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Martell Displays Mastery of Theros in Sacramento

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The letter N!o. 13 Ranked Player Tom Martell has done it again.

The Pro Tour Gatecrash Champion put up impressive finishes in his games all weekend here at Grand Prix Sacramento, but it was his Top 8 performance that truly showed off his mastery at Theros Limited. Martell's black-white deck featured an impressive range of creatures and plays. While his deck could take an early game lead thanks to his solid heroic creatures, his cards were also capable of locking up a win should the game go late.

And it didn't matter whether his games went early or late in the Top 8. Martell battled his way through three rounds in the Top 8 playoff, winning games that looked far from salvageable for the Northern California resident. Martell's victory in Sacramento marks his second Grand Prix victory, making this his third major Magic win alongside his victories at Grand Prix Indianapolis 2012 and at Pro Tour Gatecrash.

Sacramento has continued to show that Theros evolves with each major event. Card evaluations have changed, and new or undervalued draft strategies have taken center stage this weekend. Martell's Top 8 performance with black-white has given new life to the color combination as one of the format's most solid Limited archetypes.

Congratulations once again to Tom Martell on his victory, and to all those who helped Grand Prix Sacramento become California's largest ever Grand Prix.



Quarterfinals Semifinals Finals Champion
(2) Nathannael Maliszewski Philip Yam, 2-0
(3) Philip Yam Philip Yam, 2-0
(7) Aaron Lewis Aaron Lewis, 2-0 Tom Martell, 2-0
(8) Andy Voellmer
(6) Tom Martell Tom Martell, 2-1
(5) Ryan Miller Tom Martell, 2-0
(4) Eric Pei Eric Pei, 2-0
(1) Adam Mancuso






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  Streaming video coverage of Grand Prix Sacramento provided by Pro Tour Hall of Famers Ben Stark and Luis Scott-Vargas and Matt Sperling.


EVENT COVERAGE INFORMATION
 1.  (13) Martell, Tom $4,000
 2.  Yam, Philip $2,700
 3.  Pei, Eric $1,500
 4.  Lewis, Aaron $1,500
 5.  Mancuso, Adam $1,000
 6.  Maliszewski, Nathannael $1,000
 7.  Miller, Ryan $1,000
 8.  Voellmer, Andy $1,000
Pairings Results Standings
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  • Top 8 Profiles

    by Mike Rosenberg


  • Adam Mancuso

    Age: 24
    Hometown: Santa Monica


    How long have you been playing Magic?
    15 years

    Which of the preview cards from Born of the Gods are you most excited about?
    Xenagos, God of Revels

    What did you play on Day One?
    Red/Green Aggro. Lightning Strike. 8-1

    What did you play in the first draft of Day Two?
    Naya. Sylvan Caryatid. 3-0

    What did you play in the second draft of Day Two?
    Red/Green Aggro. Lightning Strike. 2-0-1




    Nathan Maliszewski

    Age: 33
    Hometown: Denver


    How long have you been playing Magic?
    10 Years

    Which of the preview cards from Born of the Gods are you most excited about?
    Pain Seer. More Black/White Humans.

    What did you play on Day One?
    Black/White Midrange. Gods Willing always saved the card I cared about. 8-1.

    What did you play in the first draft of Day Two?
    Green/Black/White rares. Ashen Rider, he’s my boy! 3-0

    What did you play in the second draft of Day Two?
    Black/White Aggro. Ephara's Warden. 2-0-1




    Philip Yam

    Age: 30
    Hometown: San Francisco, CA


    How long have you been playing Magic?
    Since Revised

    Which of the preview cards from Born of the Gods are you most excited about?
    Searing Blood

    What did you play on Day One?
    Green/Blue, Nessian Asp, 7-0

    What did you play in the first draft of Day Two?
    Blue/Red, Triton Shorethief, Nimbus Naiad, 2-1

    What did you play in the second draft of Day Two?
    Green/Blue, Horizon Chimera, 2-1




    Eric Pei

    Age: 27
    Hometown: San Francisco, CA


    How long have you been playing Magic?
    3-4 years

    Which of the preview cards from Born of the Gods are you most excited about?
    Searing Blood

    What did you play on Day One?
    Green/Black, Nessian Asp, 9-0

    What did you play in the first draft of Day Two?
    White/Green, Fabled Hero and Akroan Horse, 3-0

    What did you play in the second draft of Day Two?
    Green/Blue, Polukranos, World Eater, 1-2




    Ryan Miller

    Age: 24
    Hometown: Pleasant Hill, CA


    How long have you been playing Magic?
    Around 16 years.

    Which of the preview cards from Born of the Gods are you most excited about?
    Xenagos, God of Revels!

    What did you play on Day One?
    Blue/Black flyers, Agent of the Fates, 8-1

    What did you play in the first draft of Day Two?
    Blue/Red Heroic, Portent of Betrayal, 2-1

    What did you play in the second draft of Day Two?
    White/Black Removal, Lash of the Whip, 3-0




    Tom Martell

    Age: 31
    Hometown: Mountain View, CA


    How long have you been playing Magic?
    Since the Summer of 1994

    Which of the preview cards from Born of the Gods are you most excited about?
    Temple of Enlightenment

    What did you play on Day One?
    Blue/White Heroic, best cards were 3 Nimbus Naiad, 2 Gods Willing, and Hundred-Handed One, 8-1

    What did you play in the first draft of Day Two?
    Black/White Heroic/Devotion, my best cards were Hundred-Handed One and Gods Willing did work, 2-1

    What did you play in the second draft of Day Two?
    Blue/White, Medomai the Ageless and Griptide, 3-0




    Aaron Lewis

    Age: 34
    Hometown: Madison, WI


    How long have you been playing Magic?
    Since The Dark

    Which of the preview cards from Born of the Gods are you most excited about?
    Brimaz, King of Oreskos seems pretty absurd

    What did you play on Day One?
    Blue/White, Master of Waves, 5-1

    What did you play in the first draft of Day Two?
    Green/Black, Keepsake Gorgon, 2-1

    What did you play in the second draft of Day Two?
    Mono-Black, Pharika's Cure and Mogis's Marauder, 3-0




    Andy Voellmer

    Age: 25
    Hometown: Berkeley, CA


    How long have you been playing Magic?
    Since Odyssey Block, I was Maryland State Champ a long time ago

    Which of the preview cards from Born of the Gods are you most excited about?
    Xenagos, God of Revels, I can’t wait to attack with a 10/10 hasty Polukranos!

    What did you play on Day One?
    Green/White, Evangel of Heliod gave me nine tokens in a few games, 7-2

    What did you play in the first draft of Day Two?
    Green/Black, 3 Pharika's Mender, 3-0

    What did you play in the second draft of Day Two?
    Red/White, 3 Battlewise Valor, 3-0

     

  • Grand Prix Sacramento - Top 8 Decklists

    by Jacob Van Lunen











  •  

  • Top 8 Draft Recap – Drafting a Top 8 Deck with Tom Martell

    by Jacob Van Lunen

  • Tom Martell is currently ranked 13th in the world on the Top 25 Pro Rankings. This is Martell's fifth Grand Prix Top 8. Coming into the Top 8 Draft here in Sacramento, Martell strongly favored Blue/White Heroic as an archetype. Let's see how things went for the Pro Tour Gatecrash Champion.

    The first pack had Triad of Fates, but spending a first pick on a two-color card is a risky proposition. Staunch-Hearted Warrior and Observant Alseid made their way to the front of the pack and Martell eventually settled on Observant Alseid.


    Pack 1 Pick 1: Observant Alseid

    The next pack had Griptide, Hopeful Eidolon, and God's Willing. Griptide was likely the strongest card in the pack, but taking one of the others would keep Martell's options open. God's Willing ended up being the pick.

    Pack 1 Pick 2: Gods Willing

    The third pick offered up Whip of Erebos, an absolute bomb. Martell was surprised to see the card this late and the Keepsake Gorgon in the pack led him to believe that Black was very open.

    Pack 1 Pick 3: Whip of Erebos

    Pack 1 Pick 4: Omenspeaker

    Pack 1 Pick 5: Scourgemark

    Pack 1 Pick 6: Fleshmad Steed

    Pack 1 Pick 7: Gods Willing

    Pack 1 Pick 8: Returned Phalanx

    Pack 1 Pick 9: Scholar of Athreos

    Pack 1 Pick 10: Felhide Minotaur

    Pack 1 Pick 11: Traveling Philosopher

    Pack 1 Pick 12: Annul

    Pack 1 Pick 13: Setessan Battle Priest

    The next pack didn't offer up a lot in the way of Black, White, or Blue cards, but Ordeal of Erebos and Sip of Hemlock came to the front of the pack. Martell's aggressive style makes Ordeal of Erebos a very strong card in the decks he likes to draft.

    Pack 2 Pick 1: Ordeal of Erebos

    Martell's next choice was between a third copy of God's Willing and Insatiable Harpy. Martell decided to pick up the lifelinking flyer that combos nicely with bestow creatures and Scrougemark over a third copy of the one-mana instead.

    Pack 2 Pick 2: Insatiable Harpy

    Sip of Hemlock, Divine Verdict, and Read the Bones were all reasonable third picks. Martell eventually decided that Sip of Hemlock was the best choice for a deck like his that wanted to be tapping out on most turns.

    Pack 2 Pick 3: Sip of Hemlock

    Pack 2 Pick 4: Favored Hoplite

    Pack 2 Pick 5: Heliod's Emissary

    Pack 2 Pick 6: Read the Bones

    Pack 2 Pick 7: Battlewise Valor

    Pack 2 Pick 8: Lagonna-Band Elder

    Pack 2 Pick 9: Deathbellow Raider

    Pack 2 Pick 10: Scholar of Athreos

    Pack 2 Pick 11: Last Breath

    Pack 2 Pick 12: March of the Returned

    Pack 2 Pick 13: Scourgemark

    Pack 2 Pick 14: Fade into Antiquity


    Martell's third pack had exactly the common he was looking for. Wingsteed Rider was an easy pick over Divine Verdict.

    Pack 3 Pick 1: Wingsteed Rider

    Pack 3 Pick 2: Lagonna-Band Elder

    Martell got an absolute gift in the form of Phalanx Leader in his third pick of the third pack.

    Pack 3 Pick 3: Phalanx Leader

    Pack 3 Pick 4: Griptide

    Pack 3 Pick 5: Favored Hoplite

    Pack 3 Pick 6: Dauntless Onslaught

    Pack 3 Pick 7: Traveling Philosopher

    Pack 3 Pick 8: Observant Alseid

    Pack 3 Pick 10: Rescue from the Underworld

    Pack 3 Pick 11: Aqueous Form

    Pack 3 Pick 13: Asphodel Wanderer


    Tom Martell may have wanted a Blue/White Heroic deck, but he was passed a very strong Black/White deck with some incredibly aggressive draws. Stay tuned for coverage of Grand Prix Sacramento to find out how Martell and his Black/White deck fare against the rest of the Top 8.




     

  • Quarterfinal – Aaron Lewis vs. Andy Voellmer

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • Aaron Lewis, who earned his first Grand Prix Top 8 at Grand Prix Charlotte last year, hails from Madison, Wisconsin. His opponent, Andy Voellmer, made a short drive from Berkeley, California down this weekend to compete. The result for his decision is a qualification for Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx and his first Grand Prix Top 8.

    The Decks

    Aaron Lewis has the often underrated blue-red archetype, along with many of the strategy's key cards. Flamespeaker Adept and Aqueous Form work very well together, and both are found in Lewis's deck. However, it isn't just these synergies that Lewis can fall back on, as Bident of Thassa gives him access to a very powerful rare that can keep his hand stocked with goodies, including quick aggressive creatures as well as removal.

    Andy Voellmer's deck is a little slower, but it can pack a punch. His green-black archetype has plenty of solid green creatures, along with some solid black removal and heavy-hitting creatures like Gray Merchant of Asphodel.

    The Games

    Lewis wasted no time in getting an early lead with Spearpoint Oread into Bident of Thassa getting no major resistence from Voellmer, whose first play of the game was an Insatiable Harpy. Lewis dwarfed the play even further when he dumped more creatures onto the table with Wavecrash Titan and Akroan Crusader.

    Aaron Lewis

    Voellmer turned the life tides a bit with Gray Merchant of Asphodel, but he was staring down a dangerous threat in the form of Bident of Thassa. Lewis continued his card drawing with Aqueous Form on the Wavecrash Triton, locking down the Harpy, and then a second Form on Akroan Crusader, giving him creatures that couldn't be blocked. As a result, Voellmer had little to stop Lewis from re-stocking his hand.

    Dissolve on Anthousa, Setessan Hero a few turns later left Voellmer without any real pressure, and he ultimately succumbed to the avalanche of card draw that the Bident of Thassa provided Lewis all game.

    Voellmer led with Flamecast Wheel into Nessian Courser in the second game, while Lewis's first play was Wavecrash Triton. Flamespeaker Adept and Aqueous Form on the Triton followed, locking down a freshly played Voyaging Satyr. The enchanted Triton and Adept made quite a combo, with the scry from Aqueous Form triggering the Adept on each attack. Minotaur Skullcleaver came down with those creatures on the next turn, crashing Voellmer to 11.

    Andy Voellmer

    Bident of Thassa followed after that, and Voellmer, who was stuck on green mana only, struggled to keep up. He found a Swamp, his fourth land, on the next turn, which allowed him to pop his Flamecast Wheel targeting the Adept, but Lewis had Voyage's End to save his creature. The Adept came down on the next turn, and a sequence of a second Aqueous Form, a Rage of Purphoros, and two unblockable attacks earned Lewis the game and the match.

    "I guess I'll see you at the Pro Tour!" Voellmer said, offering the handshake.

    Lewis 2 – Voellmer 0




     

  • Quarterfinal – Adam Mancuso vs. Eric Pei

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • This Quarterfinals match featured two Californians facing off in their first Grand Prix Top 8. Adam Mancuso hailed from Santa Monica, while Eric Pei was just a short drive away from San Francisco.

    The Decks

    Eric Pei's blue-white heroic deck was capable of some very aggressive starts, thanks in part to some solid two-mana creatures like Battlewise Hoplite and Phalanx Leader. However, it also had access to some large blockers with multiple copies of Coastline Chimera, a solid flying blocker that could hold back creatures while his heroic creatures stayed on offense.

    Mancuso's deck, on the other hand, was much more about big ground creatures. His green-red concoction was capable of some brutal starts thanks to Two-Headed Chimera and his bestow creatures, but the deck also had access to a nasty mythic in the form of Xenagos, the Reveler.

    The Games

    Pei was first onto the table with Battlewise Hoplite, which promptly ate a Lightning Strike from Mancuso, who followed up that turn with Agent of Horizons. However, Pei's next creatures were Phalanx Leader and Heliod's Emissary, which backed Mancuso against a wall early on. Traveling Philosopher and Chosen by Heliod soon came down, growing Pei's army.

    Adam Mancuso

    Unable to stop the board, Mancuso did what he could, trading when available and deploying a very large Vulpine Goliath onto the table. However, the Heliod's Emissary made blocking effectively moot, and the Phalanx Leader duo powered through for a first game win.

    Mancuso led off the second game with Leafcrown Dryad into Nessian Courser, the Dryad held back by Pei's second-turn Bronze Sable. The artifact creature was joined by Wingsteed Rider on the next turn. Mancuso sent in the Nessian Courser for 3, then aimed Lightning Strike at Wingsteed Rider. It was replaced with Battlewise Hoplite after an attack with the Sable on the next turn. Mancuso cast Nylea's Disciple pre-combat, then sent in his creatures, attacking for 5. Pei had Fate Foretold for his Battlewise Hoplite, growing it and drawing a card. Traveling Philosopher was the only follow-up after that.

    The Hoplite traded with the Nylea's Disciple on the next attack from Mancuso, and it was replaced with heliod's Emissary on the next turn. Mancuso, however, had Fade into Antiquity lying in wait for the enchantment creature, and Destructive Revelry on the Sable put Pei in a bind.

    Pei, however, was not done yet, as he cast Evangel of Heliod to buy himself some time. It worked, as Mancuso no longer had any good attacks with his opponent stuck at 2. Hopeful Eidolon gave him a glimmer of a chance when it was bestowed on the Evangel of Heliod, but Mancuso continued adding creatures to his board, with Satyr Rambler, Spearpoint Oread, and Centaur Battlemaster coming on subsequent turns.

    Eric Pei

    However, Pei had a bestowed Thassa's Emissary on the already bestowed Evangel, giving him a 5/7 lifelink attacker that would draw him cards if Mancuso simply let the attacks go through. When Pei sent in his massive creature, Mancuso opted to triple block it with the Nessian Courser, Leafcrown Dryad, and Spearpoint Oread. Battlewise Valor punished Mancuso for that block, as he lost all three of his creatures, and Pei's life total jumped from 2 to 9.

    Mancuso continued playing for a few turns, but the game appeared to be over. When a land awaited him on top after another attack from Pei's Evangel, he offered the handshake.

    Mancuso 0 – Pei 2




     

  • Quarterfinal Roundup

    by Jacob Van Lunen

  • Tom Martell vs Ryan Miller

    Tom Martell is currently ranked 13th in the Top 25 Pro Rankings. This weekend is the Pro Tour Gatecrash winner's fifth Grand Prix Top 8. His opponent, Ryan Miller, is a California Native in his first Grand Prix Top 8.

    Game 1:

    Miller started things with Spearpoint Oread and Martell kept up with Wingsteed Rider. Martell's board was further advanced with Favored Hoplite and Phalanx Leader. Miller was drawing a lot of land and couldn't interact much with Martell's board.

    Martell sculpted his hand with Read the Bones as he continued to trade blows with Miller, who was falling behind in the race.

    Miller eventually found Magma Jet to deal with Wingsteed Rider, but Martell was able to follow-up with Dauntless Onslaught on his remaining two heroic creatures. Miller, at a lowly 2 life, couldn't find an answer on the top of his deck and was forced to concede after chump blocking for a turn.

    Game 2:

    Miller got off to a decent start in the second game with Fable Hero and Wingsteed Rider. Meanwhile, Martell suffered mana issues and tried to hold onto his life total long enough to stabilize.

    Martell's Heliod's Emissary got in the way of Fabled Hero and was saved from a Magma Jet with First Strike on the stack with God's Willing.

    Miller made another misstep on the following turn when he aimed a Magma Jet at one of Martell's creatures while Martell was at 1 life.

    Martell tried to stabilize with Observant Alseid and Lagonna-Band Elder to gain some life, but two more attacks from Miller were enough to force a third game.

    Game 3:

    Martell led things off with Scholar of Athreos, but Miller one-upped him with Fabled Hero.


    Scholar of Athreos and Battlewise Valor traded with Miller's Fabled Hero and Spark Jolt, and the board was cleared except for Martell's Traveling Philosopher.

    Martell turned up the heat the following turn with Scourgemark and Lagonna-Band Elder, but Miller was able to trade some creatures and leave the board cleared while he had three cards in hand to Martell's one.

    Unfortunately for Miller, the last card in Martell's hand was Scholar of Athreos, and it started draining Miller right away.

    Miller played Fanatic of Mogis and started racing, but the Scholar was ahead thanks to Martell's early aggression.

    Heliod's Emissary was found by Martell when Miller tapped out, leaving Miller at only 2 life.

    Miller couldn't deal with the Scholar of Athreos and found himself drained to death on the following turn.

    Tom Martell defeats Ryan Miller in three games!


    Philip Yam vs. Nathannael Maliszekski

    Game 1:

    Philip Yam came out of the gates quickly with Vaporkin and Blood-Toll Harpy.

    Nathannael Maliszekski took a lot of damage without being able to answer the flyers, but Hero's Downfall eventually dealt with one of them.

    Yam continued to apply pressure, but Maliszekski had Arbor Colossus to gum up the board.

    Unphased, Yam cast Breaching Hippocamp on Maliszekski's endstep and used Griptide to put the Arbor Colossus on the top of his opponent's deck to attack for lethal.

    Game 2:

    The second game was much slower. Maliszekski used Burnished Hart and Opaline Unicorn to massively accelerate his mana. Bow of Nylea came down and it was clear that Maliszekski would have enough mana to activate it every turn.


    Bow of Nylea is good, but Yam had some bombs of his own. Thassa, God of the Sea, was soon joined by Shipbreaker Kraken and then Prognostic Sphinx.

    Maliszekski had Abhorrent Overlord, but Shipbreaker Kraken grew to monstrous proportions and it wasn't long before Yam was able to break through for lethal.

    Philip Yam defeats Nathannael Maliszekski in two games!




     

  • Semifinal – Aaron Lewis vs. Philip Yam

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • While Madison resident Aaron Lewis is adding another solid Limited record to his Magic career, with his performance today being his second Grand Prix Top 8, San Francisco native Philip Yam was not ready to stop winning yet.

    The Decks

    Lewis's blue-red deck packs some powerful synergies and features many creatures that just love getting suited up with Aqueous Form. Alongside these synergies are a few powerful rare threats, including Bident of Thassa and Master of Waves.

    Philip Yam's blue-black deck, however, is not short of any powerful cards. Aside from the unsurprising assortment of brutal common and uncommon options in both colors, Yam also has some solid blue rares such as Prognostic Sphinx and the mighty Thassa, God of the Sea.

    The Games

    While Lewis had an Aqueous Form to let his Vaporkin punch through Yam's own copy of the flying creature, Yam called on some help from the gods with Thassa, God of the Sea. It was joined by Meletis Charlatan on the next turn.

    Lewis, however, had his own mythic in the form of Master of Waves, which made three elemental tokens. The now 3/2 Vaporkin attacked in, dropping Yam to 15. Yam, however, was not out of the game by any means. Prognostic Sphinx brought Thassa's devotion to the required amount, and it attacked in alongside Vaporking, prompting Lewis to block Thassa with one of his elemental tokens. The Vaporkin continued its attack, allowing Lewis to scry through his deck thanks to Aqueous Form. He dropped Wavecrash Triton and Satyr Rambler post-combat and passed back to Yam.

    Aaron Lewis

    However, Thassa began to do her work. Yam made his god unblockable, and attacks dropped Lewis to 6. When no answer to Thassa's devoted army awaited Lewis on top, Lewis moved on to the second game.

    Yam was the first to act despite being on the draw in the second game with Triton Fortune Hunter. It was met by Purphoros's Emissary, which Lewis opted not to block with when Yam attacked in with his Fortune Hunter. The 2/2 creature was joined by Cavern Lampad after that, as Yam passed back.

    Lewis was content with the decision, as he gave his Emissary the Ordeal of Purphoros. It was sent in for 4. Yam sent in his two creatures, dropping Lewis to 14, but when he passed with five mana open, Lewis's decisions became a lot harder. When Lewis sent in his Emissary, Griptide promptly sent the creature to the top of Lewis's deck. Boon of Erebos saved his creature from Rage of Purphoros...at least until the text was pointed out that this wouldn't save a creature from the sorcery Lewis just cast. Without regeneration able to save his Cavern Lampad, Yam was now down a trick as well as a creature.

    Philip Yam

    Yam replaced his now dead Lampad with Opaline Unicorn, while Lewis emptied his hand for Ill-Tempered Cyclops and Aqueous Form on the 3/3. Yam fired back with Prescient Chimera. The back-breaker, however, was Keepsake Gorgon. Despite a Bident of Thassa waiting on top, Lewis's only creature was about to be turned to stone by the Gorgon on the next turn.

    When an attack and a draw with the Bident turned over no answers for Lewis, the Madison player offered the handshake.

    Lewis 0 – Yam 2




     

  • Semifinal – (13) Tom Martell vs. Eric Pei

    by Mike Rosenberg

  • No. 13 Ranked Player and Pro Tour Gatecrash Champion Tom Martell has added his fifth Grand Prix Top 8 appearance to his Magic record with this weekend's finish here in Sacramento. His opponent, Eric Pei from San Francisco, has also put up an impressive finish this weekend, earning him his first Grand Prix Top 8.

    The Decks

    Martell's black-white deck has multiple modes of attacking its opponent. From its aggressive early heroic creatures to its card advantage and Scholar of Athreos, Martell has the ability to win at any point of the game, giving his deck a lot of flexibility.

    Pei's blue-white heroic deck is capable of both as well. While his early game features solid heroic creatures, his late game is capable of locking down most attacks until a timely Sea God's Revenge can clear the path to victory.

    The Games

    Pei was first onto the board with Battlewise Hoplite, which was met with Martell's own heoric creature, the devastatingly powerful Phalanx Leader. Pei had Chosen by Heliod for his Hoplite, and it attacked in for 3. The Leader was sent in for 1 from Martell and was joined by Lagonna-Band Elder post-combat. Pei, however, had back-to-back Coastline Chimeras to hold down the fort as well. It was joined by a third one on the next turn. "That's a lot of Coastlines," Martell remarked.

    Eric Pei

    Martell had Scholar of Athreos and Traveling Philosopher to join his ground force, and while the Chimeras did a great job of blocking, they weren't a very substantial clock, especially when Martell had access to the Scholar's drain effect. Sip of Hemlock from Martell took out Pei's freshly cast Setessan Griffin, and on the next turn, Martell grew his army. Favored Hoplite came down, and then a bestowed Observant Alseid came down onto the Phalanx Leader, growing all five of his creatures.

    That being said, he still couldn't make a beneficial attack through Pei's one untapped Coastline Chimera and his smaller non-flying creatures. Pei thought long and hard before his next play. "Heliod's Emissary on who?" Martell asked when Pei went to tap seven mana.

    "That's a good question," Pei said, opting to bestow the creature onto his Battlewise Hoplite. The 7/9 attacked in, tapping down the 4/3 Lagonna-Band Elder. Martell froze, debating whether to sacrifice his Phalanx Leader to a triple block in order to take out the enchanted Battlewise Hoplite while Pei was tapped out. He went for it, losing the Traveling Philosopher and his Leader in the skirmish.

    The game settled down after that big attack, with neither player able to make any reasonable attacks. Martell found a Heliod's Emissary of his own, which entered the battlefield as a creature on its own, allowing Martell to pass with three open and two cards in hand.

    Pei untapped and unleashed a brutal haymaker in this stalemate: Sea God's Revenge. It targeted Heliod's Emissary, Scholar of Athreos, and Lagonna-Band Elder. Martell elected not to drain with his Scholar, as he picked up the three creatures to put them into his hand. "Am I seeing Dauntless Onslaught or am I seeing Battlewise Valor?" Pei wondered out loud. Unbeknownst to him, he was facing either or.

    Pei sent in his team, aside from one Coastline Chimera, opting to tap the Favored Hoplite with Heliod's Emissary. The Observant Alseid jumped in front of the Emissary, and Battlewise Valor ensured the Emissary would die while Martell's Alseid would live. When Martell sent in his Hoplite and Alseid, Pei used his Chimera's effect and blocked both creatures. The attackers failed to do any real damage, and Martell followed with Lagonna-Band Elder, gaining 3, and Scholar of Athreos before passing back. Pei sent in his Sable, which Martell promptly blocked with the Alseid to trade. Pei followed with his own Phalanx Leader before passing back with six open.

    Martell had Scourgemark for his Favored Hoplite, but still had no good attacks, especially in the face of three untapped Chimeras. However, with Scholar of Athreos giving Martell a cushioned life total, and Gods Willing gave him a plan. Heliod's Emissary was bestowed onto the Favored Hoplite. On the next turn, Dauntless Onslaught and Gods Willing ensured that the the Favored Hoplite could get through Pei's creatures on the next turn for a lethal attack.

    No. 13 Ranked Player Tom Martell

    Pei came out of the gates of the second game with a speedy start in Battlewise Hoplite and Calvary Pegasus. Martell had a solid retort though with Wingsteed Rider, giving him a way to hold back the Pegasus at the very least. The Hoplite was sent in, and was joined by Pei's own copy of the 2/2 flying creature on the next turn.

    Martell then played an Island, an unexpected occurrence given his black-white deck in the first game. He passed with four open, and then used those lands to Griptide Pei's Wingsteed Rider when it attacked in on the next turn. While Pei had a follow-up Coastline Chimera, Martell saw the coast was clear and opted to bestow Observant Alseid on his Wingsteed Rider, attacking in for 5 while Pei was tapped out.

    Scourgemark grew his Wingsteed Rider even more on the next turn, and an attack in dropped Pei to 8. Pei passed after playing his sixth land, and was taken back a bit when Martell only cast a Traveling Philosopher on his next turn and passed without any attacks. Martell found Read the Bones on the next turn, which in turn found him Scholar of Athreos. He sent in his large Wingsteed Rider on the next turn, forcing Pei to chump-block with his Pegasus. On the next turn, Pei went for a block with his two Chimeras and Wingsteed Rider, giving his 2/2 flying creature Battlewise Valor. Martell, however, had the Gods Willing, saving his creature and leaving Pei without his own Wingsteed Rider.

    With the Wingsteed Rider picking away Pei's flying creatures one by one, and with the Scholar of Athreos slowly draining Pei's life away, the game was locked up by multiple angles. When no miracles were awaiting Pei in the next few turns, he offered the handshake.

    Martell 2 – Pei 0




     

  • Finals – Tom Martell vs. Philip Yam

    by Jacob Van Lunen

  • Tom Martell arrived to the feature match area like a rock star. A line of spectators held their hands up and excitedly high-fived the Pro Tour Gatecrash Champion as he made his way to the table. Philip Yam walked around the table, sat down, and pensively studied his opponent's decklist. This may have been Yam's first Grand Prix Top 8, but he showed no sign of nervousness.


    Game 1:

    Yam sent back his initial seven, but six seemed better. Blood-Toll Harpy from Yam was answered by Wingsteed Rider from Martell.

    Ordeal of Erebos from Martell put Yam against the ropes, and Traveling Philosopher joined the team the same turn. Yam found an Island and used Griptide to pick up a valuable two-for-one against Martell.

    Martell continued to apply pressure by replaying the Wingsteed Rider and adding Scholar of Athreos to his army. Yam had Breaching Hippocamp, but little else.

    An attack from Yam sparked Martell's curiosity. "Triton Tactics," he said aloud. He decided to only attack with his flyer after using a Scourgemark to give it three toughness and Yam had the Triton Tactics Martell suspected.

    Martell's board continued to grow with Favored Hoplite and another Traveling Philosopher.

    Yam had Prescient Chimera, but he was forced to block a Philosopher and Martell's Battlewise Valor dispatched of the five-mana flyer.

    Yam played out Shipwreck Singer and Meletis Charlatan, but it seemed too late for the San Francisco native.

    Yam's lifetotal was getting dangerously low, especially considering the Scholar of Athreos on the other side of the table. Martell did a bit of combat math, paused, and attacked with all of his creatures. Yam fell to three life and the six lands Martell had in play were enough to end the game with his Scholar of Athreos over the next turn cycle.

    Both players remained silent between games.


    Game 2:

    Martell had the first play of the game with Traveling Philosopher, but Yam played Meletis Charlatan.

    Ordeal of Erebos let Martell get aggressive and he attacked through the Charlatan. Having seen Yam's decklist it was clear to Martell that he needed to win quickly and didn't have room to play around cards like Griptide.

    Yam played Thassa, God of the Sea, but he continued to take a beating from the Traveling Philosopher as it grew.

    Yam played Triton Fortune Hunter and Fleshmad Steed, leaving him with only two cards in hand against the Ordeal of Erebos on the other side of the table.

    Martell attacked, and Yam was forced to discard his last two cards, Fleshmad Steed traded with a Lagonna-Band Elder, and Yam fell to 8 life.

    Martell found Scholar of Athreos, a particular dangerous card in the current situation.

    Yam continued to scry with Thassa, God of the Sea. He found Sealock Monster, which made his Thassa, God of the Sea into a creature and stalled up the board.

    Martell found a Wingsteed Rider, though, and Yam didn't have the necessary flyer to block.

    Dauntless Onslaught put Yam to a precarious three life. Unable to find and answer to Martell's flyer, Yam offered his hand, and the crowd exploded with applause.

    Tom Martell is your Grand Prix Sacramento Champion!




     

  • Top 5 Cards of Grand Prix Sacramento

    by Mike Rosenberg



  • 5. Shipbreaker Kraken

    Shipbreaker Kraken offers up a massive body that's capable of ending the game on its own if left unchecked when it becomes monstrous. Philip Yam used the card to tremendous success in the quarterfinals against Nathannael Maliszekski. Maliszekski had an active Bow of Nylea for the entirety of the second game, but Yam's Shipbreaker Kraken locked down a boa











    4. Gods Willing

    Gods Willing is a cheap tool that effectively counters more expensive removal spells and allows players to crash through for the final necessary points of damage. The card was cited by multiple players in the Top 8 as the most important card in their Day 1 sealed pool. Grand Prix Sacramento Champion Tom Martell had two copies of the instant in his Top 8 draft deck. The card proved invaluable as it won Martell his quarterfinal match, and allowed him to sneak through for lethal damage in the first game of the semifinals.









    3. Aqueous Form

    In a format without a lot of hard removal, ways of breaking through creature stalemates become invaluable. Aqueous Form is a card that has been put to great use in previous Grand Prix Top 8 matches, and it has continued to impress this weekend. The unassuming one-mana enchantment allows players to push through with creatures ranging from the small and heroic to the large and monstrous, and takes the option of chump-blocking a behemoth until one can find a solution to a menacing creature away from opponents.

    It also makes for a very killer combo with Flamespeaker Adept, turning the two power three toughness red creature into a powerful clock that also smooths out your draws with each attack. We saw the Adept and Aqueous Form combination used to great effect in the Quarterfinals, when Aaron Lewis put Andy Voellmer in a position where he was forced to start chump-blocking before he could get any real offense going.






    2. Keepsake Gorgon

    If there was any doubt as to whether or not Keepsake Gorgon is the best uncommon in Theros Limited, there is no question about it now. The five-mana monstrosity creature has proven itself to be the best uncommon in this set's Sealed and Booster Draft formats.

    Keepsake Gorgon, when brought up with players such as Luis Scott-Vargas, was easily recognized by them as the number one card they wanted to open in Sealed, and it was also one of the most influential cards for players looking to move into or force a deck with black cards in Booster Draft. In a format with a limited amount of removal, the Gorgon provides a rare and powerful effect in Theros Sealed and Booster Draft. We saw this put to great effect in the Semifinals, when Philip Yam locked up the game against Aaron Lewis thanks to his Keepsake Gorgon taking out Lewis's only remaining creature to leave him helpless.

    However, monstrosity effect aside, the Gorgon is simply hard to attack into profitably at all! A two power, five toughness deathtouch creature is very difficult to overcome in this format, especially in Sealed, when the game is often decided by a very large monstrosity creature like Nessian Asp that still trades with the Gorgon regardless of its size.






    1. Scholar of Athreos

    Scholar of Athreos is a card that comes around quite late. Black/White isn't a particularly popular draft archetype and, as a result, it's easy to table this powerful endgame mana-sink. The card was responsible for Martell's victory in game three of the quarterfinals, it put his opponent in range for a lethal attack out of nowhere in game one of the semifinals, and it locked up the finals in decisive fashion. The card put Martell's opponents in spots where they were forced to get aggressive and race. This let Martell act second with his instants and gave him the tactical advantage in each of his matches. Often overlooked, Scholar of Athreos had its time to shine this weekend in Sacramento!






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