Coverage of Grand Prix Miami Day 1

  • Print


  • Saturday, 11:35 a.m. – Undefeated Grinder Lists

    by Nate Price

  • Benjamin Battle — UW Flash
    Grand Prix Miami 2013


  • Saturday, 12:05 p.m. – Standard Deck Glossary

    by Jacob Van Lunen

  • The letter O!ver the last year, players have enjoyed what may be the most diverse Standard format in over a decade. The format in its current state features well over ten unique and viable archetypes. Let's take a look at what we can expect to see this weekend.

    Naya Blitz: One of the format's most aggressive strategies. This deck uses Burning-Tree Emissary, Champion of the Parish, and a host of inexpensive humans to overwhelm its opponents before they have a chance to get on the board.

    Naya Zoo: This aggressive deck eschews Burning-Tree Emissary in favor of more powerful two-drops like Voice of Resurgence. The deck is far more resilient to sweepers like Rolling Temblor and Supreme Verdict than its Blitz counterpart, but it lacks the nearly unbeatable explosive draws facilitated by Burning-Tree Emissary.

    Naya Midrange: A less aggressive version of Naya that utilizes Domri Rade in conjunction with Boros Reckoner. The deck goes reasonably large and usually plays four to six creatures that cost five or more mana; these are likely to be some combination of Aurelia, the Warleader, Thundermaw Hellkite, or Wolfir Silverheart.

    Bant Hexproof: Standard's premier combo strategy picks up a lot of free wins by pairing Invisible Stalker and Geist of Saint Traft with auras like Ethereal Armor, Rancor, Unflinching Courage, and Spectral Flight. The deck can be weak to Liliana of the Veil, Tribute to Hunger, Far//Away, Devour Flesh, and Supreme Verdict.

    Bant Control: Bant Control strategies ramp into Supreme Verdict and follow up with haymakers like Thragtusk and Sphinx's Revelation.

    Blue/White Flash: This control deck can be identified by the presence of Restoration Angel, Augur of Bolas, and Snapcaster Mage. Renounce the Guilds helps the deck battle traditional trump cards against Control decks like Assemble the Legion and Obzedat, Ghost Council. The deck is very weak to Voice of Resurgence, but the dwindling number of Cavern of Souls in the field may encourage a lot of Azorius diehards to sleeve this up for battle.

    Blue/White/Red Flash: Like its Blue/White counterpart, this Blue/White/Red deck can be identified by the presence of Restoration Angel, Augur of Bolas, and Snapcaster Mage. The deck plays similarly to the Blue/White Flash deck, but shores up the deck's weakness to Voice of Resurgence by playing Pillar of Flame. Warleader's Helix helps the deck fight the Restoration Angel battle and lets players end games out of nowhere by throwing eight to twelve points at an opponent's face between an endstep and mainphase.

    Blue/White/Red Control: This deck plays very few creatures, usually including an Ætherling or two as the win condition. The deck plays a lot of Supreme Verdict, Planeswalkers, spot removal, and countermagic. The deck can be overran by a lot of the decks in the format, but it's one of the scariest decks in the format when it's able to make it to the fifth or sixth turn with a healthy handsize and life total.

    Blue/White/Red Guys: Marked by the presence of Boros Reckoner, Boros Charm, and Azorius Charm. This deck has an infinite life combo that doesn't work when playing Magic Online. The deck has the ability to perform much better at live events.

    Esper Control: A powerful combination of card draw, removal, and Planeswalkers. This deck needs to hit its land drops for the first five or six turns, but it can systematically tear apart aggressive strategies if it makes it to the fifth turn healthy, and it dominates other control decks with Nephalia Drownyard.

    Act 2 Aristocrats: A Red/Black/White deck that takes full advantage of Blood Artist and the Morbid mechanic. Blasphemous Act has the ability to end games out of nowhere in conjunction with Boros Reckoner and Blood Artist.

    Junk Aristocrats: This Green/Black/White Blood Artist deck sacrifices the explosive power of the Blasphemous Act combo in favor of more consistency in the form of Young Wolf and Voice of Resurgence.

    Red/Black/White Midrange: A Red/Black/White midrange strategy that plays the most powerful spells available at five mana and races opponents with lifelinking monsters like Blood Baron of Vizkopa and Vampire Nighthawk. Blood Baron of Vizkopa and Obzedat, Ghost Council are very difficult for most decks to deal with.

    Mono Red: The newest iterations of Mono Red play like more consistent/less powerful versions of the Naya Blitz deck. Rakdos Cackler and Stromkirk Noble get things started quickly and Burning-Tree Emissary powers out aggressive plays like Lightning Mauler and Firstfist Striker.

    Gruul Blitz: Almost mono red, but splashes green for Ghor-Clan Rampager, Flinthoof Boar, and Domri Rade in some cases. This deck is currently the most successful aggressive strategy on Magic Online.

    Gruul Midrange: Similar to Gruul Blitz, the midrange version of the deck plays an extra land or two and takes advantage of Thundermaw Hellkite's excellent position in the current format.

    Jund Midrange: A midrange strategy that uses inexpensive spot removal to bide time before taking the game over with Olivia Voldaren and Planeswalkers.

    Jund Aggro: A Burning-Tree Emissary deck that has access to Falkenrath Aristocrat. The Jund Aggro deck is similar to the Rakdos decks that took over Standard last November. Lots of haste, not much waste.

    Junk Rites: Once the boogieman of the format, this Unburial Rites strategy seeks to disrupt its opponent with Acidic Slime and close the game by chaining Angel of Serenity or, in some cases, ending things immediately with Craterhoof Behemoth.

    Four-Color Reanimator: This wacky Unburial Rites deck splashes red for Faithless Looting and uses its card selection to put together the Boros Reckoner/Blasphemous Act combo against slower midrange strategies.

    Human Reanimator: A true combo deck that uses Angel of Glory's Rise to reanimate a host of humans and gain infinite life, deal infinite damage, destroy all of its opponents non-land permanents, or mill its opponent out.

    Black/Green Predator: Originally popularized by Brian Kibler, this decks churns out hard-to-deal-with threats while disrupting its opponent with Planeswalkers and inexpensive spot removal.

    Black/Green Mutilate: A controlling midrange strategy that uses Mutilate, spot removal, disruption, Liliana of the Veil, and Desecration Demon to blank inexpensive removal and survive any sort of rush. This deck has strong aggro, midrange, and Bant Hexproof matchups, but struggles against Sphinx's Revelation and some Unburial Rites decks.


  • Saturday, 2:50 p.m. – Quick Hits: What's The best Sphinx's Revelation deck in Standard? The best Burning-Tree Emissary deck?

    by Jacob Van Lunen

  • Joel Larsson: "Probably Blue/White/Red, but there's an insane new Esper deck. Gruul Aggro."
    Willy Edel: "None. (Laughs) [Naya] Blitz is probably the best, but I don't like it."
    Brian Kibler: "Blue/White/Red. Gruul Aggro."
    Craig Wescoe: "None of them play Judge's Familiar. Gruul Aggro."


  • Saturday, 3:25 p.m. – Meet Ben Stark

    by Nate Price

  • The letter I!t is not often that a player is as revered by other top-flight players as Florida native Ben Stark is. In the vein of greats such as Rich Hoaen and Neil Reeves, Stark is hailed as a true Limited master, one of the best the game has seen. He's like an oracle that players from around the globe journey to, seeking after his wisdom. And I'm only partially joking, too. I have sat in for four-time Grand Prix winner Martin Jůza in a draft so that he could "sit behind Ben and watch him draft." Jůza won back-to-back Limited Grand Prix across two different formats, and he still sought out Stark to help him learn.

    "I think there are three separate skills in Magic: there's playing Magic, there's understanding Limited, and there's understanding Constructed. I have two of them," Stark joked, sitting down to speak with me. "I don't have all three. I can play Constructed when I happen to have a good deck, or someone gives me a good deck, or whatever, I can play the game. But I don't think I really tune and brew Constructed decks well or anything like that."

    Ben Stark

    I'm never one to pigeonhole a player as being a Constructed or Limited player. Labels like that tend to cause people to overlook the sheer amount of skill required to play either form of Magic. Stark has proven that when he is given the proper tools, he is capable of incredible performances, even in Constructed. He's a Pro Tour Champion, having taken down Pro Tour Paris in 2011, and his last two Pro Tour Top 8s have come on the backs of a combined 15-2-3 record in the Constructed formats.

    These skills, well the two that he admits to possessing anyway, are hard won.

    "I've been playing for nineteen years," Stark informed me, "October of 1994, when I was in 6th grade. Revised had just come out. I hadn't ever heard of the game before, but when I got to school, everyone was playing it."

    It wouldn't take long for Stark to find out about the competitive side of the burgeoning game, though he did hit some speed bumps as he got up to speed.

    "My first PTQ was Tempest Sealed," he recalled. "I won my first PTQ in Urza's Saga/Urza's Legacy/Urza's Destiny. I guess that was '99. London '99 was my first Pro Tour. My 16th birthday was at that Pro Tour. I went like 2-3-1, or whatever. I wasn't successful right away. I got like 63rd at my second Pro Tour, and I didn't cash another three or four before I started doing well."

    After a few years of playing the PTQ circuit and on the Pro Tour, things started to come together for Stark. In 2002, he managed to string together a few good performances at Pro Tours and Grand Prix, finishing just shy of landing a spot on the gravy train, more or less what we'd consider platinum-level by today's standards.

    Over this time, he met some of the other top Limited minds in the game, guys like Neil Reeves, Rich Hoaen, and Gabe Walls. These are guys who spent every free minute at events drafting against other top-level players, with a lot more than pride on the line. This helped him to understand the Limited game in a way that few others do.

    "I mean, every format is different," he tried to explain, "So when people see a new card, they have no way to evaluate it. There are formats where a six-mana 5/5 flier is a slam first pick, and others where it's barely playable. It's constantly changing by what your deck needs and the play out of the decks against each other. I play like three or four drafts with a set, see the commons... I don't even need to play, I can just watch the drafts, and kind of tell what's good in that format, what's filling the holes for each color, and what each deck needs."

    His decade worth of Pro Tour experience has given him numerous highs and lows, though the moment he's been looking forward to the most is still on the horizon

    "I'll tell you what, the thing I'm looking forward to the most is playing in the World Championships this year," he said with a smile. "I never got to play in an Invitational. The first year I did really well, they changed the invite criteria... and then the last year I did really well, the Player's Championship hadn't been created yet."

    Other than that, he had a hard time coming up with a favorite moment.

    "I don't think I have one moment that really stands out to me," he said.

    He didn't even really enjoy his Pro Tour win in Paris particularly.

    "I didn't really enjoy playing that deck," he laughed. "I'd just mulligan to Stoneforge Mystic and then play two non-interactive games and crush people."

    He did have a deck that stuck in his memory, though.

    "My favorite deck that I've ever played in the Pro Tour is Pattern of Rebirth," he said with a fond smile. "My first good finish ever on the Pro Tour was a 33rd in Houston. It was my first experience being near the top of the standings and getting a feature match. It was so cool. That deck was so sweet. You got to play Duress, Cabal Therapy, Wall of Blossoms... you could constantly tutor for things with Pattern and Rector. It was all search and discard and tutors. It was a lot of fun to play.

    And I had never played it. The first game I played with it was Round 1 Game 1 at that Pro Tour. I had won a last chance qualifier the night before playing a Standard Mirari's Wake deck, but I woke up in the morning without an Extended deck. Fortunately, Peter Szigeti had a copy of the Pattern deck to lend me."

    Now that Stark was thinking about his Pattern deck and the fun he had playing it, he began to recount some of the cool moments from that event.

    "I played against one of the Ruels in that tournament, and he got a turn two Rorix Bladewing, or something, and I just played Academy Rector, sacrificed it, and got Confiscate and took it and won anyway. And I had a sick moment against Mark Zadjner, who got second at Worlds. Kai Budde was standing behind him during Game 3. He made a first-turn Verdant Force and did some other stuff, made some tokens or something. I just played Birds of Paradise then Nantuko Husk. He attacked me to like 3 or something, then I got to play a land, play a Pattern of Rebirth, and attack. He was at 20 so he just took it, then I sacrificed the Pattern, got Symbiotic Wurm, and killed him. He had out like a token and a Wonder, but he just took the damage and died. Kai started yelling at him in German... it was great."

    Some of his favorite games of Magic nowadays come against another top player in Magic: Tom Martell.

    "I've beaten him six times in the past two and a half years in Premier-level tournaments, and he's somewhat tilted about it," Stark laughed. "He's a good sport, but the fourth time, then the fifth time, he's just like, 'this is ridiculous.' If I could choose anyone to get paired against, it'd be him, not because I'm any more likely to beat him or anything, but because it's more fun the more times in a row I do beat him. He's so animated that it makes twisting the dagger like that really funny.

    I can respect being on the other side of it, too. I've played Kibler like five or six times, and I've never beaten him, so it goes both ways. Every time I see his name on the pairings, I'm like, 'you've got to be kidding me.' I've gotta win this one. It's just twisting the dagger further if you lose the seventh time or whatever against someone."

    As someone who enjoys a good needling, I found it very surprising that Stark doesn't consider himself an overly competitive person, a trait that is common among top-level professionals.

    "When I lose a game, it doesn't really bother me," he told me. "I don't come into tournaments expecting to win or anything."

    He's like the anti-Martin Jůza, who is notorious for being the happiest person in the world when he is winning and inconsolable when he's on a downswing.

    "At the first team Grand Prix, when we weren't doing well, Martin started tilting off," Stark recalled. "I didn't think it was helping, so I just told him that they drew better than us. I mean, who cares? It's Magic. In a lot of the Sealed Grand Prix recently, my decks weren't particularly good, but I just 8-1'd because my opponents drew horribly. That's the game. If I'm the one who draws horribly, I can't get mad. Am I always supposed to draw perfectly while only my opponents get screwed? Come on now. I've had my share of running well, so I'm not going to complain when I run poorly."

    I found this stance incredibly interesting, especially considering Stark's chosen profession and favorite hobby. A professional poker player who adores basketball, Stark seems like he would be a total competitive nut, yet he's very grounded with a refreshing sensibility on the nature of variance. Sometimes you get there, sometimes you don't. And while it's apparent from his career that he's certainly done his fair share of getting there, it's obvious that he's earned his results as well.


  • Saturday, 4:45 p.m. – This is my deck. There are many like it, but this one is mine. Matt Costa on Blue/White

    by Jacob Van Lunen

  • The letter M!att Costa is widely considered one of the best control/tempo players in the world. For the last two years, without fail, Costa has been playing Blue/White variants at every Standard event. This weekend, he's battling with a well-tuned Blue/White/Red list. I had the opportunity to sit down with him and pick his brain about all things Blue/White.

    You had a breakout performance at Pro Tour Dark Ascension playing a Blue/White deck. Have you been playing Blue/White variants for a long time, or was that the point that you became attached to the deck?

    Matt Costa

    "I actually played mostly Blue/Black decks prior to my Pro Tour finish. I played a lot of Faeries and Teachings. Delver was my first Blue/White deck, but I've been playing Blue Tempo/Control decks for a long time. The first PTQ I ever played was Lorwyn Block Constructed. I played Five-Color-Control, but I lost to Melissa Detora in both the swiss and the top 8. After that I was Faeries or other Blue tempo decks for life."

    How have Blue/White strategies changed since then? Do you feel the deck has become weaker in the new metagame?

    "It's certainly not nearly as dominant as the Delver [of secrets] decks were. I think Geist of Saint Traft decks aren't well positioned at the moment. Blue/White variants [Blue/White/Red and Blue/White/Black] are much better as a control decks [instead of tempo] now because of Sphinx's Revelation. You want to have a high land count so you can hit your first five or six land drops."

    You're always tweaking the deck for a given tournament. Do you generally look at Magic Online results to decide what's necessary for the upcoming weekend?

    "Definitely. I read through basically every deck that gets posted on and I play a lot of Magic Online myself. For example, I added Thundermaw Hellkite to my sideboard because there are so many midrange and aristocrat decks doing well on Magic Online. I don't think traditional Blue/White/Red is very good in the control mirrors. So i decided to lower my curve and be more aggressive by bringing in Thundermaw Hellkite and three copies of Dispel. I also cut Dissipate for Counterflux this week because I expected more blue decks than Unburial Rites strategies this weekend."

    Do you think players that are associated with a single archetype are at a distinct disadvantage by giving opponents free information or do you feel the expertise that comes with playing one exclusive archetype outweighs these factors?

    "I don't really worry about the information aspect of things. I just want to play the deck that gives me the best chance of winning the tournament. I value experience and practice higher than most people. Would I recommend my deck to someone looking to pick something up the night before the GP? Probably not, but I feel it's the best deck for me."


  • Saturday, 4:55 p.m. – On the Fringe: Green/White Timmy with Joel Larsson

    by Jacob Van Lunen

  • The letter S!tandard is wide open right now. There are nearly two dozen decks that regularly top 8 events. Even still, there are decks on the fringe. I had an opportunity to sit down with Joel Larsson and talk to him about an interesting deck choice. Let's see what the Pro Tour Gatecrash Top 8 competitor has to say about unleashing his inner Timmy.

    You're playing an interesting deck this weekend. Tell us about your deck and why you chose to play it.

    Joel Larsson

    "I'm playing green/white with Silverblade Paladin, Sublime Archangel, Sigarda, Host of Herons, Call of the Conclave, Strangleroot Geist, Rancor, and four copies of Fatih's Shield. I had no idea what to play this weekend. I hadn't played Standard in a while and I wanted a powerful and straightforward archetype. I asked Gerry Thompson what I should play and he gave me this deck. Fatih's shield is very good right now. It's a very straightforward deck, so there's not much special to say about it. It's basically a Bant Hexproof deck, but it's a lot more stable. The deck just kills people out of nowhere."

    I noticed that you're not playing Voice of Resurgence in your deck. The card is a huge force in Standard that is being utilized in many archetypes. Why isn't the Green/White Mythic in your 75?

    "Everyone seems to be playing Pillar of Flame right now, I really don't want to have Grizzly Bears in my deck. The deck wants to apply pressure as quickly as possible and maximize the power it's putting on the table. Strangleroot Geist gets in right away for two damage even if they have the Pillar of Flame. Call of the Conclave is also more aggressive, having a three power body for two mana is really important with Silverblade Paladin and Rancor."

    How does the deck match up against some of the more established decks in the format?

    "I just lost to Junk Tokens and it seemed like a very bad matchup. Jund is a very good matchup because I can just ramp into a Sigarda, Host of Herons even in game one. Faith's shield is very good against Hellrider decks like Gruul, I can just let the triggers tick me down to five life and cast it with Fateful Hour; I take no more damage and I can just kill their whole team because all my guys have Protection from Red. Junk should also be a very good matchup because I'm a Silverblade Paladin deck and they don't have any spot removal."

    Do you have any interesting tech in your sideboard?

    "Intrepid hero is very good with rancor."

    Joel Larsson's Green/White Timmy
    Grand Prix Miami 2013


  • Saturday, 5:35 p.m. – Early Scoop from the Floor

    by Nate Price

  • The letter R!ound 6 has just begun, so it's time to take a quick look around the floor and see what this room of over 1200 players has in store for us this fine weekend. We've had all of the players with byes in the field for at least two rounds now, and things are beginning to heat up.

    The first things of note is the prevalence of Bant Hexproof. The aura-based deck has had flashes of brilliance over the past year or so, but it has never been able to keep it up for a sustained period of time. In Guadalajara a couple of months ago, we saw this same phenomenon, with Hexproof decks popping up out of nowhere to ephemerally return to the ether.

    Part of the reason for this phenomenon is the deck's inherent instability. Sometimes, the deck has an unbeatable draw, and sometimes it just loses. The deck can mulligan really well (all you need is a hexproof creature and an Unflinching Courage and you beat most decks), but the mana can be suspect, and it can actually get overrun. Worse, since the deck is designed is such a way to avoid direct interaction if possible, mirror matches essentially become coin flips. When the deck shows up in force, as it did in Guadalajara and it seems to be here, you run into more mirror matches, consequently have to get lucky to advance. It will be interesting to see if the deck flames out over the weekend, as it did in Guadalajara, or if it is stable enough to make a serious run at slots in the Top 8.

    Another deck that has come back out of the woodworks is Esper Control. With Supreme Verdict suffering at the moment, decks based around UW control strategies have taken a corresponding hit. Between Voice of Resurgence, Sin Collector, and Sire of Insanity, there are a number of ways to simply outdo the major players in Esper, hence its sharp decline with the release of Dragon's Maze. That being said, it is interesting to see it sitting on the top tables, and in numbers. Players have adapted, going away from the heavy instant components that were marquee in builds before Dragon's Maze. In their place, the Esper planeswalkers have made a resurgence.

    Between various versions of Jace, Sorin, and Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, the planeswalkers provide ways to control the game that get around Sin Collector, survive through Sire of Insanity, and force you to use their abilities at sorcery speed. While this deck would normally be disadvantaged against Blitz decks like Gruul Blitz, Jace, Architect of Thought, and Lingering Souls provide an incredible buffer. This gradual shift away from relying on cards once held to be essential has resulted in a new version of Esper that is able to survive through adversity.

    Still, this format is incredibly fast. As such it is very punishing to any sort of stumble. Esper has always had a bit of trouble with mana, though it is admittedly eased with the removal of Planar Cleansing from the lists. Considering that the Esper deck is relying on keeping a Planeswalker alive, it can get overrun if it doesn't draw the right cards at the right times. That, and tapping out for a Planeswalker only to lose it to a Thundermaw Hellkite is a very real thing in this format. It takes a good deal of discipline to successfully run the deck in Standard right now, and we'll see if it's able to keep up its showing as the weekend winds on.


  • Saturday, 6:40 p.m. – Meet Reid Duke

    by Nate Price

  • The letter T!he list of professional Magic players that I have heard referred to as "the nicest player I've ever met" is very small. I mean, microscopic. It's hard to worry about the feelings of your opponent when you're trying desperately to utterly bash their face in. It's not that professional Magic players are jerks or even slightly mean, they just don't go out of their way to be super nice to their opponents. Yet somehow, Reid Duke manages this on an hourly basis.

    "It is very important to me that my opponents have a good time," Duke said with a smile. "While I'm a professional player and Magic is a huge part of my life, that isn't true for everyone. I feel like it's almost a responsibility of the professional players to keep Magic a really enjoyable game, because without it, we wouldn't have a job. My first priority is the game, to serve Magic as well as I can, and you don't do that by being rude or intentionally trying to intimidate people or whatever it might be that some players do. I consider myself a friend of everyone who plays Magic across the world, and it's important to me to represent the game well and make sure that it has a good future, so I'll do anything I can."

    Reid Duke

    This attitude of putting the game first is one of the things that is so fantastic about Duke. He understands that he's been given a great opportunity, and he wants to both make the most of it and give back. After all, the game's been a big part of his life for the overwhelming majority of his time on this Earth. Growing up in Sugar Loaf, New York, a very young Reid Duke opened his first pack of Ice Age and never looked back.

    "I've been playing Magic my whole life, since I was five years old, that's eighteen years now," he said. "I was always a tournament player, at the local level at least, I went to a few Regionals and medium-sized tournaments and such. My first PTQ season where I went to a lot of events was Lorwyn block. But I guess the major turning point in my career was when I began playing Magic Online, which was when I went away to college. Eventually I won a couple of big online tournaments during the Zendikar time period. It helped me to get to the Pro Tour, and once I made it, I had a change in my lifestyle and made Magic a big part of it."

    Duke was virtually synonymous with Magic Online throughout the beginning of his professional career. He was one of the first players to make the jump transcend being a Magic Online grinder and become a top-level professional talent. While he has certainly made a big name for himself in the world of paper Magic, Duke admits that his time on Magic Online really helped shape him into the player he is today.

    "I was fortunate to be really into Magic Online at the time they introduced online PTQs and the Magic Online Championship Series," Duke admitted. "When they first announced that they were doing Magic Online PTQs, I was really into going to the live PTQs, but I was also a college student, so it was really hard to go to PTQs every weekend. When they posted the online schedule, I decided that I was going to play in every single one of these, and that's what I did. I went from being able to play in four PTQs in a season to twenty. When you're really working your hardest and you have that many chances to do well, it's a whole different ballgame.

    I feel really thankful that I was able to play both online and in real life, because they develop different skills, but they really complement each other. Having Magic Online as my main background has made me into a player that's very careful and thoughtful. In those tournaments online that I was taking really seriously, if a tough situation came up, and I needed to really think, I would just think. I would sit there for five minutes, I would think about every possibility, and I would make the right play. That's not necessarily a skill that you get from playing live. First of all, there is literally a rule that says that you can't take that long on any one decision. Secondly, there are so many distractions. You have your opponent sitting there in front of you, maybe talking to you, maybe you have spectators, or a judge over your shoulder. It's a completely different environment from sitting at home in your room in front of your computer screen. Both sides of the coin there really help you become a complete player. You learn to combine your instincts with the ability to really sit there and think when you need to."

    The transition from "sitting at home in his room in front of his computer" to being a regularly featured player and sought after interview subject seemed like it might have been a bit jarring, but Duke accepts it in stride.

    "I wouldn't say that the cameras don't make me nervous," Duke conceded, "I mean, it's especially embarrassing if you make a mistake. But with the Magic Online Championship Series, I feel like I've played for the highest stakes you can play for. I've never made the Top 8 of a Pro Tour, so maybe I'll change my tune if that ever happens, but in terms of one particular feature match, the MOCS is as big as or bigger than that, so I feel like I've experienced it all and don't feel daunted by a particularly high pressure feature match."

    That pressure that he takes in stride now can be felt by anyone at a Grand Prix. One of the biggest draws about Grand Prix is the fact that they're open tournaments. You never know when you're going to sit down across the table from Luis Scott-Vargas, Yuuya Watanabe, or Reid Duke. Knowing that your opponent is such a high-caliber player can be incredibly nerve wracking, but Duke's demeanor really helps put opponents at ease, reminding them that, above all else, Magic is still supposed to be fun!

    "I remember when I first played against a high-profile opponent," Duke reminisced. "It was at Grand Prix Boston and I got paired against Zvi Mowshowitz. I ended up playing him three times in the tournament, which is super rare. It was Limited, so I played him in Sealed Deck and then both drafts, and it was almost like we had become friends by the end of the day. It was this really great experience because, when I first sat down against him, I was like 'Wow, this is really going to be intense.' This is one of my first big tournaments and I was seventeen, but he was really friendly, made sure that we had a good time, and I guess I've really kept that in mind as I've become a pro. It's important for people to have that experience. It helps to keep the joy of Magic alive and makes people want to play in more tournaments than the other way around."

    As nice as Duke is, and as much as he cares about the gaming experiences of both he and his opponents, it can be easy to forget that he's one of the best players in the world, and has proven so by both qualifying for the Player's Championship last year and this year's equivalent, the World Championship.

    "The Player's Championship was really fun, first of all, performance aside," he said with a smile, "Really fun. You really get the celebrity treatment while you're there. They put you up in a hotel, they give you a player party and everything like that, and everyone is really good natured. There's a lot of mutual respect at that level of competition. You don't have to worry about people being rude or dishonest or anything like that, which might normally be distracting in a large tournament against strangers. The flip side of that is that you know that everyone is going to be great. They're going to be prepared, they're bringing their A-game, and you have to be ready for that. You have to play your absolute best if you're even going to have a chance."

    After an undignified last-place finish, Duke made a mission to prove that he belonged in that lofty crowd. Earning his slot in the Player's Championship by virtue of being the MOCS champion, this year, he has qualified for the World Championship by having one of the highest Pro Point totals in the world last season.

    "I'm really looking forward to it. I almost can't find a good word to explain it. Immediately after the Player's Championship finished, all I could think about was getting back. It's almost like something was missing. I can't move on until I play it again, try my luck. It felt really unsatisfying to do poorly last year and I wanted to get back. Now that I'm back, I want to prove that I deserve to be back there."

    And now that he's earned his way back, his chance to prove himself, he's got a plan.

    "I want to beat everyone who beat me at the Player's Championship last year... it's almost like I've got this Kill Bill hit list," he laughed. "I want to get revenge on them all."

    And he'll have his chance to do it in a month's time, Reid Duke-style. Killing them with kindness.


  • Round 6 Feature Match – David Irvine (Bant Wolf Run) vs. Ron Rasmussen (Maze's End)

    by Jacob Van Lunen

  • The letter R!on Rasumussen managed to string together five wins in a row with his Maze's End deck, but in the sixth round of competition he finally lost his way, losing to David Irvine's Bant Wolf Run deck.

    In the first game, David Irvine got aggressive early on with Centaur Healer, Thragtusk, and Kessig Wolf Run. Meanwhile, Ron played a whole slew of cards that his opponent had to pick up and read.

    Ron Rasumussen

    "Detain?" asked Rasmussen, pointing Inaction Injunction at Irvine's Centuar Healer.

    Irvine looked confused, it's not every day your opponent at 5-0 casts Inaction Injunction in constructed, "Sure."

    The oddities kept coming, "Crackling Perimeter?"

    Irvine's eyebrows went up so high and fast that they almost popped right off his head. He picked up the card and read it, "Well, yeah, it's in."

    Despite the confusing state of affairs, Dave had assembled a lethal board presence. Every time he swung, though, Rasmussen kept him at bay with Riot Control.

    Irvine kept coming, and eventually Rasmussen had run out of fog effects and the Wolf Run's inevitability proved too much for the Maze's End deck.

    Rasmussen went down to six cards at the start of the second game. He looked at his six card hand, "This one's even worse!"

    Irvine tried to start some conversation while Rasmussen continued shuffling, "That deck could become pretty awesome if M14 has something that lets you play extra lands."

    Ron smiled, "Yeah, imagine Oracle of Mul Daya or something in here."

    David Irvine

    With just five cards, Rasmussen couldn't do much more than hit his land drops. Meanwhile, Irvine played Restoration Angel and Thragtusk. Rasmussen tapped out when he went and found Selesnya Guildgate with Maze's End which would have given him access to Supreme Verdict and Fog on the following turn, but Irvine had a different plan. An endstep Restoration Angel blinking Thragtusk in combination with Kessig Wolf Run was enough to finish the job.

    Dave looked relieved after winning, "I didn't even have enough cards to bring in! My deck is geared toward beating creatures."

    Ron nodded, "mine too, I guess that's a pretty good plan."


  • Round 8 Feature Match – Patrick Chapin (Grixis Control) vs. Matt Costa (Blue/White/Red Flash)

    by Jacob Van Lunen

  • Two control savants were forced to face off in the eighth round here at Grand Prix Miami. Young gun Matt Costa's Moorland Haunt eventually overwhelmed Patrick Chapin's removal to secure an undefeated record after eight rounds of battling.

    Patrick Chapin is probably the longest standing control diehard in the game, the Hall of Famer has four Pro Tour Top 8s and three Grand Prix Top 8s under his belt already, and, at 7-0, he was in the hunt for another. Matt Costa may be a new face, but he's no slouch either with a Pro Tour Top 8 and four Grand Prix Top 8s all in the last two and a half years.

    Patrick Chapin

    In the first game, Costa started jamming Restoration Angels onto the battlefield every time Chapin passed the turn. Chapin's life total quickly dwindled as he took hit after hit from a pair of the three power flyers.

    Chapin started to pull ahead when he was able to resolve Olivia Voldaren with Cavern of Souls. He only had one source of red mana, but the Legendary Vampire threatened to steal Costa's Angels and take over the game.

    Costa was unshaken, though, continuing to bash with his team fearlessly into a 4/4 Olivia Voldaren. Chapin's life total was getting very low and he was forced to play into Azorius Charm the second time Costa sent his angels into the red zone. A counterwar ensued, but Chapin's resulting life total was low enough for a third Restoration Angel to seal the deal for Costa.

    The two players chatted about their affinity for blue cards while sideboarding.

    Chapin smirked, "Did you play Magic before Delver of Secrets was a card?"

    Costa breathed a quick chuckle, "Yeah."

    "When was your first Pro Tour"

    "The one Paulo won, San Juan."

    "What'd you play there?"

    This time Costa let himself laugh more openly, "Mono Red."

    Patrick nodded with approval, "Ah, you've changed your tune, young master."

    Matt Costa

    The second game was all about inevitability. Chapin did a good job halting the early aggression from Costa and Izzet Staticaster proved itself to be of utmost importance. Costa was in danger of losing to Chapin's Nephalia Drownyard activations and needed to apply pressure. He tried to Oblivion Ring the Izzet Staticaster, but Chapin had the necessary countermagic.

    Costa found an opening and successfully used Warleader's Helix with counter backup to deal with Chapin's Izzet Staticaster. Costa used the subsequent turn as an opportunity to resolve Sphinx's Revelation for six to go back up to a seven card hard.

    Still, Chapin's Nephalia Drownyard threatened to end the game before Costa would be able to close it with damage. Moorland Haunt started churning out tokens and Costa began aiming burn spells at Chapin's dome. He was able to deal the final points of damage with less than ten cards remaining in his library.


  • Saturday, 9:25 p.m. – Meet William ‘Huey' Jensen

    by Nate Price

  • The letter M!agic is a game that is built from the ground up, very grass roots in its growth. An incredibly large number of players in the game today started playing because of a friend. I know I did. As the community grows, it needs to be taken care of, like an intricately manicured bonsai. Every generation of Magic players inspires and fosters the next, each building on and growing the one that follows it.

    "I got started playing when I was about twelve at a summer camp," Jensen recalled with a grin. "Back then, people just played whatever. We were like, 'I got a new pack! Let's see what black cards I've got in it!' It didn't matter what the pack is, let's just crack it and see what we got. I remember that I tried to build this monoblack deck; I tried to get all of the Nightmares. I remember, six or so months into playing, that my deck was like twenty Swamps, four Mishra's Factory, four Dark Ritual, four Hypnotic Specters, four Royal Assassins, Sengir Vampires... I don't know what else, heh. Four Black Knights for sure."

    William "Huey" Jensen

    All of the older-school players started there, with a pack of cards and a kitchen table to fight on. For some players, that's where they have the most fun. It's where they want to stay. For others, though, it becomes something more. It's the spark that provokes them on to seeing the game in a different light. When I asked Jensen about what prompted him to take the game more seriously and try his hand at competitive play, his answer was about as simple as they come.

    "I just loved it," he gushed. "Like, all I wanted to do was go to tournaments. There was a period of time a couple of years after that when I would go from school straight to TJ Collectibles in Milford, Massachusetts. Every single day. In fact, I would just bring my homework straight to the card store and do it there. I literally got picked up from school, didn't even go home, and went straight to the card store. Sometimes the owner would be the one who took me home at night after they closed. And this was every day for a long time. On the weekends, I'd just wake up, go and spend all day playing Magic. I couldn't help it. I just loved Magic. I was fortunate that my mom would just drive me all around Massachusetts, every weekend. Seriously, if that didn't happen, who knows..."

    It was these early jaunts into Boston to play in the weekly Gray Matter tournaments that gave a young Huey Jensen his first brush with Limited Magic, as well as his first brush with greatness.

    "Every weekend we'd drive into town and go to the Gray Matter tournaments, and they had two sides," he told me, "A Constructed side and a Sealed Deck side. The Constructed side was Type 1 (now Vintage). It was really hard to stay competitive with the best guys in Type 1. For a long time, guys like Darwin Kastle and Tom Guevin would play in the Type 1 half, and they had all the power and stuff, so I tried the Sealed Deck and just loved it. I just thought it was so neat. They give you a starter and two booster packs, and you just build your deck there. The gameplay was always new and interesting. I didn't dislike Constructed Magic, but there was something about Limited that was always so fresh and interesting to me. You play a different deck every weekend and against different decks. And every time a new set comes out, it changes the whole format."

    Jensen is widely recognized by those who know the game as one of the best Limited players to play the game. Perhaps the culmination of this came during his triumph in Pro Tour Boston alongside Brock Parker and Matt Linde as they defeated the utterly unstoppable Phoenix Foundation, helmed by none other than Kai Budde. Considering that Kai only failed to win three of the ten Pro Tours he Top 8d, and that Team Rochester is considered by many to be the most skill-testing format in the history of Magic, this accomplishment is incredible.

    But Jensen realizes that he would never have been able to reach that pinnacle without the support of his local players.

    "There was no Magic Online back then," Jensen stated, emphasizing the importance of local community in building a player's skill level in the days of Magic yore. "If you didn't have access to the West Coast superteam, or the East Coast superteam, or the CMU superteam, what were you going to do? It was hard to become a top player at that time without the right group around you, and I was certainly fortunate to have one of the best.

    Recognizing that I was capable of playing with players that I had grown up respecting was a major turning point for me. I went to a PTQ, made the Top 8, and played against Shawn 'Hammer' Regnier in the finals. He's the guy that won like, the second Pro Tour. He's a very good player and was sort of a local icon, like the Your Move Game guys or the Guevins. So I beat him in the finals of that PTQ, and the next weekend, there was a PTQ for the next Pro Tour. I played against Dave Humphreys in the finals of that tournament, and I beat him, too. After that, I was like, 'Alright. Maybe I'm pretty good at this.'"

    From there, Jensen would go on to become a very active part of the East Coast Magic scene, one of the foundations upon which the landscape of modern Magic is based. And the scene was not an easy one to break into.

    "In Boston, we'd go to a PTQ, and there'd be like six guys there who are qualified for the next Pro Tour wanting to practice," he told me. "That didn't happen everywhere in the country."

    This higher than average level of player forced Jensen to either step up or fade into obscurity, and he rose to the challenge. Over the course of four or five years, Jensen managed an incredible eight Grand Prix Top 8s and four Pro Tour Top 8s, including two GP wins and one PT win. This had to be done against players like Jon Finkel, Kai Budde, and other players whose names are whispered in hushed reverence nowadays at every tournament. There were always at least a dozen end bosses waiting for you along your path through these tournaments, and still Jensen prevailed. As he did, he took his hard won knowledge and passed it on to the others in his area.

    "Back then, learning how to approach Limited was a different thing," he said ruefully. "There weren't articles to read, strategies to pick apart. The only thing we could do was to play a lot and just talk. We talked about everything, and the conversation made us all better players."

    After years of success at the top level of the game, Jensen took a step back, as many players from his generation did.

    "A lot of us from my generation just stopped going to tournaments around the same time. I reached a point where I was going to tournaments and only recognized a few faces," Jensen said wistfully. "There was such a heavy social component to the game for me that I didn't want to keep playing if I didn't get to do it with my friends. Interestingly, something happened and now everyone is flooding back to the game. All the people who stopped coming, they're all here. The best part about Magic has always been that: the people in the community. I don't think there's a person who can tell you with a straight face that if the ten or twelve people who they spend most of their time with stopped going to tournaments that they wouldn't care.

    I worked on a Carribbean Island with twelve coworkers that I met through Magic. I have been the best man at my best friend's wedding, who I met through Magic. Every single good thing in my life has been either directly or indirectly because of Magic. And it's getting bigger than ever."

    And those friendships and desire to build the community don't stop at his own generation and the players he came up with. Teaming up with Owen Turtenwald and Reid Duke at the last Team Limited Grand Prix, Jensen found himself in the company of the newest generation of Magic superstars, as well as in the company of two very good friends.

    "I got to go from playing with some of the old school greats to some of the new school greats, and I love it," Jensen said. "Reid is one of my closest friends at this point, and I appreciate the fact that the future of Magic is in good hands. Especially with him."

    From the original generation to the newest, Jensen has certainly left his mark on the game of Magic, from how we look at and play the game to how we grow the game moving forward. If the man says that the game is in good hands, he certainly knows. After all, it was in his for a while, and I'd say it turned out pretty nicely.

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