Saturday, 11:30 a.m. - A Look Back...
by Bill Stark
Canada has a long history of excelling at Magic events, with some of the Pro Tour's early great players hailing from the country. It also holds the honor of being the first non-United States nation to secure the title of Team World Champion, which it did in 1997. Canada is home to four Pro Tour champions, representatives in the Hall of Fame, and even some of the game's great deck designers and writers.
Within that pantheon of greatness sits Montreal. After this weekend, the city will hold the honor of having played host to the second largest Magic event in Canadian history. With 1,054 players, the event scales large even by international standards. This is not the first weekend Montreal has hosted a contingent of players from around the world for Magic play, however...
The last time the Grand Prix circuit was in town the year was 2007. Time Spiral was the block on hand, and the format was the Block Constructed format of the same name. The Top 8 featured some big names including Pro Tour champion Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, Player of the Year Shouta Yasooka, Player of the Year Kenji Tsumura, multiple Pro Tour Top 8'er Koutarou Ootsuka, and team World Champion Paul Cheon. The eventual winner, however, was Brazilian Celso Zampere (though to his credit he had a Pro Tour Top 4 at the team event in Charleston).
Here was Celso's winning decklist:
Celso Zampere Junior
Grand Prix Montreal 2007 - Top 8
Read more in the original coverage of Grand Prix Montreal 2007.
You have to set the time machine back all the way to 2001 if you want to find the very first time the Grand Prix circuit rolled into Montreal. A decade ago the format in town for the weekend was Odyssey draft and the home nation rooted for countryman David Rood to take down the top slot. Unfortunately for David, he had some tough competition from future Hall of Famers Bob Maher and Mike Turian. Ultimately it was Turian who would take the title on his way to a career that included a Pro Tour victory, a Hall of Fame ring, and a slot on the development team inside Wizards of the Coast working on the game itself.
Read more in the original coverage of Grand Prix Montreal 2001.
What stories will be told this time out in Montreal? You'll have to tune in this weekend to find out of course!
Saturday, 1:45 p.m. - Speaking with Alex Shvartsman
by Bill Stark
Alex Shvartsman is a name new players may not recognize. For anyone growing up on Magic in the 90s and early 2000s, that fact would come as a shock. Shvartsman was the original globetrotter, traveling the earth for high profile Magic events long before the concept of a full time professional player benefiting from the Player's Club existed. During his professional career he Top 8'ed a whopping TWENTY-ONE Grand Prix tournaments, including three victories. All-time he sits at second with the most Top 8s, passed only recently by Hall of Famer Olivier Ruel.
Suffice it to say, the coverage team here at Montreal were a bit surprised to see Alex's cheery face in the line of players queuing to register for Grand Prix Montreal. I knew from the moment I saw him that I wanted to chat with him about the game, why he's here playing this weekend, and how things have changed in Magic over the past decade.
What brings you to Grand Prix Montreal this weekend?
I love Magic. I've been meaning to come out to something for a long time. I came up with a group of friends to celebrate one of their birthdays. It's a Sealed Grand Prix within driving distance so...also, I've never been to Montreal. Despite all of my travels when I was playing professionally, I never made it to Montreal. It also didn't hurt that this was probably my last weekend to have a bye at a Magic event ever, so I wanted to take advantage of that!
How much do you actively play these days?
Because I own a store, I don't get to play a whole lot. Truthfully, this is the first time I've physically held Magic 2012 cards for the purpose of playing. But being at a store means I get to help lots of players discuss making the correct play, or to fix their decks. I do a lot of playing vicariously through our community at King's Games.
What's changed the most about the game in the ten years since you were last playing frequently?
Magic is huge now. The tournaments are much larger. A large Grand Prix back then was 600-700 players, but now at that event people would be questioning why it was so small. But much of the game is still the same. Players have fun, the camaraderie is still there. That has stayed the same, so the big reason I played then is still here now. I've even been seeing some of the same players I knew then, guys I haven't seen in 15 years. Many things feel the same, but the game has matured a lot.
Alex Shvartsman, Veteran Magician
Tell us about what role the Hall of Fame plays in how you view Magic now.
I'm on the Hall of Fame selection committee, so I think about it a lot. It's about performance professionally, but also about your community contributions. Someone like Chris Pikula will get a vote over someone who maybe earned more Pro Tour points but only played well and got checks. I'm also on the ballot, but I don't consider myself a likely candidate. I would be honored and excited to be in the Hall, but I don't worry about that happening.
You were a very active pro for a long time. What led you away from playing competitively?
I moved away from playing professionally in 2001. I was a bit burned out from travelling; I had been gone two or more weekends a month for a few years at that point. My business was growing steadily and I couldn't take the time to play. Eventually I knew if I was going to play I'd be phoning it in. Now I'm married and have a child, I've started a career writing in addition to my store, I don't have the time to put in to play at the level I'd want to compete at.
Speaking of competing, how do you feel about your chances this weekend?
(Laughing). Slim to none! Literally my preparation has been helping people on Magic Online and building six pools last night. Although, this is the most prepared I've been for a tournament in ten years...
What are your thoughts on the M12 format?
I like it a lot. The aggressive nature of the format minimizes the impact of more powerful bomb rares. I really enjoyed the M10 format, and I really enjoy the M12 format now.
In closing, what are your final thoughts on the game in general after nearly two decades playing?
I don't care if I lose every round this weekend. I'm still having a great time!
Saturday, 2:30 p.m. - A Blast from the Past
by Steve Sadin
There are a lot of familiar faces here at Grand Prix Montreal. You've got your international jetsetters, and Player of the Year hopefuls, like Martin Juza, and Yuuya Watanabe (who is looking to win his third consecutive Gran Prix this weekend). American superstars such as Brian Kibler, and Luis Scott-Vargas. And quite a few up and coming Canadian pros such as reigning Canadian National Champion Marc Anderson, and Grand Prix Toronto Champion Jon Smithers.
Also in attendance this weekend are Rich Hoaen, Jeff Cunningham, and Steven Wolfman— three of the most illustrious Canadian players to have ever picked up a deck.
After Nicolai Herzog, Anton Jonsson, and Mike Turian's reign of dominance over all things limited ended in 2004 – Rich Hoaen became known as one of, if not the, top Limited player in the world. During his career, Hoaen racked up 5 Grand Prix Top 8s including a win at Grand Prix Richmond in 2006, a Top 8 at Pro Tour Yokohama in 2003, and ton of Top 16s, and Top 32s in-between.
"Hoaen's Pick Order", a list of how he valued each card in each color, was amongst the most coveted pieces of information that a player could get his hands on before a Limited Pro Tour. Players were fortunate enough to gain access to this list, which Hoaen carefully tuned over the course of dozens, or even hundreds, of Magic Online drafts, would have an immense edge over their opponents.
Steven "The Wolf" Wolfman made it all the way to the finals of Pro Tour Boston 2002, along with fellow Canadians David Rood, and Elijah Pollock, before falling to the then seemingly invincible Phoenix Foundation (Kai Budde, Dirk Baberowski, and Marco Blume). A few years later Wolfman returned to the Top 8 stage at Pro Tour Philadelphia 2005, where he fell in the Semifinals to eventual Champion Gadiel Szleifer.
I know someone who is looking forward to the release of Innistrad...
Grand Prix Philadelphia 2002 Champion, and Pro Tour San Diego 2002 Top 8 competitor Jeff "Ffej" Cunningham was best known for his writing. In addition to penning some of the best received tournament reports of all time, Cunningham spent a year at the helm of the Magic Academy column for DailyMTG -- a timeless series of articles dedicated to the fundamentals of Magic strategy.
A Bearded Jeff Cunningham ponders his plays
Will these Canadian superstars of days past make their presence felt once again at Grand Prix Montreal?
Stay tuned to find out!
Round 4: Feature Match - Yuuya Watanabe vs. Matt Nass
by Steve Sadin
Yuuya Watanabe has been on a tear recently. After losing in the finals of Grand Prix Kansas City, Watanabe decided that second place just wasn't good enough for him– so he went ahead and won Grand Prix Shanghai and Grand Prix Pittsburgh.
While Team ChannelFireball member Matt Nass hasn't been destroying tournaments in quite the same way that Watanabe has been over the past few months, the American pro has quietly racked up a serious of very impressive finishes. Nass posted a 17th place finish at Pro Tour Philadelphia just a week after making the Top 8 at Grand Prix Pittsburgh (where his impressive run ultimately came to an end at the hands of Yuuya Watanabe).
"We play against each other in every tournament. Actually every tournament" said Nass as the two players shuffled up for game one.
Watanabe started things off with a Gideon's Lawkeeper, and a Sacred Wolf while Nass had a Druidic Satchel, and a Merfolk Looter to help him dig through his deck.
Watanabe put the pressure on early when he enchanted his Sacred Wolf with a Trollhide, and attacked in for five before passing the turn with a Plains and a Gideon's Lawkeeper untapped.
When Nass declared his attack step, Watanabe neglected to use his Gideon's Lawkeeper on his opponent's Merfolk Looter (figuring that there was little chance that Nass intended to attack with the Looter). Nass did indeed attack in with his 1/1 blue creature, which Watanabe opted not to block, and summoned a bloodthirsted Vampire Outcast.
Watanabe made his already fearsome Sacred Wolf even more deadly when he enchanted it with a Spirit Mantle.
Gideon's Lawkeeper kept Vampire Outcasts tapped down for a turn, while Nass used Diabolic Tutor to search through his deck to try to find a way to win in the face of a 6/5 regenerating, hexproof, protection from creatures Sacred Wolf.
A Garruk, Primal Hunter made the situation even more nightmarish for Nass, before a Titanic Growth a turn later sealed the deal.
Yuuya Watanabe 1
Matt Nass 0
Nass chose to play first, but it was Watanabe who got off to the aggressive start with a turn two Garruk's Companion, a Titanic Growth to win a combat against Nass's Warpath Ghoul (and trample over for 5), and a Gideon's Lawkeeper.
Watanabe's Garruk's Companion fell at the hands of a Doom Blade, and his follow up play of Runeclaw Bear got enchanted with Brink of Disaster.
Not wanting to slow down his offense, Watanabe up-sized his Gideon's Lawkeeper with a Trollhide, and attacked Nass down to 11.
Nass cast a Diabolic Tutor, and fell to 8 on the next attack. Watanabe then cast a post-combat Garruk, Primal Hunter and made a 3/3 beast token.
Can Watanabe make it 3 in a row?
A couple of attack steps, and a couple of Planeswalker activations later and Watanabe was off to yet another 4-0 start.
Final Result Yuuya Watanabe 2 – Matt Nass 0
Saturday, 5:00 p.m. - Playing for Player of the Year
by Bill Stark
As the 2011 Pro Tour season winds to a close, we're beginning to get the final picture of which players will be battling for Player of the Year at the World Championships in San Francisco. Headed into Grand Prix Montreal this weekend, here's how the race looked:
1. Owen Turtenwald 48
2. Luis Scott-Vargas 45
3. Ben Stark 44
3. Yuuya Watanabe 44
5. David Sharfman 40
6. Shouta Yasooka 39
7. Josh Utter-Leyton 38
8. Vincent Lemoine 37
8. Martin Juza 37
10. Paulo Vitor da Rosa 36
(See the full standings)
A good chunk of those players are battling this weekend, looking to seal the final points up in the hopes of securing the title for the season. I sat down to talk with three of them to get their perspective on what playing for the Player of the Year title means, and how it impacts tournament preparation and mentality.
You've been on a tear this year. What do you credit to your sudden success?
Playing with the ChannelFireball guys. I was pretty good before, but having good decks at every event and better players to play with have made the difference. I've always known those guys, because you see them at all the events, but I started traveling with them a bit last season and we got along well.
How much value do you place on the Player of the Year title?
Getting to level 8 was more important to me, but the title would be cool. I want to win it over not win it. I'm going to go to the events I can and try to do well. I don't know that I'll travel to Santiago just for Player of the Year.
You're leading the race right now. How do you feel about that?
The first half of the year I had a lot of my success. At the beginning I talked to people who have been in my position before about what to do. The highest I'd been previously was level 5. I feel I'm one of the best in the world after talking with others about their perspectives on my skills. I would not have said that one year ago.
How much does winning Player of the Year mean to you?
It depends. Most of the people in the top running are friends. If I lost to someone I don't know...I don't know. I'm not going to lose sleep over it.
What would winning Player of the Year mean to you?
It would be pretty awesome. If you look at past Players of the Year, they're among the best players. I've never felt anyone undeserving has won the title. I would be happy to do so.
You're often talked about as a likely inclusion to the Hall of Fame. How does Player of the Year impact that discussion?
I think it's a pretty big positive. When you win Player of the Year, no one can say they had a better year than you that season. I don't think just because you won you get in, but I think most people who have won will get in.
Many of your teammates are in the running for the title. Does that impact your feelings on winning it?
Well...I would rather win than anyone else; that's my preferable outcome. If I can't win, I'd obviously prefer it was one of them. But I wouldn't be that much less happy if Owen [Turtenwald] or Ben [Stark] won.
How does being in the running for the title impact your play throughout the season?
It doesn't have any impact, really. I've been in the running before, though not this late into the season. It hasn't impacted me historically because the events I go to are the ones that make sense for me to go to. I'm undecided about going to Santiago, but being in the Player of the Year race changes that. I know Yuuya [Watanabe] is going to everything, which is bad for me.
As a former Player of the Year in the running for 2011, who do you think will win?
Luis may win. Or Owen. Or me! *laughing*
How much significance does the Player of the Year title hold for you?
It's important. Last season I didn't make it as Player of the Year and I was okay with that. If I can't earn the title, I hope to make Level 8. That's really important.
Does the Player of the Year title impact your travel schedule?
Yes. I travel more in order to win Player of the Year.
How do you think Player of the Year titles impact the possibility of you making the Hall of Fame?
Player of the Year and the Hall of Fame are connected. If I won twice, I think I'd make the Hall, but not until 2017, so this year? It's not so important... *laughing again*
Round 5: Feature Match - Josh Ravitz vs. Rich Hoaen
by Bill Stark
If you took a poll of the greatest players and coverage reporters in the game on who the best players from Canada are, Rich Hoaen would be near the top of the list. The former Limited all star had taken a break from competitive play during an extended job assignment outside the country, but he was back and with 40 cards in his hands, he was a force to be reckoned with. His opponent? One of the top active players from the East Coast of the United States: Josh Ravitz.
Opening on a mulligan, the American spent his early turns without casting any spells while his Canadian opponent played Crown of Empires followed by Goblin Arsonist. Wring Flesh handled the first Arsonist, but Rich replaced it with a second, then a Skinshifter. His fast and furious red-green deck was definitely putting the hurt on his opponent.
Trying to keep up, Ravitz cast Onyx Mage and Gravedigger. His opponent's second Arsonist made short work of the Mage, but a Stampeding Rhino from Josh slowed the game down. Unable to keep mana up for his Crown, Hoaen cast a Greater Basilisk but his opponent fired back with a second Stampeding Rhino.
Back in the driver's seat, Rich continued beating down with his Skinshifter and Basilisk knocking his opponent to 7 life. Ravitz worked to cast two creatures each turn in order to keep up, but Hoaen had a trump in one of the format's most powerful uncommons: Overrun.
Ravitz resignedly picked up his cards for the second game.
Rich Hoaen 1, Josh Ravitz 0
The second game started off much more slowly than the first with neither player sticking a creature until the third turn. That creature? Devouring Swarm for Josh Ravitz. His opponent answered with Manic Vandal, but Josh fired back by suiting his flyer up with Trollhide. It took Rich an attack with a Stampeding Rhino and an Incinerate to deal with the creature (in order to play around pump spells), and from there the Canadian took the reins.
His first Rhino was hit with Brink of Disaster, but a second stuck. It was aided by a Bonebreaker Giant, and Josh found himself grinding through his cards in an effort to come up with a solution to the fatties. His army of 2/2s weren't close to enough, however, and in under 15 minutes the match finished with Hoaen the victor.
Rich Hoaen 2, Josh Ravitz 0
Saturday, 5:35 p.m. - Photo Essay
by Bill Stark and Steve Sadin
Missing the sights of Grand Prix Montreal? Your intrepid coverage team is here to lend a hand. Check out some of the goings on from Canada!
There are many people responsible for bringing a Grand Prix to life. That includes LOTS of great judges. The staff here in Montreal has been wonderful, and here are the three people at the top. From left to right: Jeff Morrow (head judge, Sorin flight), tournament organizer Jason Ness, and John Alderfer (head judge Elspeth flight).
Put up yer’...err... that is to say the Duke brothers are forced to square off against one another to determine once and for all* who is the better player!
(*or until the next time they play)
Always a fan favorite, artist rk post poses with some of his handiwork. He is just one of four artists here in attendance at the Grand Prix this weekend.
Speaking of artists, here’s another: Steve Argyle. Steve was cheerily signing cards, drawing sketches, and making alterations for fans. Artist lines stretched quite a ways throughout the day, but you didn’t hear any complaints from the fans who were just happy to see their favorite artists with the chance to get some of their own work done!
Recent Hall of Fame inductee Shuhei Nakamura dressed the role of elder statesman here in Montreal. This is him suited up for competition…
…and this is Shuhei, Raphael Levy, and Martin Juza goofing around for the camera!
Many dream it, but few achieve it. This lucky player managed to open all three Empire pieces in their Sealed Pool, leaving open the possibility they might be able to live the dream and assemble the team in battle!
Round 6: Feature Match - Brian Kibler vs. Lino Burgold
by Steve Sadin
Hall of Famer Brian Kibler, and 2009 Rookie of the Year Lino Burgold came into this match with 5-0 records, needing to win only two of their final four rounds of Sealed Deck play in order to advance to Day Two.
"We've actually played against each other the last two rounds – so we have a bit of information about each other's decks" said Kibler.
Burgold got off to a fast start with Child of Night, and Coral Merfolk while Kibler cast a turn two Merfolk Looter. Kibler failed to find a land even after looting, and had to pass his third turn with no plays.
Divination got countered by Negate, but that gave Burgold an opening to Wring Flesh his mana starved opponent's Merfolk Looter.
Kibler drew and cast an Azure Mage to trade with one of his opponent's two drops, but that would be the Hall of Famer's last play for a while.
A Throne of Empires let Burgold steadily build his army, and by the time that Kibler finally drew a third land, he was way too far behind for it to matter.
Burgold 1 – Kibler 0
Kibler, who was understandably not too concerned about getting beaten down quickly by his opponent's Blue-Black Control deck, chose to draw first for game two.
Even mana problems can't wipe the smile off of Kibler's face.
Kibler hit the ground running with a Gideon's Lawkeeper, an Armored Warhorse (which got countered by Mana Leak), and a Griffin Sentinel, while Burgold prepared himself for the long game with a Divination and a Drifting Shade.
Kibler cast a Merfolk Looter, but he once again found himself suffering from mana problems and passed his turn without a fourth land.
Burgold used a Deathmark to deal with his opponent's tapper, before filling up his board with a Reassembling Skeleton, and a Child of Night.
A draw step, and a Merfolk Looter activation both failed to produce lands for Kibler, so he had to content himself by casting Azure Mage.
Burgold cast a Sorin Markov that he immediately used to take out Merfolk Looter.
For a moment it looked like Kibler might be able to claw his way back into the game despite his opponent having an active Sorin Markov for several turns, but when Burgold used a Distress to strip Kibler's hand of Mind Control it was only a matter of time before the German Pro was able to take the match.
Final Result Lino Burgold 2 – Brian Kibler 0
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. - Quick Hits
by Event Coverage Staff
What card are you going to miss the most when Standard rotates?
Paul Rietzl: Steppe Lynx! I got to play a 4/5 for one mana, while nobody else did.
Brian Kibler: Tectonic Edge. It gave non-blue decks a way to stop people from casting titans.
Martin Juza: Preordain. I really like blue decks.
Round 7: Feature Match - Dan Jordan vs. Owen Turtenwald
by Bill Stark
With the first day of Grand Prix Montreal winding down to tournament intermission, the feature match tables saw a battle between the leading Player of the Year candidate and an up and coming American star. Representing the established pros? Owen Turtenwald, who has effectively locked up Level 8 for the 2012 season on the way to his lead in the the Player of the Year race. He's been hot for much of the season, at one point having Top 16'ed or better every tournament he had entered. A standout on the StarCityGames.com Open Series, Dan Jordan has been slowly increasing his stature on the Grand Prix and Pro Tour circuits. A solid performance in Montreal would do a lot to demonstrate his full arrival on the professional scene.
A Gideon's Lawkeeper for Owen was dispatched immediately by way of Wring Flesh in the first game. The two slowed the pace down from there until a Gorehorn Minotaurs for Turtenwald and a Drifting Shade for Dan started at each other from across the red zone. Dan attempted a Crumbling Colossus but had the 7/4 ousted by Manic Vandal from his opponent.
Trying to work an advantage, Owen began attacking with both of his creatures. When his opponent attempted to block with Drifting Shade, Owen used Incinerate to destroy it. His opponent returned the favor with an Incinerate of his own, taking out Gorehorn Minotaurs, then bought the Shade back by way of Gravedigger.
The game shifted to stall mode with both players looking to push an advantage. Alabaster Mage helped give Owen a lead on life, but his opponent's flying Shade was definitely a problem for his ground forces. The two cast and traded a series of vanilla creatures including Goblin Pikers and Zombie Goliath with the life totals relatively unchanged.
Unfortunately for Owen, his opponent's flying Shade was something he couldn't answer. When his opponent added a bloodthirsted Duskhunter Bat, he desperately turned to his library looking for help. Instead? Land after land while the Shade and Bats ruled the skies. When he ran out of creatures to trade for life with Alabaster Mage on the ground, Turtenwald found himself down a game.
Dan Jordan 1, Owen Turtenwald 0
The second game started off as the first had with Gideon's Lawkeeper from Owen being promptly dispatched by Wring Flesh from his opponent. Each had a two-drop, the red-black deck of Dan Jordan offering up Child of Night while his opponent's red-white build had Goblin Piker. The 2/1s traded in combat, and the players continued working on building up their sides of the battlefield.
Adaptive Automaton from Turtenwald was set to "Human," a possible harbinger of creatures to come. His opponent paid no mind, however, casting a Duskhunter Bat without bloodthirst and using it to get a 5/5 Gorehorn Minotaurs. For the second game in the match it looked like Owen's deck was betraying him. He sat with five lands and a semi full grip, but only the Automaton for creatures. He was able to find and resolve a Crumbling Colossus, slowing the pace of the game as his opponent opted to keep his Gorehorn Minotaurs home, then found a sixth land and a game changer: Warstorm Surge. The plucky enchantment turned each of Owen's creatures into a Flametongue Kavu, and he set about dismantling his opponent's team.
He started by attacking with his Colossus; Jordan opted not to block for fear of losing his 5/5 Minotaurs. That allowed Owen to play his own copy of the bloodthirsty 3/3, and he attempted to blow up his opponent's. Dan responded with a Fling to trade the 5/5s with one another, and a Gideon's Lawkeeper allowed Owen to take out the 1/1 Duskhunter Bat that had been giving him grief.
Dan wasn't out, however, using a second Gorehorn Minotaurs at 5/5 to steal tempo, then using Gravedigger to dig himself back into things. He was able to stabilize, and when Owen began blanking on creatures to use with his Surge, Jordan actually started to look like he was going to win the match. He found a Drifting Shade and made sure to keep plenty of black mana up. By doing so he prevented his opponent from using creatures and Warstorm Surge to take the flyer out. After multiple turns of blanks, Owen conceded to the flying Shade.
Dan Jordan 2, Owen Turtenwald 0
Round 8: Feature Match - Ashley Morway vs. Steven Wolfman
by Bill Stark
"Have you ever had a feature match before?" Ashley Morway asked her opponent as they sat down to battle in the 8th round of Grand Prix Montreal.
"Yeah, I used to be good..." her opponent sighed while shuffling for the game. Once a top Canadian player, Steve looked to shake off the dust from a brief period of time not playing as diligently as he once had. His opponent was a StarCityGames.com columnist looking to make her own mark on the Grand Prix scene.
Onyx Mage was the first creature to the battlefield for Steven Wolfman despite the fact he was on the draw in the match. The 2/1 allowed him to bloodthirst out a Blood Ogre, but the 3/3 was felled quickly by Oblivion Ring. Steve had a second bloodthirst creature in the form of Gorehorn Minotaurs, and the 5/5 was definitely a problem for his opponent. Ashley found herself under the gun against the horde of creatures, but she used a Consume Spirit to cushion her life a bit while blowing up the Onyx Mage.
The play was solid but her woes quickly got worse. How? Her opponent cast Chandra, the Firebrand and a Goblin Slinger and began putting them both to work. Clearly not pleased with how the game was going, Ashley used a Fireball to take out the Gorehorn Minotaurs, though she continued to take damage from the planeswalker.
Steve replaced his Minotaurs with a Drifting Shade, but found the flyer matched by a Sengir Vampire across the table. The 4/4 was the first creature for Ashley in the match, and though it was powerful it had a lot of work to do. For the time being it managed to slow the pace of the game, forcing her opponent to keep his forces home. Unfortunately, those forces included both the Goblin Fireslinger and the Chandra, neither of which needed the red zone to operate effectively.
Ashley sent her Sengir sideways and her opponent hastily blocked with his Drifting Shade. She passed priority and Steve revealed Slaughter Cry. Morway did the math and longingly shuffled a Mighty Leap around in her hand. Her opponent's Swamps meant even if she cast the Leap her Sengir would be felled by first strike, so the writer had no choice but to scoop.
Steve Wolfman 1, Ashley Morway 0
The second game started much more comfortably for Morway who was able to use Wring Flesh to contain her opponent's Tormented Soul, then an Assault Griffin to begin beating down. A Goblin Fireslinger for Wolfman changed the equation a bit, allowing him to cast Gorehorn Minotaurs as a 5/5. "I just hope you don't have an answer," Steve said.
Ashley cast Pacifism on the 5/5.
"That's what I thought..." Steve sighed, dropping a Zombie Goliath to replace his four-drop while taking beats from the Assault Griffin.
Peregrine Griffin hit for Morway's black-white deck. Her opponent continued pinging with Fireslinger and attacked with Zombie Goliath, but he was losing the race overall. Still, the Wolfman was not out of tricks.
Untapping, Steve cast Act of Treason on his opponent's Assault Griffin. The 3/2 traitor teamed with Zombie Goliath to knock its owner down to 6 life. Post-combat Steve had Devouring Swarm to sacrifice the Griffin, all while an active Goblin Fireslinger sat watching. Seemingly out of nowhere Ashley found herself down half her life, short her best attacker, and desperately struggling to stay in the match. She cast Sengir Vampire and passed the turn, falling to 5 as Steve turned his Fireslinger sideways.
Mind Rot cleared Ashley of the last two cards in her hand: Consume Spirit and Gravedigger. She gave a tired nod, seeming to malign the fates at the bad turn of luck. With no hand, she had to trade her Sengir for Zombie Goliath and still couldn't attack with Peregrine Griffin. She needed a solution to Goblin Fireslinger or she was dead in four turns, but for the moment she was alive.
It was a short moment. Steve drew for his turn after knocking Ashley to 4 with his pinger, then revealed Incinerate. She marked her life to 1, forcing Steve to demonstrate he remembered his Fireslinger but when he indicated he wasn't going to forget to activate it Ashley extended her hand.
"You were supposed to make it look fair," she teased her opponent.
Steve Wolfman 2, Ashley Morway 0
Saturady, 9:30 p.m. - Diving Deeper into Magic 2012 Sealed with Tom Martell
by Steve Sadin
Tom Martell has already had quite a bit of success in Magic 2012Limited, going a perfect 6-0 in the draft portion of Pro Tour Philadelphia en route to a Top 16 finish. Already feeling comfortable with this draft format, Martell spent much of his preparation time in the weeks since Pro Tour Philadelphia playing Sealed Deck events on Magic Online.
Tom Martell is having a good year with a Top 8 at Pro Tour Paris, and a Top 16 at Pro Tour Philadelphia
Martell began our interview by explaining something that seems intuitive, but is often overlooked when players are actually building their Sealed Decks. You don't need bombs to win in Magic 2012 Sealed, but you need a plan for how you're going to beat them.
"In order to perform well at a large event, you need to build your Magic 2012Sealed Deck so that it doesn't automatically lose if your opponent's deck has some of the format's best cards in it. If you don't have all-purpose answers like Cancel, and Oblivion Ring, you're going to need to build your deck so it's fast enough to beat your opponents before they can cast their Inferno Titans, and Sorin Markovs."
Martell then explained that the fact that players get to open six Booster Packs to build their decks from makes it inevitable that you're going to face opponents who have fundamentally strong decks with great bombs in them.
"When players are opening up six packs, to build their Sealed Decks from, you're going to end up facing a lot of players who have bombs, and the support cards necessary to make them work – especially if you're at the top tables. So if you build a midrange deck that leans on cards like Cudgel Troll, and Mind Rot to gain marginal advantages – you're just going to lose to players who have better cards than you. "
After a number of practice tournaments, Martell developed a mental checklist that he goes through whenever he builds a Magic 2012Sealed Deck.
"When you sit down to build your Sealed Deck, the first thing that you need to ask yourself is: 'can I build an overpowered bomb heavy deck?'
If Yes: Build your deck in such a way that you can reliably get to the late game. If you have to play some Coral Merfolks so you can stay in the game even if your opponent gets off to a blazing fast start, then you do that. It's well worth it to give up a little bit of card quality in some matchups if that means that you won't automatically lose to an aggressive start. After all, if the game goes long you're probably going to win anyway.
If No: check to see if you have the cards to build a good control deck, or a good aggressive deck.
The control decks are relatively easy to build. If you have a lot of Doom Blades, Cancels, and Divinations, then you'll probably be able to put together a good control deck.
The aggressive decks are a bit harder to put together properly. The most important thing is that you need a really good mana curve. If you don't have a good curve, then don't even bother trying to build a beatdown deck.
If you actually do have the creature base necessary to make your beatdown deck run smoothly, then you're going to want to take risks on cards like Ice Cage that are extremely good when they work properly, but quite poor if your opponent has the right responses.
Ice Cage is normally a very bad card in sealed because people tend to play all of their targeting effects. But Ice Cage is really good when you're playing a hyper aggressive deck. Sure your opponent might melt your Ice Cage, putting you down a card – but at least you're getting a Falter out of the deal. And besides, if the game goes long, you're just going to lose anyway.
If you don't have the cards to build either a good dedicated control deck, or a consistent aggressive deck – then you're just going to have to play all of your best cards and hope things work out."
While Martell's tips are tailored for Magic 2012 Sealed Deck – they're going to be worth keeping in mind when you're playing InnistradSealed Deck at the Prerelease next weekend. After all, there are still going to be extremely powerful cards, and you're still going to need to beat the players whose decks are full of them...
Round 9: Feature Match - Rich Hoaen vs. Michael Holden
by Steve Sadin
Canadian limited mastermind Rich Hoaen went into semi-retirement a few years ago, but a limited Grand Prix within driving distance from his apartment was more than enough to entice him to come out and play. Hoaen has been demonstrating that his time away from competitive play hasn't made him rusty, as he's started off the tournament with a perfect 8-0 record.
No matter what year it is, Rich Hoaen is still going to be a threat with a 40 card deck in his hands
Michael Holden, who is currently pursuing his master's degree in mathematics, started playing Magic Online regularly two years ago – then began venturing out to every PTQ and Grand Prix that he could reasonably make his way to earlier this year. With an 8-0 start this weekend, Holden is in very good shape to make a run at his first premier event Top 8.
Holden won the roll, and put the pressure on early with an Elite Vanguard, a Gideon's Lawkeeper, and an Auramancer all before Hoaen cast his first spell.
An Arachnus Web locked down Holden's tapper – but he had another one in reserve.
Fully aware of the pressure that he was under, Hoaen decided not to summon his Cudgel Troll, but to instead cast a Goblin Fireslinger, and an Arachnus Web on Holden's replacement Gideon's Lawkeeper.
The Arachnus Web got countered by Mana Leak, Holden attacked Hoaen down to 7, and passed the turn without a play.
It looked like Hoaen might be able to get back into the game when he summoned a Stampeding Rhino, but Gideon Jura threatened to end things very quickly.
Holden misread the board situation, and allowed Volcanic Dragon and Stampeding Rhino to take down his Gideon Jura (if Holden had double blocked Hoaen's Stampeding Rhino with Auramancer, and Gideon's Lawkeeper -- he would have been able to attack back for lethal damage), but his play nonetheless cleared the way for Holden to attack his Canadian foe down to 2.
While he was on a precarious 2 life, Hoaen was able to develop his first material lead of the game when he summoned a Cudgel Troll and a Manic Vandal, and attacked with his Volcanic Dragon, and Stampeding Rhino to bring Holden down to 12.
However, a Mind Control was more than enough for Holden to seal the game.
Michael Holden 1 – Rich Hoaen 0
Holden off to a quick one game lead
Hoaen got to play first in game two, but Holden got off to a hyper aggressive start with Elite Vanguard, Armored Warhorse, and Benalish Veteran.
Hoaen tried to lock down the board with Cudgel Troll, and Manic Vandal, but Holden had Gideon Jura to further press his advantage.
Hoaen experiencing a bad case of déjà vu
Hoaen had the Overrun to take down the Gideon Jura, but that still gave Holden an opening to attack Hoaen down to 4.
Hoaen almost got himself back into the game when he drew a Crown of Empires to deal with his opponent's freshly cast Serra Angel, but Holden had a Mind Control to end the game on the spot.
Michael Holden 2 – Rich Hoaen 0
Michael Holden ends Day One with a flawless 9-0 record!
Decklists - Day One Undefeated Decks
by Event Coverage Staff
Your undefeated decklists from Day 1 of Grand Prix Montreal!
Reid Duke - Day One Undefeated
Grand Prix Montreal 2011 (Draft)
Michael Holden - Day One Undefeated
Grand Prix Montreal 2011 (Draft)
Andrew Noworaj - Day One Undefeated
Grand Prix Montreal 2011 (Draft)
Maxwell Brown - Day One Undefeated
Grand Prix Montreal 2011 (Draft)