ay one of Grand Prix Philadelphia is at a close, but it feels like the weekend is just getting started. Nearly 1,900 cracked more than 11,000 packs, but with Day 2 comes the draft portion of the event and a whole lot of excitement as we move out of sealed.
A whopping six players are still undefeated heading into Day 2, including a few names you might recognize. No. 2 Reid Duke leads a pack of 9-0s that also includes Christian Calcano, Mark Evaldi, Michael Baraniecki, Andy Tan, and Carl Mitchell.
No. 24 David Ochoa just barely missed making that list, falling in the last round to Tan, but he and a number of other incredibly talented heroes will be back tomorrow. No. 11 Alex Hayne, No. 25 William Jensen, Hall of Famer Jon Finkel, Shaheen Soorani and a number of others will return to seek glory.
But once again, as they have much of the last two years, everyone is looking up at Reid Duke, hoping to emulate, or perhaps pass, the world number two. He's still quite a ways back on No. 1 Jeremy Dezani—who isn't here this weekend—but a win or Top 8 berth this weekend would sure help his Player of the Year candidacy.
There's still a long way to go until that comes into consideration. Two drafts, six round, and hundreds of players hungry to secure eight slots in the third and final draft tomorrow on the way to crowning the 2014 Grand Prix Philadelphia Champion.
Grinder Winning Decklists
by Event Coverage Staff
Chad Simpson – Grinder 1 Winner
Mike Lopez – Grinder #2 Winner
Jason Collier – Grinder #3 Winner
Douglas Pimm – Grinder #4 Winner
Boaz Van Driel – Grinder #7 Winner
Shan Huong – Grinder #8 Winner
Mario Michlits – Grinder #9 Winner
Jon Healy Standard Grinder 1 Winner
Christopher Williams Standard Grinder 2 Winner
Kyle Shane Standard Grinder 3 Winner
Saturday, 10:49 a.m. – Play along at home: Sample Sealed pool
by Blake Rasmussen
We feel bad for you, we really do. Magic is awesome, Philadelphia is awesome, and Theros limited is awesome, but, if you're reading this, that means you're probably not here bathing in all of this awesomeness.
But we still like you. And so, because we love you so much, we're going to let you play along at home. Below we've posted a completely random, freshly opened Theros-Born of the Gods sealed pool. A pretty good one at that, assuming you judge the strength of a sealed pool based on the number of Charging Badgers it contains. I know I do.
Here's how it works. We post this list this morning and give you all kinds of time to play with it. Create your best build, post it in the forums or share with your friends or just mentally note how you might build it. Then come back later and compare notes with some of the best in the game as they look at the exact same sealed pool and build it their way.
Easy enough, right? We like to keep things simple for you. Because we like you that much.
Click here to view the Sealed Deck Builder.
Saturday, 1:07 p.m. – Grand Prix Philadelphia Artist Profiles
by Justin Vizaro
Sometimes, players find themselves in the dreaded 0-X drop category, and consequently searching for something to do with their copious amounts of free time as they wait for friends to join them in the "not making day 2" group. Sometimes you are one of these players, and you look to us to help you find something else to entertain you, whether it's exciting feature matches to watch, or side events to enter.
...Sometimes though, you're the one that stands in line for everyone collecting artist signatures on your buddies' favorite cards. If you're that person today, here's the awesome lineup of artists that we have lined up for you, and a little more about who they are.
Artist Profile – Anthony Palumbo
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
First Cards: Cultivate and Serra Ascendant
Favorite Work: Angel Token
Favorite Other Artist: Winona Nelson, Voice of Resurgence (standout card vs. traditional MtG art)
Fun Fact: In the art for Public Execution, almost every person on the card is a Magic the Gathering or Fantasy Artist friend of Anthony.
Artist Profile – David Palumbo
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
First Cards: Obelisk of Bant and Deft Duelist
Favorite Work: Moorland Inquisitor
Favorite Other Artist: Daren Bader
Fun Fact: At 11 yrs old, David played in his first and only magic tournament. He finished dead last.
Artist Profile – Winona Nelson
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
First Card: Rakish Heir
Favorite Work: Voice of Resurgence
Favorite Other Artist: Rebecca Guay
Fun Fact(s): Winona also likes to sew, and actually made a Hobbit costume and went hiking for her birthday a few years ago. Winona also owns actual pauldrons (shoulder armor), which she was able to write off as a tax deduction.
Saturday, 2:24 a.m. – Pleasant Surprises and Sad Faces from Born of the Gods Limited
by Justin Vizaro
When asked which cards have impressed, and which cards have fallen short of expectations for Born of the Gods limited, a few of your favorite players had this to say:
Players(column 1) and their picks for most surprising (column 2) and most disappointing (column 3) cards from Born of the Gods in Limited]
|| Fated Return
|| Weight of the Underworld
|| Fall of the Hammer
|| Ghostblade Eidolon
|| Glimpse the Sun God
|| Archetype of Imagination
|| Sudden Storm
|| Archetype of Imagination
|| Aspect of Hydra
|| Drown in Sorrow
|| Retraction Helix
|| Aspect of Hydra
|Paolo Vitor Damo da Rosa
|| Akroan Skyguard
|| Retraction Helix
|William “Huey” Jensen
|| Sudden Storm
|| Weight of the Underworld
Reid Duke and Andrew Cuneo were testing when we stopped in to get their opinions, and Reid had this to say about the card that has impressed him the most:
"I have been very impressed with Glimpse the Sun God; it has performed much better than I originally expected."
Reid explained something that many players have likely noticed as well: Glimpse the Sun God is extremely good at making a large number of creatures into heroes by triggering the Heroic mechanic, similarly to what we can expect from the Strive ability from Journey to Nyx.
Cuneo, while sending Purphoros's Emissary into the red zone to drop Reid to 9, promptly mentioned the fact that he thought Weight of the Underworld was incredibly below average, and that it was his pick for the most disappointing card. We all had a good laugh when Reid slammed Weight of the Underworld on Cuneo's Emissary the following turn.
Cuneo is not the only player disappointed with the card, however, as William Jensen also finds the card a bit lack-luster in terms of performance. Both players mentioned how rarely the card actually kills anything, and mostly serves as a very expensive Agoraphobia effect.
William Jensen seems to be making a business out of agreeing with other players, as he and Christian Calcano both feel as though Sudden Storm is better than it looks.
Both players agree that it's a strong card, and always was, but also stated that the newest version of Frost Breath has caused more than a few blowouts, and is usually much better than other spells of its kind because of the fact that the format is extremely fast, and there are viable blue tempo and aggressive decks to consider.
While many players were in accord about most of the set performing pretty much as expected, there were a few differences of opinion:
Basil Nabi (pictured with Marc Lalague) and Owen Turtenwald's sentiments about Aspect of Hydra are polar opposites. Basil thinks the card has a huge amount of upside, and he claims it as the card that has surprised him the most to this point. While Owen doesn't think the card is bad, he did think it would be better than it has been for him. He says that the effect is very powerful, but that it's rare to have a powerful enough mix of green devotion and tricks to make it worthwhile.
Another card that has polarized a couple of players is Retraction Helix, which has proven impressive to Owen Turtenwald much more than it has to Paolo Vitor Damo da Rosa. While this set of opinions is based upon original impressions of the cards vs. actual performance, it is important to note the reasons for the difference of opinion. Paolo feels as though his high expectations for Retraction Helix haven't been rewarded, perhaps because of the lack of major blowouts. Owen feels as though Blue-based aggressive decks can actually compete in a relatively fast format, making Retraction Helix incredibly strong in the battle for tempo.
Saturday, 2:44 a.m. – Infinity Faeries: A Walking the Planes origin story
by Blake Rasmussen
It was about two and a half years ago right here in Philadelphia that the phenomenon we now know as Walking the Planes began. And with the hosts hailing from the City of Brotherly Love and back this weekend to craft another video, it's easy to get nostalgic about the video series' humble beginnings.
Created on a lark, a dream, and a dash of lost sleep by Nathan Holt and Shawn Kornhauser, this initially amateur video series blew up shortly after being filmed at Pro Tour Philadelphia in 2011 and launched a new type of Magic content described as "part sketch comedy, part documentary, and part pro tournament coverage."
Now the dynamic duo creates a new video just about every month with the full backing of Wizards of the Coast and with a legion of fans around the world.
To celebrate their return to the convention center where it all started, we sat down with Nate and Shawn for a trip down memory lane and a look back on how it all began.
Shawn and Nate, as it turned out, didn't meet up through Magic, but through their other lives outside the game.
Nate: Shawn went to film school and I'm an actor, so we kind of met up through friends. I knew Shawn was looking to do a video project, so I pitched Shawn on making a video with Magic.
Shawn: It was tough, because I didn't realize Magic was still in existence, let alone that there was a highly competitive scene. It was intriguing. And kind of confusing.
Nate: I was bartending at the time. I had been working till 5 a.m. the night before we showed up. It was very casual. We didn't have a press pass, so we begged for one. It was very much improvised.
Even then, I was way too start struck to talk to my favorite players. It took all my courage just to approach Brad Nelson. I couldn't even work up the courage to talk to the Channelfireball players. I felt like nauseous thinking about interviewing LSV, so that's why he's not in it.
Shawn: I had no fandom, but it was interesting seeing Nate get flustered seeing Brad Nelson playing Duels of the Planeswalkers in a beanbag chair. I just said, why don't you go talk to him?
Nate: The funniest thing was that I went into the media room and met a guy who did Magic videos, The Professor, I think. I was a fan of all Magic content, so there I was, me being star struck with a 16-year-old kid.
Shawn: It was also confusing for me.
Nate: It was just so weird to see a 30 year old man be star struck around a 16 year old kid.
Nathan Holt (left) and Shawn Kornhauser are the forces behind Walking the Planes, but they weren't always staples of the tournament coverage scene.
Shawn had no background in Magic and approached the project as an outsider. Nate said that that sort of balance—Nate was and still is a longtime fan of the game—created the approach that worked so well.
Nate: One of the most iconic shots of that first video was Brian Kibler shuffling his hand for 30 seconds. I knew that players did that, but for Shawn is was something weird to see. Shawn had the outsider's perspective and that's the kind of thing that helped it strike a chord.
Shawn: As the day goes on, I would ask Nate, "What happens now?" so it was fun to investigate.
Nate: Shawn would frequently just stop me and say "Whoa, whoa, whoa, I don't understand what you just said. Can you say it back to me in the King's English?
Another iconic moment in the seven-minute video was the call at the end where Nate excitedly voices over Samuel Estratti's winning turn by shouting "Infinity Faeries! Infinity Faeries!" over and over again.
Nate: I said, I think I should do a play by play of the finals. It just worked out. We got the coin flip. When Estratti made the game by making an infinite number of faeries, we just hit gold. It could have easily been infinite Exarchs. We got pretty lucky with that 50/50.
Shawn: That was all Nate. We collaborate on some of the script, but that was all Nate on the voiceover.
Nate: As a kid when I played I would always crack up about the flavor. Giving unholy strength to a Mesa Pegasus, and stuff like that. I love the game, but that's what really drew me in.
For me this video was like a love letter for the community. There were no long term plans.
Shawn and Nate might not have had any long term plans, but Twitter and the Magic community made the video blow up far beyond their expectations.
Nate: Honestly, I was floored. All I wanted was some people to watch it and like it. I was just sending messages to people. Since Brad and Patrick Chapin were in it, I sent them messages saying "Hey, remember that interview you did?" When they Tweeted it, it blew up.
Watching the views tick upwards was just a crazy adrenaline rush.
Shawn: It was by far the most popular video content that either of us have done. My early thoughts were mostly around "how can we do this again?" When we heard about worlds, we tried to figure out how to make that a real option. And it was a friend who mentioned Kickstarter.
One weekend while camping on a beach Shawn pitched the idea of doing another video to Nate across a campfire. Nate, believe it or not, was initially apprehensive. He admitted he was a little afraid to try and replicate the success of the first video.
Nate: It was really Shawn that pushed the project forward at that point.
Shawn: Luckily Kickstarter was coming into prominence at the time, and we really had some really helpful backers. Patrick Chapin, Brian Kibler, Chris Pikula and Jon Finkel were all trying to top each other. We were trying to play off their competiveness.
Those four ended up being the top supporters of Shawn and Nate's Kickstarter, helping send them to that year's World Championships in San Francisco where they shot their second video.
Nate: For that first video, we had like no footage. We realized we way undershot, so we thought we were including scraps. So for San Diego we WAY overshot.
Shawn: Hours and hours of footage.
Nate: Literal sprinting to get different interviews, different shots. It was physically excruciating.
Shawn: We did have some planning. Nate had been in touch with Conley Woods.
Nate: I was determined to be over my being star struck with Channelfireball. So we set it up to watch and film some of their testing
Shawn: We were in their hotel room I would be glancing over at Nate and he would still not be saying anything. So I took him aside and said, "We need to say something"
Nate: That was probably the most nervous I've been since the first time I got on stage in high school. They, of course, didn't care.
It's now pretty common to see Shawn behind the camera and Nate doing who knows what in front of it.
The second video was just as successful as the first, and, suddenly, there was a desire in the community for more content from Shawn and Nate. So much so, that they started hearing from Wizards of the Coast.
Nate: Worlds was also a success and Greg Collins reached out to us via email. We just missed being able to go to Pro Tour Dark Ascension for the Kibler/Finkel showdown, which would have been awesome. Our first pro tour was Avacyn Restored, so that was the next big one. Whereas now we make about a video per month.
But Worlds had come out in December and Avacyn was in May. That meant I was probably thinking about and obsessing over making a Pro Tour video for like five months. Now I look back on that Pro Tour, and it's my favorite video we've done.
Shawn: For me, there was something about the energy with the Worlds video, the process, how new it was, it was just such a special trip.
Getting hired by Wizards to continue producing content meant two things. First, a trip to the Wizards offices in Renton, Washington. Second, Shawn probably needed to learn how to play Magic.
Shawn: I never played in the past. I had friends who played and it. We made that first video and the Worlds video and then I still hadn't played. I finally played at WotC when we were hired to do Walking the Planes.
Nate: We were at the Wizards office, and I said "Shawn, it's time." So we sat down next to Greg Collins' office, pulled out some Duel Decks, and I taught him how to play.
Shawn: I felt like people were walking by and saw me playing and thought "Is this guy actually learning to play in the Wizards office?"
Nate: Shawn plays a ton now, and I would say play skill wise is even better than me.
Now, about two and a half years after their first video went viral, Shawn and Nate have made 22 episodes of Walking the Planes, not counting those initial forays into the world of Magic content. And, still, every new episode is like an event, even if the scripts are a bit more scripted and the camera a bit nicer. But every episode still has the same spirit as the original.
Nate: If you love magic content and you want to make it, just make it and do something that's uniquely you
Saturday, 2:46 a.m. – Sealed deck exercise with (2) Reid Duke
by Blake Rasmussen
Time's up. Put down your sleeves. Turn in your deck lists. It's time to see how you've done against one of the best in the world in our patented sealed deck exercise.
To be more accurate, the current second-ranked player in the world, Reid Duke. Ever since making Platinum at the end of last season, Duke has more than established himself this season, both as one of the best in the game today on his own right and also as part of the Oath Brothers trio with No. 3 Owen Turtenwald and No. 25 William Jensen. His 46 Pro Points this year are eclipsed only by Jeremy Dezani and matched only by Turtenwald.
In other words, there really isn't anyone better qualified in this room to build a sealed deck save possibly Jon Finkel himself. And even that might not be the case.
No. 2 Ranked Reid Duke knows his stuff—and he's cooked up a spicy sealed list just for you.
At any rate, Duke knows his stuff, and he tore through this sealed pool like he was building his own deck, quickly shuffling off the chafe and zeroing in on what he wanted to play.
"I start out sorting through the whole pile and seeing what stands out to me while getting rid of the stuff I'm not going to play in my main deck, mostly low-quality combat tricks and creature enchantments," Duke explained. "Then I look at gold cards and mana fixing to see where that leads me."
While there wasn't much in the way of mana fixing, Duke did zero in on both Psychic Intrusion and Siren of the Silent Song as pulls into a black-blue deck.
"I liked the black, blue, and white right off the bat. Green was a little too shallow. So was red," he said.
There might have been a bit of personal bias in there, as Duke said he favors playing black-blue in sealed because he prefers having a strong late game, which the Dimir combination is best at.
But it didn't mean Duke was blind to the other colors. His approach to building sealed is to create a quick pass version of his deck, sleeve is up so it's "saved," and then start moving cards and colors around to see if there's something he likes better. In this case, Duke started trying out white in large part because of a certain rare.
"Celestial Archon is probably our best card. It's better than any other blue card. I like black a little better than blue because of Fated Return—which is a lot better than it looks," he said.
Piecing together the black-white list left Duke a little underwhelmed.
"It's pretty close in power [to the blue-black deck], but it's a little short," he said. "It's short one good Heroic creature to make black-white worthwhile."
Among the more notable cards Duke examined, the trio of Sphinx's Disciples were cut fairly early on, not because they're not playable, but because they were pretty much his worst five drops in a deck full of five drops. And without a way to turn it on regularly, he just wasn't interested.
He also discussed the applications of Annul, a card he doesn't like to play main deck if he's in blue-white or blue-green, but choses to do so in black-blue because options are limited.
"I prefer to have some kind of enchantment removal in the main, and I prefer it be the after-the-fact stuff like Revoke Existence, but blue-black doesn't have other options," Duke said.
Finally, Duke chose to play an 18th land over Astral Cornucopia, saying that, in a two-color deck, Cornucopia was usually just worse than a land. And since he wanted to hit seven mana for Fated Return anyway, 18 made sense. With the colors relatively evenly balanced, it was an easy nine and nine split.
Perched over the list below, Duke seemed satisfied with how the deck looked.
"It has some good cards and some late-game bombs," Duke said. "If I were to open this, I'd be happy with it."
Reid Duke - GP Philadelphia
Saturday, 3:28 p.m. – Sealed deck exercise with Andrew Cuneo
by Blake Rasmussen
"Yeah, this pool isn't particularly good."
Andrew Cuneo surveyed the same sample sealed pool we had Reid Duke toy with earlier and was left decided unimpressed.
Andrew Cuneo knows his way around a sealed pool or two, but he was pretty unhappy with the sample one sitting in front of him.
"It doesn't look great," Cuneo, a longtime pro and playtest partner of Duke's. "The better cards are split across two colors. It definitely lacks power, and it doesn't even have many of the best commons."
Like Duke, Cuneo found red and green lacking. Like Duke, he noted that Celestial Archon was the best card in the pool. Unlikek Duke, Cuneo was particularly unimpressed with the blue cards, especially Voyage's End and Sudden Storm.
"I'm less of a fan of the tempo cards than most," Cuneo said, attributing that to his departure from Duke's blue choice.
Building the deck, Cuneo piled the cards by color so he could see all of his playables in each one. He stared hard at the table for a few minutes, furrowed his brow, and began picking off colors one-by-one. Red was the first to go, as Cuneo said he wasn't terribly impressed with Hammer of Purphoros, even though it was a fine card. Green went next, though he did revisit it later when he realized he wasn't entirely happy with the black-white deck.
While building, he also laid out the cards in a mana curve in order to catch the character of the deck, but, when he did so, he placed the Bestow creatures at their bestow cost.
"It's the optimistic way," Cuneo said before reconsidering their spots in the deck. "But this deck has too many expensive things, so realistically, they're not."
What Cuneo would have submitted is listed below, but he was pretty pessimistic about its chances.
"I would not be terribly happy with it," Cuneo said, giving the deck a "4" on a scale of 1-10. "I would expect to go, over nine rounds, 5-4 or 6-3."
When told that Duke had said he would have been pretty happy opening this pool, Cuneo smiled as he piled the cards back together.
"Well, Reid's a positive kind of guy."
Andrew Cuneo - Sealed Deck Exercise
Round 4 Feature Match - Daniel Jordan vs. Ari Lax
by Justin Vizaro
The feature match for Round 4 pitted Ari Lax (a Gold-level pro who just narrowly missed Top 8 at Grand Prix Cincinnati) against Dan Jordan, both veterans of the Grand Prix circuit, and both very accomplished players. Dan is well-known for his success on independent circuits, and is currently a Gold-level pro as well.
Lax's deck was a relatively aggressive Blue-Green configuration, with a bevy of white cards providing a transformational sideboard plan when needed. Jordan piloted a Blue-Red build with strong mid-game threats, enchantments, and removal options. Dan's threats are well-positioned against decks that don't have a strong removal suite, which is a common feature of decks that don't touch red or black like Ari's.
Ari started game 1 on the play with a very strong opening that included a Vaporkin and Setessan Oathsworn on-curve into an empty board. Jordan later managed to balance the aggression with Fall of the Hammer, turning an Artisan of Forms into Vaporkin and removing the Oathsworn before it got out of hand.
Both players exchanged land drops and Vaporkin hits, not adding much of anything to the board. With a board of three decently-sized blockers, Triton Tactics from Jordan produced a late-game blowout turn that swung the tide in Jordan's favor, allowing him to send two of Ari's creatures directly to the bin. When followed by Searing Blaze to finish off Ari's blockers and clear the way for Jordan's 3 attackers, the game ended in short order for Lax.
Ari actually changed the configuration of his deck going into game 2, opting for a more direct route to 20 damage in the form of a green-white deck. Jordan maintained his Blue/Red configuration, and Ari hoped to take advantage of Jordan's creatures, which were slightly worse than Ari's in a vacuum. He opened game 2 a little slowly with Elite Skirmisher and Ordeal of Nylea as Jordan slowly built his board presence with Artisan of Forms and Aerie Worshippers.
Mortal's Ardor targeting Elite Skirmisher pushed a Thassa's Emissary to the graveyard and made a growing Skirmisher a must-answer threat. Jordan's Artisan of Forms continued to put in work in game 2, though this time as a copy of Elite Skirmisher, featuring Fearsome Temper and Spearpoint Oread. Lax's Skirmisher continued to apply pressure, however, and the addition of a 6/6 Nessian Demolok forced Jordan into a corner until one last trick (Mortal's Resolve) pushed the final 7 points of damage through to bring it home for Lax.
Going into game 3, Lax decided to continue with his green-white configuration for game 3.
"Nobody ever mulligans- it's stupid to mulligan," Lax said.
"I'm from the Northeast, I'm not supposed to mulligan," Jordan retorted as both players kept their initial hands again.
Lax goes into the tank early
Lax dropped another very strong opening, curving out on turns 1-4, and Jordan struggled to keep with the tempo, but managed to establish a decent presence in the face of some early beats from Lax. Reap What is Sown marked Lax's first attempt to break the game open, but his multi-block on Aerie Worshippers met with a Searing Blaze that melted Setessan Oathsworn, making the block much less favorable for Lax.
Jordan soon followed with a Siren of the Fanged Coast (which became a 4/4), then added Ordeal of Purphoros before the next attack, clearing one of Lax's blockers and delivering a powerful attack for five. Ultimately, Jordan's board presence was too much for Ari to overcome, even with the help of Nessian Asp, which showed up a few turns too late for Lax.
Dan Jordan 2 – Ari Lax 1
Round 5 Feature Match - Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa vs. Franz Guevara
by Blake Rasmussen
It's Hall of Fame round at Grand Prix Phoenix, with Jon Finkel nearby in the feature match area and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa sitting tall in the text area, facing down Franz Guevara.
Damo da Rosa might have secured his spot on the Pro Tour in perpetuity, but he was on a bit of a cold streak last season, failing to factor in just about any major tournament. However, a recent string of good finishes have him back on track and looking like he's in fighting shape once again.
Franz Guevara, despite what his previous round opponent might have thought, is not German. The New Jersey native wasn't from Germany, despite his first name. He also was 4-0 heading into his showdown with the Hall of Famer in front of him.
And guiding Guevara's way was a saucy black-red deck with several bombs and a fair amount of removal. The deck wasn't especially quick, but Flame-Wreathed Phoenix, Whip of Erebos, and Felhide Spiritbinder could bend the game to their will.
Meanwhile, Damo da Rosa had a fast red-white concoction that hit hard and fast but had few outright bombs. Celestial Archon could deliver a punch, but it would have to do so through quite the trial by fire.
Despite representing some pretty aggressive colors, things got off to a fairly slow start, with the first play not coming till Damo da Rosa's third turn. But things picked up awfully quickly after that.
Damo da Rosa played a Satyr Nxy-Smith and immediately attacked before Guevara laid down a brick wall in the form of a 3/3 Flame-Wreathed Phoenix. He upped the ante the following turn when Fearsome Temper turned it into a 5/5 and Fall of the Hammer took out the Nyx-Smith.
The Brazilian star was down, but, apparently, never out.
Never count out Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa. He didn't get all of those "I played a Hall of Famer" buttons for nothing.
Damo Da Rosa reloaded with an Elite Skirmisher, using it to buy a turn on defense with Titan's Strength and an Observant Alseid to get even more damage through on offense. His creatures looked less impressive, but the Hall of Famer was ahead on life and able to tap down blockers with enough Heroic triggers.
But Guevara and his deck of beefy wasn't intimidated. Erebos's Emissary and Shrike Harpy put a lot of power on the board as the Phoenix continued to attack. Rage of Purphoros cleared out the Harpy and an attack cost Damo da Rosa his token, but put Guevara to just two life facing a difficult to block Skirmisher. That gave Guevara enough pause to decline an attack on his next turn.
By that point, however, Damo da Rosa hit his seventh land, exactly enough to bestow Celestial Archon on his Skirmisher, tapping the Phoenix and flying over for way more than lethal.
In the second, things got going even faster, as Bronze Sable and Elite Skirmisher faced off against Kragma Butcher and Felhide Spiritbinder.
And, ya know, Whip of Erebos.
Suddenly, there was lifegain everywhere. Mortal's Ardor, Lagonna-Band Elder, Ordeal of Heliod, and more kept both players life totals around 20 despite multiple unblocked attacks. Life totals bounced up and down repeatedly as Damo da Rosa attacked for huge chunks of life—that were almost immediately negated by Whip of Erebos.
Franz Guevara might not be German, but he sure did Whip it. He whipped it real good.
That was until Felhide Spiritbinder attacked into an 8/6 Elite Skirmisher when Guevara did some math wrong, wrecking the little game he had going gaining life with copies of Lagonna-Band Elder every turn. Suddenly, Damo da Rosa and his giant Skirmisher were able to make some real headway on Guevara's life total.
However, Damo da Rosa had stopped gaining life and stood at just 12, a fact that became exceedingly relevant when Guevara drew Portent of Betrayal.
Attacks forced Damo da Rosa to block down, losing a creature to the carnage coming his direction. However, Guevara lost his entire board and, though he was at 25, had virtually no good way to beat the swarm of small creatures Damo da Rosa had at his beck and call.
"I can't believe I screwed that up so seriously with the Spiritbinder," Guevara said. "I was like 'Math is not my strong suit.' Alright, thank you for the lesson."
Despite a back and forth second game, Damo da Rosa pointed out a first-game sequence that likely turned the match—his defensive Titan's Strength.
"I had a Chained to the Rocks I could draw into, but I knew I didn't really have a way to remove that Phoenix, so I was going to have to race it. I used Titan's Strength because I had a bunch of five drops in hand but no fifth land, so I wanted the Scry to start casting all of these spells and race," he explained. "If I got ahead, he might need to leave the Phoenix back to block because he doesn't know if I can target my Skirmisher."
As it turned out, that's exactly what happened, but with a Celestial Archon showing up right on time to make any non-Phoenix blocking moot anyway.
Vitor Damo da Rosa 2 – Franz Guevara 0
Round 6 Feature Match – (24) David Ochoa vs. Zvi Mowshowitz
by Blake Rasmussen
Often times, in a Grand Prix this size, it can be difficult to find matchups between players who have had success at a professional level. Often times we'll have to pick a match with one marquee player in it just to fill the feature match area. Sometimes matches are hard to make interesting.
This is pretty much the opposite of that.
Here it is, round six and we're already pairing a Hall of Fame member in Zvi Mowshowitz against 24th-ranked David Ochoa in a clash of one of the titans of the old guard with one of the new guard's most reliable performers.
No one has ever accused Zvi of not playing enough Magic, though he certainly plays less these days than he used to. Formerly one of the most fearsome players on the Pro Tour, Mowshowitz was still a frightening player to get matched up against when he did decide to come out and play. And he has clearly come out to play this weekend, starting 5-0 and killing opponents about as quickly as they can change their life totals from 20 to 0.
Not that Ochoa was any slouch himself. The Channelfireball member is having a quiet year by his standards, but is still in the thick of things with 24 Pro Points. Success this weekend would mean a lot to his ability to reach Platinum again this season, and with his talent, there's no reason to think he couldn't do it.
Except that we're really close to Reading Terminal Market. The notorious foodie has been all over the marketplace and has readily shared his finds on Twitter.
The decks involved in this clash of titans could not have been any different. Ochoa had a fairly typical blue-green deck with some heroic creatures, Retraction Helix, and a bunch of ground pounders. Mowshowitz, on the other hand, was running a fast white-based deck that typically swapped out black cards for red after the first game. He had a bunch of fliers and a curve that could deal damage before a slower deck—like Ochoa's—could catch up.
Mowshowitz kicked things off with a pair of one drops and a Mogis's Marauders, quickly dropping Ochoa to just 15 life before he could mount any kind of defense.
Ochoa's defenselessness didn't last long, however. Nyxborn Triton and Nessian Courser locked up the ground, and a Retraction Helix saved the Triton from some tricks. For a second, it looked like Ochoa's larger ground force might stabilize things.
However, the Helix was forced to bounce the Marauders, allowing Mowshowitz to get in for yet another five damage and drop Ochoa to just seven life.
Seven looked relatively safe with a Nessian Courser on defense, but when Gray Merchant came down, a subsequent attack left Ochoa at just two life. A second Retraction Helix let Ochoa survive the turn and put up a formidable enough army.
Formidable, except that it couldn't block a single Loyal Pegasus.
Holding a Nessian Ravager and the mana to cast it, Ochoa chose to concede instead of tossing out his last hope in order to hold back the information. There was no way a Hall of Famer like Zvi would ever misplay on the hydra, so Ochoa just decided to move on from the clearly losing board state.
"You saw it," Ochoa deadpanned.
Come for the 24th ranked David Ochoa, stay for the dinner recommendations and comedy.
For the second game, Mowshowitz swapped into a white-red configuration, the way he said his deck should have been put together in the first place. The black-white deck obviously had plenty of ways to deal damage quickly, but his Boros-flavored one was even more dangerous.
Ochoa got off to a much better start in the second game, as Swordwise Centaur landed on the second turn and promptly took a Nimbus Walk to saunter past a Bronze Sable. When Ochoa followed up with removal for an Archetype of Aggression and a blocker to trade with Bronze Sable, the 24th-ranked player found himself pretty far in the lead. Staunch-Hearted Warrior added even further to the board.
"I know exactly how this is gonna go," Mowshowitz said as his 7/4 Cyclops traded with the Warrior and a targeted spell.
Mowshowitz's predictive powers, however, couldn't stop the Centaur from continuing to crash in. Without a way to muster up enough damage and the flying Centaur ready to deliver the lethal blow, Mowshowitz packed it in.
"I think he sees it, too," the Hall of Famer giggled.
The action was fast and furious in the final game as well, with both players dropping quick creatures and trading, each player practically daring the other to try a combat trick first, and one very large Ornitharch crowding the board at 5/5.
Retraction Helix temporarily sent the five-drop back to Mowshowitz's hand and, when it returned, came with a pair of birds. Mowshowitz was all-in on his air assault while Ochoa's team was stuck on the ground.
However, Nessian Asp threatened to dominate in a way no other card could, shutting down any pretense of attacking Mowshowitz might have had and shifting the momentum back in Ochoa's corner.
With an Asp holding back the air and Mowshowitz holding an advantage on the number of creatures on the board, the game looked like it might approach something of a stalemate. Undeterred, Ochoa sent in a 5/5 Pheres-Band Tromper, only to watch it get gang blocked by a pair of 3/3 fliers and a 5/5 giant.
Ochoa seemed like he didn't quite expect the block and pondered his options, eventually placing the two fliers first and second. The "trick" Ochoa ended up having was a Breaching Hippocamp untapping the Tromper and letting it at least trade with the two 3/3s.
Hey, just because Zvi Mowshowitz is a Hall of Famer, doesn't mean it always comes easy for him either.
Every move at this point was excruciating as you could feel the players probing for any edge they could find. Mowshowitz still had his 5/5 to attack with, but his air force was feeling a bit thin, and couldn't get past Nessian Asp anyway. Instead, he started using his smaller fliers to chump block while he waited expectantly for Ochoa to make his snake monstrous.
Pretty much unbeatable.
Now with a ginormous, virtually indestructible Snake, Ochoa simply needed a way to finish Mowshowitz off. Flitterstep Eidolon on Staunch-Hearted Warrior fit the bill and dealt lethal in just a few swings. Mowshowitz revealed his hand full of lands and readily declared that he just had no outs.
"I wanted to switch back, but I had no other cards to take out, and that deck is so thin," Mowshowitz said, lamenting his card pool. He said the red cards give him cards that "have power," but that his black could only contribute a handful of cards. Beyond his starting 23, he just didn't have the cards to manufacture something stronger against Ochoa's beefy green brigade.
"I'm just impressed I won the two matches I did," Mowshowitz said.
Ochoa 2 – Mowshowitz 1
Round 7 Feature Match - Gaudenis Vidugiris vs. Alex Majlaton
by Justin Vizaro
Combined, Alex Majlaton and Gaudenis Vidugiris represent a staggering number of Grand Prix and Pro Tour top 8 finishes, and both are in serious contention to make a deep run as we move into the home stretch of Day 1 as well.
Majlaton piloted a rare-heavy green-black list to a perfect 6-0 start, and met Gaudenis Vidugiris (fresh off of video coverage) going into a pivotal seventh round that would lock one of the two players for Day 2. Majlaton's deck loved to put cards into the graveyard, but he preferred it to be his own. Vidugiris's blue-red deck matched up well with the tempo of Majlaton's slower openings, and made for an interesting mid and late game battle.
The first game started rather slowly, building into a classic midrange battle that fits the wheel house of Vidugiris's deck, as neither player had much in the way of permanents before turn four. Majlaton's second turn, however, was something that Vidugiris "literally expected to see in block," as he revealed three lands, Hero's Downfall, and Whip of Erebos with a turn two copy of Commune with the Gods. Majlaton added more cards to the graveyard in subsequent turns with a Returned Centaur as Vidugiris slowly assembled a very formidable board presence with Prognostic Sphinx, Floodtide Serpent, and Stoneshock Giant.
As Vidugiris continued to scry his way into a more perfect draw, Majlaton couldn't find many creatures to take advantage of Whip of Erebos, and quickly succumbed to Vidugiris's amazing board presence, which featured a scry engine from Prognostic Sphinx and a draw engine in the form of Floodtide Serpent and Stratus Walk.
Neither player made many sideboard changes going into game two, but both opened with a much more aggressive start than the previous game, with Vidugiris curving into Vaporkin and Kragma Butcher while Majlaton countered with Sedge Scorpion and Felhide Minotaur. Apart from the colors, these two decks looked nothing like what we saw in game 1.
"I'm good at drawing this guy," jested Vidugiris, as he dropped a turn five Prognostic Sphinx onto a relatively open board. Majlaton sunk deeply into his seat after casting Nessian Asp and watching Vidugiris Scry 5 cards deep on the following turn. Praying for assistance, he communed with the gods again, taking Vulpine Goliath. Sitting at a lowly 13, Majlaton watched Vidugiris tap his Nessian Asp and Felhide Centaur with Sudden Storm and send 7 power into the red zone. With two creatures that would not untap, Majlaton's hopes were firmly on the top of his deck, which simply couldn't deliver the goods.
As Gaudenis Vidugiris rolled to his 2 – 0 victory over Alex Majlaton, all both players could do was revel in the bomb-laden deck that Vidugiris brought to battle. "Well, I guess your deck had more Block bombs, but mine had more Limited bombs," Gau said as he scooped his cards up after a very convincing win.
Round 8 Feature Match - Shaheen Soorani v. Charlie Rinehart
by Blake Rasmussen
You don't know who Charlie Rinehart is.
I mean, you probably don't know who he is. You might know him if you play at his local store in New York. You might know him if you paid close attention to GP Mexico City coverage. You might know him if you're his dad, who sounds pretty cool.
But you probably should, given the start of his very, very young career.
The 15-year-old—yes, 15—already has a Grand Prix Top 16 to his name after finishing 10th in a fairly heartbreaking manner in Mexico City. Just don't try to tell him his age holds him back in any way.
"I don't like it when people give me more credit just because I'm young."
Shaheen Soorani certainly didn't lean one way or another. He mostly just lamented his lost youth.
"I'm literally double your age," Soorani said, probably thinking something about going uphill both ways in snow to play in Magic tournaments, or what things were like back in the day.
And now both the older Expensive Sorcery Master and the younger upstart are both staring at the right side of the Day 2 cut at 7-0, ready to finish out the day with a shot at being undefeated. Only one could do so, even though, as you'll see, both players tried very, very hard to lose.
"In my younger years I'd keep a six land hand," Soorani intoned, throwing his initial seven back. Also probably something about kids on their lawn.
"Um, it's pronounced YOLO," Rinehart. Kids these days and their sayings.
"This hand is a probably a go to game two quickly kind of hand," Soorani said, staring at a five-land, five drop hand.
Rinehart got off to an aggressive start with Spiteful Returned, but lost it to Wingsteed Rider on the attack. Rinehard, attempting to bluff, simply didn't have it.
"My nickname is Fall for All Tricks," Soorani said.
Shaheen Soorani: Literally twice as old as his opponent. Also, undefeated.
In this case, it might have been Flies Over All, as he drew "perfectly" as he later put it, calling forth Wingsteed Rider and Setessan Griffin. Rinehart started to fall drastically behind, but Wavecrash Triton and an assortment of targeted spells were able to keep the young gun in the game.
Then Soorani dropped Nessian Wilds Ravager, a card that very quickly could send the match to game two, even if it wasn't exactly how Soorani had originally imagined the game going. Wavecrash Triton was able to keep it locked down for a turn cycle, but, eventually, Rinehart ran out of spells.
"I totally haven't played this format before," Soorani said squinting to read some of his opponent's cards. "I just turn guys sideways."
The rust didn't show—yet.
Rinehart stared the second game with another two drop, turning it into a veritable Vaporkin with Stratus Walk on his third turn, and followed it up with an Ember Swallower.
"Geeze, geeze, Louise. That's a Magic card," Soorani said, staring down the barrel of the 4/5 and probably dreaming of the roaring '20s.
And stare he did, right into the abyss, calling another bluff from Rinehart to block the fake Vaporkin with a Wingsteed Rider backed by Archetype of Courage.
"You're calling all my bluffs dude," Rinehart said, dejectedly dropping his definitely-not-first-strike creature into the bin.
But he called it right back when Soorani ran Archetype of Courage right into Ill-Tempered Cyclops for no real reason.
"I'm an idiot! This is the handicapped match," Soorani said, tossing his Archetype in the graveyard. "Alright, you get this one. I punted this game."
And when Flitterstep Eidolon made Ill-Tempered Cyclops unblockable, Rinehart finally put that game out to pasture.
Charlie Rinehart has already started establishing his abilities, starting out 7-0 this weekend and finishing 10 in Mexico City earlier this year.
Between games the pair compared awful attacks and the laid-back nature of their match.
"We're in Day 2. It doesn't matter," Rinehart joked. Sort of.
It had been a match of called bluffs and punts thus far, but both players were looking to reverse that trend in the final match.
Soorani certainly started off doing so. He curved Akroan Skyguard into Nyxborn Wolf and then successfully defended the wolf through a Spearpoint Oread with Mortal's Resolve. Soorani set his juvenile opponent back even further with a Nessian Demolok taking out a land.
Soorani was doing exactly what he wanted to do, turning creatures sideways. A halfhearted Fanatic of Mogis could only watch Soorani's team pass on by as Archetype of Courage gave his entire team a distinct advantage in battle. Another turn, another all-out attack, and Soorani was closer to 8-0.
Fall of the Hammer let Rinehart catch back up and clear half of Soorani's board, but he was stuck on just four lands—including zero Swamps—and could barely muster a 2/1 Satyr Rambler as a defensive weapon.
Hint: Satyr Rambler is not a defensive weapon.
A few more turns of this and the Expensive Sorcery Master, Mr. Falls for All Tricks, or The Old Guy was well on his way to 8-0. Rinehart, however, will certainly be back tomorrow.
Asked about the myriad of errors that Soorani still somehow won through, Soorani explained that that was kind of the point of his deck.
"In limited we bash, otherwise my mistakes will cost me," Soorani joked.
Saturday, 8:20 p.m. – Which Limited Archetypes Need Help?
by Justin Vizaro
According to a study that has never been performed, it has been scientifically determined that the most optimal number of opinions to gather at a Magic tournament is six, which is the exact number of opinions that we have for you today about Journey to Nyx and the future of Theros Block Limited.
We sat down with six of the game's finest minds and asked them which of the Nyx gods would have the most measureable effect on sealed and draft, and also which archetypes they felt were in need of a little help from Journey to Nyx to break into the format. While many of their answers are the same, it should give you an idea of what you need to look for leading up to your pre-release and any future Theros Block Limited events.
Who are these six men whose opinions matter, you ask? Alexander Hayne, Alex Majlaton, David Ochoa, Gaudenis Vidugiris, Paul Rietzl, and Zvi Mowshowitz all took the time to give us their insights, and we are happy to pass them along to you.
When it comes to picking the Journey to Nyx God that will likely have the most impact on limited, there is a resounding call to Iroas, God of Victory as the clear-cut winner. Add to his low cost the fact that he fits into an already solid archetype, and that his combination of abilities makes for an absurdly powerful enchantment in any creature-based deck, and you've got a recipe for an incredibly impactful God in Limited environments.
While all six players agreed that Iroas is the place to be when it comes to Gods in Limited, there is an interesting split of ideas regarding the archetypes that they'd like to see gather more support. Four of our six panelists felt as though the blue-red archetype is one that could afford slightly more support to help it emerge as a more competitive option during draft.
"I know players that flat-out refuse to draft it," said Gaudenis Vidugiris, adding a strong opinion to that of David Ochoa, who simply believes that the color combination is "not as deep as it could be." Ochoa added that he would like to see blue-red get some help, but not from cards that are easily splashable.
Alex Majlaton and Alex Hayne agree that a little help for Izzet would be welcomed, citing it as an archetype that is "not too great, but potentially very strong with the right support."
Paul Rietzl, on the other hand, prefers support for a less-popular style that features cards like Commune with the Gods and Returned Centaur. Rietzl thinks self-mill has a lot of powerful enablers that can effectively create a great draft deck, but that it unfortunately lacks cards that reward a player for having a large graveyard. "We need more than just Nemesis of Mortals to make this work," agreeing that perhaps a card like Gravedigger or something else that interacts with the graveyard at common or uncommon would do the trick and make the deck immensely playable.
Zvi Mowshowitz has relatively humble aspirations for the coming set, and would simply like to see more cards that allow decks to interact with the exceedingly large guys that often emerge in this environment. These monolithic creatures are typically capable of taking down the game on their own, and very few answers exist to combat them. Even something as simple as an efficient creature that regenerates and blocks effectively like Dutiful Thrull would make him happy, and he says that Sedge Scorpion is among the only reasons the format has not gotten out of hand already.
To put it simply, pretty much everyone has their eyes on red, and the consensus is that red-white is already good and getting better, and that red-blue is not quite there, but stands to gain the most with a favorable allotment from Journey to Nyx.
Round 9 round-up: On the bubble
by Blake Rasmussen
There were a number of Pros and well-known players vying just to stay in the tournament in the final round of Day 1. Unsurprisingly, most of them fared well.
Let's start with the ones who didn't and begin by mourning our fallen brethren.
Packing a sealed deck with an assortment of mediocre rares spread across all five colors (plus Heroes' Podium!), Woods made a strong run at it anyway. Still, his get-up and go didn't quite get there, and a Woods fell without making a sound. (Ok, that's not true. He made several noises. Most of them sounded resigned to his poor sealed pool's fate.)
Let's also pour one out for our boy Craig Wescoe, who piloted a—what else—white-based aggressive deck with multiple Loyal Pegasus all the way to 6-3. Unfortunately, they don't let you come back with a record that blemished, so the Pro Tour champion will have to find a different format to attack with 2/1s for W in tomorrow.
As for Hall of Famer Jon Finkel, well, he went out in style. And on top. Because he won. Because he achieved Kiora's ultimate. Twice. In back to back games. By coming back. From disadvantageous positions. Also, clipped sentences. Moving on.
Joining Jon tomorrow at 7-2 thanks to a green-blue deck, Canadian Wunderkind No. 11 Alexander Hayne pulled out a win to take another shot at a Grand Prix title. He stumbled last time we started talking about him early in a Grand Prix, so maybe this time he's trying to fly under the radar? That's, like, soooo Canadian of him.
Dan Jordan got out to a quick start this weekend, but stumbled twice to push his back against the wall. Apparently, that wall was pretty sturdy, as Jordan was able to pick himself up off the matt, collect himself, mix other metaphors, and end the day at 7-2.
And, finally, because we can only cover so many matches at once, Todd Anderson and his good buddy Nylea, God of the Hunt tracked down and defeated his ninth-round opponent, riding the trample-granting, creature-pumping, super-duper combat-oriented uber God to 7-2. Nylea won't necessarily be by Anderson's side in the morning, but she certainly provided enough of a push today.
Saturday, 9:55 p.m. – Who’s Left Standing?
by Justin Vizaro
After 9 long rounds of Born of the Gods Sealed, only 6 players sit nicely at the top of the leaderboard with a perfect 27 points. This bevy of unbeaten players includes some familiar faces as well as some grinders and ringers. Which of them will hold on to their perfect record tomorrow? The first draft will leave one standing, but all six of them deserve our congratulations on a spectacular Day 1 performance.
Royce Walter took it to three games against Carl Mitchell, but in the end, simply couldn't bring his mono-hoplite red-white aggro deck past Mitchell's solid green-white strong guys deck. In the end, it was Polukranos with a noble quarry that ate Walter's world, and left Carl Mitchell (who played and won all 9 rounds) at 9-0 going into day 2.
Brad Robinson put up a strong front against Mark Evaldi's black-red aggressive deck, but in the end, Forgestoker Dragon was just too much for Robinson, and no amount of flying creatures would dig him out of the hole, sending Evaldi to an impressive 9-0 finish after starting with 2 byes.
In a relatively quick one, David Ochoa couldn't get the number of Islands and Forests necessary to come back from the early pressure applied by Andy Tan's red-white aggressive deck. Andy made short work of Ochoa's life total in both games en route to a 9-0 finish on day 1.
A grindy one that featured a Michael McGee change of deck mid-round from blue-red to blue-black, Christian Calcano quickly ended game 1 before spending nearly 20 turns beating McGee in game 2 on the back of a well-timed Sudden Storm that forced McGee's second Keepsake Gorgon to give Calcano his Prescient Chimera back. Calcano flew to 9-0, and is poised to make a deep run tomorrow.
Rounding out the unbeaten players going into round 9 were video feature matches of Shaheen Soorani vs. Michael Baraniecki and Dong Wu vs. Reid Duke. Reid and Michael will be joining Carl Mitchell, Mark Evaldi, Christian Calcano and Andy Tan as the only players to start day 2 at 9-0. Congratulations to all of our undefeated players, and good luck tomorrow!