mihara was the first to experiment with the synergy between Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Ephara, God of the Polis as seen during the Super Sunday Series but players are seen running the White Blue God alongside Cloudfin Raptor, Tidebinder Mage and Master of Waves, to make the Mono-Blue Devotion archetype more resilient against the sea of removal. With Detention Spheres providing a dash of removal while contributing to devation, it should not be difficult to harness the power of Ephara.
Red Green Monsters are also back in full force, now that Courser of Kruphix is in the mix. Used alongside Domri Rade, it provides a touch of library manipulation and card advantage to keep the threats flowing and greater consistency. Recently immortalized Xenagos, God of Revels is also a toughie himself, capable of threatening swift kills with oversized threats like Polukranos, World Eater and Stormbreath Dragon.
Kiora, the Crashing Wave was also heard to be making waves in some nifty concoctions. Aside from traditional "Bant Control" brews hungering for mana to power out large Sphinx's Revelations, the last time we checked, someone was playing them alongside Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver in a truly unique BUG brew.
There are also rumors of Satyr Firedancers and Searing Blood making appearances in Boros Burn decks (upgrading all spells into Searing Blazes on steroids) and Herald of Torment rearing its ugly head in Rakdos Aggro variants. There are so many surprises at at Grand Prix Melbourne, and we can't wait to watch the magic unfold down under!
Saturday, 10:15 a.m. - A Quick Chat with Huang Hao-Shan
by Chapman Sim
Team MTG Mint Card Pro Huang Hao-Shan is a three-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor and not unfamiliar to competing on the Australian Grand Prix Circuit. As a matter of fact, the last time he has seen success on this continent was during Grand Prix Brisbane 2011. Today, he has braved the twelve-hour flight once again and is armed with what he feels is the best Standard deck at the moment, Red Green Monsters.
"Courser of Kruphix is my favorite addition from Born of the Gods. It is the glue that makes the deck gel together." According to him, it is rare that the Gruul gets card advantage machines like Domri Rade, Courser of Kruphix and Chandra Pyromaster, so he "cannot resist the temptation of playing the red green deck with card drawing".
The problem with Red Green decks in the past is that they run out of steam quickly and have difficulty coming back once they are behind. Flood is also a real concern and nobody likes to topdeck mana dorks or excess lands later on. However, these problems seem to have been mitigated by the existence of Polukranos, World Eater, Stormbreath Dragon and Mistcutter Hydra, mana sinks that allow the Gruul player to dominate during the late game.
"I'm also overwhelmed by the size of Grand Prix Melbourne this time round. The community has ballooned tremendously and it is a sign that the game is flourishing and I'm very happy to be part of it. I'm also absolutely enjoying the weather here. Having dinner with friends in the warm sun while enjoying the cool sea breeze at St. Kilda's Beach is quite simply one of the greatest pleasures in life."
With his eyes set on a Top 4 finish that would grant him a blue envelope to Pro Tour Journey to Nyx, let's see where the power of Xenagos leads him.
Saturday, 11:30 a.m. - A Quick Chat with Terry Soh
by Chapman Sim
Terry Soh is easily the most accomplished player in the field of 902 today and it is not difficult to defend this bold statement. With three Pro Tour Top 8s and three Grand Prix Top 8s in his decorated resumé, he is also one of the few privileged players to be immortalized on his very own card, Rakdos Augermage.
His brother, Joe Soh (a two-time National Champion himself), had made plans to attend Grand Prix Melbourne and Soh had decided to hop onto the bandwagon at the eleventh hour. "I took this opportunity to enjoy a short vacation with my girlfriend," but being the hardcore Magic fan at heart, he could not resist the temptation to swing by to play some Magic for just a couple of days.
"I'm playing Mono-Black Devotion, the deck that I'm the most familiar and have most experience with," explaining his weapon of choice this weekend. Clearly still very much connected to the game despite a short hiatus, he earnestly shared with me that the mirror match is still a toss-up and has elected to play the full set of Bile Blight in the maindeck just in case the Pack Rats run wild on the opposing side. "Bile Blight is bad against larger creatures but since I have a good sideboard for the other matchups, I figured I should focus more on beating the mirror."
"Hopefully I do well enough today to net an invitation to Pro Tour Journey to Nyx. I am looking forward to playing on the Pro Tour again." With such an accomplished player piloting a top tier deck, I have confidence we will be seeing more of him as the day unravels. Good luck Terry!
Saturday, 12:00 p.m. – A Quick Chat with Ross Schafer
by Pip Foweraker
Road warrior Ross Schafer is a mainstay at APAC GP's, flying out from one of the world's most remote cities to wherever the game is played. A trek across to Melbourne - a mere 2,730km - was never going to slow him down. I asked Schafer for his thoughts on how the format has shifted since the release of Born of the Gods.
The key shift in the metagame in Schafer's opinion is the broad rise of R/G Monsters. The Mono-Black decks that were so dominant previously have started to metamorphose into B/W decks, but Schafer feels like the metagame in Melbourne might not respond to that trend with any great speed. The lack of posted results may mean that players are more likely to stick with what they know or only make subtle adjustments rather than risking a relatively untested build.
"There aren't really any new decks", Schafer noticed, "But everyone's making subtle changes to their lists. The rise of the R/G decks mean that control decks can't rely on Supreme Verdict any more. Temporary removal - like Azorius Charm - is dropping in value and being replaced with more permanent answers so that the control decks can keep pace."
Schafer also notes some changes in the control mirrors, with some players boarding in multiple creatures to pre-empt their opponents sideboarding out their removal. "Staying ahead of the curve in sideboarding lets control decks eke out wins in the mirror when their opponents mis-step, and then forces them to hedge their bets against a transformational sideboard in Game 3."
Round 4 Featured Match - Isaac Egan vs. Zheng Jingwei
by Chapman Sim
Fresh off a Top 16 performance at Pro Tour Born of the Gods, Zheng Jingwei is the current Pro Point leader of New Zealand and tied for second place within the Asia Pacific region. Clearly a dominant force to be reckoned with, Zheng is here in Melbourne to hunt for more Pro Points in an attempt to level up from the Silver level which he has already attained this season and the next.
Isaac Egan is no slouch himself and has had a bunch of great performances as well, including a 4th place finish at GP Sydney 2010, 10th at Worlds 2010 and more recently 18th at Pro Tour Gatecrash. Both players are armed with Esper Control decks and it promises to be a battle of wits between two great players.
Both players led six uneventful turns, manipulating the tops of their own libraries with Scrylands but Zheng was the first to budge with Sphinx's Revelation. This clashed with Egan's Syncopate and Zheng took a glimpse into his opponent's hand, using Thoughtseize to reveal a myriad of relatively underwhelming kill spells in this matchup including Supreme Verdict and Fated Retribution.
Egan retaliated with a couple of Jaces off the top, the first one being stopped with Syncopate while the other was eventually finished off by Mutavault. With both players holding a bunch of dead cards in the pre-board game, it boiled down to who could stick the next Planeswalker on the quiet board or resolve a huge Sphinx's Revelation.
Zheng used his own Jace, Architect of Thought to find Dissolve, eventually feeling comfortable enough to drop Elspeth, Sun's Champion now that he had backup. Egan scooped up his cards when Zheng presented a Thoughtseize which would reveal that he had no more gas in his tank.
Zheng masterfully takes down the first game with his pair of Planeswalkers.
Thoughtseize proved to be a key card in this matchup and Zheng wasted no time stripping Jace, Architect of Thought (over other options like Thoughtseize, Sphinx's Revelation and Elspeth, Sun's Champion) from Egan's grip. This allowed Egan to do the same the next turn, using the very same discard spell to remove the very same Planewalker.
Two turns later, when Zheng ran Blood Baron of Vizkopa into Syncopate, Egan used the window to resolve Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Despite having it removed with Detention Sphere, Zheng found himself falling behind in terms of card advantage, as Egan proceeded to refill his hand using Jace, Architect of Thought as well as Sphinx's Revelation.
Down to just two cards, Zheng used Thoughtseize to expel Sphinx's Revelation before using Detention Sphere to exile Jace. Even after all that, Egan still had a full grip consisting double Sphinx's Revelation and double Blood Baron of Vizkopa and Zheng quickly succumbed.
Egan fights back and equalizes the score with a trio of Sphinx's Revelation.
Both players tried to keep up on their land drops and decided to fire off Sphinx's Revelations for 2. Egan allowed his opponent's copy to resolve, but Zheng decided to Syncopate Egan's copy.
He continued to deny Egan more resources by dissolving Jace, Architect of Thought, before using Thoughtseize to remove Syncopate. A second Dissolve countered Egan's second Jace Architect of Thought and Egan was just down to one relevant card in his hand, a lonely Blood Baron of Vizkopa.
Now that Egan was stripped of all his countermagic, Zheng proceeded to take over the game with Sphinx's Revelation for 5 and it looked like he was solidly ahead, until Egan presented a freshly drawn Elspeth, Sun's Champion.
Ignoring Elspeth and her minions temporarily, Zheng used Jace to fetch yet another Sphinx's Revelation, losing board advantage temporarily but clearly very ahead when it came to card advantage.
Six soldier tokens were now on the board and Zheng put a brake to that with Detention Sphere and added a speed bump in the form of Blood Baron of Vizkopa. Firing off another massive Sphinx's Revelation, all Zheng needed to do was to find a way to seal the game and Ætherling was exactly the fast clock that he needed. Egan's next draw of Gainsay seemed to mock him and he extended his hand graciously. There was no way he could beat a resolved Ætherling.
Zheng Jingwei defeats Isaac Egan 2-1.
Saturday, 3:00 p.m. - The Men in Black (and one in Red)
by Chapman Sim
Running a large event like Grand Prix Melbourne while upholding a great player experience is no easy task. Thankfully, with the a team of dedicated judges led by Level 4 Head Judge Christopher Richter from the United States, you can be sure you will be in safe hands.
Let's take a moment to thank the team who is behind Grand Prix Melbourne, working tirelessly around the clock to make this weekend the most awesome one it can possibly be!
Grand Prix Melbourne Judges
Level 3 Judges
John Alderfer, Wearn Chong Aaron Hamer, Fabian Peck, Nathan Brewer
Level 2 Judges
Sashi Kumar Balakrishnan, James Dowling, Jason Doan, Jonathon East, Simon Freiberg, Sang-Mook Ha, William Janssen, Danesh Jogia, Woosuk Lee, Yong Ming Lim, Morgan Meehan-Lam, Eric Papaluca, Matthew Miles-Watson, Harley Morphett, Chin Kai Ong, James Passfield, Alan Peng, Gareth Pye, Sean Roffey, Mackenzie Stratford, John Tong, Jonathan Trevarthen, QJ Wong, Chris Worrell, Dennis Xiao, Yu Win Yew, David Alston
Level 1 Judges
Robert Kern, Kwok Siang Neo, Liam Prasad
Saturday, 3:15 p.m. - A Quick Chat with Tom Haddy
by Pip Foweraker
Tom Haddy is a mainstay of the Australian Magic scene, and we like to cover him because of his keen insight into formats as well as being a ridiculously friendly chap. He's running an interesting concoction this weekend - expect a Deck Tech later - and I pulled him aside to chat about how Born of the Gods is evolving the format.
With only a few smaller tournaments on the books, GP Melbourne is the first real showcase of the new Standard. In his tournament prep, Haddy observed that the format seemed relatively unchanged from what it had been in previous weeks - Mono-Blue and Black, U/W control shells, and R/G topped out his metagame call, along with a handful of smaller aggro decks in various colour combinations.
Haddy sees most deckbuilders as focusing on fine-tuning matchups or staying ahead of minor variations in decklists as opposed to breaking new ground. He notes an increase in the amount of Gods seeing play, both the Theros originals and the newer ones from Born of the Gods, particularly Xenagos and Ephara. Aggressive decks can run cards like Destructive Revelry or Unravel the Æther and be more assured of a decent target, and Haddy points out that Black, which has been very strong in the format up until now, may start to struggle with non-discard methods of dealing with enchantments in the new Standard.
So is there room for some new break-out decks to emerge this weekend? Haddy certainly hopes so, his list targeted at the existing metagame with some precision. There are rumours of an ultra-aggressive U/W aggro deck floating around the hall already, and Phenax's name has been whispered a few times. The raw power level of the format is trending high, so any new brews will have to perform heroically indeed if they want to emerge victorious over the weekend.
Round 5 Feature Match - Patrick Pepper (R/B/W) vs. Jun Young Park (U/B)
by Pip Foweraker
Patrick Pepper is one of the Old Guard of Australian Magic, playing since earlier than he's willing to publicly admit. Jun Young Park is coming out to Melbourne fresh off a 3rd-place finish at Grand Prix: Kuala Lumpur earlier this year. Both players are piloting decks that are antithetical to creatures hanging around on the battlefield, Park hewing to a more traditional U/B build, Pepper bringing a concoction to the table that, well, just wants to kill everything. Players have remarked over the weekend about how well position Rakdos's Return is, and Pepper's deck takes full advantage of the plethora of powerful removal to the R/B/W colour combination.
Both players led off with scry lands before Pepper threw out the first discard spell of the match with a Thoughtseize. He cleared out an Underworld Connections and followed up with a Rakdos Keyrune, Park left sitting on a handful of removal.
Park tried summoning a Nightveil Spectre, but Pepper offed it with a Hero's Downfall. Park, stripped of his Underworld Connections, needed to regain momentum. A Thoughtseize revealed Pepper's hand of Read the Bones, Desecration Demon and Orzhova, Ghost Council. Park elected to take the Read the Bones.. Pepper summoned his Desecration Demon, which was instantly killed with a Devour Flesh. This is not a matchup where creatures are likely to hang around for very long...
Park puzzles out how to keep a creature around long enough to attack.
Park found another Underworld Connections to gain himself some card advantage. He Thoughtseized Pepper, taking the dangerous Orzhova out of contention before it could hit the board. Pepper, stalled on lands, could only watch as Park used his Connections to draw and then fuel a series of Pack Rats. Park remained within nearly-lethal range of a Rakdos's Return that Pepper had been sandbagging for most of the game, but Pepper couldn't find a land before the Rats took him down.
Jun Young Park 1 - Patrick Pepper 0
Pepper's opening Thoughtseize showed Park with a hand of gas, an Underworld Connections, Spectre, Bile Blight and Thoughtseize. Pepper took the Thoughtseize...Second Thoughtseize from Pepper shows double Devour, Connections, Spectre, Bile Blight. Park summoned his Spectre and passed, Pepper having no action on his 4th.
After taking a hit from the Spectre, Pepper pondered his next move carefully. Expecting something non-interactive from Park on his turn, he let the Spectre come through, weighing the danger of a connected Spectre swing against his desire to cast his Rakdos's Return. He ended up taking the attack and using the Return to knock Park down to 1 card in hand the following turn.
Pepper: "Guess who's back, back again..."
Pepper had a Merciless Eviction to finally deal with the Spectre, while Park was forced into an aggressive stance with a Mutavault. Pepper had an Elspeth, Sun's Champion to stabilise, leaving Park in an unenviable position. Park had a Hero's Downfall for the Elspeth after she had spawned some tokens, and then both players summoned a Desecration Demon each. Warleader's Helix from Pepper took out Park's Mutavault, and Park had a second Desecration Demon to drop to increase the pressure on Pepper.
Pepper drew a second Rakdos's Return, breathed deeply, and ran through the math. He sacrificed his last Elspeth token to tap down Park's remaining Demon, dropped his untapped Blood Crypt, and cast his Rakdos's Return for exactly lethal.
Patrick Pepper 1 - Jun Young Park 1
Park spent the first few turns aboslutely demolishing Pepper's hand with a series of Duresses and Thoughtseizes. Pepper played land after land as his creatures were stripped away or killed the moment they entered the battlefield, Park piling on pressure with first one and then two Nightveil Spectres. Pepper played defensively where he could, but as the Spectres denied him all the goodies on top of his library and left him with a series of sub-par draws, there was little he could do to combat Park's relentless card advantage engines.
Jun Young Park 2 - Patrick Pepper 1
Round 6 Featured Match - Ross Schafer vs. Ben Fleming
by Chapman Sim
Ross Schafer's previous finish was 12th at Grand Prix Auckland 2012 and was hoping to bring that up a notch with a Top 8 appearance this weekend. In that very same year, Ben Fleming also attained one of his two Nationals Top 8 appearances. Schafer was happy to bring Esper Control to the table, while Fleming was ready with Blue White Devotion.
Schafer started off by discarding Fleming's Detention Sphere with Thoughtseize but found himself on the receiving end of a quick beatdown from Cloudfin Raptor and Tidebinder Mage.
He relieved himself of some pressure by using Detention Sphere but Fleming reinforced with Frostburn Weird. In conjunction with Mutavault, Fleming was able to get rid of two successive Jace, Architect of Thought.
However, Schafer was simply buying time to build up a huge Sphinx's Revelation while baiting for more threats but Fleming was not about to overextend. Eventually, Supreme Verdict reset the board but Fleming quickly bounced back with Thassa, God of the Sea and Nightveil Specter.
Schafer reloaded with Sphinx's Revelation for four new cards, hoping that Fleming would be one devotion short of awakening the Sea God. That was not to be as Fleming revealed Tidebinder Mage off the top, attacking for 9 damage and reducing Schafer to just 2 life. To make matters worse, Fleming had flipped over Dissolve from Nightveil Specter, ensuring that victory would be his.
Schafer falls behind in Game One, unable generate much advantage from his Jaces.
Schafer's early Thoughtseize showed him Fleming's grip containing Glare of Heresy and double Gainsay, a trio great sideboard cards against him. He eventually decided to discard Bident of Thassa instead. Having only reactive cards in his hand, Fleming could only activate Mutavault and hit for three damage together with Judge's Familiar.
With the knowledge that Fleming was light on threats, Schafer felt comfortable enough to use one of his two Doom Blades to kill the opposing owl mid-combat, giving Schafer the chance to resolve a topdecked Bident of Thassa.
Upon reaching six mana, Schafer recruited Elspeth, Sun's Champion on successive turns, which was answered by two copies of Glare of Heresy. Fleming then started to pick off the opposing soldier tokens, forcing them to attack into his Tidebinder Mage using Bident of Thassa.
Using the first of his two Gainsays to protect against Schafer's Dissolve, Fleming successfully resolved Thassa, God of the Sea and things began to go downhill for Schafer. Fleming's final card was the second copy of Gainsay that Schafer had already seen, so he used Jace, Architect of Thought to bait it out with success. This allowed Detention Sphere resolve unopposed, exiling Thassa, God of the Sea.
The Gods were not with him though (but rather with his opponent), as Fleming plopped Ephara, God of the Polis and a replacement Thassa, God of the Sea onto the board. Even though Schafer did have Gainsay to stop Master of Waves later on, he soon succumbed to the the power of the Gods.
The Gods were literally on Fleming's side.
Ben Fleming defeats Ross Schafer 2-0.
Saturday, 5:40 p.m. - Photo Essay: Interesting Brews
by Chapman Sim
You might think that only "serious" decks like Mono-Black Devotion are capable of winning but some creative players are here to make you think otherwise! Near the top of the tables, we see some really interesting brews featured an assortment of goodies from Born of the Gods, proving that being unconventional can have its rewards too!
An unfair graveyard deck attempting to abuse Grisly Salvage, Commune with the Gods and Satyr Wayfinder was witnessed in action and Deathrite Shaman finds a new home in Standard now that it is banned in Modern. Load up your graveyard and finish the game with colossal monsters like Nemesis of Mortals and Nighthowler!
Relying on Elvish Mystic, Kiora's Follower and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx to fuel the mana-hungry deck, this Simic mage never seems to be short on cards since he also harnesses the power of Jace, Architect of Thought, Kiora, the Crashing Wave and Courser of Kruphix. Eventually, this deck strives to ramp into stylish bombs like Primeval Bounty, Polukranos, World Eater and even Sylvan Primordial!
A white weenie deck attempting to grow Hero of Iroas with the help of bestow creatures, including the pictured Nyxborn Shieldmate and the unpictured Hopeful Eidolon and Eidolon of Countless Battles. Throw in Heliod, God of the Sun and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx for added fun!
Rakdos "suicide" Aggro gets a boost from aggressively-costed creatures like Pain Seer and Herald of Torment. With its improved manabase thanks to Temple of Malice, it is so much easier to cast Spike Jester and still find space for Mutavault. Greedy is good!
Rounding off this short photo essay of interesting brews is Terry Soh piloting Mono-Black Devotion. Whoops! Not quite an interesting brew but his Pack Rat tokens are cute enough to warrant a mention. Pika-pika!
Round 7 Feature Match - Gene Brumby (G/W) vs. Hao-Shan Huang (R/G)
by Pip Foweraker
Brumby is a mainstay in the New Zealand scene, known to players across the country for both his long play history (he's represented the country at Worlds 3 times!) and his role in the community as a local game store owner and very active trader. Huang has made multiple GP Top 8's and is a member of Team mtgmintcard, whose players have been posting strong results in recent events worldwide. Their last feature match ended in a draw that left both players out of contention, and they sat down with a friendly keenness to settle old scores.
This matchup is all about efficient, aggressive creatures clobbering the heck out of each other in a variety of ways. While Brumby's G/W shell packs the most power, card-for-card, Huang has access to more strategic flexibility in his tricks, 'fight' effects, and the top of his mana curve features Stormbreath Dragon and Polukranos, two difficult cards for Brumby's deck to oppose effectively.
Both players started the match with a mulligan to 6. Huang led off with an Elvish Mystic, Both played scried their tickets out of Mulligan Town, Huang accelerating off a Sylvan Caryatid into a Stormbreath Dragon, while Brumby had a Voice of Resurgence and then an Experiment One and another Voice.
Don't let his contemplation fool you. Huang knows exactly how he's going to win: DRAGONS!
Huang, proud controller of a pro-white Dragon, thought the best thing to do would be double up with another, sending both monsters crashing through the air at Brumby. Another turn of this hyper-aggressive nonsense, and Brumby was ready for his sideboard.
Whilst sideboarding, Brumby smiled at the ineffectual role his Voices of Resurgence had played last game. "They're the most glorified Grizzly Bears I've ever run", Brumby quipped.
Hao-Shan Huang 1 - Gene Brumby 0
Both players sent their openers back once more. Brumby opened with a Fleecemane Lion, while Huang had an Elvish Mystic to kick things along. Huang used his extra mana to ramp into a Courser of Kruphix and a second Elvish Mystic. Brumby flashed in a Boon Satyr and untapped, eager to get his creatures into combat. Huang stopped the Lion with his Courser and took a nibble. Brumby followed up with an Experiment One and a second Fleecemane Lion, bolstering his army considerably.
Huang summoned a Stormbreath Dragon just in time for Brumby to draw a Plummet, summoning his third Lion and attacking. Huang, a Ghor-Clan Rampager sitting atop his deck, looked to have few good options against the incoming wave. He gang-blocked one of the Lions and fell to a precarious life total, needing to move to the defensive against Brumby's army.
A Polukranos certainly seemed like it was going to help Huang out, especially when it was joined by a Domri Rade the following turn. Brumby kept attacking, pushing damage through where he could in an effort to race the terrifying monster. Brumby summoned a Loxodon Smiter and then an Arbor Colossus. Polukranos went monstrous and, with Domri's aid, took out both of Brumby's top-end creatures.
Brumby, running low on dudes, was under pressure to finish Huang off before he could further stabilise. On Brumby's attack, Huang assigned blockers but left the Boon Satyr unopposed. When he went to finish it off with a Destructive Revelry, Brumby flashed his topdecked Rootborn Defences to keep his attacker alive and take the second game by the most narrow of margins.
Gene Brumby 1 - Hao-Shan Huang 1
The third game came as almost a repeat of the first. Brumby deployed a pile of aggressive early creatures and had double Advent of the Wurm in hand, but Huang simply chose to ignore Brumby's plan of action and once again summoned a pair of Stormbreath Dragons to take the game and match.
Hao-Shan Huang 2 - Gene Brumby 1
Round 8 Featured Match - Chester Swords vs. James Fazzolari
by Chapman Sim
Fazzolari quickly revealed himself to be a Boros Burn player when he wasted no time in pointing Shock at his opponent on Turn 1.
He turned up the heat by curving out perfectly with Ash Zealot and Chandra's Phoenix, whittling away at Swords' life total. When Swords presented Courser of Kruphix to block, Magma Jet finished it off after Ash Zealot dished out its first strike damage.
Swords could only manage Xenagos, the Reveler, making a Satyr to block. After burning the token with another Magma Jet, Fazzolari chose to ignore the planeswalker, instead mounting an alpha strike to reduce Swords to just 7 life.
With his death imminent, he decided to summon Stormbreath Dragon, keeping it back to block. While a wise choice, it was inconsequential. Fazzolari had enough burn (Shock, Lightning Strike and Warleader's Helix) in his grip to toast his opponent to a crisp.
Fazzolari takes game one with the help of quick beaters and a flurry of burn spells.
Satyr Firedancer by Fazzolari was the first creature of the second game. Despite having Mizzium Mortars in his opening seven, Swords declined to kill it, preferring to drop Polukranos, World Eater two turns later. If Swords could untap the next turn, he would be able to make it monstrous to get rid of the pesky Satyr Firedancer.
However, the entire plan was thrown out of the window when Fazzolari pointed Shock and Lightning Strike at him, simultaneously dealing 5 damage to the 5/5 monster. Satyr Firedancer had effectively doubled the output of all his burn spells!
Now realizing how powerful it is, Sword had decided to kill it the next turn, but found himself on the receiving end of a hasty Spark Trooper. Lurking at a familiarly precarious 7 life once again, Swords mulled over his options and decided on a second Polukranos and hoped for the best. Warleader's Helix and Boros Charm ended things there and then.
James Fazzolari defeats Chester Swords 2-0.
Round 9 Feature Match - Aaron Sewell (Mono-Black) vs. Yifan Wei (Esper)
by Pip Foweraker
Both players were undefeated heading in to the final round. Sewell was piloting a relatively traditional Mono-Black deck, while Wei wielded an Esper control deck featuring the usual suspects. Sewell started well, summoning the eponymous Pack Rat, but stalled on mana, missing his third land drop. Wei, having had 3 scry lands in a row to set out his plays, considered how to best take advantage of Sewell's tempo hiccough.
Wei used an Azorius Charm to pop the Pack Rats on the top of Sewell's deck, trying to further deny him access to mana. Sewell made the somewhat unusual play of killing his own Rat with a Devour Flesh to keep his draws unmanipulated. His third land appeared and he tried an Underworld Connections, which Wei stopped cold with a Syncopate.
Sewell makes the hard calls.
A Thoughtseize from Sewell revealed an Elspeth and a Sphinx's Revelation, with Wei sitting on 5 lands and with more in hand. Sewell took the Elspeth and followed up over the next turns with a Lifebane Zombie and a Desecration Demon, while Wei was content to let Sewell play out his threats and fire off a mid-sized Revelation for 4.
Sewell attacked with his Demon and Lifebane Zombie, knocking Wei to 12 life. Wei had a grip full of cards but nothing on the board to slow Sewell down. A Fated Retribution cleared out both of Sewell's threats, and Wei followed up with a Jace, Architect of Thought and then an Ætherling. Sewell was holding a trio of Bile Blights and played what defence he could, but the singular win condition proved too difficult to take down.
Yifan Wei 1 - Aaron Sewell 0
Wei opened the second game with a Thoughtseize, stripping Sewell of his own discard spell, but leaving him free to cast a turn 2 Pack Rat. Wei had nothing on his second turn while Sewell cracked in with his Rat and made a token. Wei had a Detention Sphere to stave off the army of Rats. Sewell followed up with an Underworld Connections, while Wei had a Blood Baron of Vizkopa to start racing back.
Wei may look like he's asking a question, but he's all answers.
Sewell kept pace with a Desecration Demon. Wei summoned an Elspeth, whose Soldiers kept the Desecration Demon occupied while the Blood Baron went to town. Sewell did what he could, but Wei's two powerhouse cards kept him in control of the game and won him the match a few turns later.
Yifan Wei 2 - Aaron Sewell 0