Sunday, 11:04 a.m. - Top Tables
by Blake Rasmussen
The first round of Day 2 always provides a unique snapshot of a format at Constructed Grands Prix. Not only have the decks bested the field to advance, but they've often done so in a much less defined metagame, as any number of crazy concoctions come out to play on Day 1. By beating not only the expected decks but also the unexpected, any of the players playing at the top tables have proven their decks to be powerful and flexible enough to thrive.
So early on in Round 10 I scanned the Top 16 tables – and thus Top 32 decks – to see what the people were playing. The results left me a little itchy.
There were insects everywhere. Almost every match involved an Insectile Aberration or four, and various Delver of Secrets-based decks made up almost half the field.
It's certainly worth noting that the Tempered Steel deck and one of the UB control decks were playing in the feature match area as two of the last four remaining undefeated decks. Delver may have the numbers, but it certainly doesn't have a stranglehold on the standings. Yet.
But what really struck me was the sheer variety within the archetypes that existed. It was difficult for me to classify all of the Delver decks together because there was a ton of variety. Some played Runechanter's Pike and built their decks around it, others eschewed the powerful equipment entirely. Some chose Moorland Haunt as their colorless land, others opened the avenue to a poison kill with Inkmoth Nexus (usually in conjunction with Runechanter's Pike).
And then there were the Delver decks that played, and featured, Grand Architect as both a lord and a fantastic way to cast and attach equipment. Imagine my surprise when I saw one prominent player cast a Delver of Secrets as sort of a mini-Dark Ritual in order to enable him to equip a Sword of War and Peace by tapping it!
Even in the best-known archetypes, there's room to innovate.
Then there are the Wolf Run variants which, in some cases, were so different that they could almost be classified as entirely different decks. Some ran Dungrove Elder while some ran Inferno Titan. Some had big Garruk, some had small Garruk. There was even a Dungrove list that ran Llanowar Elves, Birds of Paradise and Swords that I classified as green red aggro that...well, who knows what to call it?
The Humans decks appeared a bit more uniform, as Champion of the Parish really needs a critical mass of specific Humans to function. Hey, in the dark world of Innistrad, those Humans have to stick together.
Add to that the mere existence of Jund – big spells with Grave Titan, Batterskull and more – the success of several Puresteel Paladin -based decks and even a throwback Illusions list – complete with Phantasmal Bears – and you have a surprising variety of decks all banded together by the pillars of the format.
In fact, it's pretty clear exactly what the most popular cards in Standard are: Seachrome Coast and Glacial Fortress
But the Top 32 only goes down, well, 32 places out of more than 128 playing today. There's plenty of opportunity for other decks to clip Delver's wings and supplant it in the Top 8. Keep an eye on coverage the rest of the day as we profile a few exciting decks (yes, including a Delver of Secrets deck) that could make the final mark on Standard before Dark Ascension changes everything.
Round 10 Feature Match - Gerry Thompson vs. Josh Utter-Leyton
by Steve Sadin
Josh Utter-Leyton doesn't draw a lot of attention to himself, so it's easy for him to fly under the radar – but over the past six months Utter-Leyton has been on a pretty incredible tear.
With back to back Top 8 finishes at Pro Tour Philadelphia and Worlds, Utter-Leyton finds himself near the top of the current Pro Player's Club Standings. And with a 9-0 start to the tournament, he could very easily lock up the Platinum level for 2012-2013 before the end of this weekend.
Long time pro Gerry Thompson has honed his skills in Standard over the past year by traveling to every Grand Prix, and Star City Open event that he could reasonably get to. His hard work, dedication, and willingness to question things that most other players assume to be true, has allowed Thompson to thrive at (and influence) the format in a remarkable way.
Gerry's commitment to the game is paying dividends for him again this weekend as he's already off to a 9-0 start with his Gindy-Pike deck.
Utter-Leyton kept a Razorverge Thicket, Vault Skirge, Signal Pest, Dispatch, Glint Hawk , Tempered Steel, Etched Champion hand on the play (which Thompson got to see thanks to a turn one Gitaxian Probe ).
A couple of turns later, Josh was still stuck on one land, and Gerry was attacking with a Runechanter's Piked Geist of Saint Traft. A couple of turns after that, Josh scooped up his meager board and they were off to game two.
Gerry Thompson 1 – Josh Utter-Leyton 0
Josh's game two start was a bit more explosive as he opened on Memnite, Memnite, Mox Opal (which Gerry responded to by using Gut Shot to take out a Memnite), and Glint Hawk on turn one.
You can't tell by looking at him, but Josh was a lot happier with his opening hand in game two.
On his second turn, Josh added a Glint Hawk Idol to his team, and with five power on the board to his opponent's one land, he looked to be in pretty good shape.
Gerry did his best to try to crawl back into the game over the next few turns, but with nothing but one for one answers that were more expensive to cast than his opponent's threats – he just couldn't do enough to make a difference.
Gerry Thompson 1 – Josh Utter-Leyton 1
Gerry got an aggressive draw off his own for game three as he started things off with two copies of Delver of Secrets, and a Ponder to insure that they would flip into Insectile Abominations on turn three.
Gerry didn't need to Ponder over his plays for long in game three
Josh's start wasn't nearly as fast.
A couple of Memnites, an Origin Spellbomb, and an Etched Champion was all that he could muster up on his first few turns, while a Runechanter's Pike further accelerated Gerry's start.
Josh made a meek attack and passed the turn back to Gerry, who used a Vapor Snag (bouncing an Inkmoth Nexus that Josh desperately needed to chump block with) to take the third game with plenty of time to spare.
Gerry Thompson 2 – Josh Utter-Leyton 1
"I ran pretty bad in game one," quipped Utter-Leyton after losing the match. "You know, with you having the Gitaxian Probe to see my bad keep."
Round 11 Feature Match - Gerry Thompson vs. Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
by Blake Rasmussen
It would be incredibly difficult to script a better clash of undefeated players in Round 11. Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, all-world, all-everything magician squaring off against the Gerry Thompson, one of the preeminent deck and format
Thompson won the die roll and chose to play, an option PV quizzed him on after.
"What happened to drawing first?"
"Well, the matchup isn't about attrition anymore," Thompson said.
It was still about information, though, and Gitaxian Probe on turn one gave Thompson plenty of it. He revealed two Mana Leaks, Vapor Snag , two lands, Geist of Saint Traft and Runechanter's Pike. Thompson then followed it up with a Ponder that set up a turn two Runechanter's Pike, though with nothing to pick it up yet.
Instead, thanks in large part to the shared knowledge of the Mana Leaks, both players played draw go till turn four, when Thompson played a second Pike that PV allowed to resolve.
They played draw go again till PV probed Gerry to reveal two Vapor Snags and a Gut Shot. He then Pondered to shuffle away some cards before resolving Geist of Saint Traft, which attacked unhindered the next turn.
Gerry T's 21-land deck had propelled him to the top of the rankings so far, but he saw too many lands game 1 to keep up.
Thompson, now up to a whopping seven lands in his 21 land deck, was able to resolve a Delver of Secrets, only to see PV Vapor Snag it end of turn and follow up with a Midnight Haunting, allowing him to attack for up to eight on his next swing.
Thopmson used one Vapor Snag on the angel token to save some damage and a Gut Shot on one of the Spirits, but it wasn't nearly enough. When the top of his deck didn't reveal anything helpful, Thompson picked up his Pikes and moved on to game 2.
PV 1 – Thompson 0
Thompson again chose to play first – apparently the sideboard didn't change the nature of the match – and PV threw back his initial hand for a better six.
Thompson Pondered his first turn, ultimately leaving the cards on top after some thought. PV, naturally, also had a one-drop cantrip, but sought information with his. Gitaxian Probe revealed a very spicy hand from Thompson, with Runechanter's Pike, Invisible Stalker, Snapcaster Mage, Delver of Secrets, Inkmoth Nexus and Phantasmal Image.
Thompson did the same the following turn, and PV showed Island, Moorland Haunt, Snapcaster Mage, Snapcaster Mage, Gut Shot and Merfolk Looter.
Thompson played his Stalker and followed up the next turn with a Delver of Secrets and a Runechanter's Pike, while PV cast a Merfolk Looter and began, well, looting.
PV's second Probe revealed a Snapcaster Mage and the Illusion, and then PV used his own Snapcaster to do its best Silvergill Adept impression and regrow the Probe again, finally ending with a Gut Shot to the Delver of Secrets .
On his turn, Thompson's Stalker picked up the Pike and attacked for three, but Thompson had no other plays. At least not on his turn.
PV tried to cast a Phantasmal Illusion, but Mana Leak stopped any illusions he had about resolving it. But a fourth land and a second Illusion let him copy his Merfolk Looter anyway. Clearly he had a plan. And it involved looting.
Thompson's Stalker, now a 4/1, put Paulo to 8, and a Gerry used Snapcaster Mage to Ponder again, finding him a Gut Shot for the original Merfolk Looter and letting him play Delver of Secrets. But PV still had the illusionary version looting his way through his library.
After doing some math, PV played two Snapcasters and passed the turn. But when Delver turned into an Insectile Aberration, Thompson had lethal on the board.
PV 1 – Thompson 1
On the play for the first time in the match, PV Pondered early, but didn't like what he saw.
Thompson, on the other hand, had the first turn one Delver of Secrets in the match. It didn't flip, but he attempted to set it up with a Ponder the following turn, only to be forced to shuffle.
PV set up with a Runechanter's Pike turn two followed by Snapcaster Mage regrowing Ponder the next turn. As was becoming habit this match, he chose to shuffle.
Once again, Thompson played the Delver game and lost, failing to flip into a flier. But what he did have was a Geist of Saint Traft. Still, he would have to find a way to get the dangerous legend past Snapcaster Mage.
PV played an Invisible Stalker and passed with two mana up, opting not to tap out to equip his Snapcaster Mage. Thompson took the cue and passed without a play, his Delver still sitting unflipped.
PV cast another Pike, but with no cards in his graveyard, they were fairly unimpressive. What was impressive was the Midnight Haunting Thompson cast at the end of PV's turn to finally break open a bit of a board stalemate.
Thompson tried to further his advantage with a Runechanter's Pike of his own, buttressed by two spells in his graveyard. But instead of equipping, he used Oblivion Ring to remove the Snapcaster Mage and attacked with all of his creatures. PV flashed in a second Snapcaster Mage to trade with the Geist, but not before taking seven damage from Spirits, an unflipped Delver and an angel token.
PV's options were looking thin. He attacked again with his Invisible Stalker, but then had to use Moorland Haunt to create a first-striking blocker.
Thompson's attempt at flashing back Ponder off a Snapcaster was hit with the Mental Misstep PV had held for so long, and Thompson started attacking with his Pike-enhanced Spirit. PV declined to trade his own spirit away.
Instead he used Gut Shot to clear out Delver and equipped a Pike to his Invisible Stalker to start attacking for three. He followed up with an Oblivion Ring on Runechanter's Pike to start climbing back in the game.
Thompson attacked with his spirits and Snapcaster the next turn, whittling PV down to 4 life, but losing the Snapcaster in the process.
PV then drew a monster card in Sword of War and Peace and threw it on his Stalker immediately while leaving a Pike-weilding token back on defense. Suddenly, the race to zero grew a lot closer as Thompson fell to 8.
Looking for an answer, Thompson Pondered, considering the cards for a while. Thompson even apologized for how long it was taking, saying it was just about the last turn.
Eventually he chose to keep the cards on top and then, curiously, only attacked with one token into PV's first striking blocker. PV blocked, and the reason for the attack suddenly became apparent when He cast Timely Reinforcements now that he had fewer creatures. He followed up with a Runechanter's Pike and crossed his fingers.
A life-total discrepancy nearly sunk PV's bid to be the only undefeated player, but he escaped at just one life.
But in reality, Thompson was dead on board if PV equipped his Sword to his Spirit token and attacked for the full 8. Except PV had written down that Thompson had gained the life off the Timely Reinforcements, which he hadn't, and only attacked with the Invisible Stalker. After some talk amongst judges, it was ruled Thompson was indeed at one life.
Still, Thompson was one point short of lethal and had to Ponder and shuffle to find an answer. When none presented itself, he left PV as the sole remaining undefeated player.
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa defeats Gerry Thompson 2-1
Sunday, 12:55 p.m. - Quick Hits
by Blake Rasmussen
Quick Hits: Which Dark Ascension one-drop will have a greater impact on the format, Gravecrawler or Wolfbitten Captive?
Conley Woods explains Gravecrawler and Wolfbitten Captive to Martin Juza
Conley Woods: Gravecrawler, not close.
Marin Juza: I think the green one. I don't think black is very good. Delver
still wins anyway.
Luis Scott-Vargas: Gravecrawler
Josh Utter-Leyton: Gravecrawler, it has two power for one mana.
Day 1 Undefeated Decklists
Craig Wescoe: Probably the Rootwalla (Wolfbiten Captive). I haven't seen enough cards to make an aggressive black deck viable, but I think there is enough for a red-green werewolves deck to be good.
by Event Coverage Staff
GP Orlando 2012 Standard
GP Orlando 2012 Standard
GP Orlando 2012 Standard
Sunday, 2:38 p.m. - Gindy-Pikes with Gerry Thompson
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
GP Orlando 2012 Standard
by Steve Sadin
Aggressive Delver of Secrets decks have been a force to be reckoned with in Standard over the last few months, in large part because the deck is able to evolve with the metagame.
Over the past couple of weeks the top pros, and Magic Online grinders, have decided to run versions of the deck that use Invisible Stalkers, Runechanter's Pikes, and an abundance of instants and sorceries to maximize the effectiveness of their Delvers (and their Pikes). So far, this iteration of the deck has been performing wonderfully for its pilots. Charles Gindy won the Star City Games Standard Open with a version of the deck last weekend – and the only two undefeated players at the end of Round 10 this weekend (Gerry Thompson, and Paulo Vitor Dama da Rosa) got there by equipping Pikes to their Invisible Stalkers.
To learn more about the deck, I sat down with 8 time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Gerry Thompson (who is currently 11-2, and in a position where one or two more match wins will be enough to put him into the Top 8 once again this weekend) and asked him to explain what makes the deck tick.
"The original Illusion decks were based on Lord of the Unreals and a bunch of cheap creatures like Phantasmal Bear. People were able to win with that version of the deck for a while, but then Andrey Yanyuk solved the mirror by adding Trinket Mages, and a Sylvok Lifestaff. A little while after that Charles Gindy added Invisible Stalkers, and Runechanter's Pikes to the deck – making it better than it ever was before."
For Gerry, the timeline is pretty simple.
"Gindy broke the format. For a while, Illusions was the best deck. Then Andrey Yanyuk's deck was the best deck. And now Gindy's deck is the best deck."
"The equipment is the only thing that matters in the mirror, and a lot of other matchups, now – so that makes Invisible Stalker, and Geist of Saint Traft the best creatures."
While Gerry has no doubt about the power of equipment in this deck – he explained that picking the right equipment suite remains a very difficult task. Gerry, and Gindy ultimately decided to cut the copies of Sword of War and Peace that were in Gindy's deck last weekend in order to add more copies of Runechanter's Pike to their decks this weekend.
"Invisible Stalker with a piece of equipment on it is going to kill your opponent in 2-3 turns no matter what, so it doesn't really matter if it's a Pike or a Sword. The cheaper equip cost ultimately drew me to Pike over Sword this weekend, since it allows you to attack a turn sooner against decks with blockers like Tempered Steel."
"In reality, the equipment is the only thing that matters. You don't want to be playing games of Magic with this deck. This isn't the kind of deck where you can X-0 a tournament by grinding out your opponents with attrition round after round. You just want to take your wins as quickly as you can get them – and Stalker plus Pike is one of the best ways to do that."
"I mis-built my deck for this weekend by a number of cards, but it still doesn't matter since this deck is so good. It shouldn't quite reach a Caw-Blade level of dominance where you can just play every game plan better than your opponent – but this deck's proactive plan is just so good against everything in the format."
When asked what cards he would change for next weekend – Gerry briefly mentioned that he hadn't been too happy with his Mutagenic Growths, but then he went emphatically towards his lands.
"Inkmoth Nexus is terrible! The one time I drew Moorland Haunt, it was awesome (shocker), and every time I've drawn Inkmoth Nexus it's been a colorless blank."
Stalker, Geist, and Pike are so good, you don't even need Moorland Haunt to win!
Round 13 Feature Match - Conley Woods vs. Andrew Auburn
GP Orlando 2012 Standard
by Blake Rasmussen
Called up to the feature match area from table four, Conley Woods and Andrew Auburn were each on the cusp of a Top 8 birth. Woods had picked up a draw along the way and was 10-1-1 while Auburn had stumbled twice and was 10-2. A loss could effectively doom either at this point while a win in this late round would give them a strong shot at the Top 8.
Woods said after the game that this was his first match against Ramp, a testament both to his version's power and to how the format has developed in its last run at a major event. Both players would be casting Primeval Titans, but Woods had black mana in place of Auburn's red, an interesting concoction he put together Friday night (yes, there will be a deck tech coming.)
Auburn and Woods both ramped early, Auburn with two Sphere of the Suns and a Birds of Paradise by the end of turn three and Woods searching out a second Forest with Rampant Growth and a third with Solemn Simulacrum.
"Enjoy your Titan, sir," Woods offered.
Instead, Auburn missed a third land drop again and instead played Acidic Slime to destroy a Swamp and keep Woods off any Titans of his own.
That just meant Woods played a second Solemn, a move Auburn matched the next turn. The question was, with all this mana running around, who would deliver the first haymaker?
Woods answered that very question with a Primeval Titan, searching up a Dragonskull Summit and an Inkmoth Nexus to go with a Kessig Wolf Run. Auburn, unsurprisingly, cast his own Prime Time, finding a Nexus and a Copperline Gorge.
But as the first to untap with his Titan – not to mention a billion mana, approximately – Woods had tons of options. And they were good ones. He cast a second Titan to grab two more Nexi and cast Green Sun's Zenith to find Glissa the Traitor.
Glissa wasn't long for the world, falling to an Inferno Titan. But in doing so, Auburn tapped out.
That gave Woods an opportunity to do some serious poison damage with a Kessig Wolf Run and Inkmoth Nexus if he so chose, but muttering out loud about the possibility of Gut Shot, he instead attacked with "just" two Primeval Titans and two Solemn Simulacrums.
After Kessig Wolf Run pumped a Solemn Simulacrum, Woods' board was cleared and Auburn was left with just a Birds of Paradise.
Naturally, it was time for big papa Grave Titan. And Titan plus a slew of lands was more than enough to convince Auburn to move on to game two.
"Going all-in on Nexus there is so enticing, but if you have a Gut Shot there, which is not unreasonable game one, I'd just kill myself," Woods said.
In a change of pace from game one's ramp, ramp, ramp, Auburn used his third turn to cast Garruk Relentless, changing the dimension of game two almost immediately.
In a ramp versus ramp matchup, Andrew Auburn was showed that Garruk was king in Game 2.
Woods, on the other hand, did ramp into ramp, casting a Solemn Simulacrum with his early mana.
Garruk Relentless flipped to kill Wood's Solemn, and Auburn upped his defenses with a Solemn of his own.
But that just paved the way for Woods to resolve Primeval Titan on his fourth turn, right on schedule. Auburn would have to hope that the threat of deathtouch-enhanced wolves could keep the Titan at bay.
Auburn attacked the next turn with both of his 2/2s, which clearly caused Woods to consider his options. In the end, he blocked a wolf, allowing Auburn to play a third artifact and Galvanic Blast the offending Titan. Auburn even followed up with Thrun, the Last Troll.
So, obviously, Woods just cast a second Primeval Titan.
Auburn swung again the next turn with everything, and Woods, wary of losing another Titan, declined to block. After combat, Auburn used Garruk's search ability to sacrifice the Solemn and find an Inferno Titan, threatening a ton of damage the following turn with Woods at just six life.
Clearly undeterred, Woods attacked the next turn with his Titan to grab two more lands, then cast Doom Blade on the Inferno Titan and a Garruk, Primal Hunter, making a 3/3.
Auburn attacked again, with Kessig Wolf Run available. Woods threw as many animated Nexi and the beast token in front of Thrun as he could, but was unable to stop enough trample damage to stay in the game.
On the play for the first time in the round, it was Woods' turn to jump out to an early mana lead.
"Don't Thrun me, bro!" Conley asked on turn 4. Auburn obliged by ramping more instead.
Instead of an early Titan, Woods threw down a surprise Liliana of the Veil, forcing both players to discard.
Auburn had a planeswalker of his own in Garruk Primal Hunter, which made a beast that promptly died to Liliana. Woods' Solemn Simulacrum attacked the green planeswalker down to two, and he followed up with a Primeval Titan, grabbing an early lead.
Still, Auburn's Garruk was trouble and the Atlanta native cast a Primeval Titan of his own to keep pace.
Liliana left Woods' side, using her -2 ability to force Auburn to sacrifice his beast token. Woods then attacked with all of his creatures into Garruk and followed up with yet another bombtastic Primeval Titan. He looked impossibly ahead on the board, with 87 mana (approximately), including all of the special rare lands you could want.
Conley Woods brewed up a spicy rogue deck for Orlando. Welcome back, Conley, we missed you!
Sword of Feast and Famine forced Woods to discard a third Titan and left him at 10 life to Auburn's 18, suddenly dead the next turn.
Still, with two Titans and a bevy of mana, Woods had plenty of options. He spent some time going over them the following turn before eventually deciding to attack with everything.
Auburn attempted to animate an Inkmoth Nexus to block, but Woods no-sired him with Ghost Quarter.
"Anything else before blocks? I guess I'll play into Beast Within."
And with that he sunk enough mana into Kessig Wolf Run to be lethal. Auburn held his card, tipped it forward slightly...
...and extended his hand.
Conley Woods defeats Andrew Auburn 2-1
Round 14 Feature Match - Sam Black vs. John Dean
by Steve Sadin
At 11-2, Sam Black and John Dean needed either a win and a draw, or two wins to advance to the Top 8. But despite the big implications that this match had, the two veteran players were very upbeat from the moment that they sat down at the Feature Match table.
Sam' first turn Probe revealed a hand of Origin Spellbomb, Etched Champion, Glint Hawk Idol, Vault Skirge, Memnite, Seachrome Coast, and Inkmoth Nexus.
John got off to a fairly aggressive start with Memnite, Vault Skirge, and Glint Hawk Idol – but Sam was able to keep John's start in check with a Mortapod to kill the Vault Skirge, and a Midnight Haunting to eat an incoming Glint Hawk Idol.
Champion of the Parish, Snapcaster Mage, and a Flashbacked Gitaxian Probe left Sam on 13 – but it also put John in a position where he could only attack profitably with his Etched Champion.
John puts his thinking cap on
A Doomed Traveler, and a Midnight Haunting gave Sam some real offense, and allowed him to peck away at his opponent's life total – at least until John resolved a Tempered Steel a couple of turns later.
After holding off Sam for a turn John, who was at 8 life and facing down two spirit tokens, decided to take his offense to the air – attacking with two Inkmoth Nexuses, inflicting 6 poison counters on Sam.
For a moment, it looked like John was in good shape -- but Sam had exactly the card he needed to turn the race in his favor, a third Midnight Haunting.
John had a couple of opportunities to draw a removal spell, a Tempered Steel, or a Mutagenic Growth to steal the game back, but none of his outs were waiting for him.
Sam Black 1 – John Dean 0
John Mulliganed to six, and kept a hand of Glint Hawk, Dismember, Mox Opal, and three lands. John was able to cast the Glint Hawk on turn one thanks to the Mox Opal, but John had to show his weak hand to Sam when the Pro Tour Philadelphia Top 8 alum played Gitaxian Probe.
Sam used a Ratchet Bomb, a Revoke Existence, and a Gut Shot to deal with John's first few threats, while John used his Dismember to off Sam's Delver of Secrets.
Sam Black didn't want to give his opponent enough time to recover from his mulligan
When John played a Vault Skirge into an empty board, that gave Sam the opportunity he needed to make three tokens with Timely Reinforcements. A few attacks, and a couple of blank draws for John later and Sam had advance to 12-2, placing himself within arm's reach of his fourth Grand Prix Top 8.
Sam Black 2 – John Dean 0
Sunday, 4:02 p.m. - BG ramp with Conley Woods
by Blake Rasmussen
For some time now, Conley Woods has pushed aside his rogue tendencies to adopt the deck choices of Team Channlefireball. Once renowned for some truly crazy concoctions, Woods has calmed his brewing tendencies in public and has played some shockingly mainstream decks as of late.
But sometimes, a player's gotta play, and a brewer's gotta brew.
Conley Woods, once and future brewmaster
So when Woods found himself dissatisfied with a version of Gavony TownshipTempered Steel similar to the one Josh Utter-Leyton used to go undefeated on Day 1, Woods put on his brewing hat.
He started with a green-black list fellow Magic author Brian Grewe had been tooling around with and began to make changes. He streamlined the deck, added some removal and metagamed it against a field he expected – right fully so it turned out – to be about half blue-white aggro decks.
One of his breakthroughs came when he realized Inferno Titan just wasn't the best titan against the field right now.
"Grave Titan is much better right now against Delver. It just had a much more significant affect against them, and races control better. With Inferno Titan, you can't hit their hexproof guys or guys with a Sword [of War and Peace], so you end up doming them for three, then they Vapor Snag it," Woods said.
Grave Titan, on the other hand, left behind blockers could still block a Geist of Saint Traft and provided a much faster clock if left unopposed.
He also realized early on that Black Sun's Zenith was even better than Slagstorm, since it killed Thrun and, in what became a recurring theme in his building process, creatures equipped with Sword of War and Peace.
From there he settled on a removal package of Doom Blade and Geth's Verdict, the latter unconvensional choice enabling him to interact with hexproof creatures he expected to see everywhere.
But the real twist came from Brian Kibler who, upon seeing Woods messing around with the deck the night before the tournament, suggested Glissa, the Traitor, a move Conley embraced wholeheartedly.
"I've been trying to play it since PT Nagoya. I love the card," Woods said of Glissa.
Yes, these cards go together
Besides just piquing Conley's interest, Glissa enables a ton of cool plays in the deck, the most relevant of which is the interaction between Ratchet Bomb and Glissa. Against Delver decks, which are pretty much all 2s, 1s and 0s, Ratchet Bomb and Glissa can combine to form a repeatable board sweeper.
But even without regrowable wraths, Glissa can gain a ton of value just from bringing back something as simple as a Solemn Simulacrum.
Woods told a story about a match against a control opponent who had three 2/2s in play from White Sun's Zenith. Woods said he "baited" out a Dissipate with Grave Titan – odd as that sounds – to ensure he could resolve a Glissa. Suddenly a Day of Judgment from his opponent would have brought back two Solemn Simulacrums and a Nihil Spellbomb, making it actively bad to cast.
His final change was to move the Curses of Deaths Hold from the main to the sideboard, as he found the Black Sun's Zenith was more important.
And while he thinks the deck concept is good, he said, like any deck brewed last-minute, the numbers could use some tweaking.
So why did Woods return to his brewing ways for Orlando?
"I though this tournament was a good one to brew for, because it's a lame duck format, and with the PT coming up if anyone had anything amazing, they wouldn't play it. WU aggro was going to be about 50 percent of the field, so you can pick your spot," he said.
"Plus, it let me get it out of my system little bit," he added.
Despite the brewing and Conleying and whatnot that arrived at this last minute list, Woods has been on a tear with it. He was 12-1-1 after round 14 and looked poised to make the Top 8, beating a full cross section of the format along the way.
It's certainly going to be a deck to watch out for as Dark Ascension rises.
Sunday, 4:51 p.m. - Delving into Humans with Sam Black
GB Ramp by Conley Woods
GP Orlando 2012
by Jacob Van Lunen
In preparation for this event, Sam tested Humans and Delver, but didn't feel especially confident in either deck. With his frustration mounting, Sam decided to attempt a marriage between the two archetypes. Many have tried this before without success, but Sam found a way to make Delver and Champion of the Parish playable in the same deck.
Sam decided to maximize the number of cantrips in his deck, and not play any of the mana-intensive pieces of equipment that have become ubiquitous in recent weeks. With sixteen Human creatures, and nineteen spells that flip Delver of Secrets -- Sam Black has successfully engineered a deck that gets to play both of Standard's strongest one-mana creatures.
Taking Sword of War and Peace, and Runechanter's Pike out of the Blue-White aggro archetype has made Sam's deck especially resilient to artifact removal that has become popular in sideboards following Charles Gindy's Star City Games Atlanta Open win with his Blue-White Runechanter's Pike/ Invisible Stalker deck.
Geist of Saint Traft and Invisible Stalker have become prevalent enough for control players to play cards like Tribute to Hunger in their maindecks -- and Sam's deck punishes these players by playing a full four copies of Doomed Traveler and Midnight Haunting.
Sam's deck is extremely well equipped against Delver decks. Delver opponents try to play very aggressive, tempo-based games against Sam -- but Sam is able to stabilize, and eventually attrition his way to victory with cards like Midnight Haunting, Doomed Traveler, and Ratchet Bomb. Sam even sideboards out his Champion of the Parishes because they're weak against Vapor Snag and Gut Shot, as he knows that he will be able to grind out wins.
Mortorpod may seem like an odd inclusion, but Sam asserts that having a Mortorpod with Doomed Traveler, Midnight Haunting, or Moorland Haunt is essentially like having an unlimited number of Arc Trails.
The deck is built to be as aggressive as possible for game one, but transforms into a much more controlling deck in post-sideboarded games. Sam likens the deck to Faeries, a deck that was usually built to efficiently out-tempo opponents in the first game, and play the role of a quasi-control deck in games two and three.
Sam Black Human Delver
GP Orlando 2012 Standard