Day 1 Coverage of Grand Prix Oakland

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1631 planeswalkers descended on Oakland today with dreams of being crowned the champion of Grand Prix Oakland. After nine grueling rounds of sealed deck, only 186 remain. Of those, five players enter the second day of competition with untarnished records: Ben "Benny Beatdown" Lundquist, Ben Stark, Scott Gerhardt, William Jensen, and Elliot Woo have put themselves in an excellent position to battle their way through to the Top 8. The remaining few have proven their mastery of the Magic 2014 Sealed Deck format, but tomorrow the players will be required to draft against a murderer's row of opponents. Stay tuned to coverage of Grand Prix Oakland to watch all action unfold!


  • Saturday, 11:26 a.m. — Grinder Winning Decklists

    by Jacob Van Lunen

  • Marus Keller
    GP Oakland 2013 - Standard Grinder Winning Decklist

    Brock Jones
    GP Oakland 2013 - Sealed Grinder Winning Decklist


  • Saturday, 2:18 p.m. — Feeling Blue (And Loving It!)

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • I had the Opportunity to sit down with some of the most talented players in the world to discuss the ins and outs of Magic's latest core set. I noticed a pattern emerging when I asked high caliber players like Jon Finkel, Brian Kibler, Luis Scott-Vargas, and Tom Martell to name their most desirable common and uncommon for Magic 2014 sealed.

    Blue is the new Black. Divination and Essence Scatter seemed to be the favorite sealed deck commons amongst professionals. It's not that Essence Scatter or Divination are necessarily better than all the other commons, but the overall power level of blue pushes players to want a healthy pile of playable commons to support the color adequately.

    Opportunity was a clear favorite amongst the set's uncommons. Magic 2014 sealed play involves a lot of one-for-one trades wherein each card is exchanged for a single card of the opponent's without help. In Magic 2014 , card advantage (The overarching strategy that involves trading cards of your own for more cards of your opponent's) is usually achieved through combat tricks or instant speed removal. Doom Blade in response to Giant Growth, Shock during a double block, or Giant Growth to counteract an opposing pump spell are all common examples of how a player might get ahead in the card economy trade. This makes the format extremely skill intensive and rewards players for reading their opponents and casting spells at the most opportunistic moments. A card like Opportunity breaks all the rules and provides the caster with four fresh new cards at the expense of a single card. If both players are casting and trading cards at a similar rate, the player with Opportunity will have three more cards in hand when their opponent is all out of gas.

    In previous formats, Blue might have had holes that needed to be filled by Red or Black removal and/or Green or White bodies. In Magic 2014 , however, Blue has all the tools it needs to deal with whatever threats might be presented to it. Time Ebb, Sensory Deprivation, and Claustrophobia give the Blue deck a removal suite that rivals (perhaps overshadows) Black or Red. Creatures like Air Servant or efficiently costed inexpensive flying commons are some of the most desirable creatures in the format. The best non-blue cards are usually expensive, thus increasing the power of countermagic, Disperse, and Time Ebb.

    The stars have aligned and it seems that Blue is the way to be in Magic 2014 Sealed. Will Blue mages fulfill their destiny and come out on top today? Stay tuned to all the action here in Oakland, California to find out!


  • Saturday, 2:44 p.m. — Keys to M14 Sealed with Ben Stark and Martin Juza

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • One of the coolest things about being a coverage reporter is the ready access to top-tier pros to talk about any topic I want. Do I need a guide to Faeries? Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa is right there. Do I need a primer on playing Boros? Paul Rietzl will answer all my questions.

    And if I need to know they keys to M14 Sealed, Ben Stark and Martin Juza, two of the best limited players in the world, are more than ready to help out.

    So to pass on a bit of that good fortune to you, our readers, I sat down with newly elected Hall of Famer Ben Stark and Grand Prix master Martin Juza to comb their brains for the most important things to keep in mind with M14 limited.

    Sunglasses not included.

    When you're this good at limited, the sun is always shining...wait...that's not quite right.

    Play Blue cards if possible. Jacob Van Lunen delves into this in-depth [link to Jake's article on Blue that he just sent in], but the open secret—and you can barely even call it a secret at this point—that Blue is quite easily the best color in M14 limited.

    "Opportunity is the best card in sealed," Stark said. "It's just too slow a set for Opportunity [not to be great]."

    Draw first. Much of M14 is centered on trading one-for-one. Even the best spells—Chandra's Outrage, Doom Blade, Claustrophobia—tend to generate no more than parity in card advantage. This leads to attrition fights where one extra card can matter. Since the format is generally pretty slow, it's rare that you'll get run over for choosing to draw first.

    "Sometimes you'll get overrun by a nut draw, but the other 85 percent of the time, that's just not going to happen," Stark said.

    Auras are worse than in draft. We've all been conditioned to think of all but the most powerful enchantments as opportunities to get 2-for-1'd, but M14 has a suite of powerful enchantments that make playing them awfully tempting. The fact that several of them are actually very good in draft—particularly Shiv's Embrace, Mark of the Vampire and Trollhide—conditions us to think they might be good in Sealed as well.

    But that's just not the case.

    "There's more removal in Sealed," Stark said. "You get six packs and you play all of your removal, as opposed to draft where you only see a few."

    Juza said they often just gave other targets for a few less-versatile cards that sometimes make main decks.

    "Even Naturalize is sometimes played in the main in Sealed," he said.

    So leave the Auras in your sideboard if you can. They're just asking to fall behind in card advantage, something that can mean death in an Opportunity-based format.

    2/1s are bad, 1/3s are good. These things are true in part because of one another, but also because of the general size of creatures in the format. For one, there's a common two-mana 1/3 in Seacoast Drake that simply brick walls all of the 2/1s. For another, there are more than a few 2/3s for three mana (Undead Minotaur, Advocate of the Beast) that blank every single 2/1 but are similarly unable to attack past a 1/3 without help.

    Goblin Shortcutter and Child of Night have been excellent in previous formats, and Trained Condor looks like Scroll Thief's best friend, but each one is barely playable, where something like Coral Merfolk, according to Stark, is best left on the sidelines.

    Bombs are less bomby. Sealed formats have, for as long as Sealed has been a thing, been dominated by bombs—cards that dominate the came when cast. M14 has its fair share of bombs, but their importance has been muted, according to Juza and Stark.

    "It's just great because, in the past, you've had these cards like Myr Battlesphere and Sunblast Angel that just won the game on their own," Juza said. "Those cards are still good, but Shivan Dragon just gets Claustrophobia'd. It's just great that there're fewer insane cards."

    Stark said that, while that's true, there are a number of Mythics that are still very difficult to deal with, including Primeval Bounty, Jace, Memory Adept, and Chandra, Pyromaster. They are, for the most part, restricted to Mythic rarity.

    "They did a good job of making the most insane cards Mythic," Stark said.

    If you want to beat Blue, play Red. Not everyone gets to open Opportunity. Not everyone gets to open Divination, for that matter. So what do you do if your pool doesn't lend itself to the long game that seems to define M14 Sealed?

    Stark's advice is to play Red, specifically cards that make 1-for-1s bad. Cards like Molten Birth and Young Pyromancer have the ability to make even strong cards like Time Ebb and Claustrophobia look bad.

    "If you have some ability to have some reach and make their one-for-ones bad, you can run them over before they can cast Opportunity or whatever," Stark said.


  • Saturday, 5:27 p.m. — From the Vault: Memories

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • With From the Vault: Twenty hitting shelves yesterday, those of us who have been playing for a good chuck of Magic's 20 years have started to feel a bit nostalgic. Impulse, for example, was one of the first cards to tickle my fancy, and picking up my new, foil copy of the two-mana Blue spell practically sent me back in time.

    Likewise, many of today's best players have been playing for a long, long time. Luis-Scott Vargas started playing when his friend picked up two Revised Starter Decks (Starter Decks were randomized boxes of 60-75 cards, including land) and introduced him to the game. One of Ben Stark's earliest prized possessions was a Serendib Efreet that he paired with Kird Apes and Lightning Bolts to play in weekly tournaments. Josh Utter-Leyton started playing during The Dark, but didn't really turn into the player he was today until he started playing Magic Online over his neighbor's wireless network.

    Because we're all on a bit of a year-long nostalgia kick for Magic's 20th anniversary, we visited with some of today's and yesterday's best players to get their favorite From the Vault: Twenty memories of yesterday.

    Luis Scott-Vargas—Hall of Famer and Pro Tour Champion

    "I remember playing Hymn to Tourach and trying to get all of the same picture. I also played Akroma's Vengeance in my first PTQ. It was Red-White Slide. I actually lost playing for the Top 8 to David Ochoa. Oh, and I played Ink-Eyes in Solar Flare in 2006, the year Paul Cheon and I got first and third at U.S. nationals."

    Martin Juza—More than 300 lifetime Pro Points

    "I had won nationals the year before, but was down 0-2 in the semifinals. I was playing Blue-Black-White Counterbalance-Top and had out a Dark Confidant that was killing me, while my opponent had out a Hand of Honor. So when I attacked with my Dark Confidant, he didn't block Bob so that it would kill me. Instead, I ninja'd in Ink-Eyes, stole his Eight-and-a-Half-Tails to protect my guys and win. I went on to win 3-2 and won Nationals for the second year in a row."

    Ben Stark—Hall of Famer and Pro Tour Champion

    "Wall of Blossoms is in my favorite deck ever, the Pattern of Rebirth deck. I also once won a Black Lotus playing Thran Dynamo in Accelerated Blue, a deck that made a lot of mana and drew a lot of cards. That was, what, 12-13 years ago? I think I traded that Black Lotus for a stack of Type 2 [Standard] rares. What was I going to do with a Black Lotus?

    "And, of course, I won a Pro Tour with Jace, the Mind Sculptor."

    Josh Utter-Leyton—Reigning Player of the Year

    "For me, it's gotta be Jace, the Mind Sculptor, especially with Lotus Cobra. That combination won a lot of games for me. I made the Top 8 of Pro Tour San Juan and won nationals on that combo specifically.

    "After that, Fyndhorn Elves. It's near and dear to my heart for its part in Legacy Elves, since you never really see it anywhere else. I've never had much success with it, but that's just a deck that I really enjoy."

    Tom Martell—Pro Tour Champion

    "Jace, the Mind Sculptor was my first Pro Tour Top 8, and they missed an opportunity to put Lingering Souls on that list. On behalf of all of the souls, I am offended...

    "But I have a good Fact or Fiction story. I was playing in my first Pro Tour in 2000 in Chicago. I think Kai Budde won it, because he won everything [Editor's note: He did]. In fact, it was just my 8th Magic tournament of all time. Suffice to say I was in over my head.

    "I was playing Blue-White control, which was a popular deck in that format, but I wasn't playing Fact or Fiction. I figured, why would I want to mill myself for five? I was playing a mill deck myself with Millstone and Howling Mine, so that was my thought process.

    "In round two, I played against Tom Guevin, and he cast Dismantling Blow on my Howling Mine, and then cast Fact or Fiction for three cards. I had a very quick lesson in why Fact or Fiction was the greatest card draw spell printed since Ancestral Recall.

    "Then, when I was 0-4-1—I didn't win a match—I played against Helmut Summersburger. Back then, the phrase was 'EOTFOFYL' for 'End of Turn, Fact or Ficition, You Lose.' But Helmut cast one main phase and then untapped and took another turn. We called a judge and figured out that he had actually cast it main phase, and not end of turn.

    Jon Finkel—Hall of Famer, multiple Pro Tour winner, pretty much one of the best ever

    "You can subtitle this 'Old man talks about the good old days.'

    "Impulseis a reminder of how much better Magic used to be. You had a lot more decisions to make and a lot more advantages that could be gleaned. I played Impulse in almost everything.

    "Thran Dynamo is another callback. There were a lot more avenues of attack back then, including Land Destruction and combo. I played Dynamo in that Tinker deck."

    Alan Comer—Hall of Famer

    "The thing I remember is being in R&D one day and hearing 'We should give Chameleon ColossusProtection from Black, because Shriekmaw is too good.' Welcome to the Future Future league.

    "Like Jon, I also played a ton of Impulse back in the day."

    William Jensen—Hall of Famer and Pro Tour Champion

    "I'm going to talk about Akroma's Vengeance first. It was Pro Tour Venice and I was in the finals against Osyp Lebedowicz and we both had Akroma's Vengeance, or at least I did. We both also had Akroma, Angel of Wrath. He played his, and I was lucky enough to have the first Akroma's Vengeance to kill it. But then he played a second and I died to Akroma. This reminds me of that White-Green deck with Explosive Vegetation. I had one chance to draw it, but I didn't get there.

    "Swords to Plowshares reminds me of my first ever Magic tournament. My opponent was the local guy to beat, and I didn't understand why you would want to play that card. I played a first turn Sengir Vampire off of two Dark Rituals, and he Swords it. I still didn't get it. But after that game, I realized I still had a lot to learn."


  • Round 4 Feature Match — Michael Hetric vs. Reid Duke

    by Jacob Van Lunen

  • Michael "ShipItHolla" Hetrick is a California native with a healthy amount of Grand Prix success over the last few years. Hetrick only had one bye today, but he's making the most of his appearance with an undefeated record coming into the fourth round of competition.

    Reid Duke needs little introduction at this point. His recent finals appearance at The World Championship cemented his already established reputation as one of the best players in the game and put him in a great position to get a strong hold onto first in the Player of the Year race this weekend. Duke traveled from his home in Sugarloaf, New York to battle Magic 2014 Limited here in Oakland, California.

    Will the Californian be able to defend his home turf against one of the biggest names in the game, or will this just be a stepping stone on the East Coaster's path to first in the Player of the Year race?

    The first game started slow, but an early Scroll Thief from Hetrick looked like it could be big trouble for Duke, whose hand didn't have the option of establishing any board presence by the third turn. Scroll Thief got in for a point of damage and an extra card twice, and it looked like Duke was on his heels.

    Things started to turn around when Duke used Hunt the Weak to deal with Hetrick's thieving card advantage engine. In just three turns, Duke was well ahead on the board with Jace's Mindseeker, Nephalia Seakite, and Fireshrieker.

    Hetrick had a plan, though. Planar Cleansing wiped the board of all permanents and Hetrick had more lands and a pair of Serra Angel to clean up the game.

    Duke had a plan of his own in the form of Garruk, Caller of Beasts, who dropped a Sporemound directly onto the battlefield the turn it entered play. Hetrick tried to keep up as he played out his Serra Angels, but the card advantage offered up by Duke's Planeswalker proved to be too much and they were on to the second game.

    Duke found himself with just five cards to start the second game and a quick Scroll Thief and Master of Diversion from Hetrick put him on his heels immediately. Duke tried to get back into the game with Air Servant, but Claustrophobia from Hetrick made things look grim. Hetrick eventually played back-to-back Serra Angels and that was good enough for Duke to move on to a third game.

    Hetrick sideboarded into a Blue/Green deck, removing the majority of his flyers in an effort to dodge the multiple copies of Plummet that were assuredly in Duke's library for the third game. (Hetrick had seen them when Garruk, Caller of Beasts revealed cards.) Things looked grim for Duke as Hetrick pounded in for a few points of damage each turn with a Scroll Thief, which was permanently blocked by Nephalia Seakite, and an Advocate of the Beast. Eventually, Duke's deck started to offer up more gas and things looked pretty even, if not in Duke's favor.

    Hetrick attempted Negate when Duke went for Claustrophobia. Duke nodded, "So that's your last card?"

    Duke used Spell Blast to force through his Claustrophobia and resolved a Garruk, Caller of Beasts two turns later to finish off his opponent.

    Reid Duke's bomb-laden Blue/Green deck defeats Michael Hetrick's Blue/White Control deck in three games!


  • Round 5 Feature Match — Josh Utter-Leyton vs. Ryan Carder

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • Round 5 is a little bit early to get excited about undefeated records. A whole host of 4-0 players got there on the back of three byes (or two or one). Grand Prixs are littered with players who started strong in the early rounds, only to fall off as decks became more and more powerful in the later rounds.

    But there's some cause to raise some eyebrows over the round five pairing of Josh Utter-Leyton and Ryan Carder. Carder earned his spot in the feature match the hard way, climbing up to 4-0 on the back of his powerful Black-Blue control deck. With a host of card advantage, evasive beaters, and removal, Carder had built exactly the kind of deck that most players would sell their left Tarmogoyf for.

    If Carder's deck was worth a 'Goyf, Josh Utter-Leyton's might just be worth two. The reigning Player of the Year had a powerful Blue-Green deck with Opportunity—considered by many to be the best card in the format—and Jace, Memory Adept—pretty much the only competition for that best-card spot.

    Plus, he's, ya know, the Player of the year.

    Jace, Memory Adept was exactly the kind of card Carder didn't want to see across the table. In fact, it's exactly the kind of card no one wants to see on the other side of the table. If there was ever reason to be excited about a possible run on Day 1, it was definitely the Player of the Year backed by the best Blue has to offer. And if there was anyone to stop him, the upstart with the strong Blue Black deck had as good a chance as any.

    The Games

    Unfortunately for Carder Jace, Memory Adept showed his face almost right away.

    Sure, there were some other cards played, some jockeying for position. Utter-Leyton, on the draw, struck first with an Elvish Mystic into Scroll Thief. The Thief died after drawing a single card, but it let Utter-Leyton start to pull ahead. Vastwood Hydra and a Trained Condor put some pressure on, but Carder was able to put s a few fliers in the way to make it at least look like the board was near parity.

    Then Utter-Leyton played Jace.

    It looked like a few mill 10 activations would easily end the game at that point, but Carder, somewhat hilariously, plucked an Elixir of Immortality from the top of his deck.

    Player of the Year? Check. Powerful Planeswalker? Check. What more do you need?

    "I thought the game was just over at that point, and it was," Utter-Leyton said, "but now I had to win with damage."

    Switching gears, Utter-Leyton used Jace to draw a few cards over the next few turns, pushing his advantage. Eventually, Howl of the Night Pack was enough to push the last few points of damage through.

    The second game didn't start out quite as well for Utter-Leyton. All he could manage was a few mana guys—an Elvish Mystic and a Manaweft Sliver—and little else. Mind Rot even stripped two cards from Utter-Leyton's hand, leaving him with just one card to five for Carder.

    But there was something about the way Utter-Leyton discarded those two cards so quickly. Something that indicated that last card was particularly strong...

    Seems good.

    After Jace, Memory Adept resolved, some other things happened. Duress stripped a Windstorm, but Jace found a second one to kill Windreader Sphinx.

    Eventually, Jace made its way up to seven loyalty, enough to make Utter-Leyton start counting libraries.

    "How many?" Carder asked.


    "That's not what I want to hear."

    Ryan Carder has done well so far, but he's far from the first to fall to Jace, Memory Adept. He won't be the last.

    To stave off death for a turn, Carder fired off a Corrupt for four. But a Jace on three counters against what was now an empty hand for Carder was pretty much just as good as one on seven. It just meant the win would come in two turns instead of one.

    And that's exactly what the Player of the Year did. Activating Jace twice, he had dispatched the first-time GP competitor.

    Asked for his expert analysis after the match, Utter-Leyton offered a detailed, complex explanation for how he managed to pull it out.

    "I cast Jace, that's basically what happened," he said. "I told you my plan was to win with Jace."

    Utter-Leyton 2 – Carder 0


  • Saturday, 7:40 p.m. - Is Blue really best? An early metagame breakdown

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • Now in the sixth round, we're still pretty early in the tournament, but far enough along that we can start to break out which colors and combination of colors are performing well. Is Blue really the best color, or do the results paint a different picture?

    To start to get a sense of the answer, I sampled 40 decks that are currently 5-0. At the end of the day, we'll take a look again to see if any trends emerge over the course of the day.

    Note that there are a few decks with small splashes from a third color, so the total

    Right off the bat, we see the promise holds true with Blue. Now, at this point, it's important to note that there's some selection bias. Blue is considered to be the best color by many of the top players, and so the players who are capable of doing well tend to lean toward it, potentially skewing the numbers. If Blue isn't as powerful as people seem to think, its share should trend downward as more powerful options appear and knock it down. If it is as good as everyone thinks, it should probably increase on its share.

    The surprise is Green with exactly the same number utilizing the beef available from Forests. A lot of players chose to pair their Green with Blue to provide some muscle, but just as many have opted for aggressive R/G decks.

    Black, then, is close behind, with Red and White severely lagging. White is thought of by many to easily be the worst color in M14 limited, and the early returns indicate that as well.

    But what about color pairings? Are Blue and Green getting the most love because they go well together? Is any one color combination particularly potent? Let's take a look:

    Color Pairing Decks
    Black/Green 3
    Black/Red 1
    Black/White 3
    Blue/Black 8
    Blue/Green 9
    Blue/Red 3
    Blue/White 2
    Red/Green 6
    Red/White 2
    White/Green 3

    These numbers, it should be noted, don't account for splashes. Splashes were light enough that we'll leave them out of this analysis for now.

    Right at the top, unsurprisingly, are our two most popular colors, followed by first and third. Notice, however, that nearly all of Blue's pairings are made up in just Black and Green. Blue-Red and Blue-White don't appear to be particularly popular.

    Red-Green is the only other pairing worth noting right now. It seems to be the default "attacking" deck in the format, despite the hype Black-Red got coming into the event. Black-Red is a deck based around synergistic sacrifice effects, and it appears that, if the pieces aren't all there, you might not be able to make it work.

    We'll check in again at the end of the day once more to see what colors rise and which fall, and whether it's best, when it comes to M14 limited, to simply bet on Blue.


  • Saturday, 8:04 p.m. - Quick Questions: Best Cards

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • Conley Woods

    William Jensen

    Brian Kibler

    Melissa DeTora

    Tom Martell


  • Round 6 Feature Match — Erik Bauman (Green/Black) vs. Jan Van Dervegt (Green/Red/White)

    by Jacob Van Lunen

  • Erik Bauman

    Jan Van Dervegt

    Erik Bauman is a Californian who came into Grand Prix Oakland with only a single bye. He's quickly proving his adeptness in Magic 2014 sealed deck after rattling off four wins in a row to be undefeated coming into this round.

    Jan Van Dervegt is a well known Magic Online streamer from the Netherlands. He was recently voted into the Magic Online Community Cup which will take place next week. (Be sure to check out the coverage at!) Van Dervegt has had some mild Grand Prix and Pro Tour success over the last two years, but he disappointingly found himself just two Pro Points short of being the team captain for Holland in the World Magic Cup. He's looking to make up for lost time this weekend and he comes into this round with an untarnished resume.

    Erik Bauman

    Bauman won the roll and chose to be on the play, his opening seven cards were deemed unacceptable, but his six cards were satisfactory. Van Dervegt was happy to keep his initial seven.

    Both players developed evenly as Bauman cast Blood Bairn and Van Dervegt made a Rootwalla. Things were looking good for Bauman when he stuck Trollhide on his Blood Bairn, but Van Dervegt had Marauding Maulhorn to stay in the game.

    Bauman failed to find a fifth land and was forced to pass the turn without a play. Van Dervegt found himself a nice two-for-one with Pacifism and he came crashing in for a massive nine points of damage. Bauman drew a card for his turn and examined the board for a moment before conceding to the Dutchman's excellent start.

    Jan Van Dervegt

    It was Bauman's turn to draw well in the second game, though. By the sixth turn, Bauman had assembled Sporemound with Mark of the Vampire, Giant Spider with Trollhide, and Corpse Hauler; his attack left Van Dervegt, who only had a 3/3 and four lands in play, at a precarious two life.

    Van Dervegt furrowed his brow, "I'm trying to think of my outs."

    He smiled as he drew for his turn. Act of Treason on the Sporemound with Mark of the Vampire let him come in for five damage and go back to seven life. His land made a Saproling, and he used his remaining two lands to cast Voracious Wurm with a whopping five +1/+1 counters. Suddenly, things looked pretty good for Van Dervegt.

    Bauman wasn't down for the count yet, though; he continued playing lands and creatures while Van Dervegt was unable to attack into his board.

    Even Howl of the Nightpack for five wolves wasn't enough for Van Dervegt to start attacking because of the 5/5 lifelinker on the other side of the table.

    Takahito Kobayashi

    Bauman eventually found a Deathgaze Cockatrice, the flying body posed a serious problem for Van Dervegt, whose massive army lacked any sort of evasion. The flyer picked up a Fireshrieker the next turn and Van Dervegt found himself out of options in this incredible game.

    The third game was quite as exciting. Each player traded creatures for removal spells until Bauman's seventh turn when he cast a Howl of the Nightpack of his own for a whopping six wolf tokens. Van Dervegt tried to stabilize with Pitchburn Devils, but the lupine army was joined by Sengir Vampire and Bauman took a quick game three.

    Erik Bauman defeats Jan Van Dervegt to secure an undefeated record after six rounds of competition!


  • Round 7 Feature Match — Mary Jacobson vs. Joshua Ravitz

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • Meet the players

    Mary Jacobson

    Joshua Ravitz

    X-1 can be a pretty uncomfortable place to be on the first day of a Grand Prix when there are multiple rounds yet to be played. You can afford to stumble once, but even that makes your Day 2 climb that much more difficult. Fall for a third time, and your weekend is done.

    That's where we find our next competitors in the feature match area. Mary Jacobson and Joshua Ravitz have had strong showings so far at 5-1, but one of them was guaranteed to leave the table with a second nearly fatal loss. The other, however, would be just a win away from securing Day 2.

    Ravitz is an old-school pro who has demonstrated a fierce knowledge of the game over the past decade, including a number of Grand Prix, Nationals, and Pro Tour Top 8s. He's backed away from the game in recent years, but has repeatedly shown his ability to play at a high level.

    Sitting across from him hoping to hand him that second loss is one Mary Jacobson, last seen in a Top 8 at Grand Prix Lincoln, where she demonstrated her acumen for attacking by piloting Robots to a quarterfinals berth. As she said in her intro video, she's been doing quite a bit of attacking today as well.

    The Games

    In that vein, Jacobson went against the grain and chose to play first, hoping to get her aggressive Red-Black deck an early edge. However, a mulligan and an early Duress—that whiffed—put her in on the back foot almost immediately. The menagerie the Duress revealed didn't make things any better.

    "Doublestrike Sliver?! No!" she said, looking at hand of Regathan Firecat, Bonescythe Sliver, Battle Sliver, Scourge of Valkas and Groundshaker Sliver, plus the mana to cast most of it. Her hand was weak by comparison.

    Mary Jacobson was ready to attack. Unfortunately, she had to do quite a bit of defending against Joshua Ravitz.

    She was able to trade off with the Firecat, but Bonescythe Sliver made way for Battle Sliver and helped Ravitz take giant chunks out of her life total. She managed to take out the Battle Sliver, but Ravitz pressed his advantage with a Goblin Shortcutter and the promised Scourge of Valkas to press his advantage even more.

    Jacobson did her best to hold off the horde, but eventually she had too little life and Ravitz had too many creatures for her to pull through.

    Despite the win, Ravitz didn't like his odds against what looked like a removal heavy deck. Instead of sleeving up the same Naya deck, he audibled into a more streamlined, less Sliver-dependent Black-Red deck. That way, he reasoned, he was less likely to be left with the less desirable Slivers while his best mocked him from the graveyard.

    For a moment, it looked like Jacobson might turn the tide in the second game. Ravitz mulled to six and faced an early Regathan Firecat, promising tons of damage if not dealt with quickly. He wasted no time firing off a Volcanic Geyser to do just that.

    Joshua Ravitz made a cagey switch between games. Because he's cagey. Which is code for old people smarts.

    But when Jacobson started missing on Black mana while drawing Black cards, Ravitz's window was opened. He played Blur and Battle Slivers and started getting in large chunks of damage. When Jacobson finally found Black mana, the best she could do was suit up her 1/1 Striking Sliver with a Mark of the Vampire. And because Slivers with vampire marks on them are some kind of unholy abomination, it prompted Chandra to become pretty outraged [link to Chandra's Outrage]. My guess is that she's not overly fond of vampires touching her things.

    Jacobson looked like she might stabilize with Deathgaze Cockatrice and Child of Night holding the fort against Blur Sliver and Battle Sliver. She had an opportunity to gain some life and possibly trade for one of Ravitz's slivers when she drew Dark Favor while at two life. Placed on the Child of Night, it would have allowed her to attack and go up to six life. However, she opted not to take the risk.

    Eventually, after drawing a few blanks, Ravitz found the Quag Sickness he needed to push through the final damage.

    Ravitz defeats Jacobson 2-0 and moves to 6-1.

    "I have to lose one more before I can be done," Jacobson said turning to a friend.

    She can blame that second loss squarely on the pivot Ravitz made between games.

    "The Black-Red is kind of clunky," Ravitz said, "but she had so much removal that my slivers aren't very good. She played a Geyser and a Quag Sickness, and I figured she had at least one more. The two White Slivers that aren't doublestrike Sliver aren't very good."

    Ravitz, who had nine Slivers in his pool, said he hadn't made the switch in any round so far, but that he thought his second deck might be better anyway.

    "After submitted, I felt like the other deck was better."

    Still, at 6-1 and a win away from Day 2, it looked like his Naya-flavored Sliver build was doing just fine.


  • Saturday, 10:05 p.m. — Round 8 Metagame Check-in

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • With three more rounds under our belt and the day nearing its end, let's check in one more time with what the M14 Sealed metagame looks like.

    When we last left off , Blue was the hero, Green was right there with it, and everything else was less impressive to a certain degree.

    My, how things have (kinda) changed:

    Again, one deck had a noticeable splash (White), which bumps the total number of colors accounted for at 81 rather than 80 the math would dictate for 40 2-color decks.

    The biggest thing to notice, of course, is the slight decline in Blue and the uptick in both Black and Green over the past three rounds. Red and White, somewhat predictably, continued to fall off and trail, but Black and Green supplanted Blue as king of the color hill.

    Part of the reason? Black and Green seem to go pretty well together.

    Black-Green is the big winner here, roaring up from a mere 7.5 percent of the first metagame sampling to 22.5 percent. Blue-Green stayed pretty strong, as did Blue-Black. In fact, the main difference is that the "lesser" color pairings—outside the BUG trifecta and RG—fell further off. They weren't highly represented to begin with, but it has become more and more apparent that the best decks in the format are one of these four color pairings.

    So what does it mean?

    The easiest conclusion you can draw is that White is, in fact, pretty bad. A number of players are doing fine with it—including Owen Turtenwald—but the color wasn't deep enough to support many sealed pools, those who did play it lost, or some combination of both. It's a good bet White is not where you want to be in this format.

    Beyond that, Red pairs best with Green, and not, it seems, particularly well with the other colors. Meanwhile, if you can play two of Black, Blue, and Green, you're likely in pretty good shape.


  • Round 8 Feature Match — Craig Wescoe (Red/Green) vs. David Reynolds (Red/Green splashing Black and White)

    by Jacob Van Lunen

  • Craig Wescoe, the master of White Weenie, was recently crowned Champion of Pro Tour Dragon's Maze. He comes into the eighth round of competition with only a single loss.

    His opponent, David Reynolds, is a California native with a penchant for limited. He too comes into this round with seven wins and only one loss.

    Reynolds won the roll and chose to be on the draw. Both players remained relatively quiet as they shuffled each other's decks.

    Reynolds had an early Deadly Recluse to hold off Wescoe's Regathan Firecat, but Wescoe used Flames of the Firebrand to clear the way and start getting into the red zone. Reynolds made a Pitchburn Devils to establish some board presence, but Wescoe freely attacked his Regathan Firecat into the Devils with an otherwise empty board, not allowing Reynolds to get any sort of advantage through blocking. Giant Spider advanced Wescoe's boardstate. Pitchburn Devils was joined Academy Raider and another Deadly Recluse. Unphased, Wescoe sent his Regathan Firecat and Giant Spider into Reynolds Academy Raider and Deadly Recluse. Academy Raider jumped in front of the Regathan Firecat and Briarpack Alpha made a surprise appearance to grant Wescoe a valuable two for one. Rootwalla from Reynolds posed an interesting defense. Wescoe pondered his options and eventually chose to pass the turn back to Reynolds who used the opportunity to cast another Pitchburn Devils. Sliver Construct from Wescoe only further clogged up the board and things were beginning to slow down. Reynolds traded Ranger's Guile for Wescoe's Giant Spider, and started to get through for three points of damage each turn with one of his Pitchburn Devils. Wescoe used Chandra's Outrage to get Rootwalla out of the way and swung with his team, but a timely Doom Blade from Reynolds put him in an awkward place. Reynolds made a Vastwood Hydra with four +1/+1 counters and Wescoe could only watch as he took a beating from the vastly more powerful draw from Reynolds.

    "I'll let you go first."

    Wescoe recognized his deck's weakness to the multiple Pitchburn Devils in Reynold's deck and wisely made a bold move going into the second game. He asked a judge to bring him a bunch of lands and he quickly sideboarded over fifteen cards in and out of his deck. Red had been shed and Wescoe had become a Blue/Green deck with plenty of flyers to go over the top of his opponent's Pitchburn Devil laden brew.

    Craig Wescoe

    Wescoe got off to a nice start in the second game with an early Elvish Mystic, but any accelerated nonsense was Shocked by Reynolds on his turn. Wescoe got back on the board with Rampaging Baloth, but Ogre Battledriver from Reynolds posed a major problem. Wescoe continued to advance his boardstate with Air Servant, but a Mainphase Briarpack Alpha from Reynolds chopped his life total in half, putting him down to ten. Wescoe fearlessly cracked back with both his creatures. Reynolds came out strong with Rootwalla, but Frost Breath from Wescoe turned the tides. Wescoe made a Briarpack Alpha of his own and put Reynolds down to a meager two life. Archaeomancer was next for the Pro Tour Champion and they were on to a third game.

    David Reynolds

    Reynolds had an early Deadly recluse again while Wescoe was forced to play lands until his fourth turn, when he played Trading Post. Reynolds made a Canyon Minotaur and continued attacking with his Deadly Recluse.

    "I would like to make a goat," deadpanned Craig. As he tossed his newest fluffy companion in front of the opposing minotaur. Reynolds crashed with his whole team and Craig used Briarpack Alpha to jump in front of the Pitchburn Devils.

    Reynolds tried to keep the pressure on, but Wescoe was content to trade his Trained Condor for Deadly Recluse. When Reynolds tapped out for Sporemound, Wescoe used the Opportunity to resolve Opportunity.

    Reynolds made a massive 5/5 Vastwood Hydra, and it looked like Wescoe, even with all the extra cards, might be unable to win the race.

    Wescoe had plenty of gas and wasn't going anywhere, though. Enlarge on Megantic Sliver let Wescoe attack with a massive 13/13 Sliver. Reynolds threw his Vastwood Hydra in the way and distributed the +1/+1 counters across his team. The board was relatively clogged, but Wescoe was pinging his way through for one damage per turn with his flyer.

    That all changed when Reynolds cast Scourge of Valkas, though. Time Ebb put a Giant Spider that was particularly Giant thanks to some Vastwood Hydra counters on top of Reynolds's library and Wescoe sent his Sliver on a Saproling hunting mission.

    Time was called, but Archaeomancer resurrected Enlarge and Wescoe used it in conjunction with his Disperse the next turn to secure victory in a very tight match that ended in extra turns.

    Craig Wescoe defeats David Reynolds in three games to guarantee a spot in the second day of competition at Grand Prix Oakland.


  • Round 9 Feature Match — Ben Stark vs. Jason Grinblat

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • Meet the players

    Jason Grinblat

    Ben Stark

    Ben Stark has been here before. Undefeated in a limited Grand Prix late in the day. Supremely confident and steamrolling the competition along the way. Sometimes it seems as if he's simply incapable of losing under any reasonable circumstances. In fact, the last time he was running through a limited Grand Prix, he only missed out on the Top 8 because he literally missed the last draft. He got lost, didn't make it back in time, and fell out of what many assumed was yet another in a long line of limited Top 8s.

    Standing in his way is Jason Grinblat, a local player who has maneuvered through the field unscathed thus far despite playing a Red-White deck, pairing the colors most players consider to be the worst in the format. He obviously had found some kind of secret sauce with his aggressive-minded build, one that included Goblin Shortcutter and Regathan Firecat.

    In fact, it was exactly the kind of deck Stark had said could potentially beat Blue-based decks like his, way back at the beginning of the day. The aggressive Red-suite backed by cards that could get through his one-for-one removal backed by Divination was exactly the sort of deck that could have a shot against Stark's powerful Blue-Green monstrosity.

    The question is, of course, can anyone really stop Ben Stark on a day like today with an undefeated Day 1 on the line?

    The Games

    In game one, the answer was a resounding no. At every turn, he had the right answer to everything Grinblat tried to do.

    Turn two Sliver? Sensory Deprivation.

    Larger creature? Deadly Recluse.

    More creatures? Cancel and Essence Scatter.

    Run out of things to do? Garruk, Caller of Beasts will find more. Heck, let's throw in a Divination too.

    Ben Stark said card advantage was important in this format. Looks like he found some.

    Eventually, thanks to a Chandra's Outrage, Grinblat was able to take out Garruk, but at the cost of his entire hand and all of his board save a Dawnstrike Paladin.

    From there, a pair of Rootwallas and a Nephalia Seakite did the rest of the work, while Grinblat could do little else but look on while he was run over.

    Now, if this story were a movie, right about here is the part where we'd start the heroic comeback. Right here is where David would rise up and take aim at Goliath. This is the moment where Superman would strike back at Zod or Bruce Wayne would climb out of yet another cave.

    But Bruce Wayne never had to play limited against Ben Stark.

    Again, a series of spells kept Stark in a superior position right from the get-go. Elvish Mystic into Divination gave him cards, while the Mystic actually held the fort against a Regathan Firecat. Cancel halted Ajani, Caller of the Pride, Essence Scatter pitched in against Pitchburn Devils, and Nephalia Seakite flashed in to help out on blocking duty.

    Sometimes, you just want to say "No."

    And when a Chandra's Outrage threatened to burn Ben's minions to the ground? Cancel number two was right there to be found.

    Then, of course, there was Garruk.

    And so on and so on.

    Granted, Grinblat was severely flooded (11 lands against just six spells). Granted, Stark's deck was giving him the goods (all of his counterspells). Granted, Garruk is kind of a giant beating.

    But on any given day, in any given match of Magic, is there any player you'd less like to play than Ben Stark in a limited format he's prepared for?

    Stark defeats Grinblat 2-0 and finishes Day 1 9-0.


  • Saturday, 11:45 p.m. — Grand Prix Oakland Day 1 Undefeated Decklists

    by Event Coverage Staff

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