ay 1 of Grand Prix Sacramento is in the books. 1855 players came to the River City this morning with dreams of striking gold. After nine grueling rounds of Sealed Deck, only 206 players will return tomorrow to battle Theros Draft in an effort to be crowned Grand Prix Sacramento Champion. Eric Pei, Michael Bonacini, Philip Yam, Daniel Cecchetti, and John Jacobs proved their mastery of Theros Sealed Deck with undefeated records in the first day of competition. Will these players continue to dominate? Or will an unlikely hero rise to the challenge? Stay tuned to dailymtg.com for continuing coverage of Grand Prix Sacramento.
Round 1 Feature Match - Thomas Patten (Selesnya) vs Brian David-Marshall (Naya)
by Jacob Van Lunen
Brian David-Marshall, or BDM, has been a fixture of the Magic community since the very beginning of competitive play. A New York native, BDM swapped coasts for a shot at Grand Prix glory. It's not very often that BDM gets a chance to play in one of these events. Today, we have the rare opportunity to watch him play his way through the massive field of Grand Prix Sacramento. With zero byes, BDM has his work cut out for him.
Thomas Patten, a Floridian by birth, moved to Davis, California to work in the Engineering Department at UC Davis. Patten has been playing Magic for over a decade. He's hoping his Selesyna Heroic deck has what it takes to make it through nine rounds of swiss.
BDM won the roll and chose to play first. Patten got off to an aggressive start with a turn one Favored Hoplite and BDM was forced to simply play lands and pass the turn as Patten pecked away at his life total.
BDM made his first play of the game on turn four with Karametra's Acolyte.
Patten continued to advance his boardstate with Staunch-Hearted Warrior, but BDM's Rage of Purphoros was good enough to prevent any absurd Heroic triggers.
The game came to a screeching halt when Patten put up a big wall with Nessian Asp and BDM followed suit with one of his own.
Patten made a big error on the following turn, though, he bestowed Observant Alseid onto his Nessian Asp and attacked into BDM without realizing that BDM had enough mana to pay for Monstrous thanks to Karametra's Acolyte. Patten was forced to use an unnecessary Gods Willing to save his massive reptile.
BDM attacked with his Nessian Asp after enchanting it with Ordeal of Nylea, hence solving his mana issues and making the Asp into a massive 9/10.
Feral Invocation and Hopeful Eidolon made BDM's Nessian Asp into a 13/14 lifelinker and the tone of the game shifted into his favor in the blink of an eye.
Patten found himself chump blocking while BDM continued to advance his board with more giant monsters. Patten had some fat of his own, but BDM's monstrous lifelinker proved to be too much to handle and they were on to a second game.
David-Marshall 1 - 0 Patten
In the second game, BDM led things off with Satyr Hedonist. His mana potential exploded over the following turns as a pair of Voyaging Satyrs joined the mix.
The pressure was mounting from Patten, though, who had already cast Nylea's Emissary and bestowed it with Observant Alseid. His 5/5 Vigilance Trample would prove to be a problem if BDM couldn't put together a worthwhile defense.
It wasn't long before Patten's Nylea's Emissary picked up a Hopeful Eidolon. Arbor Colossus joined his side of the table and BDM was forced to turtle up with a Monstrous Ill-Tempered Cyclops.
Despite Patten's initial dominance, BDM was able to cobble together an ragtag army that Patten couldn't favorably attack into without a trick. The board stalled out as both players had huge bodies staring each other down.
Nylea's Disciple for ten life from BDM padded his life total to the point where he felt comfortable sending some of his fatty-boom-booms into the red zone.
Patten quickly found himself chump blocking as BDM's side of the table became too overwhelming for him to keep up with. A well-timed Feral Invocation and Coordinated Assault from BDM left Patten with nothing in play and it wasn't long before BDM gobbled up Patten's remaining life total to secure a victory in the first round.
Brian David-Marshall defeats Thomas Patten in two games!
Saturday, 3:05 p.m. – Channeling Resources
by Mike Rosenberg
Grand Prix Sacramento is more than just North America's first Grand Prix of 2014. It is also the first of five Grand Prix events that will be organized by two companies: Cascade Games, the tournament organizer for the west coast Grand Prix events, and ChannelFireball, the Magic article and video home for players such as No. 1 Ranked Player Ben Stark and Hall of Famer Luis-Scott Vargas.
Grand Prix Sacramento is also kicking off North America's first Grand Prix of 2014 with a bang. At 1855 players, this event has become California's largest Grand Prix main event.
Cascade Games has more than a little experience with handling larger-scale tournaments, as was seen last year when they organized Grand Prix Las Vegas, the world's largest trading card game event of all time with 4500 competitors. And one of the most notable starts to Friday's side events from Cascade Games are the free mini masters events, a tournament that is free to enter for everyone who registers for the main event of the Grand Prix. In a Mini-Master event, players receive one booster pack and must build a Sealed deck with it using the cards from that pack and an assortment of lands, totaling 30 cards. Then, they compete in single-elimination rounds against opponents with these decks. The winners get an additional pack which they can use to modify their 30-card Sealed deck. This continues for a maximum of three rounds, giving players a fun and simple way to start off their Grand Prix weekend. And for many, it's a great way to start off a weekend full of Magic.
The Mini-Masters event that was held this weekend has further cemented its inclusion into the Grand Prix side event schedule for Cascade Games. Yesterday's event brought 413 players to the event site at noon, and assisted in bringing over 500 players into the tournament hall by 1PM. That's a lot of players who jumped right into the Grand Prix experience the moment they could.
Cascade Games knows how to manage thousands of players competing in an event, and their partner, ChannelFireball, brings with it some extra star power and a weekend of coverage from some of the game's top players. Aside from managing the live video coverage for this weekend, featuring commentary from No. 1 Ranked Player Ben Stark and ChannelFireball.com writer Matt Sperling, the Magic vendor and content site also put together a special free seminar that all attendees of Grand Prix Sacramento were invited to listen to.
The seminar, which took place Friday evening, was hosted by Ben Stark as well as Hall of Famer Luis-Scott Vargas, and the two players discussed the very basics of building a Theros Sealed deck from a pool of cards, giving players some extra information and ideas in preparation for this weekend's main event. The seminar brought over 250 people in to listen to the advice that Scott-Vargas and Stark had to offer.
"We're super excited to team with ChannelFireball," said Tim Shields, managing partner of Cascade Games. "This is an opportunity for all of us to step up our game and make the Grand Prix an even more fun experience!"
Jon Saso, the president and CEO of ChannelFireball, felt the same way and embraced the opportunity to team up with Cascade Games to produce a bigger Grand Prix. "This is the perfect combination of Cascade Games' tournament organization experience and our marketing and content experience," he said. "Tim Shields has been a mentor for me, and getting the opportunity to work with him to make the Grand Prix experience bigger and better is very exciting."
When asked about what the two companies have planned for this and the next Grand Prix events that they'll be covering, Shields ensured that there are some great plans in the works to make the Grand Prix a stellar experience for every kind of Magic player. One thing was certain though: this weekend was big. Players ranging from the Pro Tour competitor to the new fan have something going on that will make this weekend a blast for them.
Saturday, 3:11 p.m. – Card Advantage in Theros Limited
by Jacob Van Lunen
The best Limited players in the world are constantly hunting for card advantage (The overarching strategy that involves trading cards for more cards.) when playing Sealed Deck. Many of the normal avenues used to accrue this economic lead are hard to come by in Theros Limited, making the card advantage war of the format particularly complex.
Why are things different in Theros Limited?
In most Limited formats, instant-speed removal is less expensive at the common and uncommon level than it is in Theros. Those spells have the potential to deal with two of the opponent's cards when we're presented with an opposing double-block, pump spell, or aura. The expensive/inefficient nature of instant-speed removal in Theros means that it's much less common that we're able to two-for-one (get two cards for one card) our opponent with timely trickery.
Additionally, the Bestow mechanic makes creature enhancement particularly resilient in Theros. We can't use our removal to two-for-one an opponent that goes for Bestow because the creature will simply enter play as a guy instead of an aura.
Ok, we get it. It's hard to gain card advantage in Theros Limited. So, how are we supposed to out-card our opponents?
The sorcery-speed nature of Theros Limited means that we need force card advantage out of our opponents. For example, we can use Monstrous creatures or Bestow to make a threat that forces our opponent to double or triple block. Similarly, we can abuse a tempo advantage gained with Griptide, Voyage's End, or Divine Verdict to assemble our Bestow or use Monstrosity to force the opponent into some disadvantageous blocks.
Some Bestow creatures offer card advantage in that the opponent will require a card to deal with both the creature that has been bestowed and the bestow creature itself. Some of the bestow creatures qualify as potential two-for-ones, but others don't have the body to be excessively relevant. A card like Hopeful Eidolon is a powerful racing tool that's very strong in the format, but a 1/1 lifelink isn't very impressive once they deal with the initial threat. On the other hand, a card like Heliod's Emissary will, in most situations, force an opponent to use separate cards to deal with both the initially bestowed creature and the left over elk. Previously Bestowed bodies that can't affect the board on their own can pick up other Bestow creatures for added value, meaning that cards like Hopeful Eidolon, Observant Alseid, and Leafcrown Dryad gain value and card potential when played in decks with a lot of the Bestow mechanic.
Cards like Keepsake Gorgon and Ordeal of Thassa offer real and tangible card advantage while also advancing one's tempo advantage, but there aren't many cards that offer this type of advantage without severely hindering one's tempo.
The best way to win a card war in Theros Limited is to have a single card that invalidates multiple cards of the opponent. For example, if we have three 2/2s in play and our opponent cast a 3/3, then we've effectively had three of our cards invalidated by a single spell from our opponent. Sure, we can use a removal/pump spell and be back at parity, but there's a point where we'll be unable to break through.
In general, card advantage is a lot more difficult to come by in Theros Limited than it has been in many previous Limited formats. Even Sealed Deck seems to be tempo oriented at least to some degree.
We'll catch up with some of the biggest names later in the day to hear some of the most interesting ways in which they've accrued card advantage in Theros Limited here at Grand Prix Sacramento!
Saturday, 5:09 p.m. – The Relevance of a Bear
by Jacob Van Lunen
We're sitting at home, enjoying a weekend day of relaxation.
Suddenly, our state of calm is shattered by an uninvited guest. Who could it be? Well, obviously it's a Traveling Philosopher, and she's got a laundry list of reasons she should make the cut and be in our deck. Sure, we need a curve, but do we really want to be playing a 2/2 body with no other relevant text? She philosophizes a bit on the relevance of flavor text. We stop paying attention. Should we let her in?
It's never easy saying no to these types of people. Luckily, we have some pretty smart friends with some pretty strong convictions about Theros Limited.
"So, what do we think? Does Traveling Philosopher do enough to warrant a slot in our deck?"
Brain Kibler: "Sometimes. You really want a significant number of inexpensive creatures if you're playing ordeals. If we're playing a Red/White deck we just need aggressive bodies. Plus, I have a degree in philosophy, so me and the Traveling Philosopher could just hang out!"
Neal Oliver: "Yes!"
Pat Cox: "I'd play her if I had Ordeals and not enough other better two-drops, but she'll only make my deck about a third of the time I'm playing White."
Reid Duke: "I wouldn't play Traveling Philosopher in most decks, but there are exceptions. For example, if we're playing an aggressive deck with Ordeals or a lot of pump spells it's going to be good to play as many two-mana creatures as possible. Also, if we're a top-heavy control deck we might want something inexpensive to trade with one of our opponent's early plays."
Quick Questions #1 – What common and uncommon do you most want to open in Theros Sealed, and has your preference changed at all since the start of the format?
by Mike Rosenberg
Grand Prix Portland 2013 Champion Sam Pardee: "Uncommon would be Keepsake Gorgon. I think Keepsake Gorgon is by far the best uncommon. And the common is probably Nessian Asp, and the Asp is so much bigger than any other common in the format."
No. 2 Ranked Player Josh Utter-Leyton: "For common, it's Gray Merchant of Asphodel. For uncommon, it's Keepsake Gorgon. Certainly if I'm opening Gray Merchants for my common, then that's the uncommon I'd want! And my preferences haven't really changed, though at the start of the Sealed format I might have wanted Nessian Asp more."
Saturday, 6:58 p.m. – How Much Does Monstrosity Matter?
by Mike Rosenberg
One of the answers that I've gotten with regards to one of the best commons in Theros Sealed has been fairly consistent through the Theros Sealed season: Nessian Asp. While many players have differing opinions, and certainly opinions that change based on their experience with the Theros Sealed format as the perceptions of the populace evolve, this was the one card that most players quickly gravitated toward and respected from the start.
But why? Was it just because it was a big creature with reach? Or was it because of its ability, like many creatures in this format, to grow to monstrous levels thanks to its monstrosity effect? While the Nessian Asp stands above the rest as one of the most powerful commons in the set, given its size and relevant text, the monstrosity mechanic has proven to be one of the most pivotal mechanics of Theros Sealed.
I spoke to Limited expert and Grand Prix Indianapolis 2012 Finalist Chris Fennell about the impact of monstrosity when it comes to building a deck out of a Sealed pool. Earlier in the season, at Grand Prix Toronto, Fennell had mentioned in conversation that monstrosity is a key part of Theros, and that opinion has been held in place even today.
"Chris Fennell is a huge advocate for going monstrous in Limited, as the monstrosity creatures of the format are very difficult to deal with given the general lack of indiscriminate removal in Theros."
"It's quite format defining because this format is all about having the biggest creature," Fennell said. "In Sealed deck, generally it is all about having the best top-decks in your deck, and usually you and your opponent keep opening hands that interact somewhat with each other, so it comes down to whose draw steps are going to be better once you're both in the mid game."
"Monstrosity top-decks are enormous. If you top-deck them and play them, then on the next turn, instead of hoping for another spell off the top, you can use your monstrosity and just have a big creature that's really hard to deal with."
One example Fennell brought up specifically that he feels many players overlook, in both Sealed as well as Booster Draft, is red's four-mana monster.
"The Cyclops is one of the cards that not only proves the value of monstrosity, but is also not seeing as much respect as it should be getting."
"I really like Ill-Tempered Cyclops. I think that guy goes entirely too late on Magic Online in Booster Draft," Fennell said, advocating the power of the Cyclops. The red creature is a testament to the strength of monstrosity. The ability to go big an instant speed effect, meaning that when the Cyclops attacks in against a board featuring larger creatures, the opponent is put in a spot where they can't simply block it. Losing their creature to a monstrosity activation is essentially throwing the game away, and when they don't block, you are often free to cast whatever spells are in your hand after combat.
However, sometimes having a big monster is good enough in this format.
"I'm a big advocate of going monstrous really soon," Fennell said. "It just puts them in a really bad situation. You're trying to make huge creatures, your opponent is trying to make huge creatures, and nobody can really deal with huge creatures!"
Fennell warned against doing so hastily against blue decks, given their access to cards like Griptide and Voyage's End, but is a huge advocate for making his monsters enormous against the other colors, where having the biggest creature puts you in the best spot to win.
Monstrosity's impact on Sealed deck has been apparent over the months. When it comes to playing in removal-light formats like Theros Sealed, it is often the person with the largest monster that comes out on top. It's the reason why players value Nessian Asp so highly, and it's why players like Fennell give high regard to any creature that has monstrosity when building a Sealed deck.
Quick Questions #2 – Which of the Born of the Gods previews are you most excited to open in your Sealed pool at your Prerelease?
by Mike Rosenberg
Hall of Famer Luis-Scott Vargas: “Kiora, the Crashing Wave seems pretty awesome. I like planeswalkers a lot in Limited, and she seems really fun to play with.”
Hall of Famer Brian Kibler: “Xenagos, God of Revels because it just seems really fun. My giant gets more giant and smashes you!”
No. 18 Ranked Player Alexander Hayne: “Brimaz, King of Oreskos.”
No. 3 Ranked Player Reid Duke: “I'd go with Xenagos, God of Revels.”
Round 9 Bubble-Match Roundup - The Blue Side
by Jacob Van Lunen
A number of high profile players found themselves with their backs against the wall in the last round of Day 1 here in Sacramento. Due to this weekend's tremendous turnout, the tournament organizer split Day 1 into two halves: Let's see how the blue side's bubble matches panned out.
Brian David-Marshall vs. Ron Rasmussen
We watched Brian David-Marshall emerge victorious in the very first round of the day. After that, he picked up two quick losses and found himself in the precarious 1-2 bracket. Undeterred, BDM battled on. He rattled off five wins in a row and found himself playing for Day 2 against Ron Rasmussen. Rasmussen's deck was rife with bombs like Abhorrent Overlord and Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Nonetheless, BDM and his monstrous army were able to emerge victorious, securing a spot in the second day of competition here in Sacramento.
Seth Manfield vs. Peter Huang
Seth Manfield entered the last round of competition with a 6-1-1 record. Paired up against the 7-1 Peter Huang, Manfield needed a win to make Day 2. A timely Griptide on Huang's Nessian Asp in response to a Traveler's Amulet activation sent the gigantic snake back into his library and Manfield was able to achieve victory in two games.
Adam Shaw vs. Brandon De Jong
Adam Shaw is no stranger to high-level Magic, but he's certainly had more experience judging than playing. Shaw came out of the gates quickly with an extremely aggressive Red/White deck. Brandon De Jong was able to stave off the early aggression in game two, but a quick start from Shaw in the third game went unanswered and Shaw was able to carve out his place in Day 2.
Jamie Parke vs. Le Lin
Former Worlds Finalist Jamie Parke needed to win the last round in order to make Day 2 here in Sacramento. Parke had a strong Blue/Green deck splashing Black with a lot of evasion. In the first game, Le Lin was unable to race Parke's flyers. The second game went long, and Parke spent countless turns trying to draw a sixth land. Parke eventually found a land and bestowed a Thass'a Emissary onto his Vaporkin. Lin had Artisan's Sorrow, though, and he used it to deal with the Emissary when Parke attacked. This allowed Lin to gobble up Parke's Vaporkin with his reach creature and victory wasn't much further away. In the third game, Lin used Voyaging Satyr to power out some quick fatties and Parke's hand was unable to keep up.
Eric Mann-Hielscher vs. Michael Schuller
Eric Mann-Hielscher is new face on the Pro Tour. Eager to do well and constantly improving, Mann-Hielscher needed a win in the final round of swiss to make Day 2. Michael Schuller had mana issues in the third game and quickly found himself facing down a Celestial Archon and Ashen Rider. Mann-Hielscher easily cruised his way into the second day of competition here in Sacramento.
Round 9 Bubble-Match Roundup - The Green Side
by Mike Rosenberg
Given the size and scope of an 1855 player tournament, and in order to ensure that the tournament finishes in a reasonable amount of time, Grand Prix Sacramento was split into two different sides. Jacob Van Lunen is bringing you some key bubble matches from the blue tables of the event.
However, the Green Side featured four very interesting match-ups. How did some of the game's known players do?
Alex Gerlock vs. Neal Oliver
While the match started out strong for Grand Prix Las Vegas 2013 Champion Neal Oliver in his match against SoCal native Alex Gerlock, things quickly went south for the winner of Magic's largest Grand Prix. His blue-black deck struggled against Gerlock's onslaught of green-red bombs, including the likes of Arbor Colossus and Bow of Nylea. The Bow was key in their third and final game, earning Gerlock the win against Oliver 2-1.
Gregory Puzon vs. (2) Josh Utter-Leyton
No. 2 Ranked Player Josh Utter-Leyton
No. 2 Ranked Player Josh Utter-Leyton's powerful blue-white deck made quick work of Gregory Puzon's Boros deck in two games, primarily on the back of Puzon's glut of lands coming in the second game. Utter-Leyton will advance into Day Two with a 7-2 record.
(4) Shahar Shenhar vs. Benjamin Yu
No. 4 Ranked Player Shahar Shenhar
No. 4 Ranked Player Shahar Shenhar tried to fight for his tournament life with a green-black Sealed deck against Benjamin Yu's blue and black spells. However, it was to no avail, as Yu swept through Shenhar 2-0 to advance into Day Two.
Greg Ogreenc vs. Josh Ravitz
The final major bubble-match on the green tables featured Grand Prix Toronto 2013 Finalist Greg Ogreenc battling for his tournament life against three-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitors Josh Ravitz. The players traded blows in the first and second games, culminating into an exciting finale to Day One.
Ravitz had a blistering fast start with a first-turn Hopeful Eidolon suited up with a second-turn Ordeal of Heliod. However, he had no way to grow his creature and lost his enchanted bestow creature in combat to Ogreenc's Nessian Courser. However, Ravitz won't done yet, unloading the powerful Daxos of Meletis onto the table on turn three. Ogreenc lost a five mana flying creature to its effect on the next turn, as Daxos attacked through Ogreenc's rare threat in the form of Hundred-Handed One. However, Daxos succumbed to Wingsteed Rider on the next turn when it attacked in, Ravitz simply followed suit and cast Prognostic Sphinx post-combat.
However, Ogreenc was far from out. His Voyaging Satyr gave him the ability to make his Hundred-Handed One monstros on the next turn, and with the creature having been suited up with an Ordeal of Heliod of his own on the previous turn, Ogreenc now had a massive threat as well as a blocker. Ravitz fought back with Aqueous Form on his Prognostic Sphinx, but despite how often he would scry, he was unable to find an answer to Ogreenc's Hundred-Handed One and, eventually, his very large Staunch-Hearted Warrior, which joined the giant in combat in the turns that followed.
Ogreenc's 2-1 victory over Ravitz keeps his dreams of another Theros Limited Grand Prix Top 8 alive, as he advances to Day Two.