Coverage of Grand Prix Pittsburgh Day 1

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  • Saturday, 10:50 a.m. – Hell Without a Lid: Pittsburgh's Magic Legacy

    by Jacob Van Lunen

  • This weekend marks the fourth Grand Prix in the Steel City. The first Grand Prix was Mercadian Masques Team Limited all the way back in 2000; The event had a star studded top four including team Antarctica, (Jon Finkel, Steven O'Mahoney-Schwartz, and Dan O'Mahoney-Schwartz) defending team Pro Tour Champions Your Move Games, (Darwin Kastle, Rob Dougherty, and Dave Humpreys) and, eventual winners, Huey, Ben, and Casey. (William Jensen, Ben Rubin, and Casey McCarrel)

    Huey, Ben, and Casey

    Team limited came back to Pittsburgh in 2003 with Onslaught block. The finals of this event featured a team of relative unknowns captained by a young Charles Gindy, who would later go on to win a Pro Tour, Nationals, and a Grand Prix. Gindy's squad eventually fell to the feared team Illuminati. (Zvi Mowshowitz, Justin Gary, and Alex Shvartsman)

    Team Illuminati

    Eight years later the Grand Prix circuit returned to Pittsburgh. Over 1400 players battled with their favorite Standard decks. After the dust settled, Yuuya Watanabe, arguably the greatest player in the world then and now, emerged victorious playing an innovative version of Blue/White Caw Blade despite the recent bannings of Stoneforge Mystic and Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

    Yuuya Watanabe

    Today, 1626 players have shown up to battle Gatecrash Limited in an effort to be crowned the latest Grand Prix Pittsburgh Champion. Will Pittsburgh continue to be a place where the game's masters shine, or will a relative unknown get to put their name amongst some of the game's greatest players ever?


  • Saturday, 11:00 a.m. – Grand Prix Trial Decklists (Standard)

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • Fourteen Grand Prix Trials fired off on Friday, giving fourteen different players an important three byes for today's main event. Three of those players chose Standard as their format of choice, earning three byes for their 40-card tournament by using 60-card decks. Check out their decks below!

    Kevin Florio's Golgari
    Standard – Grand Prix Trial Winner

    Justin Rike's Gruul
    Standard – Grand Prix Trial Winner

    Jeremy Beaver's Jund
    Standard – Grand Prix Trial Winner


  • Saturday, 11:25 a.m. – Grand Prix Trial Winners (Sealed)

    by Mike Roenberg and Jacob Van Lunen

  • You've seen the Standard trial decklists. Now check out the Gatecrash Sealed decks that got these players three byes for today's main event!


  • Saturday, 11:45 a.m. – Quick Hits: Pros Favorite Cards for Gatecrash Sealed

    by Jacob Van Lune

  • Matt Costa

    What's the best common to open in Gatecrash Sealed Deck?: Grisly Spectacle

    Uncommon?: One Thousand Lashes

    Rare?: Stolen Identity

    Mythic?: Aurelia, the Warleader

    Owen Turtenwald

    What's the best common to open in Gatecrash Sealed Deck?: Grisly Spectacle

    Uncommon?: Truefire Paladin

    Rare?: Undercity Plague

    Mythic?: Gideon, Champion of Justice

    Gerry Thompson

    What's the best common to open in Gatecrash Sealed Deck?: In multiples, Kingpin's Pet. By itself, Smite.

    Uncommon?: Truefire Paladin

    Rare?: Boros Reckoner

    Mythic?: Obzedat, Ghost Council

    Willian Jensen

    What's the best common to open in Gatecrash Sealed Deck?: Grisly Spectacle

    Uncommon?: One Thousand Lashes

    Rare?: Clan Defiance

    Mythic?: Gideon, Champion of Justice

    Ari Lax

    What's the best common to open in Gatecrash Sealed Deck?: Grisly Spectacle

    Uncommon?: Bane Alley Broker

    Rare?: Gruul Ragebeast

    Mythic?: Obzedat, Ghost Council


  • Saturday, 1:50 p.m. – Sealed Deck Exercise: The Pool

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • Here at Grand Prix Pittsburgh, players are tasked with building the best 40 card deck that they can from a pool of six booster packs of Gatecrash. Sometimes, this decisions can be easy. Other times, every decision is difficult. Even the seemingly easy pools to work with offer some considerable options, and many of the pro players here aren't willing to immediately dismiss any option if there is an enticing enough reason to look at a certain guild or splash.

    Today, we've selected a Sealed pool, which was assigned to a pro player here in the main event. They've already built their deck, and will be playing their deck of choice throughout the day. We'll reveal who they are at the end of the day, but for now, take a look at our mystery pro's Sealed pool. What choices was this player presented? What deck should this player end up going? This pool offers some seemingly solid Boros cards, but enough powerful option sleeps within this pool.

    Let us know how you'd build this deck in the forums, and check back later today to see what deck our mystery pro went with!


  • Saturday, 2:15 a.m. – The Path to Greatness: An Interview with Tom Martell

    by Jacob Van Lunen

  • Tom Martell (@Tommartell) was recently crowned champion at Pro Tour Gatecrash. Martell has been a recognizable figure in the competitive Magic scene for some time now. I had the opportunity to sit him down for some questions here in Pittsburgh.

    Tom Martell

    How long have you been playing Magic? How did you get started?

    Since 1994. One of my friends introduced me to the game.

    When and how did you decide to take the game more seriously?

    I had been playing competitive chess since I was very young. I was winding down from that and looking for something else to do when one of my friends said he was going to a Magic tournament.

    You were a reasonably strong player a few years back. In just a few short years you've managed to transform yourself into a world class competitor. What advice would you give to players looking to improve their game?

    Try to play with people that are better than you and maintain a brutal honesty with yourself about what it is you do well and what parts of your game you need to improve upon.

    Winning a Pro Tour is the pinnacle of Magic achievement, but it's important not to let success get in the way of improvement. What goals have you set for yourself going forward?

    Once it happens once you wanna do it again. (Laughs) I want to win the Player's Championship and eventually make it into the Hall of Fame. Also, my career has been really long in terms of time and really short in terms of number of tournaments; I would like to sustain strong results over a larger sample size.

    What were your goals in Gatecrash limited going into the Pro Tour? How, if at all, did the Pro Tour change your strategy going into a draft?

    Avoid Simic at all costs. Try to be one of Boros, Orzhov, or Gruul. Have a very low curve. I'm more willing to draft Dimir now than I was at the Pro Tour, but I still want nothing to do with Simic.


  • Saturday, 3:45 p.m. – The Might of White

    by Jacob Van Lunen

  • Ten of eleven undefeated Sealed Grinder lists were playing a generous helping of white cards. Let's take a look at Gatecrash Sealed's most powerful color and the secret to its success in the new limited format.

    White's most obvious strength is the depth of its commons and uncommons. White gives us a huge number of playable creatures at common and uncommon rarity. Not creatures that combo with other cards or fit well in particular strategies, but creatures that are simply good on their own. Other cards, like Angelic Edict, Smite, Holy Mantle, and Knight of Obligation are exactly the types of cards one goes looking for when attempting to build an optimal sealed deck.

    The common and uncommon gold card's that include white are also some of the most powerful in the set. Cards like Kingpin's Pet and Skyknight Legionnaire are significantly above the curve amongst other Gatecrash commons, while uncommons like Truefire Paladin, the guildmages, and One Thousand Lashes are more desirable than most of the format's rares.

    White is still favored over other colors when drafting, but most drafters at the table will likely be battling for the strongest color in an attempt to be Boros, Orzhov, or some combination of the two. In Sealed, there's no threat of opponents taking your cards, giving players freedom to fearlessly sleeve up Gatecrash's best color.

    Will White continue to be the best color in Gatecrash sealed? Do you expect the undefeated deck(s) from Day 1 to all include white?


  • Round 5 Feature Match – Eric Froehlich vs. David Ochoa

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • Eric Froehlich and David Ochoa, both teammates and competitors on a race for pro points to qualify for the World Championship, clashed in an Orzhov match-up early in Day One of Grand Prix Pittsburgh. While Ochoa's deck had a powerful reason to splash red, featuring Assemble the Legion, Froehlich's straight two-color deck was anything but fair when it came to its rares.

    Would Ochoa's five mana enchantment outpace Froehlich's frightening threats, or would Froehlich extort Ochoa out of the match before the legion can do any damage?

    Game 1

    Both players drew their seven and almost simultaneously shipped their first hands back. Ochoa was first to act with a rather petite Wight of Precinct Six, which died to an Executioner's Strike after it attacked for 1. Ochoa played Prophetic Prism to dig for a land, but found nothing and shipped it back to Froehlich, who added Corpse Blockade to the table.

    Ochoa found a third land, a Plains, and used it and the Prophetic Prism to run out Daring Skyjek and Dutiful Thrull. Froehlich had Crypt Ghast to potentially put the game out of reach early, but Mugging from Ochoa (off the Prism's mana conversion) disposed of it, while Basilica Screecher gave him an air attacker. In the face of Ochoa's three creatures, Froehlich simply had Syndicate Enforcer and nothing else.

    Ochoa sent the team in, as Daring SkyjekBasilica Screecher got in for 4 while Dutiful Thrull regenerated when it got blocked by some corpses. Ochoa had no other action, but that was not the case for Froehlich, who had the powerful Treasury Thrull.

    Eric Froehlich shows his opponent some treasures he found in his Sealed pool.

    Ochoa's answer? A fifth land and Assemble the Legion.

    Froehlich sent the Treasury Thrull in, getting back his Crypt Ghast. Ochoa blocked it with both Daring Skyjek and Dutiful Thrull, prompting a Killing Glare from Froehlich. Ochoa's two creatures hit the graveyard, and Froehlich played his Crypt Ghast, now in a commanding position. Assemble the Legion ticked up to one for Ochoa, but it did not appear to be fast enough. He made his soldier token and passed.

    Froehlich noted that Ochoa had two cards in hand, and used Purge the Profane to force Ochoa's play. Ochoa cast Aerial Maneuver on his 1/1 soldier token, then lost a land out of hand. Froehlich, now with the coast clear, sent his team, putting Ochoa to 6 after losing a Syndicate Enforcer to the soldier token.

    Ochoa made two more tokens and passed with full mana open. Froehlich drew and played Zarichi Tiger, extorting twice thanks to Treasury Thrull and Crypt Ghast. Ochoa fell to 4, and then 2 when Ochoa blocked with all of his creatures against the attacking Treasury Thrull, as the Crypt Ghast got in for 2. Ochoa drew, but found nothing to aid him, as Froehlich untapped and played the Obzedat, Ghost Council that he drew, showing off another one of the powerful Orzhov cards he had a disposal.

    Froehlich 1 - Ochoa 0

    Game 2

    Froehlich was given the privilege of going first by Ochoa, who chose to draw, and it was Froehlich who was first to act with Basilica Guards. Undercity Informer with extort followed, as Ochoa added a fourth Plains to his board and had no action.

    "Really?" Ochoa said, as his situation did not improve on the fifth turn, finding Swamp, or even a fifth land. He discarded Slate Street Ruffian, and the Angelic Skirmisher that came on the sixth turn from Froehlich almost seemed like overkill.

    Ochoa stares down a brutal board.

    Ochoa, however, found a Swamp, and had Angelic Edict (fittingly) for the angel. However, he had a lot of recovering to do, as attacks from Froehlich put Ochoa to 8. Ochoa had Syndicate Enforcer, but One Thousand Lashes with the extort, followed by attacks, put Ochoa to 2. One Thousand Lashes made it 1, and that was enough to earn the handshake from Ochoa.

    After the match, the two teammates traded decks as they took a look at the goodies that their Sealed pools provided. Ochoa had the option to go more into Dimir, removing the red splash for some solid (but slow) blue spells. However, it is pretty hard to get away from Assemble the Legion, especially in Sealed. Still, the choices were interesting enough to warrant discussion, although Froehlich agreed that the deck should have been built the way Ochoa chose to build it.

    Froehlich 2 - Ochoa 0


  • Saturday, 5:55 p.m. – Deck Tech with Joe Demestrio

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • As I looked across the tables, it was clear that Boros and Orzhov were the clear choices, with many decks trying to stay as close to two-colors as possible. Many Daring Skyjeks, Wojek Halberdiers, and Muggings have been cast already in the room.

    But then, I walked across a match where one player, with Stomping Ground, two Dimir Guildgates, a Forest, and an Island in play, cast a Guardian of the Gateless that his Nightveil Specter exiled from his opponent's deck.

    Yeah. That happened. Prophetic Prism can do some work when you've got a Nightveil Specter in play.

    Intrigued, I talked to the deck's pilot, Joe Demestrio, about his Sealed deck. Demestrio is a new face to the game, having just played in his first Grand Prix back in August of 2012 when he attended Grand Prix Boston-Worcester. He soon ended up winning a Pro Tour Qualifier that gave him entry to Pro Tour Gatecrash, where he finished in 24th at his first Pro Tour.

    Now, with tons of games worth of experience with Gatecrash Limited under his belt, Demestrio was presented with some tough choices when it came time to building his Sealed deck.

    "The white just wasn't good enough, and the mana fixing wasn't there," he said, as he showed me his deck. The black, however, was quite good, as he sported multiple forms of removal along with powerful Dimir cards such as Nightveil Specter, and multiple copies of Deathcult Rogue.

    "I was initially disappointed since I had no solid rares and the good cards were spread out throughout the colors. Two colors is where you really want to be," he explained. However, after going through his mana fixing, he started to see some potential.

    The winning element to his deck though was his mana fixing: two Dimir Guildgates, one Watery Grave, one Stomping Ground, and two Prophetic Prisms. This gave Demestrio access to great mana for his Dimir spells, easy access to his splash for Simic cards such as Experiment One, and even a little wiggle room to play off-color removal like Mugging.

    Joe Demestrio doesn't care what his Nightveil Specter exiles. His deck is capable of casting any of them thanks to his mana fixing.

    The real gem to the mana, he explained to me, came from the options that this gave him when it came to sideboarding. Against control decks, the Mugging and Pit Fight he is running go out for two Psychic Strikes. Against more aggressive decks on the draw, a second Mugging comes in over the Pit Fight. The deck is flexible, but the base is powerful, with multiple forms of removal in black and plenty of powerful options.

    But the real advantage to the mana he has access to are the games where Nightveil Specter is active. When you've got a reasonable spread on colors, along with two Prophetic Prisms, it's not hard to play ever card exiled by your rare Dimir flier.

    The deck was not easy for Demestrio to build. In fact, he was down to the wire on time left in deck-building before he finally stuck with a solid 40 cards. However, Nightveil Specter works overtime in this deck, and the flexible options haven't let him down so far. As of writing this, Demestrio is 5-1, and is hoping that the deck and his draft experience will bring him into a solid finish for the weekend.

    Perhaps, with enough solid decisions and a little luck, Demestrio will be celebrating his first year playing competitive Magic as a gold status pro, a level he's hoping to get to before the end of Pro Tour Dragon's Maze. He's got a few events left after this, including a Pro Tour, so time will tell if we'll be seeing him a lot more after this season.


  • Round 6 Feature Match – Zvi Mowshowitz (Boros) vs. Melissa DeTora (Orzhov [splashing blue])

    by Jacob Van Lunen

  • Zvi Mowshowitz is one of Magic's all time greats. Inducted into the Pro Tour Hall of Fame in 2007, Mowshowitz has multiple Pro Tour top eights, including a win, and is widely considered one of the most innovative and important writers in the game's history.

    His opponent, Melissa DeTora, is fresh off a top 8 at Pro Tour Gatecrash. DeTora has been a regular on the Pro Tour for the last half-decade. She comes into this event with hopes of attaining Platinum status by the end of the season.

    Game 1

    DeTora's opening hand wasn't up to snuff and she decided to try her luck with six cards. Mowshowitz's Daring Skyek was the first play of the game. DeTora didn't have a two drop and Zvi crashed in for three damage, a second copy of the three power two-drop came down for Mowshowitz and the game seemed like it was quickly falling out of DeTora's hands when she missed her third land drop.

    Mowshowitz kept the pressure on with Skyknight Legionnaire and sent eight points of power into the red zone. DeTora cast Devour Flesh to stem the bleeding, but she still took five damage from the attack. Things looked to be turning around as DeTora cast Basilica guards in hopes of keeping the remaining Skyjek at bay.

    Mowshowitz squashed any chance of hope for DeTora with Angelic Skirmisher. His team acquired lifelink and DeTora fell dangerously low. With no way to deal with Zvi's lifelinking air squadron, Melissa quickly found herself down a game.

    Zvi Mowshowitz 1 - Melissa DeTora 0

    Melissa DeTora

    Game 2

    DeTora went down to six cards again, but this time it was her with the Daring Skyjek on turn two. Mowshowitz had a two drop of his own in the form of Syndic of Tithes. DeTora offered up the trade, but Mowshowitz happily declined and went down to 17. Gutter Skulk advanced DeTora's boardstate. Mowshowitz attacked with his Syndic, and DeTora tried to trade with her Gutter Skulk, but Mowshowitz had Skinbrand Goblin to Bloodrush his Syndic.

    DeTora tried to devour the flesh of Mowshowitz's syndic on her turn, but Mowshowitz had Beckon Apparition to trade with the edict effect. Syndic traded with the Skyjek and Mowshowitz established a board presence with Assault griffin, the only remaining creature on the table.

    DeTora had Vizkopa Guildmage in an attempt to acquire board presence. Mowshowitz's Scorchwalker seemed like it could at least trade with the Guildmage, but Basilica Guards came down for DeTora and successfully traded with the Scorchwalker. Mowshowitz found Angelic Edict and dispatched of the guildmage.

    DeTora's Knight Watch looked like it might help, but Mowshowitz attacked DeTora down to 5 with his griffin. DeTora found Grisly Spectacle and dealt with the flyer. Zvi began drawing into a large pocket of lands and things were just starting to seem in DeTora's favor when Mowshowitz dropped a Truefire Paladin. DeTora chump blocked the Truefire Paladin for a turn, but the Madcap Skills it picked up the next turn meant that DeTora would have to lose her whole board just to survive. With just one turn of survival remaining, DeTora cast Mind Grind for five with her fingers crossed. It was just big enough to force a third game.

    Zvi Mowshowitz 1 - Melissa DeTora 1

    Zvi Mowshowitz

    Game 3

    Both players kept their opening hands and Mowshowitz led things off with a Daring Skyjek. DeTora had Gutter Skulk to remain at parity, but a Shielded Passage from Mowshowitz denied the trade. Mowshowitz further advanced his board presence with Truefire Paladin and things were looking bleak for DeTora. Basilica Guards came down for DeTora with hope of being a worthwhile defense, but Mowshowitz had a Frontline Medic that threatened to completely take the game over.

    DeTora could only cast Deathcult Rogue the following turn and Zvi began sending his team into the red zone with a bundle of battalion triggers. Firemane Avenger for Zvi looked to be the final nail in the coffin. Melissa tried to race for a turn, but once the Firemane Avenger battalion triggers started going off the game was too far out of reach and Zvi Mowshowitz took the match.

    Zvi Mowshowitz 2 - Melissa DeTora 1


  • Saturday, 6:50 p.m. – Sealed Deck Exercise: The Deck

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • You've had a chance to see the Sealed pool from our first mystery pro player. It had a couple of difficult choices, and while the Gruul and Boros cards were definitely tempting, there were options there for an interesting Dimir deck as well. Which guild did our pro end up going with?

    Well, when you're gifted with a Mind Grind, it's hard to resist the call to House Dimir.

    Sealed Deck Building Exercise #1
    Gatecrash Sealed – Grand Prix Pittsburgh

    We'll check back once more at the end of the day, reveal the pilot to this sweet little Dimir concoction, and talk to him about the decision-making process behind his Sealed pool.


  • Round 7 Feature Match – Ari Lax vs. Jon Stern

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • Both Ari Lax and Jon Stern have been crossing paths at many Grand Prix events in the past season. Both players were competing at Grand Prix San Diego last week, and neither player had much time to rest between then and now.

    But that hasn't stopped either of them from blasting past their first three rounds unscathed. Both Lax and Stern are chasing pro points in hopes of reaching platinum, but it was looking like it would take a solid finish at Pro Tour Dragon's Maze would be what both need.

    That being said, a Grand Prix win certainly wouldn't hurt, and both Lax and Stern are in a good position to make the most of their tournament run this weekend.

    Game 1

    Stern won the die roll and chose to draw. Both players kept, as a first-turn Godless Shrine signaled Stern's possible color combination. Lax's first play, Syndic of Tithes, immediately hit the graveyard thanks to Stern's Devour Flesh. Lax fired back with Boros Elite and Daring Skyjek, and Frontline Medic joined them after. "My deck's not bad," Lax said.

    Ari Lax moves his creatures in for an attack.

    Stern played a much less exciting Zarichi Tiger, then took 9 on Lax's next turn, who had a second Daring Skyjek after attacks. Stern's Gutter Skulk was not enough to contend with Lax's board, as attacks and no further action from Stern moved the match to the second game.

    All of this without Lax showing off a second color, by the way.

    Lax 1 - Stern 0

    Game 2

    "I guess I uh... choose to play," Stern said with a laugh, wanting the extra breathing room against Lax's hyper-aggressive deck.

    Unfortunately, Stern also had to work with a six card hand, shipping the first one back. His first play, Gutter Skulk, faced off against Lax's second-tun Skinbrand Goblin. However, that was where the land drops ended for Stern, who passed with two open. Aerial Maneuver let his Gutter Skulk take out Lax's attacking Skinbrand Goblin, and Lax surprisingly had no follow-up.

    Stern found a third land on the fourth turn, letting him play a Court Street Denizen after attacking with his Skulk. Lax's fourth-turn Scorchwalker immediately jumped in front of the attacking Denizen on the next turn. Stern had Undercity Informer after combat, but both creatures paled to Lax's turn five Towering Thunderfist. Orzhov Keyrune was Stern's only follow-up, as the Thunderfist attacked in, making it 16 all, before Lax dropped Ripscale Predator. "It's like that's a different deck!" Stern said.

    Stern simply played Syndic of Tithes and passed on his next turn, as Lax had Court Street Denizen and Wojek Halberdiers, tapping the Informer. Lax gave his Thunderfist vigilance and sent his 4/4s, trading the Thunderfist with Syndic of Tithes and Gutter Skulk. Stern fell to 10, but had Executioner's Swing at end-of-turn, giving him some breathing room.

    Jon Stern battles his way back from behind, giving him a shot against Lax's monstrously powerful deck.

    Stern's Keyrune and Undercity Informer kept Lax's creatures back for a turn, as he played Scorchwalker and passed. Consuming Aberration came down for Stern next as a 4/4, but Lax found Daring Skyjek, which he played, tapping the Aberration with the Denizen on the next turn. Lax's creatures attacked in, and the Informer jumped in front of Scorchwalker, as the two creatures traded. Stern fell to 5, and Lax passed back.

    Stern cast his own Daring Skyjek on the next turn, grinding a Mugging and Daring Skyjek off of Lax's deck. He attacked with the now 8/8 Aberration, dropping Lax to 8. Lax had no follow-up, and passed back. The Aberration attacked in again, as Lax threw a creature in front of it. When Lax had nothing further and Stern had Zarichi Tiger and another Aberration trigger, Lax immediately conceded and play moved to the third and final game.

    Lax 1 - Stern 1

    Game 3

    "I guess you'll be on the play?" Stern asked, as Lax was quick to nod in agreement. Lax made the first play with Daring Skyjek, while Stern countered back with his own copy of the 3/1 creature.

    The third-turn Boros Reckoner from Lax, however, threatened to put Stern on the back-pedal quickly.

    Stern attacked with his Daring Skyjek, dropping Lax to 17. Stern followed with Syndic of Tithes...

    ...and then promptly lost both of his creatures to Pit Fight with Boros Reckoner, as the Reckoner fought the Syndic, and then the trigger from the minotaur wizard took down Stern's 3/1 creature. Attacks dropped Stern to 14. Stern recovered with One Thousand Lashes on Boros Reckoner, but the Skyjek continued to swing in, as Lax followed up attacks with Towering Thunderfist. Corpse Blockade kept the Skyjek back but the Thunderfist dropped Stern to 7, and Lax emptied his hand with Court Street Denizen and Warmind Infantry.

    When the top of Stern's deck didn't save him, Lax's attacking creatures earned the concession.

    Lax 2 - Stern 1


  • Round 8 Feature Match – David Williams (Boros) vs. Ari Lax (Boros)

    by Jacob Van Lunen

  • David Williams requires little introduction. Williams is a well-known professional poker player. His Magic career isn't anything to scoff at, though, the consummate master has nine Grand Prix Top 8s, including three wins, and a Top 8 at the Pro Tour.

    His opponent, Ari Lax, has been one of the most feared American Grand Prix competitors for the last few years. Lax has four Grand Prix Top 8s, all in recent memory. Lax is just two match wins away from securing his fourth undefeated day one performance at the Grand Prix level.

    Game 1

    Both players kept their opening hands. Lax had the first play of the game with Syndic of Tithes. Williams opted for Bomber Corps. Lax crashed in for two damage with Syndic, but failed to find a third land. Williams emphatically dropped Boros Reckoner on his third turn and got in for one, but when he passed the turn Ari found his third land and cast a Boros Reckoner of his own.

    David Williams

    This comically mirrored game continued as both players cast Court Street Denizens the following turn. An all-out attack from Williams prompted no blocks from Lax, who fell to thirteen. Williams further pressed his advantage with Warmind Infantry.

    Lax cast Skyknight Legionnaire, triggering Extort and Court Street Denizen. He attacked with the Legionnaire and his Reckoner, leaving Williams at a precarious eight life. Williams found a Syndic of his own and used his Court Street Denizen to tap one of Ari's blockers. After careful deliberation, Williams sent Boros Reckoner, Warmind Infantry, and Bomber Corps into the red zone. Skinbrand Goblin triggered extort and the life totals sat at nine to five in Williams' favor.

    Ari knew the game was ending soon and he sent his team into the red zone. Dave made some blocks, but Scorchwalker gave Ari exactly the amount of damage he needed to get in for lethal.

    Ari Lax 1 - David Williams 0

    Game 2

    Ari had Boros Elite to get things started quickly. Williams and Lax both had Syndic of Tithes on their second turns. Court Street Denizen came down for Williams, but Lax trumped it with Boros Reckoner.

    Williams looked to be falling behind when he just played a fourth land and passed. Lax sent his team into the red zone. Smite looked like it might turn things around for Williams, but Ari managed to make the situation a 3 for 2 in his favor by forcing Boros Reckoner and Court Street Denizen into a Pit Fight.

    Ari Lax

    Williams only had Warmind Infantry the following turn. Towering Thunderfist came down for Lax. Williams tried to edge his way back into the game with Skinbrand Goblin and Gift of Orzhova on his Warmind Infantry.

    Lax did some quick math and cast mugging, triggering extort, dealing with the Goblin. Act of Treason on the enchanted Warmind Infantry was enough to steal the match.

    Ari Lax 2 - David Williams 0


  • Saturday, 9:20 p.m. – Sealed Deck Exercise: The Player

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • We've shown you our mystery pro's Sealed pool, along with the deck he decided to pilot through today's Gatecrash Sealed rounds. Now, it's time to reveal the player.

    Christian Calcano had a dilemma on his hand with duel deck options. But ultimately, the Mind Grind won out.

    Christian Calcano had decided to go the Dimir route with his pool, which had a lot of ways to grind (heh) the game to a halt, along with an "I win" card in the form of the powerful Mind Grind, which can leave an opponent without a deck, or even without a way to win if X is large enough.

    However, it was not his only choice. A Naya deck, which combined the best white-red-green cards together in one deck, was solid but had nothing too exciting. After submitting his deck to the judges, Calcano built the two different decks, paired them side by side, and posted a simple question on his Facebook page: "Which deck is better"?

    While a number of friends of his agreed that the Naya deck was in fact the better choice, Calcano had already made his decision. He was committed to his Dimir deck, with the intent of using Mind Grind against the slower Orzhov opponents that he expected to see.

    However, things did not pan out as well as he had hoped. By the time Round 8 had wrapped up, he had picked up his third loss and had dropped from the event. So what happened?

    Calcano ended up playing against a number of decks that started out very aggressive, rather than the slower Orzhov decks which a well-timed Mind Grind can instantly defeat. While Calcano had a reasonable deck with consistent mana, it was his Naya deck that ended up picking him up some wins when he sided from Dimir into his other deck during the rounds.

    Looking back, Calcano's chances may have been improved with Naya, but with a shakier mana base and a couple of lackluster options outside of the truly powerful cards that his other deck provided, he opted to go with the more consistent and more straight-forward Dimir. Unfortunately for him, it did not pay off this weekend.


  • Round 9 Feature Match – Joe Demestrio vs. Gerry Thompson

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • Earlier in the day, we featured Joe Demestrio's unique Sealed deck which featured a Dimir base, a touch of Simic, and a little red just for Mugging. Going into Round 8, Demestrio locked up a Day Two appearance with a 7-1 record. However, his opponent, Pro Tour Gatecrash Top 8 competitor and consistent Grand Prix finisher Gerry Thompson, was looking to proceed into Day Two with a preserved X-1 record.

    Thompson's Orzhov deck had some powerful six mana creatures. Would Demestrio's unconventional four-mana monstrosity be able to tear down extort triggers and fliers, or would Thompson advance in pursuit of a solid Day Two start?

    Game 1

    Thompson took one look at his hand and immediately shipped it back, while Demestrio chose to keep his seven cards. Thompson led the game with a second-turn Basilica Screecher, while Demestrio quickly disposed of it with Devour Flesh. Thompson replaced his creature with Cartel Aristocrat, while Demestrio played a third Swamp and Nightveil Specter.

    Cartel Aristocrat attacked in, and Thompson had no follow-up after playing his fourth land. The Specter swung in, but Thompson was ready with Arrows of Justice. Demestrio played a Forest, his second color, before playing Deathcult Rogue. The Aristocrat dropped Demestrio to 16 before Thompson played the very large Nav Squad Commandos.

    Joe Demestrio's four-color deck tries to keep pace with its mana.

    Demestrio thought about his plays, as he did not have a fifth land. He settled on Basilica Screecher before passing it back, the Deathcult Rogue now on defense. With his hand full of spells, Thompson unleashed a Purge the Profane, forcing Demestrio to bin a Mugging and Death's Approach. Nav Squad Commandos attacked in, dropping Demestrio to 13. Demestrio fired back with Balustrade Spy, and attacks which dropped Thompson to 21.

    And the chances of Thompson dropping lower ceased when he cast Angelic Skirmisher, which granted his creatures lifelink at the start of combat. The Commandos attacked in, gaining Thompson 3 life while dropping Demestrio to 10. Demestrio had no plays, and another turn of attacks fueled by Angelic Skirmisher forced his concession.

    Demestrio 0 - Thompson 1

    Game 2

    "I'll go first," Demestrio said, as he led with a tapped first-turn Stomping Ground. An Island let him cast Zameck Guildmage, while Thompson looked to fix his all Swamp mana with Prophetic Prism. Demestrio had his own copy of the artifact, attacking for 2 with his Guildmage after. Thompson untapped and cast Kingpin's Pet. Demestrio used his Zameck Guildmage's first ability to let his Experiment One come in with a +1/+1 counter. Thompson was quick to fire back with a second Kingpin's Pet with an extort.

    Demestrio cast Balustrade Spy, grinding a Plains off of Thompson's deck and evolving his Experiment One, which attacked for 3. Thompson stalled on lands, but had Orzhov Keyrune to keep pace, as he passed back without any good attacks. Demestrio removed a counter from his Experiment One with his Guildmage to draw, then sent the Spy in for 2. He had another Spy, which removed another land off of Thompson's deck and re-evolved the Experiment One, and play moved back to Thompson.

    Gerry Thompson's Orzhov deck extract and extorts value with every card cast.

    Thompson found his sixth mana, and he used it to cast Smog Elemental. With the Spy now a 1/2, the Kingpin's Pets swung in, dropping Demestrio to 12. Grisly Spectacle disposed of Thompson's Smog Elemmental, as Demestrio sent his team in for 9 damage. He cast a post-combat Cloudfin Raptor and shipped play back.

    That's when Thompson dropped Deathpact Angel, with an extort. He passed with all of his fliers available to block, and with his life a 7 and Demestrio at 11. Demestrio read Deathpact Angel, then drew a card at the end of the turn with his Zameck Guildmage. He untapped and sent in the team (minus the 0/1 Cloudfin Raptor), as Thompson blocked the two Simic creatures an then put Deathpact Angel in front of a Balustrade Spy. Demestrio drew a card with his Guildmage (making the Experiment One a 1/1), then used bloodrush from Slaughterhorn to let his Spy take out Deathpact Angel. Demestrio was left with a tapped Balustrade Spy and Cloudfin Raptor, as he passed with mana open and two in hand.

    Thompson forced an action from Demestrio with Purge the Profane with extort, and Demestrio stopped it with Psychic Strike. Thompson sent the 1/1 token that was left after Deathpact Angel's demise, dropping Demestrio to 9, and then played Cartel Aristocrat. Thompson passed with 5 life, which soon became 3 after the Spy attacked in. Demestrio had no action and passed with two in hand. Thompson sent Cartel Aristocrat in, dropping Demestrio to 7, before passing. When Demestrio had no action, the 1/1 token sacrificed itself to bring back Deathpact Angel.

    A turn after the Deathpact Angel attacked in, Demestrio offered the handshake.

    Demestrio 0 - Thompson 2


  • Saturday, 10:35 p.m. – Undefeated Decklists After Round 9

    by Jacob Van Lunen and Mike Rosenberg

  • After nine rounds, the field cut down dramatically, as all players with a 7-2 or better record proceeded into the tenth and final round of the Sealed Deck matches for the weekend. These even players all made their way through the first nine rounds without dropping a single match loss. Curious on what these players built? Check out below!

    Jasper Johnson-Epstein
    Round 9 Undefeated Decklist – Grand Prix Pittsburgh

    Main Deck

    40 cards


    17 lands

    Balustrade Spy
    Cloudfin Raptor
    Consuming Aberration
    Deathcult Rogue
    Diluvian Primordial
    Dinrova Horror
    Metropolis Sprite
    Ogre Slumlord
    Sage's Row Denizen
    Syndicate Enforcer
    Thrull Parasite
    Wight of Precinct Six

    14 creatures

    Call of the Nightwing
    Death's Approach
    Devour Flesh
    Dimir Charm
    Grisly Spectacle
    Killing Wave
    Psychic Strike
    Rapid Hybridization

    9 other spells

    Act of Treason
    Armored Transport
    Basilica Guards
    Burning-Tree Emissary
    Burst of Strength
    Clinging Anemones
    Court Street Denizen
    Daring Skyjek
    Drakewing Krasis
    Dutiful Thrull
    Fortress Cyclops
    Ghor-Clan Rampager
    Greenside Watcher
    Gruul Guildgate
    Gutter Skulk
    Hands of Binding
    Hold the Gates
    Holy Mantle
    Homing Lightning
    Horror of the Dim
    Immortal Servitude
    Ivy Lane Denizen
    Keymaster Rogue
    Knight Watch
    Last Thoughts
    Madcap Skills
    Mark for Death
    Martial Glory
    Nav Squad Commandos
    Ooze Flux
    Predator's Rapport
    Primal Visitation
    Razortip Whip
    Ruination Wurm
    Serene Remembrance
    Shattering Blow
    Shielded Passage
    Simic Guildgate
    Simic Keyrune
    Spell Rupture
    Spire Tracer
    Syndic of Tithes
    Tin Street Market
    Towering Thunderfist
    Verdant Haven
    Warmind Infantry
    Wasteland Viper
    Wojek Halberdiers
    Wrecking Ogre

    61 sideboard cards

    Ari Lax
    Round 9 Undefeated Decklist – Grand Prix Pittsburgh

    Erik Smith
    Round 9 Undefeated Decklist – Grand Prix Pittsburgh

    Michael Jacob
    Round 9 Undefeated Decklist – Grand Prix Pittsburgh

    Wonman Lee
    Round 9 Undefeated Decklist – Grand Prix Pittsburgh

    Main Deck

    41 cards

    Boros Guildgate
    Orzhov Guildgate

    17 lands

    Assault Griffin
    Balustrade Spy
    Basilica Screecher
    Corpse Blockade
    Daring Skyjek
    High Priest of Penance
    Kingpin's Pet
    Knight of Obligation
    Sepulchral Primordial
    Slate Street Ruffian
    Smog Elemental
    Wight of Precinct Six
    Wrecking Ogre
    Zarichi Tiger

    15 creatures

    Arrows of Justice
    Death's Approach
    Debtor's Pulpit
    Devour Flesh
    Martial Glory
    Orzhov Charm
    Prophetic Prism

    9 other spells

    Adaptive Snapjaw
    Armored Transport
    Bomber Corps
    Burst of Strength
    Court Street Denizen
    Dimir Keyrune
    Disciple of the Old Ways
    Duskmantle Guildmage
    Ember Beast
    Five-Alarm Fire
    Frilled Oculus
    Furious Resistance
    Ghor-Clan Rampager
    Greenside Watcher
    Gruul Ragebeast
    Guildscorn Ward
    Gutter Skulk
    Hands of Binding
    Incursion Specialist
    Ivy Lane Denizen
    Massive Raid
    Metropolis Sprite
    Mindeye Drake
    Nimbus Swimmer
    Primal Visitation
    Psychic Strike
    Purge the Profane
    Riot Gear
    Rust Scarab
    Scab-Clan Charger
    Scatter Arc
    Shattering Blow
    Simic Guildgate
    Skyknight Legionnaire
    Soul Ransom
    Spire Tracer
    Tin Street Market
    Totally Lost
    Towering Thunderfist
    Wildwood Rebirth
    Zameck Guildmage
    Zhur-Taa Swine

    56 sideboard cards

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