Grand Prix Pittsburgh 2011 - Day 1 Blog

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  • by Steve Sadin
    Round 9: Feature Match
    Eric English vs. Gerry Thompson

  • by Nate Price
    Round 9: Feature Match
    Ben Stark vs. Mat Marr

  • by Jacob van Lunen
    Round 8: Feature Match
    Lucas Florent vs. Jonas Köstler

  • by Steve Sadin
    Round 7: Feature Match
    Gaudenis Vidugiris vs. Tom Martell

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Saturday, 7:45 p.m.: Photo Essay!

  • by Nate Price
    Round 7: Feature Match
    Lucas Blohon vs. Yuuya Watanabe

  • by Nate Price
    Round 5: Feature Match
    Gavin Verhey vs. Eric Froehlich

  • by Jacob Van Lunen
    Round 4: Feature Match
    Zohar Bhagat vs. Christian Calcano

  • by Steve Sadin
    Round 4: Feature Match
    Ali Aintrazi vs. Robert van Medevoort

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Saturday, 3:00 p.m.: Quick Questions
    Best Sideboard Card for Standard

  • by Steve Sadin
    Saturday, 1:50 p.m.: A Single Pro Point

  • by Nate Price
    Saturday, 1:45 p.m.: In for the Long Haul

  • by Steve Sadin
    Saturday, 12:45 p.m.: Grand Prix Pittsburgh
    the Third

  • by Jacob van Lunen
    Saturday, 12:30 p.m.: Standard Overview with Decklists

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Saturday, 12:00 p.m.: Grand Prix Trial Winning Decklists

  • Saturday, 12:00 p.m. - Grand Prix Trial Winning Decks

    by Event Coverage Staff

  • Nick Moore - Grand Prix Trial Winner
    Grand Prix Pittsburgh 2011

    Oscar Almgren - Grand Prix Trial Winner
    Grand Prix Pittsburgh 2011

    Adam Johns - Grand Prix Trial Winner
    Grand Prix Pittsburgh 2011

    Robin Meeker-Cummings - Grand Prix Trial Winner
    Grand Prix Pittsburgh 2011

    Charles Potts - Grand Prix Trial Winner
    Grand Prix Pittsburgh 2011

    Jesus Causing - Grand Prix Trial Winner
    Grand Prix Pittsburgh 2011

    Jason Smith - Grand Prix Trial Winner
    Grand Prix Pittsburgh 2011

  • 12:30 p.m. - Standard Overview

    by Jacob van Lunen
  • The Standard metagame has become colorful and diverse since the banning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and Stoneforge Mystic, and the introduction of Magic 2012. We're looking forward to the new and exciting tech from the pros here at Grand Prix Pittsburgh, but what are the decks that they're aiming to beat?

    Let's take a look at some of the big contenders in today's Standard metagame.

    Caw Go - Designed by Gerry Thompson
    Grand Prix Pittsburgh 2011

    Blue-White Squadron Hawk decks has been the menace of the format for quite some time now. Many high level players have reportedly gone the way of Gerry and dropped the swords from their lists. The deck is resilient and powerful: It can be aggressive when it needs to be, it has a brilliant suite of disruption, and, with optimal draws, it can out-last even the most controlling builds of Blue-Black. This is certainly the deck to beat coming into this event.

    Splinter Twin - Designed by Anders Simpson-Wolf
    Grand Prix Pittsburgh 2011

    A lot of people had thought that Splinter Twin was dead and gone before the Star City Games Open in Boston last weekend... but the recent uprising of Valakut and Eldrazi Green strategies has paved the way for Splinter Twin to make a big splash in Standard. Anders Simspon-Wolf combed his way to the top, in an event that featured a total of 6 Blue-Red Twin decks in the Top 16.

    The deck combos Deceiver Exarch with Splinter Twin to make an arbitrarily large number of 1/4s and attack its opponent for billions of damage. The library manipulation provided by Shrine of Piercing Vision, Ponder, Gitaxian Probe, and Halimar Depths allows Splinter Twin to find its combo, and the counterpells that it needs to go off safely. Expect Dismember to become more popular again this weekend as a reaction to Splinter Twin's recent successes.

    Mono-Red (Magic Online) - Designed by Anders Simpson-Wolf
    Grand Prix Pittsburgh 2011

    Mono-Red (Magic Online) - Designed by kaine187
    Grand Prix Pittsburgh 2011

    Mono-Red has been able to survive and thrive even under the oppression of Timely Reinforcements. Recent Magic Online daily events have been getting crushed by the Goblin based version of the deck. Red decks have adapted to playing against Timely Reinforcements by played cards like Chandra's Pheonix and Hero of Oxid Ridge.

    Valakut has made a resurgence due to it's remarkable strength against decks like Blue Black control and CawBlade. The deck uses Primeval Titan to search up a pile of mountains alongside a few Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. The deck has a raw power level and consistency that's very hard to match. Cards like Summoning Trap make it difficult to profitably counter key creatures while cards like Oracle of Mul Daya provide an excellent stream of card advantage. Valakut is powerful, but the recent success of Splinter Twin may scare a lot of players away from it.

    Blue-Black control is a nightmare matchup for most creature heavy decks. The deck plays a lot of situationally strong, and interactive cards alongside library manipulation like Preordain, and card advantageous spells like Jace Beleren. Inquisition of Kozilek, Despise, and Mana Leak provide disruption and give the deck a chance against combo. The deck has proven itself to have an edge against many versions of CawBlade. This deck is a powerful reactive tool that can be very dangerous in the hands of a skilled player.

    Mono Green Eldrazi uses mana producing creatures and lands like Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple to cast gigantic Eldrazi Monsters like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. If you enjoy casting fifteen mana cost creatures on your sixth turn, then this is certainly your cup of tea. The deck is very strong against control decks, but it lacks strength against combo and Mono Red. The recent inclusion of Fauna Shaman and Spellskite allow savvy Mono-Green Eldrazi players to have a fighting chance against their worst matchup, Splinter Twin.

    There will be a lot of new technology floating around here at Grand Prix: Pittsburgh. Stay tuned to find out what innovative decks make it to the top tables here on Day 1!

  • Saturday, 12:45 p.m. - Grand Prix Pittsburgh the Third

    by Steve Sadin
  • This weekend mark the third time that Pittsburgh has hosted a Grand Prix. The first Grand Prix Pittsburgh took place in 2000, a Mercadian Masques Block Team Limited event with a star-studded Top 4 featuring team "Antarctica"– Jon Finkel (at the height of his powers), Steve OMS (who was recently voted into the Hall of Fame), and Dan OMS.

    Joining Antarctica in the Top 4, was team "Your Move Games"– Darwin Kastle, Dave "Da Hump" Humphreys, and Rob Dougherty. The Boston trio (who are now all in the Hall of Fame) was just a few months removed from winning the inaugural Team Pro Tour in Washington D.C. and were considered heavy favorites going into the event.

    However, the tournament was ultimately won by "Huey, Ben, and Casey"– a squad comprised of Hall of Famer Ben Rubin, four-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor William "Huey" Jensen (who later captained the only team to beat Kai Budde in a Team Pro Tour Top 4), and Pro Tour New York 1999 champion Casey McCarrel.

    In 2003 Grand Prix Pittsburgh gave players a chance to show off their skills at Onslaught Block Team Limited. While the Top 4 of the second Grand Prix Pittsburgh wasn't as pro-laden as the first, it was nonetheless won by the Team Limited powerhouse team "Illuminati" which consisted of Pro Tour Tokyo 2001 champion, and master deck designer Zvi Mowshowitz, Pro Tour New Orelans 2003 champion Justin Gary, and 21 time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Alex Shvartsman.

    In the finals, the Your Move Games Illuminati defeated a team captained by a young, and virtually unknown, Charles Gindy. Gindy would go on to become one of only a handful of players to win a Grand Prix, a Pro Tour, and Nationals.

    A little over 8 years later, and 1435 players from all over the world have shown up to play in one of the final pre-Innistrad Standard events. Up for grabs is $30,000, hundreds of highly coveted Pro Points, 16 invitations to Pro Tour Dark Ascension in Honolulu, and the title of Grand Prix Pittsburgh Champion.

    Will a globetrotting pro on his way to Pro Tour Philly walk away with the title? Or will a hometown hero such as Grand Prix Minneapolis champ Zohar Bhagat, or Vintage mastermind Rich Shay keep the trophy in the Steel City?

    Stay tuned to find out!

  • Saturday, 1:45 p.m. - In for the Long Haul

    by Nate Price
  • For those of you who don't know, there is a Pro Tour going on next weekend a few hundred miles down I-76 in Philadelphia. Wizards has a tendency to have Grand Prix in a similar part of the world to upcoming Pro Tour in the week prior, like having Grand Prix Singapore before Pro Tour Nagoya earlier this year. Whenever that happens, many pros jump on the opportunity to head to both tournaments in one fell swoop.

    "It's like a free Grand Prix for me," Czech supertar Martin Juza explained. "I save a lot of money on flights and get an extra tournament in on my trip."

    Because of this, there are often a larger concentration of Pro players at these events than in other Grand Prix. You also get a larger section of the global Pro community than you normally would. It's nice to see some of the bigger names in Magic, names that you only really see at Pro Tours or at Grand Prix in their local region, getting out and playing Magic at the Grand Prix level around the world. I'm not talking about players like Juza, Shuhei Nakamura, Brian Kibler, or Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa. These guys are already fairly famous for their globetrotting for Grand Prix, heading anywhere they can sleeve up some cardboard for a game. I'm talking about players like Simon Görtzen, who rarely heads out of Europe for non-Pro Tour events. Players like Robert Jurkovic and Matej "The Big Z" Zatlkaj from Slovakia, who are big names on the Pro Tour that are rarely seen here around the United States. I'm talking Olle "I'm riding on the back of a giant freaking spider" Rade, Hall of Famer and the winner of the first Magic Invitational. These are players that are institutions in the global game that many of the players from outside their home areas just simply are unfamiliar with.

    "I really think it's great for Wizards and for the community, too," revealed Juza. "Since so many of the Pros are going to make the trip for both, it gives the local players a chance to interact and maybe even play against the Pro players, which can be a memorable experience."

    When talking with some of the other Pro players around the room, there was an interesting sentiment that arose. While they all agreed that having the events on consecutive weeks was great from a travel and community standpoint, they wished that the format could be slightly changed.

    The real Team ChannelFireball, not to be confused with a bunch of guys who just bought the shirts...

    "The only problem I have with the way it is right now is that I wish it could be reversed, having the Pro Tour the week before the Grand Prix," said Luis Scott-Vargas, taking a short break from Drafting during his byes. "It can just be kind of difficult for those of us who have to prepare for both the Pro Tour and the Grand Prix. Since the Pro Tour has more at stake for us, I wish that we could devote all the time prior to it to preparing for it. If there's a Grand Prix before too, especially one of a different format, I have to put in time on that as well, and splitting attention like gives only a week of hardcore testing leading into the Pro Tour."

    He wasn't entirely alone in that sentiment. When I posed the same question to Brian Kibler, who is famous for making long, globetrotting trips to Asia and Europe to play on the Grand Prix circuit, he initially said the same thing as LSV.

    "Yeah, I kind of wish that it was the other way around."

    Brian Kibler's dominion is the entire world!

    After a bit of musing though, he started to change his mind.

    "...though, the more I think about it, I would like to get to where I'm going, get acclimated to the time difference, and then spend the entire week before hand testing, which is effectively what I'm going to be doing this week, so maybe it isn't as bad as I thought."

    One thing that they all agreed upon was that they would love to see the Grand Prix before Pro Tours be a Limited event.

    "If the Grand Prix beforehand was Limited, that would be absolutely perfect," said LSV with a smile. "You can spend all your time testing the Constructed format of the Pro Tour, and, since Pro Tours are split-format events, the Grand Prix itself is like practice for the Pro Tour. That would be ideal."

    Without any prompting, and in a completely different location, Kibler said the same thing when I questioned him.

    In any case, it is agreed by members of the Pro community that having Grand Prix and Pro Tours on consecutive weeks and in the same area is great for the players in that area to get to interact with a large number of Pros that they wouldn't normally get to see. It helps build up the desire to play at that higher level and drives the competitive side of the game.

  • Saturday, 1:50 p.m. - A Single Pro Point

    by Steve Sadin
  • When you're working your way up the pro ranks, every Pro Point counts. Given the way that the Pro Players Club is structured, just one point can be worth thousands of dollars in appearance fees, free flights, and hotels.

    The hunt for Pro Points leads top players like Paulo Vitor Dama da Rosa, Yuuya Watanabe, Martin Juza, and Brian Kibler to travel all over the globe to compete in every Grand Prix that they reasonably can.

    Martin Juza

    But before you can collect big checks just for showing up at events, you need to lock up your invitations to all of the Pro Tours. A win, or even "just" a Top 16 can put a player a long way towards accomplishing that goal. But sometimes a player doesn't even need to do that well. Sometimes a player just needs a single Pro Point to level up, and kick their Pro Tour career into high gear.

    Will Brandon Nelson get the Pro Point he needs this weekend?

    Well, that's just the position that Brandon Nelson (no relation to reigning Pro Tour Player of the Year Brad Nelson) finds himself in this weekend. A Top 4 finish at US Nationals left Midwestern PTQ Veteran Brandon Nelson with 14 Pro Points, and an invitation for Worlds in San Francisco. While most players would (understandably) be quite envious of Nelson's current position – he has a chance to make things way better for himself.

    A Top 64 finish this weekend will earn Brandon Nelson $200 dollars and, far more importantly, his 15th Pro Point of the season. With 15 Pro Points, Brandon Nelson will reach Level 3 in the Pro Players Club – earning himself a free invitation for any Pro Tour this year and next year... an invitation that he could (and would) cash in at Pro Tour Philadelphia next weekend. Between the four points that Nelson would be guaranteed to receive just by showing up at Philly, and at Worlds in San Francisco, he would need only one additional Pro Point to reach Level 4 – insuring himself invitations to every Pro Tour in 2012 in the process.

    Will Brandon Nelson earn that Pro Point that he desperately needs? Or will he find himself faced with a somewhat tougher road the rest of this season on his quest to reach Level 4?

    Follow along all weekend long to find out!

  • Saturday, 3:00 p.m. - Quick Questions

    by Nate Price
  • What is the Best Sideboard Card in Standard Right Now?

    Brian Kibler – "I don't know...Timely Reinforcements? It's definitely the most powerful. Though...I do have an Urabrask the Hidden hiding in my sideboard..."

    David Sharfman – "I'd say Torpor Orb because it shuts off the most decks. Memoricide is definitely more powerful, but the decks are being built right now so that it doesn't just end games anymore."

    Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa – "Flashfreeze."

    Gaudenis Vidugiris – "Hmm...probably Timely Reinforcements."

    David Ochoa – "Timely wait — Flashfreeze."
    David Ochoa — " wait — Timely Reinforcements!."

  • Round 4: Feature Match - Ali Aintrazi vs. Robert van Medevoort

    by Steve Sadin
  • Reigning US National Champion, and StarCityGames columnist Ali Aintrazi began making waves last year when by tearing up tournaments with his Blue-Green Turbo Land deck. Since then, Aintrazi has established himself as one of the premier rogue deck designers in the game, consistently putting up finishes with brand new decks than go on to become metagame staples.

    Sitting across the table from Aintrazi this round is Grand Prix Rotterdam 2009 finalist Robert van Medevoort. A man who is known throughout the Pro community for his loud shirts, and his quiet (but deadly) play.

    He's screaming, but only your eyes can hear him.

    While the Dutch Pro Magic contingent was once amongst the most dominant forces on the Pro Tour – their ranks have thinned a bit in the past few years. During this time, it's been up to Robert van Medevoort, and his good friend (and Hall of Famer) Bram Snepvangers to carry the torch for the Netherlands – a task that they have happily accepted.

    Game One

    Medevoort kept his opening hand, while Aintrazi mulliganed to six, then agonized for a bit before keeping a hand with five lands and a Mana Leak.

    Aintrazi whiffed on a turn three Inquisition of Kozilek that revealed a hand of two Birthing Pods, a Solemn Simulacrum, and a bunch of lands. Aintrazi allowed both of Medevoort's Birthing Pods to resolve, but countered the Dutch pro's Acidic Slime.

    With only one Mana Leak to work with, Aintrazi decided to let both Pods resolve.

    Medevoort's Solemn Simulacrum resolved, and was immediately upgraded into an Acidic Slime that kept Aintrazi a land short from being able to cast the Consecrated Sphinx that was sitting in his hand.

    Over the next two turns, Medevoort upgraded a Viridian Emissary into a Deceiver Exarch while Aintrazi used a couple of Into the Roils to bounce Medevoort's two Birthing Pods.

    In response to Medevoort re-casting a Birthing Pod, Aintrazi (who had no interest in seeing a Wurmcoil Engine or a titan on his opponent's side of the board) used a Go for the Throat to kill Acidic Slime.

    A second Deceiver Exarch came down at the end of Aintrazi's turn – and Medevoort, no doubt hoping that Aintrazi was out of answers, went to enchant a Splinter Twin onto one of his Deceiver Exarchs. However, Aintrazi was ready with a second Go for the Throat.

    Medevoort went for his Splinter Twin combo again the next turn... but Aintrazi's third Go For the Throat again stopped Medevoort from attacking for a million damage.

    Aintrazi resolved a Consecrated Sphinx, but Medevoort's fourth Deceiver Exarch left Aintrazi with only one untapped land and no way to prevent his opponent's third attempt at creating an infinite number of 1/4s with Splinter Twin plus Deceiver Exarch.

    Robert van Medevoort 1 – Ali Aintrazi 0

    Game Two

    Both players kept their opening hands for the second game, and Medevoort got off to a fast mana start with two copies of Birds of Paradise. A Viridian Emissary got countered, but Aintrazi could do nothing to stop Medevoort's turn three Thrun, the Last Troll.

    Fortunately for Aintrazi, Medevoort had no follow-up plays for several turns.

    By the time Medeveoort cast his next spell, Solemn Simulacrum – Aintrazi was ready with a Mana Leak. A Go For the Throat, and a Doom Blade on two copies of Birds of Paradise left Medevoort with only three mana, and a long way to go before he could even think about being able to resolve his Splinter Twin combo.

    Aintrazi, not wanting to give Medevoort any time to get back into the game, resolved a Grave Titan, and followed it up with a second Grave Titan a turn later.

    Medevoort copied a Grave Titan with a Phantasmal Image to attempt to buy himself some breathing room, but Aintrazi's Liliana Vess was more than enough to seal the game for the reigning US National Champion.

    Robert van Medevoort 1 – Ali Aintrazi 1

    Game Three

    Medevoort kicked things off in the third game with a Birds of Paradise, and a Viridian Emissary – while Aintrazi's turn two Inquisition of Kozilek took a Phantasmal Image out of a hand that also contained Thrun, the Last Troll, Splinter Twin, and Inferno Titan but no lands.

    Medevoort failed to draw the third land he needed to cast Thrun, the Last Troll – prompting Aintrazi to untap and use a Go for the Throat on a Birds of Paradise to further Medevoort's mana problems.

    This play immediately paid off as Medevoort drew his third land, but was still a mana short from being able to cast Thrun.

    Aintrazi cast a Jace Beleren then thought for a moment before deciding to use his planeswalker's -1 ability drawing himself a card, but letting it die to an attack from Viridian Emissary.

    Liliana Vess got Mana Leaked, but Medevoort had no lands or spells to run out against his tapped out opponent.

    An Into the Roil with kicker left the mana-light Medevoort without a single threat on the board – and gave Aintrazi a chance to draw some cards with his Jace Beleren.

    An end of turn Deceiver Exarch got Mana Leaked, and Medevoort finally drew a fourth land... but unfortunately for him it was a Raging Ravine, one of only a handful of come into play tapped lands in his deck, so he still couldn't cast the Thrun that had been in his hand since the opening stages of the game.

    At this point Aintrazi began attacking with his Creeping Tar Pits, and Medevoort was finally able to cast his uncounterable, Hexproof 4/4. A couple of Creeping Tar Pits swung in to leave Medevoort on 8.

    Medevoort got in an attack with his Thrun to leave Aintrazi on 8, but a Despise showed Aintrazi that the path was clear and a Sorin's Vengeance allowed him to take the match.

    Final Result Ali Aintrazi 2 – Robert van Medevoort 1

  • Round 4: Feature Match - Zohar Bhagat vs. Christian Calcano

    by Jacob Van Lunen
  • Christian Calcano is an up and coming player on the Pro Tour. Calcano managed to reach Level 4 in the Pro Player's Club during his Rookie Season last year and has begun to really put his invitations to use, finishing in the money at nearly every Pro Tour that he competes in.

    Zohar Bhagat, champion of Grand Prix Minneapolis in 2009, is a CMU alum that's visiting Pittsburgh to defend the title.

    Both players engaged in some friendly chat while shuffling up for the first game.

    Game One

    Calcano, playing Blue Black Control, led things off with an Inquisition of Kozilek and it became clear that Bhagat was battling with an exciting Red-White Aggro deck.

    A Grim Lavamancer was answered with Doom Blade, but a top-decked Squadron Hawk refilled Bhagat's hand and gave the CMU alum an immediate board presence. Over the next few turns, the Squadron Hawks began mounting up – Calcano was patient, however, waiting a few turns before casting a Black Sun's Zenith that successfully dealt with three of the birds.

    Calcano looked to be in control of the game, but Bhagat found a Goblin Guide to join the final bird and enter the fray. Calcano casually found a land on the top of his library and cast a Go for the Throat. A Sword of Body and Mind was responded to with a Doom Blade.

    Calcano tried to close out the game with a Consecrated Sphinx, but Zohar had a Dismember and Lightning Bolt to deal with the end game monstrosity. Calcano cast a Jace Beleren and drew a card, but Bhagat found a Goblin Guide and sent it in with a sword.

    Christian Calcano is trying to stave off the aggressive Red White brew being played by Zohar Bhagat.

    Bhagat made a token and milled Calcano for ten. Calcano found a Grave Titan and instantly took control back. A Mirran Crusader from Bhagat was unblockable, though, and Calcano's life total couldn't take the hit. Calcano looked for the Black Sun-Zenith on top of his deck, but he didn't find it. He shrugged and they were on to game two.

    Zohar Bhagat 1 – Christian Calcano 0

    Game Two

    Both players went down to six cards. Calcano nodded, "friendly game."

    Bhagat started things with a Goblin Guide, but Calcano had a Mental Misstep.

    Bhagat had the turn two Hawk again, while Calcano had a Jace Beleren that he used to draw a card. Bhagat mounted the pressure with a pair of Mirran Crusaders, and Calcano used an Into the Roil plus Despise to deal with one. Calcano, however, was still stuck taking hits from Mirran Crusader, a pair of Hawks, and a Grim Lavamancer.

    Calcano resolved a Consecrated Sphinx after plucking an Oblivion Ring from Bhagat's hand with a discard spell. Bhagat attacked with Mirran Crusader, and Calcano blocked with Consecrated Sphinx. After combat, Bhagat used his Grim Lavamancer to finish off the card advantage monster, but not before Calcano had managed to draw two extra cards with it.

    Bhagat's extra Squadron Hawks, and the Grim Lavamancer were enough to dwindle down Calcano's life total. Calcano cast a Preordain to dig, and drew more cards with an extra copy of Jace Beleren, but he couldn't find a Consume the Meek or a Black Sun's Zenith to stop his opponent from pecking him to death.

    Zohar Bhagat 2 – Christian Calcano 0

    Zohar plans to get aggressive this weekend with his powerful red white deck!

  • Round 5: Feature Match - Gavin Verhey vs. Eric Froehlich

    by Nate Price
  • As the players sat down in the feature match area, the first thing Gavin Verhey said to me was, "I should've known. As soon as I saw my opponent, I knew there was a chance we might end up in the Feature Match area."

    When I told him that our other option was the Matt Nass/Luis Scott-Vargas match that I chose not to cover because I thought they were playing identical decks, Froehlich chimed in with a smile.

    "Yeah, but they're playing it in two completely different ways. I'm not going to say who's on the higher level, though. I don't want to give away the team's secret."

    Froehlich started off with a quick mulligan, while Verhey stuck with his initial seven. Froehlich made a first-turn Grim Lavamancer, and the little Wizards started swinging as early as the next turn. A Goblin Wardriver joined him on the following attack, but Verhey stopped the Lavamancer with a painful Dismember for one and four life. Verhey dropped to 12. After combat, Froehlich added an Ember Hauler to his team and passed the turn. A Mirran Crusader tried to jump in the way at some point, but a Staggershock hit not only the Crusader, but Verhey as well. Verhey made a Hero of Bladehold to try and give him something to stem the bleeding, but a Hero of Oxid Ridge from Froehlich made his attack lethal, ending the game after a mere five minutes.

    As fast as Froehlich ended the first game, maybe we should make *his* nickname 'The Black Mamba!'

    Gavin Verhey 0 – Eric Froehlich 1

    Game Two

    This was going to be a match where things changed drastically after the first game. Hiding in Verhey's sideboard were sure to be copies of Timely Reinforcements, which many of the Pro players I talked to agreed was the most powerful sideboard card in the format. Against the sheer aggression of Froehlich's deck, the Reinforcements would give Verhey some much needed life gain, as well as a few men to stymie Froehlich's attackers. It's the perfect answer card in a matchup like this.

    Froehlich started fast again this game, getting a first-turn Goblin Guide, but Verhey answered with a Kor Firewalker, devastating against Froehlich's mono-red deck. Fortunately, Froehlich had a Shrine of Burning Rage, providing him a colorless way to kill the Firewalker. Verhey made a Sword of Feast and Famine, but he would have to wait a turn to equip it. The proved problematic for Froehlich, who needed to get rid of the Firewalker, and fast. All he could do was recruit an Ember Hauler to put his Shrine up to two counters and pass the turn.

    This may be the scariest photo of Gavin Verhey in history.

    Verhey had the window he needed since he was on the play, and was able to untap and equip his Firewalker. After swinging, he made a second copy thanks to the help of a Phantasmal Image. After some thought, Froehlich used his Shrine to kill the copy and attacked for six thanks to a Teetering Peaks. Verhey swung back with his equipped Firewalker, following that up with a Gideon Jura. After only a few seconds of thought, Froehlich packed it in for game three.

    Gavin Verhey 1 – Eric Froehlich 1

    Game Three

    While it wasn't the Timely Reinforcements that ultimately won that game for Verhey, it was because of the power of his sideboard. The Kor Firewalkers serve double duty against Froehlich's mono-red deck, filling the exact same role as the Reinforcements, giving him life and an infinite blocker. Even better, the protection from red keeps the Firewalker around much longer than the tokens from Timely Reinforcements.

    Once again, Froehlich started off with a hasty Goblin Guide. Verhey used a Preordain to peek at his top cards, eventually sending a Phantasmal Image and, surprisingly, a Timely Reinforcements to the bottom of his deck. Froehlich slowed up on the next turn, failing to make a second-turn play. The Guide just bashed in again and provided Verhey with a second Tectonic Edge. On the following turn, when Froehlich tried to make a Goblin Chieftain, Verhey was ready with a Flashfreeze. Verhey dropped to 12. He made a Mirran Crusader to shore up his defenses, but again Froehlich had a Staggershock to get rid of it, clearing the way for an attack. Verhey was dropping, first to 10, then to 8.

    "I liked it better when he was revealing lands," Verhey admitted after revealing two consecutive Squadron Hawks.

    Froehlich then added a Shrine of Burning Rage and a Goblin Wardriver, which Verhey quickly stopped with Flashfreeze. When the Guide attacked and revealed a thirdSquadron Hawk, Froehlich just had to laugh.

    "Come on! ThreeSquadron Hawks? Unreal," Verhey said shaking his head. He dropped to 6.

    Verhey's Squadron Hawks started making their appearance over the next turns. He also bounced the Shrine of Burning Rage with an Into the Roil before it could kill him. With two Hawks in play, at 6 life, Verhey tapped on the top of his deck after Froehlich attacked.

    "What do you think this one is," Verhey asked Froehlich.

    "Another Dismember, I'm hoping," he responded.

    Verhey slowly flipped the top card of his deck over to reveal...Timely Reinforcements.

    Timely indeed!

    Knowing what that help was on the top of his deck, Verhey blocked safely, keeping himself alive. After combat, Froehlich added the Shrine of Burning Rage and a second copy of Ember Hauler to his board. Verhey drew his savior and made three 1/1s, gained 6 life up to 12, and cast a Squadron Hawk. Froehlich thought for a minute about what to do before attacking with his Goblin Guide. Verhey thought right back, eventually using two of his tokens to trade with the Guide. The revealed card was Sword of Feast and Famine, and it immediately made it into play and onto Verhey's Hawk. He attacked with it, dropping Froehlich to one card in hand.

    At this point, Froehlich tipped his plan. He used his last card, a Combust, to clear the last of the Reinforcements away and put his Shrine up to three counters. It ticked up to four during his upkeep. He attacked with his two Ember Haulers, dropping Verhey to eight. All it took from that point was sacrificing the two Haulers and the Shrine and Verhey went from a relatively safe 12 to 0 in one turn. Guess those Reinforcements were a little late after all.

    Gavin Verhey 1 – Eric Froehlich 2

  • Round 7: Feature Match - Lucas Blohon vs. Yuuya Watanabe

    by Nate Price
  • You know, we've made a pretty big deal about the fact that there is a Pro Tour just down the interstate next weekend. Matches like this are why. For those who follow the Pro Tour, Lucas Blohon is probably not a new name to you. Behind Martin Juza, Blohon is probably the second most recognizable Czech player on Tour. He doesn't make it out of Europe for Grand Prix incredibly often, unless the Pro Tour happens to take him to a Grand Prix happening around the same time, just like this one. His opponent, Yuuya Watanabe, has started to travel to events more frequently since winning the Player of the Year race in 2009. Despite this, this is a match that we would commonly only get a chance to see at the Pro Tour.

    Game One

    Blohon tried for a first-turn Inquisition of Kozilek, bit Watanabe had a Spell Pierce to protect his hand. He attempted a Blade Splicer as the first creature to hit the board, and Blohon allowed it, but used Doom Blade to kill the Golem before the end of Watanabe's turn. The Czech player made a Jace Beleren and immediately dropped it to two loyalty to draw a card. Watanabe dropped it further with an attack from the Splicer, forcing Blohon to allow Watanabe to draw a card as well to keep the planeswalker alive.

    Watanabe made a Sword of Feast and Famine while Blohon was tapped out for his Jace, and he finally found a chance to equip it on the following turn. Blohon waited until Watanabe equipped it and attacked before using Into the Roil to send the Sword back to Watanabe's hand. After replaying it, Watanabe tried to attack Jace to finish it off but Blohon had an Into the Roil to send the Splicer packing. Unable to replay it, Watanabe passed the turn.

    Watanabe proves that 'your turn, buddy' is the same in every language.

    With the window clear, Blohon used a Despise to strip the Splicer from a hand that had an Into the Roil, Mana Leak, and a second copy of Sword of Feast and Famine. An Inquisition of Kozilek stripped the Into the Roil from his hand soon after. That left both players with little business in their hands, but Blohon clearly had the advantage because he had a Jace Beleren that had evaded all of Watanabe's attempts to destroy it.

    Jace went to work. Blohon drew card after card. Watanabe decided on a path to victory, using a Tectonic Edge to kill Blohon's Tectonic Edge, clearing the path for an Inkmoth Nexus. The Nexus picked up a Sword of Feast and Famine and started attacking. Blohon went to three poison. The Czech player tried for a Liliana Vess, but the Mana Leak that had been in his hand the whole game stopped it from hitting play. Watanabe had added a Blade Splicer to his team, but he had already decided on riding the Nexus to victory. He played and equipped a Sword of War and Peace, as well as the Sword of Feast and Famine in play. The Nexus took Blohon to 8 poison while the Splicer and his Golem took care of Jace.

    Blohon recruited a second planeswalker, Karn Liberated, to replace the fallen baby Jace. It immediately exiled the Inkmoth Nexus that threatened to kill him. Undeterred, Watanabe took to the skies with a Squadron Hawk and friends, who, as everyone knows by now, love to carry Swords. Before they could do the deed, though, Blohon found his saving grace in a Black Suns's Zenith. The only creature that survived was the Golem token, which was carrying both Swords. Undeterred, Watanabe wasted no time in refilling the board with his remaining two Squadron Hawks, and Blohon was unable to survive even two more turns.

    Lucas Blohon 0 – Yuuya Watanabe 1

    Game Two

    A first-turn Despise from Blohon ripped a Sun Titan from a hand also containing Preordain and five lands. Watanabe went to work, immediately thinning his deck with a Steam Vents before using a Preordain to filter his draws a little more. He made the first contribution to the board when he cast a Sword of Feast and Famine on his third turn, but Blohon was not far behind, casting a Solemn Simulacrum immediately following that.

    Watanabe took advantage of the fact that Blohon was tapped out to activate his Inkmoth Nexus, once again give it a Sword of Feast and Famine, and attack the Czech player, forcing a discard and untapping his lands. To follow that, he made a Squadron Hawk and searched up a pair, revealing that he had the third in his hand. Blohon confirmed this with an Inquisition of Kozilek, which also revealed a Jace Beleren and a Preordain, the latter of which he took. Afterwards, he cast Liliana Vess and immediately gave her -2 loyalty to go fetch a card and put it on top of his deck.

    Watanabe decided to equip his Sword to his Hawk, but chose not to kill Liliana, going after Blohon directly instead. He used the remainder of his mana to cast the Jace Beleren that Blohon had been kind enough to leave him and immediately drew a card. Thanks to his Sword, he was also able to add a second Squadron Hawk to his team to provide Jace a little cover.

    Blohon tries desperately to find a way out of his tight spot.

    Blohon sent his Simulacrum at Jace, and the little Hawk that Watanabe had left behind did its job, stepping in the way. After that, Blohon simply used Liliana to search for another card before passing the turn. Watanabe had a chance and took it, activating his Nexus to finish off Liliana, as well as attacking Blohon with his equipped Hawk, knocking the searched-for Consecrated Sphinx from Blohon's hand. The card Blohon had searched for the second time turned out to be Consume the Meek, which Blohon used to erase all of Watanabe's creatures. He untapped and used an Inquisition of Kozilek to reveal Watanabe's hand, and could muster nothing more than a bleak smile as he took an Oblivion Ring over an Emeria Angel and two Swords. The next few turns were pretty straightforward as Blohon, who was out of gas, succumbed to the powerful spells that Watanabe's Jace had drawn him.

    Lucas Blohon 0 – Yuuya Watanabe 2

  • Saturday, 7:45 p.m. - Photo Essay!

    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Well look who came back to his old stomping grounds! Its Director of R&D Aaron Forsythe!

    Trust me, I’m a doctor.

    If it isn’t the King Burdle himself, Luis Scott-Vargas!

    OHAI, Brian Kowal!

    Look, guys! It’s a behind the scenes look at the making of ggslive! Seriously, how sexy is Rashad’s hat?

    The greatest mystery solving duo of all time! Randy...

    The feature match area can get pretty crowded from time to time. Obviously they’re there to see us...

    And somewhere in the middle of all this is Aaron Forsythe and his latest victim...

    I like to Watanabe. I like to Watanabe. I like to Watanabe.........YUUYA!

    You want a Hawk? I can get you a Hawk, believe me. There are ways, Dude. You don't wanna know about it, believe me.

    Steve Sadin: 'Yeah, I think this is the right picture of us to use. It’s less apparent that we have bald spots from this one.'

    Me: 'Oh man! rkPost! Can I get your picture for the coverage?' rkPost: 'MMMMYEeeeeSSSSSS?!'

    The view from the top with one round to go. So many big names! This is why I’m afraid of heights...

  • Round 7: Feature Match - Gaudenis Vidugiris vs. Tom Martell

    by Steve Sadin
  • After years of near misses, Tom Martell was finally able to catapult himself into Level 5 in the Pro Players Club last year thanks in large part to a second place finish at Grand Prix Columbus. Martell made good use of his free invitation to every Pro Tour this year by starting off the season with a Top 8 at Pro Tour Paris, where he piloted the then breakout Caw-Blade deck.

    Gaudenis Vidugiris has been making his presence felt on the Pro Tour for several years now, racking up Grand Prix Top 8s, and money finishes at Pro Tours with striking regularity. This year hasn't been too bad for Vidugiris either, as he walked away from Grand Prix Denver with the trophy, and earned the first Pro Tour Top 8 of his career in Nagoya.

    By the time I walked over to the table to record the match, the two long time friends and teammates were already well into a conversation that I couldn't help but try to imagine the beginning of.

    "...I'm probably rooting for her, because she's never slapped me." Said the outspoken Martell.

    "Wait, who slapped you?" asked Vidugiris.

    "Jeeeez... how out of the loop are you?" replied Martell.

    Game One

    Vidugiris got things started with a bunch of lands, a couple of copies of Explore and a Khalni Heart Expedition (after he had played most of his lands), while Martell spent his first couple of turns playing Squadron Hawks, and leaving up mana in case Vidugiris tried to cast a titan or a Oracle of Mul Daya.

    Despite getting off to a fast mana start, Vidugiris found himself stuck on five mana, and consequently unable to cast any of his biggest spells. Martell took advantage of his opponent's mana hiccup by drawing three extra cards with Jace Beleren, and keeping up the pressure with his army of Squadron Hawks.

    When Vidugiris finally drew a sixth land, it was a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle – a come into play tapped land that Martell immediately destroyed with a Tectonic Edge.

    A Rampant Growth a turn later promised to put Vidugiris up to six mana on the following turn... but not before he died to an attack from Martell's four Squadron Hawks and his Celestial Colonnade.

    Tom Martell 1 – Gaudenis Vidugiris 0

    Gaudenis Vidugiris

    Game Two

    Martell and Vidugiris spent their first few turns playing lands and passing the turn back and forth – the only thing interrupting their land playing ways was a Rampant Growth for Vidugiris, and a Preordain for Martell. When Vidugiris had finished manually working his way to six mana, he attempted to resolve an Inferno Titan only to see it get countered by a Mana Leak.

    A second Inferno Titan a turn later got countered by a second Mana Leak, and Vidugiris' follow up play of Summoning Trap was stopped by a Dispel.

    Martell's Torpor Orb promised to make his spot removal a lot more effective – a play that immediately paid dividends when Vidugiris resolved a Primeval Titan that Martell killed with a Day of Judgment.

    Oracle of Mul Daya dug Vidugiris into a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle – but Martell had a Tectonic Edge and a Dismember to once again leave Vidugiris with a whole lot of lands, but no threats on the board.

    Vidugiris played out a Khalni Heart Expedition, while Martell looked to put away with the game quickly with a Sun Titan... but when Vidugiris's Summoning Trap hit a Primeval Titan, Martell suddenly found himself in need of a miracle.

    Vidugiris attacked with his Primeval Titan, and fetched two copies of Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, then sacrificed his Khalni Heart Expedition to find two Mountains – destroying Martell's Sun Titan and dealing him 12 points of (Valakut plus combat) damage in the process.

    Martell hoped that his Oblivion Ring would buy him some time, but Vidugiris had the Nature's Claim to force a deciding third game in their match.

    Tom Martell 1 – Gaudenis Vidugiris 1

    Tom Martell

    Game Three

    With only 11 minutes left on the clock for the third game, the two players knew that they needed to play fast as neither of them wanted the match to end in an unintentional draw.

    Martell cast a Jace Beleren on turn three, while Vidugiris played out an Oracle of Mul Daya. Dismember killed the Oracle of Mul Daya, and a Torpor Orb gave Martell a bit of breathing room even if his opponent had a titan.

    Rather than try to cast a creature, which Martell was likely to have an answer for in his hand since he had just tapped out to cast Torpor Orb, Vidugiris chose to attack in with his Raging Ravine to destroy Martell's Jace Beleren.

    Martell had a replacement Jace Beleren the next turn, but Vidugiris's Raging Ravine ate that one too.

    Lacking a threat of his own to cast (and fully aware of the fact that there were only 5 minutes left on the match clock so he couldn't afford to bluff that he had a hand full of answers), Martell began attacking with a Celestial Colonnade.

    Martell got a couple of hits in, knocking Vidugiris down to 12, but Vidugiris used this time to build up two Khalni Heart Expeditions which, along with a Raging Ravine and a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, was just enough to kill Martell before time in the round expired.

    Final Result:

    Gaudenis Vidugiris 2 – Tom Martell 1

  • Round 8: Feature Match - Lucas Florent vs. Jonas Köstler

    by Jacob van Lunen
  • Jonas Köstler is an up and coming German pro who's been making a name for himself with some nice finishes, including a Top 8 at Grand Prix: Bochum last year. His opponent, Lucas Florent, is a French pro that is well-known for his interesting card evaluations in constructed and limited alike.

    Both players are undefeated at this point and are looking to maintain their perfect Day One records.

    Game One

    Florent, playing Blue-Black Control, led things off with a Preordain. Köstler tapped a Raging Ravine and an Island to cast an Overgrown Battlement on turn two, but Florent had a Doom Blade to prevent the German from accelerating his mana.

    Köstler managed to stick a second copy of Overgrown Battlement, but it also fell at the hands of Doom Blade when Köstler attempted to cast yet another copy of the mana producing 0/4 wall.

    Köstler kept three cards on top with Ponder, and cast a Birds of Paradise before passing the turn back to Florent.

    Köstler attempted a Birthing Pod, but Jonas cast a Mana Leak. Köstler tapped his three remaining mana and resolved his artifact. Florent then made it clear why he wanted Köstler to tap out when he cast a Grave Titan.

    Köstler calmly put a Sea Gate Oracle onto the battlefield and resolved the trigger. He cast his fourth Overgrown Battlement, and used Birthing Pod to sacrifice the Sea Gate Oracle and make a Phyrexian Metamorph, which copied the Grave Titan.

    Grave Titan came into the red zone and Köstler chose to chump block it with one of his zombie tokens.

    Köstler attempted an Inferno Titan and it resolved, he aimed all three damage at Florent's Grave Titan. Birthing Pod searched up a Phantasmal Image to copy the Inferno Titan and finish off Florent's Grave Titan.

    Florent found no help on the top of his library and passed the turn.

    Köstler tutored up a Deceiver Exarch and tapped one of Florent's zombies. The two Inferno Titans were able to split up their damage and ensure that Florent wouldn't be blocking with anyone.

    Lucas Florent is trying to keep his record blemish free here in Pittsburgh.

    Jonas Köstler 1 -- Lucas Florent 0

    Game Two

    Köstler started strong with a Birds of Paradise, and an Overgrown Battlement, while Florent simply made his land drops, and left mana open should Köstler try to cast any threats.

    Florent used a Mana Leak to counter Obstinate Baloth, then tapped out for a Liliana Vess and made Köstler discard a card.

    Köstler capitalized on Florent tapping out by casting a Consecrated Sphinx, which drew him two cards when Florent began his turn.

    Florent answered the Consecrated Sphinx with a Consecrated Sphinx of his own. Each player having a Sphinx means that the draw triggers may be used off the other Sphinx's trigger. Florent chose not to draw two extra cards during Köstler's draw step because he didn't want Köstler to get new cards while he was tapped out.

    Köstler already had a Frost Titan, though, which opened up a path for Consecrated Sphinx to attack Liliana Vess.

    Köstler chose not to draw off his Consecrated Sphinx during Florent's draw step. Florent used the -2 ability on Liliana Vess to put a mystery card on top of his library before passing the turn with a bunch of mana untapped.

    Köstler attacked to kill the Liliana and deal Florent six points of damage. He decided to draw some cards during Florent's draw step, but Florent had found the Go for the Throat and used it on his opponent's Consecrated Sphinx, ensuring that he could safely draw four new cards.

    Florent found a bunch of lands in those four cards and was forced to pass the turn.

    Köstler let Florent draw some cards off his Consecrated Sphinx and continued to apply pressure with his Frost Titan. Florent still hadn't found a removal spell in the six cards he had drawn off his Consecrated Sphinx.

    Florent drew a Go for the Throat, and cast Inquisition of Kozilek to see what Köstler might be sitting on. Köstler showed him an Acidic Slime. Florent passed the turn after casting his Go for the Throat.

    Köstler's Acidic Slime destroyed a land, but Florent answered with a Jace Beleren. He drew a card and passed the turn.

    Köstler tried to mount an offense, but Florent's Consecrated Sphinx began getting out of hand and, with little time left on the clock, Köstler decided to concede after Florent cast Karn Liberated.

    Jonas Köstler 1 – Lucas Florent 1

    Game Three

    Florent decided to go down to six cards when his hand didn't have a reasonable answer for Birthing Pod. Köstler kept his opening seven.

    Köstler started the game with an Overgrown Battlement which he used to ramp into a Solemn Simulacrum on the following turn.

    Florent continued playing lands until his fourth turn, when he tapped out to cast Foresee.

    Köstler took advantage of the fact that his opponent had tapped out to resolve a Birthing Pod that he immediately used to turn his Solemn Simulacrum into an Acidic Slime, which destroyed one of Florent's lands.

    Florent had no play other than a Preordain, allowing Köstler to upgrade his Acidic Slime into a Frost Titan that locked down another one of Florent's lands.

    Florent went to Doom Blade Köstler's Frost Titan, but Köstler had a Mana Leak at the ready. A couple of attacks, and Birthing Pod Activations later and Jonas Köstler had won the match.

    Jonas Köstler remains undefeated in the Steel City!

    Jonas Köstler 2-1 Lucas Florent

  • Round 9: Feature Match - Ben Stark vs. Mat Marr

    by Nate Price
  • This is it. With one more match to play before the end of Day one, both Mat Marr and Ben Stark had their backs against the wall. Sitting at 6-2, both players were a single win away from making Day two. Unfortunately, they were also one loss away from watching Day two from the sidelines. There was some banter back and forth between both players as they discussed the upcoming week and the Pro Tour next weekend. If nothing else, these two have quite an interesting history against each other.

    Pictured: Ben Stark and Mat Marr's bags. Not pictured: Ben Stark and Mat Marr.

    "I'd say that whoever wins this match has to win the tournament, but I don't think we're 100% on that anymore, are we," observed Mat Marr as the players were shuffling up for the first game.

    "No we still are. Both of the matches I've played you and beat you, I've gone on to win the tournament," Stark corrected him.

    "Oh yeah, I guess the streak's still alive then," Marr said with a laugh.

    Marr started off with a mulligan, prompting a short discussion on mulligans at the Pro Tour and how Stark wishes that we could track the number of times players mulligan at the Pro Tour. By the time Marr made his second play, a Squadron Hawk, Stark started to laugh.

    "Looks like we traded decks from the last time we played each other," he said between chuckles.

    A Rampant Growth fetching a Mountain from him told of a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle in Marr's future. Marr went right back to the game plan, playing a Sword of Feast and Famine, which he no doubt intended to give to his Hawk. I have heard that this is a potent strategy.

    Stark used a pair of Explores to explode up to six mana, though he had yet to do anything productive with it. Marr just pressed on, equipping his Hawk, attacking, and playing another pair, careful to leave mana available to represent Mana Leak.

    After untapping, Stark paused for some thought. He had accelerated himself into six mana, but now he had to do something and his opponent was signaling Mana Leak. He chose to attempt an Oracle of Mul Daya. Marr asked him if he had made a land drop before allowing the Oracle to hit play. Stark immediately revealed a land, which he put into play, turning the top of his library into a Summoning Trap. Stark then used an Explore to draw the Trap, revealing an Inferno Titan underneath. Marr filled the skies with the remainders of his Hawks, attacked, and passed the turn, still with only four lands in play.

    Mat Marr knows there's a burning around the corner, but he has to get his Hawks down if he wants to win.

    Stark drew his Inferno Titan and played it, killing the three unequipped Hawks on Marr's side. He then tricked out the top of his deck by sacrificing an Evolving Wilds, which got him a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. With five Mountains in play, each one from this point would be an uncounterable Lightning Bolt. It wasn't able to stick around long, though, as Marr quickly dispatched it with a Tectonic Edge, dropping to three lands to do so. A Timely Reinforcements got Marr a trio of blockers, but the Inferno Titan's triggered ability roasted them when he attacked. A second Titan came down the turn after, cooking the equipped Hawk and leaving the board bare. One more attack and the game was over.

    Ben Stark 1 – Mat Marr 0

    Game Two

    Both players kept their opening draws for the second game, though Marr's was with a fairly pained expression on his face. The second game started out not too dissimilarly from the last, with Stark using Rampant Growth and Oracle of Mul Daya to accelerate his mana while Marr set up a Sword of Feast and Famine and a Phantasmal Image to copy Stark's Oracle. Stark had a second Oracle, but Marr had a pair of Dismembers to kill them and drop himself to twelve life. With the Image unable to hold a Sword, Marr finally turned to the skies, recruiting a Squadron Hawk, equipping it, and filling up his hand.

    Aaand then the Inferno Titan hit. One damage scared the Image away, one went to the Hawk, and the last went to Marr. After that, Stark used a Nature's Claim to kill the Sword, killing the Hawk carrying it in the process. Marr drew his card, gave it a strange look, and then commented, "I have no idea why I boarded this card in." That card was Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. While it shrunk the Inferno Titan, it didn't shrink his ability. When Stark swung in on the following turn, he used it to force Marr to make the trade with his Elesh Norn. When Stark made an Avenger of Zendikar and filled his board with tokens, Marr just nodded, "Oh yeah, that's why." Stark played an Explore to cycle into a card and then laughed. He revealed his hand of two Verdant Catacombs, which supercharged his Plants, killing Marr and advancing to Day two.

    If history has told us anything, we should just give him the trophy now.

    "Congratulations," Marr offered him. "Keep the streak alive."

    Ben Stark 2 – Mat Marr 0

  • Round 9: Feature Match - Eric English vs. Gerry Thompson

    by Steve Sadin
  • Long time pro, writer, and deck builder extraordinaire Gerry Thompson has spent the better part of this year dominating the StarCityGames Open Series. He now finds himself in a very familiar situation – playing a match to go undefeated on Day One of a Grand Prix.

    For Eric English, being at the top tables of a premier event is a new experience. The recent Cornell graduate began playing competitively during Llorwyn block, and has since made the Top 8 at five of the ten PTQs that he's played in.

    The bad news for English? He's failed to convert on any of his five Top 8s.

    The good news? He's now 8-0, and in a great position to earn his first invitation to the Pro Tour.

    Game One

    A Ponder, and a Shrine of Piercing Vision promised to smooth out English's draws, while a Jace Beleren gave Thompson a way to generate some actual card advantage which would come in handy in what would undoubtedly be a long, drawn out game...

    Or English could play an end of turn Deceiver Exarch, untap, enchant it with a Splinter Twin and win the game on his fourth turn.

    Eric English 1 – Gerry Thompson 0

    Game Two

    "You're going to Top 8 this tournament for sure" said Thompson.

    "You're killing me. Now I feel like I'm under all this pressure to do well," replied English humbly.

    "No, you're killing me! Literally!" said Thompson.

    Game Two

    A turn two Torpor Orb for Thompson meant that English would need to work a bit harder to combo off this time around than he did in

    Game One


    Gerry Thompson

    English tried to stick a Grim Lavamancer with Dispel for backup, but Thompson had two Mental Missteps to keep the little wizard off the board.

    English's Spellskite died to a Dismember – but with the Dismember out of the way, English felt safe to cast a Deceiver Exarch.

    A couple of turns, and a couple of scratches from Deceiver Exarch later, Thompson tapped low for an Emeria Angel that English countered with a Mana Leak.

    Eric English

    English untapped, and decided that he was ready to go for it. Steel Sabotage bounced Torpor Orb, and then English attempted to put a Splinter Twin on his Deceiver Exarch.

    Thompson tried to bounce the 1/4 with an Into the Roil, but English had the Negate to protect his combo and allow himself to end Day One with a flawless 9-0 record.

    Eric English 2 – Gerry Thompson 0

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