Grand Prix-Nashville Day 1 Complete Coverage

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  • Friday Night Feature – Learn to Weather the Coming Storm

    by Marc Calderaro
  • Are you the type to arrive at events early? Show up with enough time to get a "feel" for the venue? Do you like to have your clothes laid out the night before? If so, you're rewarded on Grand Prix Friday nights. And if you're not that type, it's worth it to become the type. In addition to pre-registration, saving that precious sleep in the morning, Magic events run deep into the night, warming you up for the ensuing Grand-Prix onslaught, and winning you some cool stuff in the process. Here at Grand Prix—Nashville, Friday night was bumping. Complete with drafts, FNM, Win-a-Box battles, EDH tournaments (with winners awarded free entry to another EDH event in addition to packs – feeding the pubic event's "Endless EDH Weekend"), and of course, grinders.

    Bummin' because you're a few ratings points shy of Grand Prix byes? Grinders are your last chance to secure an easy Saturday morning. Beat your opponents to a pulp and start your Saturday with a 3-0 record. There were fourteen grinders run last night with fourteen lucky individuals earning today's coveted three byes. And they weren't just amateurs looking for a shot at the big time. Two-time Grand Prix winner, Pro-Tour Boston Top-8er, Jonathan Sonne slung his Lux Cannon to the top of his grinder tables.

    Perusing deck lists always reminds me of just how fun the Sealed format is. Sure it's rare that you see a Steel Hellkite left in the sideboard (my cohorts say "never", but I'll stick with "rare"), but it's the place where Blistergrub can show up, main deck, in winning lists. It's the format that really tests your "23rd-card" skill. And just in case you don't believe the open-ended nature of Scars of Mirrodin sealed, check out Chris Pait's sweet Myr Reservoir-powered Grinder #10 winner. What's the Magic number that makes the Reservoir pull its weight? For Pait it was seven, and with all his myr, other artifacts and proliferate, he threw in a Golem Foundry for that extra oomph.

    Showing up early to the dentist only allows you a time to breathe, relax and read last month's Woman's Day magazine. On Grand Prix Friday nights, it's the best way to get used to the carnage, destruction and mayhem ready to be unleashed the following morning – and earn prizes while you're at it. If you missed out, next time try to book a flight a few hours earlier, or urge your carpool to get up just a bit earlier. It's worth the effort.

    John Canville - Grinder #1 Winner
    Grand Prix Nashville 2010

    Peter Yong - Grinder #3 Winner
    Grand Prix Nashville 2010

    Dan Musser - Grinder #4 Winner
    Grand Prix Nashville 2010

    Jeff Lynch - Grinder #5 Winner
    Grand Prix Nashville 2010

    John Klauk - Grinder #6 Winner
    Grand Prix Nashville 2010

    Jonathan Sonne - Grinder #7 Winner
    Grand Prix Nashville 2010

    Isaiah Ley - Grinder #8 Winner
    Grand Prix Nashville 2010

    Doug Tice - Grinder #11 Winner
    Grand Prix Nashville 2010

    Jharick Shields - Grinder #12 Winner
    Grand Prix Nashville 2010

    Brian Edgar - Grinder #13 Winner
    Grand Prix Nashville 2010


  • Saturday, 11:00a.m. – Scars of Mirrodin Limited with Brad Nelson

    by Bill Stark
  • Brad Nelson has been featured in plenty of Sealed and Draft deck techs. Rather than follow him building his Sealed pool specifically, and potentially giving away his card pool to his opponents throughout the day, I sat down with Nelson early to chat about the Scars of Mirrodin Limited world at large, as well as touching base on how he feels his deck will do this weekend and of course to discuss the Player of the Year race which he is presently leading.

    Bill: How do you feel about the Scars of Mirrodin Sealed format?

    Brad: It's interesting. The best part about it is that the games are really good. Sometimes you get the bomb draws. There's no way you can build a Sealed pool to just be aggro. In other formats, you could just build a deck to be aggro if you didn't have bombs, but in this format there are so many defensive cards you can't do that. Games can be really swingy because you can have board position when your opponent all of a sudden casts Myr Battlesphere and the game is over in two turns.

    Bill: When you open your pool, what color combo are you hoping to be able to play?

    Brad: White-red is probably the best because you're gonna get the cards like Arc Trail, Arrest, and Razor Hippogriffs. Those are the cards you're looking for. Arc Trail is RIDICULOUS in this format because everyone is playing off-casting cost Myrs and higher casting cost cards, so you take their Myr out and they're off a turn, so it slows them down in getting to their bigger end cards. A lot of decks run four, five, and six drops.

    Two-for-ones are great in general anyway; there aren't a lot of ways to gain card advantage in this format. White-red is where you want to be. I don't think you want to be blue, there isn't a lot of removal in blue. You don't want to be black-green, because you'll be half infect and half non-infect.

    Bill: Much has been made of that ability in Draft. What would it take you to play an infect deck in Sealed?

    Brad: I opened a pool today I would have gone infect with, but had to pass it. You need a decent curve and at least 10 infect guys I think, some removal and equipment too. You need a bomb, a Contagion Engine, a Skithiryx, something to push it over. It's hard for the infect guys to push through without the equipment and removal because everyone is going to play defensive spells. Corpse Cur is another card I think you need. A chain of Corpse Curs can just whittle down a person's board compared to two Gravediggers, which couldn't.

    Brad Nelson

    Bill: What ways do you have to deal with "bombs" in the common and uncommon slot?

    Brad: Turn to Slag is one of the most important cards that I want in a Sealed Pool. It deals with almost all of the bombs, Steel Hellkite, Hoard-Smelter Dragon, Sunblast Angel, it deals with bomb equipment. People are starting to play with Accorder's Shield a lot more, and if you can't deal with that card games get a lot harder to win. Slag beats all the big spells, it beats all the equipment. It's one of the best all around removal spells. Arrest is fine too, it deals with most of the bombs, if not all of them. Shatter and Revoke deals with most of them. That's why Hoard-Smelter Dragon is so good, because it's not an artifact. My top three cards are, in order:

    Sunblast Angel
    Contagion Engine
    Hoard-Smelter Dragon

    None of those three cards are Tumble Magnetable. That's the problem with Wurmcoil Engine, it can just get tapped. That's how I did well at Grand Prix—Toronto, I had three Tumble Magnets.

    Bill: How do you feel about your Sealed pool this weekend?

    Brad: It's really good. It's the best Sealed I've had in this format, on Magic Online, anywhere. I feel very good. There are things about it that I dislike. I don't have a lot of options, which is what I liked about my Toronto deck. There I got to make a lot of decisions, there were a lot of on-board tricks. This weekend I have a lot of higher powered cards.

    That's the great thing about this format, why great players win. The board gets bogged down with a lot of options, like "I can turn off my opponent's metalcraft with my removal spell," or "I can cycle my spellbomb now or hold it for more value." Little mistakes people can't even realize cost them the game until it's over.

    Bill: You've stated publicly that you feel, results notwithstanding, that you don't understand this Limited format. How do you feel about your understanding of it now?

    Brad: I actually think I've finally learned the format, but I just have a theory and that's about drafting the format. Sealed is a lot more straightforward. I feel like I have a good chance of doing well at Sealed because it's just about playing good Magic. In Draft, it's really complex. One of the interesting things I've found about this format is that people will take an archetype and beat into the ground that they're drafting it, but those decks will still have 3-5 bad cards I would rather not be playing. But they just ran RW Metalcraft into the ground, and then Accorder's Shield will just beat that.

    So I've been drafting a lot of defensive and random midrange decks. What I've been valuing is removal and ways to deal with my opponent's deck. I haven't found one person who can take down a dinosaur (Alpha Tyrannax). It's a great Limited format, I really enjoy it. It is my favorite so far of all the ones I've played. It's so complex, it's always changing. A lot of formats are like that, but not at this pace. Accorder's Shield has gone way up for a lot of people, but Shatter isn't as good as it used to be because people aren't relying on metalcraft as much. People are relying a lot on poison.

    Bill: Let's talk a bit about the Player of the Year race. Does that weigh on you when you play?

    Brad: Nothing affects me when I'm playing. It gives me motivation, but I've always been motivated to do well regardless. When I'm playing, there's nothing that I'm thinking about. I'm just playing my matches and I want to win now.

    Player of the Year does mean a lot to me. I'm going to work very hard to win it. The biggest problem people have is that they're thinking too much outside the game. They're letting too much emotion in, they're not just playing to win or lose. They don't take a loss and just move on. That happened to me in Toronto, I took a loss in Round 4 and let it get to me. I got a couple pep talks and shook it off.

    When I'm playing Top 8, sometimes I get into a mode where I forget I'm even there. After I get done playing I look around and I'm like "Oh, there are people watching. There's a coverage reporter."

    Bill: Does the fact you would become the first American in a decade to win the title hold any special value to you?

    Brad: I didn't know until BDM's article that it's been 10 years since an American held that trophy. As a nation that's really cool, but I've never looked at Magic with global barriers. We're our own people. Everyone in the world that plays Magic is part of its own family. If I do win, that's cool that it comes back to the United States because that's where it belongs. We have a lot of skill here in the U.S. I wouldn't be the player I am without team ChannelFireball. LSV, Wrapter, PV, Ochoa have taught me a LOT about the game. Ultimately I want Player of the Year for myself, and for my dad. He's really gotten into Magic and he loves this lifestyle that I'm doing. He watches coverage everyday, my grandma Delila and my uncle too. It would mean a lot.


  • Feature Match Round 3 – Osyp Lebedowicz vs. Jon Sieber: "It's not a misplay if it's illegal."

    by Marc Calderaro
  • As an amateur, coming to a Grand Prix can be daunting. With tons of players, tons of famous talent and tons of media, bringing your A-Game can be difficult. And Jon Sieber has it harder than the usual GP amateur. Though he came in with one bye and won his second round, round three paired him against Pro-Tour winner and all around Magic staple, Osyp Lebedowicz. Though he hadn't been in the game for a while, he's still strong and certainly wouldn't make a humorous misplay over the course of the match that his on-looking friends would goad him about and make the Sieber feel more at ease, right? Spoiler Alert: He does.

    Game 1

    Jon Sieber

    Osyp won the dice roll and elected to draw. "It's good to know you're not playing infect," Sieber quipped. A turn-two Myrsmith for Sieber was joined by a Glint Hawk Idol (+1 Myr from the smith). He sent the 2/1 in to take Osyp to 18 while Osyp answered with a Moriok Reaver.

    After Sieber played his drawn Vulshok Replica (+1 Myr) he attacked Osyp again. The Pro Tour—Venice winner spent his next turn Arresting the Vulshok Replica Lightning-Bolt Replica and sinking to 11 on Sieber's next attack, though he was killing off the Myr tokens one by one. Osyp smirked only slightly when he dropped Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon but Sieber smirked larger when he promptly Arrested it.

    Osyp, now at 7, finally drew the Revoke Existence for the Idol that was pinging him from the skies, but Sieber continued with drawing gas. A Contagion Engine (+1 Myr) came down and things were looking bleak for Osyp. He still had a Razor Hippogriff and a Darksteel Sentinel in his hand waiting to strike, but would it be enough?

    Osyp had hope yet however, as a Strata Scythe (+1 Myr) from Sieber revealed his own nervousness; he forgot to search for a card to Imprint. Though Sieber remembered quickly enough, finding a Plains, it allowed Osyp to play more confidently as he leaned back in his chair and cast a mid-combat Darksteel Sentinel to infi-block any Strata-Scythed Myr that would wander into the red zone.

    Iron Myr and Tumble Magnet came from Osyp, then he simply shipped back, as a Myr Galvanizer (+1 Myr) added more and more little strips of paper to the board. Now Osyp joined the token fun as both players played and sacrificed Origin Spellbombs (+1 Myr for Sieber) the following turns.

    The board was stalemated by paper tokens, but with the life totals 19-7 in Sieber's favor with an active Myrsmith and Contagion Engine, and seemingly endless Myr, it would seem the rookie had the advantage. But Tumble Magnet tapped his Myrsmith, then his Galvanizer and Sieber knew what was coming. "Sunblast Angel," he said. He barely blinked and the Angel came crashing down.

    Sieber needed to make something happen fast and equipped the Strata Scythe to a token (granting +3/+3) and attacked with five Myr and a freshly cast Flameborn Hellion. Sentinel blocked the Hellion and they bounced off one another while Angel took the 4/4 token, sinking Osyp to 5. Cool as a cucumber he laid land nine and cast the last card in his hand, the Razor Hippogriff, returning Origin Spellbomb and he quickly cast and cycle it. He attacked with the Angel and Sentinel. Sieber was now at 11.

    Sieber's and Osyp's hands were merely sandbagged lands and if the gamestate didn't change, Osyp's Angel was threatening to fly to victory. Sieber drew and drew, but couldn't answer the Angel in time.

    Jonathan Sieber 0 – 1 Osyp Lebedowicz

    Game 2

    Osyp Lebedowicz

    Osyp boarded in a Flesh Allergy and a Ghalma's Warden while Sieber still bet on his maindeck.

    Sieber chose to draw and they were off, keeping both their openers. Perilous Myr from Osyp faced off against Sieber's Myrsmith. A quick Grasp of Darkness took the white smith down as Sieber followed with a Myr Galvanizer. It crashed into the red zone (as much as a non- Myr Battlesphere  Battlesphere Myr can crash) making the totals 19-18 in Sieber's favor, then Sieber added a Vulshok Replica. Osyp trumped it with a turn-five Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon, but again Siber's deck delivered the immediate answer. He cast an Origin Spellbomb, and now Metalcrafted, a single red mana Galvanic Blasted the dragon away.

    Both players continued to add to the board, and a few turns later it was Sieber's Galvanizer, Replica, Glint Hawk Idol, a 1/1 Myr token (via Origin Spellbomb) and Tumble Magnet facing off against the Perilous Myr, Kemba's Skyguard and Darksteel Myr. Sieber's timely Contagion Engine swung things in his favor: Darksteel Myr, and Perilous Myr hit the bin, and Osyp used his Perilous trigger to kill the activated Idol. But Osyp still had tricks; Arrest and Flesh Allergy were sitting in his hand. He thought long and hard before attacking with his lonely 1/1 Skyguard then emptying his hand – using the Allergy to trade the Galvanizer for the Skyguard, and the Arrest to hit the Vulshok Replica. Alas, it was all for naught. An unanswered Flameborn Hellion, a Revoke Existence on the Arrest, and two empty draw steps were enough for Osyp to concede and go to game 3.

    Jonathan Sieber 1 – 1 Osyp Lebedowicz

    Game 3

    They both wished each other good luck in the final game, both kept their opening hands and Ospy led with a Origin Spellbomb. Answering with a turn-two Spikeshot Elder, Sieber again had a turn-three Galvanizer while Osyp cycled the Spellbomb, net a Myr, then cast a Kemba's Skyguard. The Galvanizer questionably swung for two and Osyp changed his mind on blocking and decided to trade with his flyer. A drawn Fume Spitter killed the Elder (who was missing a second Mountain to kill the token), and Osyp's lowly 1/1 got in there before being joined by Ghalma's Warden. Land six brought about Contagion Engine, yet again, and Osyp used Razor Hippogriff Razor Hippo to get his Spellbomb back. 17-23 were the life totals and it looked to stay that way, what with a Tumble Magnet tapping down the Hippogriff, and the Engine to refuel it. But Osyp was holding a secret. His hand was Arrest, Arrest, Grasp of Darkness, Revoke Existence, Sunblast Angel. There was no way a Pro like Osyp could screw it up, right? Osyp immediately cast an Arrest illegally on the Tumble Magnet. "I'm as tight as I've ever been!" Uh oh, maybe not.

    "There was definitely a card in Mirrodin that did that," he appealed to the crowd. "It was ten years ago and a different color," was the response he got. The correct white card, Revoke Existence, soon took out the Magnet and the 3/3 flyer started getting there against a Vulshok Replica and a Copper Myr (while the Engine sat unused and sad). The cards mounted in each player's hands while the board remained the same. Sieber's Revoke Existence and Oxidda Scrapmelter sat waiting for juicy targets, while Osyp was content to poke away with the flyer while drawing even more removal in the form of Flesh Allergy. Ok, so maybe Osyp's not on the top of his game, but I think my grandma would have this game in the bag, right?

    Right. It took an empty draw step after the Sunblast Angel wiped Sieber's board for the amateur to pack it in against the self-admittedly rusty pro.

    "Hey, it's not a misplay if it's illegal." Words to live by.

    Jon Sieber 1 – 2 Osyp Lebedowicz


  • Saturday, 2:00p.m. – Corrupting America's Youth: An Interview with Zac Hill

    by Marc Calderaro
  • Zac Hill

    Wizards of the Coast has been known to recruit Pro players to their team up in Renton. Pros-turned-R&D have been a large reason for the great sets and great success Magic has had over the years. They are all smart, hard-working people. But in Zac Hill, in addition to those attributes, they've found a personality that's always shined in the spotlight. He's a very nice guy and a great bastion for the game. I sat down with him in between slinging his guns, to get his impressions of the return to Mirrodin and the return of the Phyrexians.

    He was quite pleased with his gun-slinging choices for the day (though I'd just watched him get his face smashed in by two Grave Titans and a Mimic Vat imprinting his fallen Baneslayer Angel). He's carrying around a UWr Venser Control deck chock full of Enter-the-Battlefield effects, a Mono-Red Aggro, Sam Black's Azusa, Lost But Seeking EDH deck, and a Mono-Green Infect deck. "That infect deck is probably the best I've ever slung." (ok, "slung" is my word – but it's so good!) He's taken down multiple Vintage and Legacy decks so far with it. The surprise factor of going from 0 poison counters to 10 (and sometimes 15) in one turn is a level of awesome that just makes my skin tingle. And when asked which side of the Phyrexian-Mirran battle he supported, the answer was already pretty obvious.

    "I like corrupting the youth of America," was his first remark on the subject. He was already known to be promoting the black-oily ones at the player party in Amsterdam. "And plus, Mark Purvis is just too adorable to be my team leader." Purvis, the Brand Manager for Magic (check out his dossier) is a well-known advocate for the Mirrans; and he is quite adorable. As far the design-development end of Phyrexia's chief helper, Infect, Hill talked to me about the function of the mechanic, especially how it applies to the limited formats. "It's easy for artifacts to lead to very grinding, incremental games." Infect, however, was designed as a counter to that. If endless Instill Infections and Trigon of Thoughts are bringing you down, Infect brings the pain in an inevitable, poisony death.

    "And unlike a lot of people, I love playing just five or six infect guys in my sealed deck." He feels that since the last guy you stick is going to win you the game anyway (echoes of Jamie Wakefield), it doesn't matter if it wins with 20 damage or 10 poison counters. "Infect, for me, is all upside." Especially, he says, because there are great support cards like Trigon of Rage that help out both attack strategies. I can attest to this after listening to a frustrated cry from Conley Woods earlier. He was up against a deck with both infect and non-infect and on turn four he groaned, "I don't know which card to kill!" Having both types of damage dealers gives your opponent more opportunities to misplay, as they don't know your deck as well as you do. It's in these decks that the equipment-without-a-home, Grafted Exoskeleton, finds a great place to settle down and start a family.

    Zac Hill and Donnie Noland

    Hill is so happy to be in Nashville for the Grand Prix, since tournament organizer Donnie Noland is one of the reasons Hill became involved in the game at all. "He loaned me a deck for my first tournament" – the 1998 JSS. As Noland told me, "Oh man, that kid was as green as they come." Noland, along with then Tennessee local player and judge, John Carter (now a level three judge and former DCI Judge Coordinator), took him to his first Nationals tournament in 1999. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Magic is a game of community. As the community thrives, the players within it also grow in step. Noland told me, "Take time to nourish young talent and help them any way you can. You never know who's going to surprise you." Just look at these three locals ten years later; one works for R&D, one is highly respected in the judge community, and the third is organizing a 1,486-player Grand Prix. It's pretty inspiring, even if one of the them roots for Magic' big bad guys, the Phyrexians, and loves youth corruption.

    It was great talking with Zac, but he had more unwitting combatants to infect. He'll be here all weekend and he's always happy to talk to anyone and everyone willing. Zac Hill is a fun, exuberant guy and proof positive that with enough zeal and personality, we can all live the dream of one day working in Magic R&D, then coming back to your home state to poison people to death.


  • Feature Match Round 4 – Sam Black vs. Gerry Thompson

    by Bill Stark
  • Gerry Thompson

    Gerry Thompson and Sam Black are both storied North American Magic players who supplement their Pro Tour winnings with income as writers for the same digital gaming magazine: Despite the fact hundreds of other competitors in the event were NOT their coworkers, the two found themselves paired as the last of the bye rounds wore off.

    Both players opened on mulligans, but only Sam had to ship his second set for five cards. That put him at a disadvantage against his seasoned opponent, but he gave no indication that it affected him mentally. Thompson led the way with an Iron Myr, on color as he revealed blue and red lands, then cast and equipped an Accorder's Shield on his third turn. Black fired back with Hand of the Praetors, but a Galvanic Blast from his opponent took the 3/2 down.

    Corpse Cur bought the Praetor right back for Sam, who was representing an infect deck with his black and green manabase. The 2/2 Cur began attacking Thompson, who blocked with his equipped Iron Myr. Soon a Blight Mamba and Cystbearer joined Black's team, each shooting Gerry with a poison counter as a result of the Hand of the Praetors on the battlefield.

    Under the gun after a strong start, Gerry cast a Snapsail Glider and equipped it with Accorder's Shield. He passed the turn, but when Sam Black began doing calculations for combat, Thompson did his own math. "I'm dead?" He asked, to no one in particular. "I'm dead," he confirmed to himself, then scooped up his board for the second game.

    Sam Black 1, Gerry Thompson 0

    Sam Black

    "You can play," Gerry informed his opponent, opting to draw an extra card rather than stay ahead on tempo by taking the first turn.

    Sam wasted no time taking advantage, casting a Blight Mamba which began infecting his opponent. Thompson had Snapsail Glider and Liquimetal Coating. A Rusted Relic soon joined the blue-red player's team, giving him a sizable force of metalcraft threats. After the Glider blocked Blight Mamba, Instill Infection allowed Black to take it out, but Tumble Magnet soon had his 1/1 Snake on lockdown and he began soaking up hits from the Rusted Relic.

    Trigon of Infestation helped Black to stabilize, but he soon lost the artifact as his opponent cast Volition Reins to steal it. That put Sam back on the defensive, casting a Cystbearer and passing without attacking. But the board was stalled for both players, as even Thompson with his hijacked Trigon didn't feel it was safe to attack. The complicated board made Sam's topdeck of Contagion Engine all the more devastating for Gerry who could only watch as all of his creatures picked up -1/-1 counters, his infect total at risk of lethal proliferation after the early attacks from Blight Mamba.

    The Engine proved to be too much. Though Thompson worked on sneaking attacks through his opponent's defenses, Black carefully wore the metalcraft team down before proliferating a poison victory. After a tough battle, Gerry had no choice but to pack it in.

    Sam Black 2, Gerry Thompson 0


  • Video Feature – Who Will Win POTY?

    by Bill Stark


  • Photo Essay - Faces in the Crowd

    by Bill Stark
  • The Grand Prix circuit is a unique opportunity for people to meet some of the biggest names in Magic. This weekend at Grand Prix—Nashville has not disappointed in that regard, with dozens of the world's best players here trying to soak up the last few Pro Points of the season. In addition some bonus VIPs are here, like Wizards R&D member Zac Hill. Here's a look at some of the players in the house.

    Brett Blackman (L) loves getting his chance to play professional Magic when he's not working as a professional Harry Potter stand-in. To his right is Kyle Boggemes, the Pro Tour—San Diego runnerup from earlier this year. All kidding aside, the two were clearly excited about playing ten rounds of Scars of Mirrodin Sealed!

    Midwest stalwart Brian Kowal just realized he opened a foil Koth. Or he normally looks like that. Your call.

    Two men who go by three initials: Luis-Scott Vargas, aka LSV, on the left and Ben Seck, or TBS for THE Ben Seck. Both have Pro Tour Top 8 experience, and Luis managed to rip off an incredible undefeated run at Pro Tour—San Diego earlier this season before finally succumbing in the Semifinals.

    A recent Grand Prix champion, Europe's Martin Juza crossed the pond to chase Brad Nelson on the quest to become Player of the Year.

    Pro Tour champion and Japanese superpro Kazuya Mitamura joined countrymen Shuhei Nakamura, Yuuya Watanabe, and Tomoharu Saito in an attempt to steal a title from North American soil.

    Pro Tour—Venice champion Osyp Lebedowicz. The first lesson you learn in the Coverage Reporter Training Manual: take everything this jokester has to say with a grain of salt. . .

    Brazilian wunderkind Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa is the player with the best shot at stealing the title of Player of the Year from Brad Nelson, who leads the race by some 15 points. Paulo has had an incredible year, including a Pro Tour championship at Pro Tour—San Juan. Through his career, Paulo Vitor has AVERAGED an amazing one Pro Tour Top 8 for every four Pro Tours he competes in.

    After some time away from the game, Paul Rietzl burst back onto the Pro Tour stage at Pro Tour—Honolulu in 2009. Since that time he has added MORE Pro Tour Top 8s to his resume.

    The ever cheerful Steve Sadin already has one Grand Prix title on his mantle. Can he come up with a second one this weekend?

    Old school player and burn aficionado Pat Sullivan has his game face on for the tournament.

    Japanese all star Yuuya Watanabe works on building his deck alongside friend Gabe Walls.

    Wizards of the Coast R&D member Zac Hill is gunslinging all weekend long. Beat him and earn yourself a free booster pack! Gunslinging is also a great opportunity to chat with R&D members about what it's like working for Wizards of the Coast, making Magic, or what their favorite stories from their history with the game are.

  • Feature Match Round 5 - Flashing the Blast: Tom Martell vs. Kazuya Mitamura

    by Marc Calderaro
  • Both sitting at 4-0, seasoned pros Tom Martell and Kazuya Mitamura chatted as much as two combatants who don't share a language can chat. Worlds is on everyone's mind, and they discussed their Pro points going into today's event and how much they were hoping to earn. Mitamura is disappointed with his 19 so far this season, but was looking forward to upping that number in Chiba, his home country, as well as today.

    Game 1

    Kazuya Mitamura

    Mitamura led off and both players cast turn-two mana Myrs. Mitamura then cast a Snapsail Glider off two Mountains and a Copper Myr, while Martell cast a Perilous Myr and attacked with a Sylvok Lifestaff-equipped Iron-y Myr; it was actually rather expected. Contagion Clasp, Turn to Slag, Arrest, Saberclaw Golem, Arc Trail and Engulfing Slagwurm were great in Mitamura's hand, but no land was not. Martell attacked with his dual Myrs, sinking the former Pro Tour champion to 15 before casting and equipping a second Perilous Myr – a Tel-Jilad Fallen and Grafted Exoskeleton in his grip. Mitamura found land three (all Mountains), as Contagion Clasp killed the Iron Myr and turned Snapsail into a flyer. A Forest for Mitamura's next turn, and after a full minute of thought, Mitamura Arc Trailed the unequipped Perilous Myr and the freshly cast Fallen (Martell offed Mitamura's mana Myr in the process). He took the totals to 12-16 in Martell's favor and passed the turn to the American.

    Another attack put Mitamura at 10, and Vulshok Replica came down. Chrome Steed re-upped the Japanese player's Metalcraft, albeit momentarily, as Martell, now Metalcrafted himself, used a Galvanic Blast to bin the Steed before untapping for his turn. Snapsail killed the Perilous Myr on the next attack and it was quickly 8-19 for Tom Martell who added more and more Myr in the form of another Iron-y; this time it was a little less expected. Mitamura tapped out for his Saberclaw Golem, while Martell cast a pre-combat Myr Galvanizer, equipped his Iron Myr and attacked the Japanese pro down to 5, trading his Replica for the Golem in the process. Turn to Slag took out the Iron Myr and the Lifestaff, while Mitamura loaded up on mana Myr himself (Gold and Iron). In concurrent turns Martell played the Exoskeleton and a Trigon of Infestation. Though the 1/1 with Poison looked measly compared to the Chrome Steed and Engulfing Slagwurm that Mitamura played, Martell added a Bellowing variety to even things out.

    The totals were 5-19 but neither player could attack profitably, so they were content to draw and pass as Martell slowly emptied his Trigon of Infestation counters onto the board. Mitamura's hand was Galvanic Blast, Darksteel Juggernaut and Arrest (still no Plains). While Martell had a Turn to Slag and a Mountain, casting and equipping his Grafted Exoskeleton onto an infecting Insect token.

    Engulfing Slagwurm finally felt safe to attack and took Martell to 12 and Mitamura cast a 5/5 Juggernaut, poised to strike himself. Next turn, Mitamura found his Plains and the Arrest quickly enchanted the Insect with the extra exoskeleton. Chrome Steed, Engulfing Slagwurm and Darksteel Juggernaut all attacked. The other two infectors blocked everything but the Steed, so after a -1/-1 on the Juggernaut and the life gain and loss, it was 5-8 in Martell's favor. His lead was slowly shrinking, though Martell and his Bellowing Slagwurm took out a Myr while his Turn to Slag took the Steed.

    Heavy Arbalest made the now-2/2 Juggernaut (thanks to a -1/-1 counter and various dying artifacts) more useful by taking a new Myr Galvanizer. And though the Trigon produced a chump blocker every two turns, Martell's army dwindled. Arbalest moved to the Gold Myr and took out a 1/1 poisonator, making blocking the Slagwurm even more difficult for Martell. He took a gamble on the next Slagurm attack and sunk to one. Then Mitamura just flashed the Galvanic Blast he had the whole time.

    Kazuya Mitamura 1 – 0 Tom Martell

    Game 2

    Tom Martell

    In between games, Tom Martell decided that against two Arc Trails, two Arrest and one Turn to Slag (Mitamura actually had another one) his large green men weren't worth their price tags and sideboarded into a much more controlling blue version of his deck with 2 Darkslick Drakes, 3 Stoic Rebuttals, a Sky-Eel School, a Disperse and a Trigon of Thought. The deck looked good and was full of flyers, but he would have to hurry, as their very long game one meant Martell had less than 17 minutes to win the next two. They shuffled up, both kept, and battled it out.

    I would kept Martell's hand too. On the draw, Island, Island, Stoic Rebuttal, Trigon of Thought, Perilous Myr, Galvanic Blast, Sylvok Lifestaff seemed very strong against Mitmaura. But though Mitamura missed a land of his own, he used an early Copper Myr for a turn-three Vulshok Replica, then a Tangle Angler while Martell was still stuck on two lands. Martell's Lifestaff-equipped Perilous Myr blocked the Replica, then killed off Mitamura's new Iron Myr. Mitamura simply added a Trigon of Rage and forced Martell's own Iron Myr into blocking the Angler. "So that's the plan," Martell said of the Trigon as he realized the aggressive plan for the Tangle Angler. Still stuck on two land, he discarded a Trigon of Thought. He tried fervently to make blockers and additional mana with little Myrs, but Mitamura had a crucial Arc Trail. Mitamura used the Trigon to pump and swing with larger and larger beasts tipping the score vastly in his favor. It was the Darksteel Juggernaut that finally sealed the deal (along with a flashed Galvanic Blast), but it was the lack of land and Mitamura's relentless destruction of Myr after Myr that got us there.

    Kazuya Mitamura 2 –- 0 Tom Martell

  • Sunday, 7:36 p.m. – The Magic Mom, Megan Holland

    by Marc Calderaro
  • Megan Holland

    I remember interviewing Megan Holland at Grand Prix—Tampa last year. She was making cupcakes, organizing the local Floridian playgroups, creating events calendars and well, just all around owning the scene. When I sat down with her today, it seemed a year ago was ancient history. She has now made her community service a national goal, helps marketing for and is currently launching her web site, – oh, and this is in addition to her full-time job marketing for a publishing company. Megan and her husband Kitt (yes, with a second "T" this time; I'm sorry, Kitt) are quickly becoming household names in the Magic community.

    "It's been great, but it can also be difficult," she said of her new-found fame. "I get last-minute messages from people asking me to book a flight for them, and of course I can't say no." We all have out concept of a great "Magic weekend" -- get a hotel, get some friends and drive however far you need to. But the Hollands take it to another level and really cement the idea of how to have a great time at a Magic event.

    "We bought an SUV last year; I'd be lying if I didn't say PTQs were a factor." Whether it be packing seven people in a car to drive the 8 hours to Mobile, Alabama or Atlanta, Georgia from the Florida home, or taking special requests for cupcakes to make ("Pat Chapin asked for chocolate"). Megan is at the center of each Magic event she attends. Case in point, as I was interviewing her, a young man walked up, interrupted us and asked if Megan had something to drink. She said that she didn't, but pointed out where she knew there was water. Her thanked her and walked off. And on a larger scale, telling players the water location is exactly the service Megan provides. "The resources are all there, sometimes players just need help finding them or putting them together." She said that when it comes to big issues like events, there are people who miss out for silly reasons, and her goal is for no one to miss a great event for a needless thing like not having a ride, or not knowing the best website to find cheap airfare.

    An altruistic goal for sure, especially because when I'm competing, the less people that show up, the less my luck has to stretch. But then again, Megan isn't even competing this weekend. She's involved in so many Magic pursuits, she said playing is not her top priority right now.

    "When I play events, I only end up with around 100 pictures or so; that's not enough." I asked her how many she usually had, without a beat she said, "400." This woman clearly has some sort of superpower. But when I prodder her about her organizational super power, she was incredulous. She's a firm believer that anyone, even without the last name "Holland," could create a great avenue of communication in their own community and help make those Magic Weekends perfect.

    "It's very simple," she said, "even if you don't know anyone, start going to local events at every store you can." Even though she admits sometimes breaking the ice can be difficult, "just become the regular and you soon become friends with all of them." Before her website launch, Megan simply used shared online calendars to help organize players for all the events, and that's easy enough for anyone in your community to do. It's hard to imagine the perfect Magic weekend without winning the whole shebang, but it looks like Megan and Kitt know how to have the best time regardless.

    She keeps assuring me that there's no superpowers involved, but I still don't know if I believe her.

  • Feature Match Round 6 – Patrick Chapin vs Kyle Boggemes

    by Bill Stark
  • "We might need these for games 2 and 3," Kyle Boggemes joked, pointing at poison counters sitting on the feature match table as he sat down to face Pat Chapin. Was he hinting he might switch up his maindeck strategy during the sideboarded games? Or was he saying he thought his opponent might? Neither player hinted at which might be the case, and when Chapin won the coin flip he opted to draw rather than play first. Both Boggemes and Chapin hail from the same home state: Michigan.

    Kyle Boggemes

    Kyle's early manabase revealed a three color deck as he played Mountains, Swamps, and Forests. His first real threat to the battlefield was a Moriok Replica while his opponent had Glint Hawk Idol and Rust Tick. A Koth of the Hammer hit the battlefield for Boggemes, and he went to work activating a Mountain and attacking with it.

    Staring down a planeswalker, Patrick Chapin had no choice but to try pressuring the mythic. He cast a second Glint Hawk Idol which allowed him to activate his first and attacked the Koth. Kyle cast Sylok Replica, animated a Mountain again, and attacked back for 6. His opponent fired back by attacking Koth with both of his Glint Idols, but Boggemes traded his Sylvok Replica for one of the 2/2s via the Replica's special ability.

    A final attack from Koth dropped Chapin to 6 but left his opponent with no answer to the single Glint Hawk Idol that remained on the battlefield. That allowed Pat to activate the 2/2 and finish off his opponent's mythic rare, but he still had a healthy force to deal with coming from Kyle. When a Bleak Coven Vampires hit for Boggemes, dropping Chapin to just 2 life, Pat scooped staring down a horde of 2-powered creatures from his opponent and unable to block enough of them.

    Kyle Boggemes 1, Pat Chapin 0

    "I'll go first," Chapin said as they shuffled for the second game, a change in strategy from the first.

    Patrick Chapin

    Pat started much more aggressively, casting a Painsmith on his second turn before dropping Strider Harness on his third. The artifact caused the 'Smith to trigger, making itself into a 4/1. Though Pat wasted no time sending the black creature to the red zone, his opponent Kyle did have to consider chumping with Iron Myr. Ultimately he opted to make the trade.

    Boggemes found his own copy of Painsmith, and cast it. A Saberclaw Golem a turn later turned his into a 4/2, which he sent Pat's way. Across the battlefield Chapin was trying to build an army out of Myr. On three lands he was a tad manascrewed, just as he had been in the first game. Kyle wasn't waiting around to watch his opponent catch up, however, tapping out to cast Flameborn Hellion and sending his team sideways. An Iron Myr from his opponent traded for Painsmith, the second time that interaction had occurred in the game although the roles of the creatures were reversed in the déjà vu, and Chapin took 9 from the unblocked creatures.

    Auriok Sunchaser helped Chapin chump for a moment, but when Kyle added a Perilous Myr and a Bleak Coven Vampires to the table Pat didn't have many options left. He untapped, began making calculations, but found his round at an end.

    Kyle Boggemes 2, Pat Chapin 0'1

  • Feature Match Round 7 – Martin Juza vs. Caleb Durward

    by Marc Calderaro
  • Czech veteran Martin Juza and Caleb Durward discussed their decks immediately and Martin Juza seemed pretty confident. "It's not as good as the one in Germany, but it's pretty good." Caleb Durward replied, "Oh great, so at least I have a small chance?" Juza merely smirked.

    Game 1

    Juza, always mugging the camera

    Juza led with a two Swamps a Flight Spellbomb, then wiped away Durward's Leaden Myr with a Contagion Clasp. Durward cast Vulshok Replica and sent it into a Metalcrafted Chrome Steed, straight up. Juza wasn't going to be bluffed and after a pause blocked it, sending the Replica to a premature grave. Durward cast a Steed of his own, following it with a Sylvok Replica and a Silver Myr. Next turn Juza added another Flight Spellbomb and a Palladium Myr – a Clone Shell, Island and a Contagion Engine in his hand. The score was 12-16 for Juza after a Steed attacked, then slid a Rust Tick from the top underneath his Clone Shell.

    Durward's Steed was now Metalcrafted and got the scores to 12-13 before casting a second metallic horse. His lands were three Mountains, a Plains and a Forest but was yet to cast a colored spell. The same could be said of Juza and his three Islands and two Swamps; such is Mirrodin. But both broke their colorless pact the following turn. The Palladium Myr help cast Contagion Engine and with his final mana, Juza cast a Vedalkan Certarch. Durward had a Sunblast Angel waiting in his hand, but his draw didn't yield the Plains. So instead he cast a fiery phoenix that quickly entered the red zone along with his 3/3 Steeds. Clone Shell and Juza's fully operational Steed blocked, removing Durward's Steeds from the battlefield (once he lost Metalcraft from one Steed, the other was soon to follow). The Rust Tick flipped into play from under the dying Clone Shell and Juza's board complete with two different Contagion artifacts towered over the 0/2 Sylvok Replica and the 4/4 Phoenix.

    Rust Tick, Chrome Steed and Palladium Myr all attacked; blocks and sacs brought the total to 10-8 in Durward's favor. Still no Plains on the draw, and Juza's next attack played it safe without the Tick or the Certarch (which was tapping down the Phoenix). Juza added a Myr Galvanizer to the fray and when Durward's draw was without a white source, he knew he was done for.

    Martin Juza 1 – 0 Caleb Durward

    Game 2

    Out with the Vulshok Replica, in with a Saberclaw Golem for Caleb Durward, hoping for a creature better suited to fight Chrome Steed and Necrotic Ooze made the cut over a Flight Spellbomb for Martin Juza.

    "So do you play or draw with your deck?" Caleb inquired.

    "Like I'm going to tell you," Martin snarked.

    "It won't change my decision; come on, you can trust this face."

    Juza refused to bite.

    Caleb decided to draw as dueling Spellbombs (Panic from Caleb, Flight from Martin) started the game. Caleb's Arc Trail slaughtered Martin's plays turns two and three – a Perilous and Palladium Myr. And Durward followed his assault with a 2/2 Chrome Steed, Revoked the Existence of Juza's Trigon of Corruption, then cast a Leaden Myr. Juza's Rust Tick soon died to a Metalcrafted Galvanic Blast while Durward kept pushing and pushing with yet another Steed. After sacrificing his Panic Spellbomb to stop Juza's un-"kicked" Bleak Coven Vampires from blocking, Durward sunk Juza to 2. The draw step initiated the Czech pro's scoop phase.

    Martin Juza 1 – 1 Caleb Durward

    Game 3

    Caleb Durward

    "Now you have to tell me whether you draw or not."

    "I always draw," Juza said.

    Juza thought hard about his one-land, all-gas hand, with Leaden Myr, Contagion Clasp, Bleak Coven Vampires, Chrome Steed, Trinket Mage and Darksteel Axe. He was on the draw, and the hand was obviously bonkers, but he made the safe decision to mulligan. "100% sure Luis would've kept." Probably true, but that doesn't mean it's the right play – though with LSV, it generally is.

    Juza's six was good, and he was still able to lead with a Darksteel Axe. A Flight Spellbomb followed and Caleb's turns one through three were Panic Spellbomb, Silver Myr, then Palladium Myr. Juza's Trinket Mage failed to find anything (as Juza had forgotten he sided out his second Spellbomb), but that's ok, Juza already had a one-cost Axe. Durward offered the Mage to trade with his Palladium Myr and Juza gladly accepted. A Saberclaw Golem from Durward was met with an non-Metalcrafted Certarch, and on the next attack, a Grasp of Darknes took out the Golem. Darksteel Axe found a new wielder with the Certarch and after another Silver Myr attack, it was 17 all.

    The Silver Myr and Certarch went back and forth, Durward's grip containing two land and Turn to Slag, while Juza was getting flooded, left with only a land. He drew a Perilous Myr to turn on his Metalcraft, but thought long, hard and decided against casting it. Though next turn he cast it and Bleak Coven Vampires to drain away. After declining to attack his axe-wielding Certarch into a Silver Myr, Juza passed the turn up 21-10.

    Turning to Slag the Vampires and casting a Copper Myr, Durward tried to stem the bleeding. Juza cleared the Myr away when his Axed-up Perilous Myr attacked. The Axe/Certarch synergy was becoming a pain for Durward, as any creature Juza played was an near-unblockable threat. A Myr Galvanizer from Juza took Durward to 6 but he tried to play catch-up with a Barrage Ogre joining the Steed. Juza had been drawing exactly the gas he needed, and he wasn't taking it for granted. On his draw step, Juza sighed and played a Skinrender, shaking his head a little while the Zombie took out the Orge. Durward unceremoniously flipped the top card to see if he would concede. It was a Sunblast Angel; Durward did not concede. Gabe Walls laughed a hearty laugh from the crowd; Durward may just pull out of this yet.

    But you forget the power of Martin Juza. He untapped, laid a Volition Reins on the Angel and swung for the win. And though his friends urged him to "Still-had-all-these" Durward, Juza professionally extended his hand and graciously took the match.

    Martin Juza 2 – Caleb Durward 1

  • Saturday, 8:15 p.m. – An Eye on Worlds

    by Bill Stark
  • The Magic: The Gathering World Championships are only a few weeks away, taking place in Chiba, Japan in December. Accordingly a number of the game's biggest names have begun organizing to prepare for the event. One mega team, which has already dominated the Pro Tour this season, is The group features core members like Brad Nelson, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, and Luis Scott- Vargas, each of whom has at least one Pro Tour Top 8 this season. The group regularly adds names like Nassif, Rietzl, and Chapin to its number (though Chapin writes for competitor and has absolutely crushed professionally this year. So what does the group have in mind for Worlds? I posed that question to Luis Scott-Vargas, Josh "Wrapter" Utter-Leyton, and Conley Woods while between rounds at Grand Prix—Nashville.

    Channel Fireball

    Bill: What plans has ChannelFireball made to prepare for Worlds?

    Luis Scott-Vargas: Since California is on the way to Japan for most people, it hasn't been too difficult for people to come to California, stay for a week, then go to Japan. We're going to Japan almost a week before the tournament.

    Bill: Who does the group include?

    All: Luis Scott-Vargas, Paulo, Wrapter, Brad Nelson, David Ochoa, Owen Turtenwald, Michael Jacob, Conley Woods, Matt Nass, Corey Baumeister. Even Patrick Chapin is coming to California.

    Bill: Are there formal testing plans?

    Luis Scott-Vargas: We don't have any formal plans besides getting together and testing a bunch, then seeing what we come up with.

    Conley Woods: There will be BBQs and plenty of credit card games!

    Bill: How did the plan come together? Why California?

    Luis Scott-Vargas: It's where ChannelFireball is, so we have a place to play. We invited anyone who wanted to come to California to test. We did our best to provide accommodations and people to battle with. It works out well that California is on the way to Japan.

    Josh Utter-Leyton: I like that it's on the way.

    Luis Scott-Vargas: The ideal is to meet up before a tournament, but this time it doesn't cost people a lot to meet up.

    Bill: What predictions do you guys have for your results?

    Conley Woods: We have a good combination of deckbuilders and players, so whenever you get that many people seems like we should have some fine-tuned stuff whatever we play. I'm hoping to do pretty well. I need a tournament to get me picked up. The team overall should do pretty well. I would be surprised if we don't get 5-10 people in the Top 64.

    Bill: Is anyone expecting to stay after for additional touristing?

    Josh Utter-Leyton: I expect to have a good time!

    Luis Scott-Vargas: I'm staying a week after, so is Brad and his brother. Paulo and Josh are staying a couple of days after. Even if you get there a week early, you're not going to be doing much besides testing. I think it's important to take in the sites. If you don't do any of that, you might as well be playing Magic at the same place every time. I try to stay later after a tournament; I find myself not enjoying touristing before the tournament because I find myself thinking about what I should be playing. Definitely a couple tournaments every year I make time to do that.

  • Feature Match Round 8 – Josh Ravitz vs. Luis Scott-Vargas

    by Bill Stark
  • After a colossal two year run, Luis Scott-Vargas firmly established himself as one of the game's top minds. His opponent for the eighth round of competition at Grand Prix—Nashville was one Josh Ravitz, whose professional pedigree included playing as the teammate of the legendary Jon Finkel. Ravitz was no slouch in the world of professional Magic himself, of course, and opened the game by accelerating his mana via Iron Myr; Luis answered with Trinket Mage, then Myr Propagator. A Clone Shell for Ravitz made the prospect of the red zone a bit more challenging for Scott-Vargas, but rather than keep the 2/2 back for blocking duty Josh started sending it in. The reason became clear as he tapped out to cast Wurmcoil Engine.

    Luis Scott-Vargas

    "That's a good card," replied his opponent.

    Unfortunately for Luis, there were a few more good cards waiting in Josh's wings. He used Grasp of Darkness to end Myr Propagator while adding a 4/4 Chrome Steed to the board as well. Trying to keep up, Luis found a Tumble Magnet to help him control the 6/6 Wurm, but the powerful Magnet was only a short-term solution.

    Josh sent his team, minus Wurmcoil Engine, to the red zone. "I wonder what you've got under there," Luis said, looking inquisitively at the sideways Clone Shell. Calling Ravitz's possible bluff, Luis traded his Trinket Mage for the 2/2. The creature underneath it? Molten-Tail Masticore.

    "Of course you do," Luis grimaced.

    A Neurok Replica bounced the Masticore for a turn, but with the Tumble Magnet on just a single charge counter, Luis needed some help and fast. He tried to find it by casting Sky-Eel School, then equipping his 3/3 with a Sylvok Lifestaff. A removal spell from Ravitz to knock the Tumble Magnet out of the way was too much, however, and Luis succumbed to his opponent's onslaught.

    Josh Ravitz 1, Luis Scott-Vargas 0

    After drubbing his opponent in the first game, Josh came roaring out of the gates in the second opening on Iron Myr and using it to accelerate into Chrome Steed. Unfortunately for him, his opponent was ready with an Arc Trail to two-for-one his early tempo. A second Chrome Steed from Ravitz was an unimpressive 2/2, and was quickly outmatched by his opponent's Neurok Replica and Saberclaw Golem.

    Instill Infection and Contagion Clasp made appearances to allow Ravitz to take out the Saberclaw and he hit metalcraft for his second Steed. Unfortunately for him, he was out of gas at that point allowing his opponent's Bonds of Quicksilver to shut down his robotic Horse while Luis got busy on his life total via Trinket Mage and Neurok Replica. A five-point Chimeric Mass wasn't enough as Shatter from Scott-Vargas answered promptly, but Molten-Tail Masticore WAS good enough. The 4/4 hit the battlefield and, after briefly being Faltered by a Panic Spellbomb, soon was on "kill the opponent's creatures" duty.

    Josh Ravitz

    Trying to continue pressing Josh's life total, Luis cast Sky-Eel School and Scrapdiver Serpent, but the Masticore ate the 3/3 and Turn to Slag hit the Serpent. The only thing Scott-Vargas had going for him was that he had managed to Masticore lock his opponent, who was down to a single card in hand he had to discard to feed his 4/4 each turn. When Luis had been ground down to just Neurok Replica and Trinket Mage, he tried a last resort: he bounced the Masticore with his Replica, then used Stoic Rebuttal to counter the creature on the way back down. It worked! Josh lost his Molten-Tail, and the game was back to even.

    It was time for Luis Scott-Vargas' bombs to shine. Hoard-Smelter Dragon made an appearance for him, and munched a Tumble Magnet Josh had just cast. On 8 life, Ravitz did a quick check of his cards on the battlefield and conceded, done in after a game of back-and-forth haymakers.

    Josh Ravitz 1, Luis Scott-Vargas 1

    The final game of the match started with Luis on the play, and he used both a Panic Spellbomb and a Flight Spellbomb to draw two cards early after his opponent cast a Necropede. The reason? He was trying to find a third land, which was missing from his deck. Instead, he whiffed for a turn before finally coming up with one and using it to cast Trinket Mage. Meanwhile Ravitz added a Chrome Steed to the battlefield to join his 1/1 infecter.

    Darkslick Drake gave Luis a small air force, the California player recovering nicely from his early mana hiccup. Soon a Sky-Eel School joined the 2/4, giving Luis a solid lead on evasion creatures. Ravitz tried to fire back by casting Molten-Tail Masticore, but the play left him without mana up to regenerate. He passed the turn, and Scott-Vargas trumped: he used Arc Trail and Shatter to entirely empty his opponent's side of the battlefield of creatures.

    The race was on! Luis dumped cards to the battlefield as quickly as he could draw them while Ravitz tried to keep up. When Josh found Wurmcoil Engine, he appeared to do exactly that. His first attack with the monster took him back to 15, but he found it locked down by Bonds of Quicksilver. He used a Skinrender to take out the Saberclaw Golem and the match took yet another turn, this time in favor of Josh.

    The Skinrender and a Leaden Myr began pressuring Luis' life total, dropping him to 1. He cast Ogre Geargrabber and Tumble Magnet to keep up, but a Flesh Allergy proved too powerful for Scott-Vargas and Josh held on to take the match.

    "Your deck is really good," said Gabe Walls from the peanut gallery as the two players signed the match slip.

    "Thanks, I made it myself," Ravitz replied, characteristically nonchalant.

    Josh Ravitz 2, Luis Scott-Vargas 1

  • Feature Match Round 9 – The Quick and the Dead – Sam Stoddard vs. Conley Woods

    by Marc Calderaro
  • Conley Woods

    So these two have already clinched Day two, so what's the story here? There's three, other than the fact that they are two of the happiest, most fun Magic players around. First, Conley Woods is hot on the heels of the next level in Pro points, with a good finish this weekend, he'll be in a great position for Worlds. Second, Fearless-Magic-Inventorian Sam Stoddard is sitting at 8-0 with no byes. He waltzed into Nashville sitting at an 1849 rating with a unreported event he'd just won. That's right, he missed a bye in Round 1 by one point. These two are both smitten with their records and they joke back and forth constantly. The third story here is: the only thing faster than their jokes is their game play; I blinked and they had already reported their scores. I'm glad I didn't have to take a bathroom break, or they'd be on their way home.

    Game 1

    Woods lost the roll, as he's lost them all today, "Good thing the roll doesn't matter than much in this format." And Stoddard led with a Glint Hawk equipped with a Darksteel Axe. Woods Vulshok Replica-ed his way to 17-17 before promptly Arresting the Hawk. A Perilous Myr for Sam grabbed the Axe and got in there, while a Replica double-up came down for Conley. A turn or two of trading ended with Sam's Saberclaw Golem in the post-Shatter bin, his Myr entering too much peril and is soon Arrested, and Wood's two Replicas and Soliton ferociously attacking his face. Stoddard quickly sunk to five, and his draw step ended with a scoop phase.

    "I thought you kept a land-light hand, but it was land-heavy." Conley remarked. "By the way, did you like that Soliton? I'm not splashing blue for it either, by the way." How do I have the time to quote Conley if they're playing so fast? Creative license, my dear readers, creative license.

    Sam Stoddard 0 – 1 Conley Woods

    Game 2

    Sam Stoddard

    I barely had time to bold the "Game 2" and it was somehow turn four. A Glint Hawk Idol was quickly shattered by Woods and Stoddard repaid in kind by Galvanic Blasting Woods' Palladium Myr. In the red zone a familiar Perilous Myr found a friend in a familiar Darksteel Axe, but Woods went back up to 20 by using his Razor Hippogriff to regrow his Myr. Trigon of Rage came in sans a counter for immediate Perilous Myr pumpage, while Woods, seemingly simultaneously, tapped out to re-cast the Palladium Myr and add a Kemba's Skyguard. Stoddard's replicated attack step made the score 17-10 in Sam's favor.

    The two let me rest for a second (which was nice) before Woods sent both fliers in with a forceful push. When a barely Metalcrafted Galvanic Blast targeted the Hippo, a Shatter on the Perilous Myr meant Stoddard had to commit more resources to off the 3/3; the Myr's graveyard trigger did the trick. Things looked even enough, but a windmill-slammed Argentum Armor from Woods went unanswered for a single turn, and unsurprisingly, it was enough. Sam extended his hand, and Conley shook it.

    Though these both advance to Day 2, Conley Woods strides in at 9-0, and Sam "pullin' himself up by his boot straps" Stoddard comes in at 8-1. And my fingers come in dead last.

  • Feature Match Round 10 – Larry Waymon vs. Brian Kibler

    by Bill Stark
  • "My last feature match was against Star Wars Kid at…Grand Prix—Chicago?" Larry Waymon commented as he sat down for the tenth round of competition at Grand Prix—Nashville. His opponent was newly inducted Hall of Famer member Brian Kibler. Brian's last feature match was just a few hours prior on the GGsLive side of the Nashville feature match stage.

    Larry Waymon

    After watching his opponent take a mulligan, Larry Waymon opened on Ichorclaw Myr followed by Mimic Vat. The Vat drew a look of disgust from Kibler who cast his first spell, Moriok Reaver, on his third turn. The 3/2 was unable to block Ichorclaw profitably, however, as Waymon cast Hand of the Praetors before sending his 1/1 in. With the bonus from the Praetors it was a 2/2, or 4/4 if Brian blocked. He decided to take a poison counter moving to two.

    A turn later Larry cast Plague Stinger and a second Ichorclaw Myr, also getting in another punch with his 2/2 Ichorclaw. That left Brian on a significant amount of poison counters, very near death. He cast a Kuldotha Phoenix in an effort to achieve parity, but when his opponent had Blight Mamba pre-combat to put him up one more poison counter through the Hand of the Praetor's triggered ability and an attack with far more creatures than Kibler could handle, Brian scooped for the second game.

    Larry Waymon 1, Brian Kibler 0

    "I had fun, did you?" Kibler said, his famous grin spread wide across his face.

    "That was one of my better draws on the day," Waymon replied, their breathtakingly fast first game over in mere minutes.

    A Fume Spitter for Kibler gave him a powerful start against his opponent's very aggressive deck filled with 1-toughness creatures. Waymon's draw for the second, however, was considerably slower. He had to wait until the third turn to cast his first creature, a Plague Stinger, and by then the Fume Spitter had been joined by a Moriok Reaver. Through blocking Larry took out his opponent's 1/1 with his Stinger, taking 3 in the process before seeing Kibler add a Blade-Tribe Berserkers to the battlefield.

    On four mana the infect player went into the tank for a moment before opting to cast Hand of the Praetors. He fell to 9 from his opponent's ensuing attack while Brian cast a Saberclaw Golem. Did Larry have a game plan for wresting tempo from the control of his opponent's side of the battlefield? A Tel-Jilad Fallen allowed him to take out the Berserkers, but he fell to 6 and Brian re-upped with Barrage Ogre.

    "Go big dopey creatures!" Kibler laughed as his unassuming board of Hill Giants continued dropping the elbow on his opponent's fancier deck that was nonetheless under the gun.

    Corpse Cur regrew Plague Stinger and provided Larry yet another blocker. When his opponent sent with his entire team, however, Waymon had no choice but to trade for everything save for the Saberclaw, falling to 2 in the process and leaving his opponent with the 4/2 attacker still ready to go. Hoping to stay alive, Larry re-cast his Plague Stinger and an Ichorclaw Myr, using the artifact creature to chump the Saberclaw Golem a turn later. Kibler added Silver Myr to his side of the table but seemed to be out of gas.

    The Plague Stinger got in for a poison bringing Brian's total to 3, then Larry used a Carrion Call to continue keeping his head above water. Brian cast Tower of Calamities with enough mana to use it once he untapped, and Larry panic-checked to make sure it could only target creatures. With a laugh Kibler said, "Yeah, I can't just kill you." Lethal or no, the artifact promised to blow up a creature a turn from Larry if Waymon wasn't careful.

    Undeterred, the poison player pressed in with an Insect token and Plague Stinger, bringing Brian to five poison. When Kibler tried to attack back for lethal, Fulgent Distraction tapped his team, keeping Larry alive for a turn. The Tower was still online, however; did Larry have an answer to that?

    He did not. After untapping and considering his options he conceded.

    Larry Waymon 1, Brian Kibler 1

    "I have a sideboard card in my hand," Brian teased his opponent as they started the third game. What was it? Presumably the Vector Asp he cast on the first turn.

    Brian Kibler

    "I have one of my rares in my hand," Waymon countered, casting Mimic Vat before trading an Ichorclaw Myr for the aforementioned Asp. Necropede was next to the battlefield for Brian who was doing his best to keep up with Waymon's onslaught. Sylvok Lifestaff contributed to the poison cause, allowing Mimic Vat'ed Ichorclaw Myrs to attack each turn for two poison while gaining him life in the process.

    A Bladed Pinions equipped to Necropede put an end to those shenanigans, the first strike granting of the equipment enough to preemptively knock down any tokens headed Kibler's direction. That forced Larry to stay back, building his manabase by using a Horizon Spellbomb to fetch up a Plains. Barrage Ogre joined Brian's team, while Larry countered with Blight Mamba.

    In response to a second Sylvok Lifestaff, Kibler used his Barrage Ogre to sacrifice Necropede, using the 1/1 to deal 2 to an Ichorclaw Myr token and give -1/-1 to Blight Mamba. That allowed a Saberclaw Golem and the Ogre to start getting in for Kibler, dropping his opponent to 17. A Tel-Jilad Fallen briefly showed up for Waymon, but was mowed down by Skinrender. That play allowed his opponent to continue taking big chunks out of his life total with his assorted Hill Giants and Waymon was in danger of losing the match.

    A Corpse Cur for the poison player bought back Blight Mamba, and both creatures were equipped with a Sylvok Lifestaff. That left Larry tapped out, but in a position to stabilize. Brian began using his Bladed Pinions to allow his creatures to evasively get in, but could only attack with one at a time. That left an opening for his opponent to start crawling back into things, though a fully charged Etched Oracle from Kibler didn't help Larry at all.

    Waymon didn't have time, however. At 6 life his opponent's Ogre Geargrabber began chucking creatures at Larry's face, allowing the Bladed Pinions to finish things off in the air.

    Brian Kibler 2, Larry Waymon 1

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