Sunday, 10:52 p.m. – Pod People
by Brian David-Marshall
It does not get any easier when you play in a Grand Prix. Imagine for a moment that you are Jason Schein, Michael Bonde, Martin Berlin, or Corbett Gray. You have gone undefeated on Day One of a 1045 person Limited Grand Prix but you cannot take a moment to fully appreciate that as you have to worry about getting caught in the crossfire of two players vying for the title of Player of the Year. Owen Turtenwald is clearly the headliner at the table -- which is a hard thing to accomplish when you are sitting next to incoming Hall of Famer Shuhei Nakamura. Owen knows a thing or six about closing out the Swiss rounds of a Grand Prix and Shuhei knows a little something about closing out a Player of the Year race and they could play each other multiple times today -- Owen is already up 1-0 on the weekend having handed Shuhei his first loss yesterday.
Also looming in the pod are Pro Tour Berlin Top 8 competitor -- and rogue deck designer -- Kenny Oberg and upcoming MOCS competitor Ricky Sidher, whom we profiled early in yesterday's coverage. Michael Bonde, who went 9-0 yesterday took the little slip of paper that is used to tell players where they were sitting within the pod as a souvenir of the experience.
Ryan Leeper in an Arizona player taking part in his first Grand Prix this weekend -- and to some extent the inspiration for this piece. I spoke to a couple of his friends this morning on the walk over and they mentioned how excited Ryan was to meet the players he had only read about and watched in the coverage. He acquitted himself nicely yesterday with an 8-1 record and was seated at Draft Pod 2 and was passing packs to Pro Tour Paris Top 8 competitor Tom Martell and Hall of Famer Brian Kibler. As someone who follows coverage, Leeper is no doubt familiar with 2010 US National Team member Conrad Kolos and two-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor Chikara Nakajima.
Players in Pod three have to be cowed by both the sartorial style and impressive resume of former World Champion Katsuhiro Mori who headlines that table after quietly going 8-1 yesterday. In a supporting roles in the pod we have Worlds Top 8 competitor Love Janse and GP Montreal Top 8er Alexander West.
Another Japanese player's name goes above the title in Pod 4. Former Player of the Year -- and 2011 Player of the Year contender -- Shouta Yasooka has put together a stealthily dominant season with Top 32 finishes in all three Pro Tours as well as three Grand Prix Top 8, highlighted by his win in Kobe. The supporting roles at this table are played by GP Denver Top 8 competitor AJ Sacher, New Zealand's own Gene Brumby, and Tempered Steel designer Pascal Maynard.
The pods don't get any easier from there with Hall of Famers Jon Finkel, Jelger Wiegersma, and Alan Comer all looming in the X-2 brackets along with the likes of Player of the year hopeful Luis Scott-Vargas, Rookie of the Year leader Elie Pichon or MOCS competitors Jorg Unfried, Reid Duke, and David Caplan all looking to make a late surge in the draft leg of this event.
Round 10 Feature Match - Owen Turtenwald vs. Martin Berlin
by Marc Calderaro
Owen's empty third pack, that had revealed to him that his Red should probably have been White, was a revelation that came a bit too late. That's ok, though. His black is solid enough to get him through. He has three Dead Weights smushed in between a bevy of other removal, and some really late Walking Corpses were a boon to the pile. His deck might just be random dudes and removal, but that describes a fair amount of good decks in this format. There's a lot to be said for casting things each turn.
The Player of the Year frontrunner is sitting undefeated so far, he's hoping to at least 2-1 this pod on his route to another Grand Prix Top 8 berth. Let's see how he could do against Martin Berlin.
Diregraf Ghoul and Vampire Interloper started the party early for Turtenwald, and followed by a Geistflame on a Berlin's Typhoid Rats took Berlin down to 16 early, then 9.
Berlin tried to play catch-up. He cast Victim of Night on Owen's Riot Devils and got a Mausoleum Guard to help block, but Turtenwald was far from out of gas, and the Interloper was far from not flying.
Berlin had Unburial Rites, Moment of Heroism and a Avacynian Priest which he cast but was swiftly given a large ball and chain attached to his ankles. It was a little too much Dead Weight for the priest to handle. Berlin sunk to 5 before producing a second Priest, still stuck on four lands.
Turtenwald was stuck on three himself, however his deck seemed to be operating fine without it, though he had a Galvanic Juggernaut in his hand. Next turn the Interloper, a Typhoid Rats and Diregraf Ghoul came in (the Ghoul trading with the Guard). Berlin got two 1/1 flyers, but also sunk to two life. Turtenwald dropped a post-combat land, upping his count to four, then tapped them all for the Juggy.
Berlin had found his fifth land (a Gavony Township), and tapped them all to Unburial Rites the Guard. Turtenwald didn't mind that Berlin now had four blockers, because his Crossway Vampire could nullify one, and then simply flashback the Geistflame the next turn. That was the plan, and that's what happened.
Owen Turtenwald 1 – 0 Martin Berlin
Berlin sided in an extra Moment of Heroism for a Smite the Monstrous, properly deducing a low amount of 4-power creatures in Owen's deck.
Turtenwald opted for a Night Terrors, hoping to nab a couple pesky higher-costed cards before they came down. Specifically the Mausoleum Guard that could create headaches for Turtenwald's small attackers. Berlin had two of them.
This didn't mean the match was in Berlin's favor of course. "This match-up is bad enough of the play. I'll go first," Berlin opined before presenting his newly shuffled deck.
I really liked Berlin's keep in this game. A Typhoid Rats, a Moment of Heroism and five land. It was risky for sure, but he could take out two creatures, and Berlin had all the colored mana he needed, as his base was a bit shaky. The risk paid off as Turtenwald mulliganed and didn't have a play until turn three. And the Riot Devils that came down were not long for the world. He became a Victim of the Night before he even had a chance in the day.
Typhoid Rats, Vampire Interloper and Avacynian Priest all came down in short order and picked at Turtenwald's life total. Turtenwald was now in the catch-up slot. He offered the Typhoid Rats a Tribute to Hunger, then used his sideboarded Night Terrors to catch the last non-land card in Berlin's hand – the Moment of Heroism (he used it so it didn't get exiled). Next, Dead Weight took out the Interloper, and Harvest Pyre took down the Priest.
Now the board was empty and Turtenwald was still on 10 life.
Berlin tried to bring back his Interloper with Unburial Rites, but Turtenwald had the Geistflame for that. The Rites flashback got a two-power creature the next, to avoid that similar ghostly situation again. And the revived Avacynian Priest got in there for one before a second Dead Weight took it down.
You'd think that all this removal from Owen would come at the cost of relevant creature spells, however, instead, all this removal was coming at the cost of land. He was still on three, with a hand of Falkenrath Noble, Galvanic Juggernaut, Night Revelers, Tormented Pariah and Crossway Vampires awaiting their day in the sun (or in most of their cases, the moon). It was 8-20 and Berlin had refueled with a Village Bell-Ringer and a Thraben Sentry. If Turtenwald didn't find that fourth land soon, white humans would plink him to death. In perfectly timed fashion, he found it the next turn and started to climb back.
His Tormented Pariah caught a Smite the Monstrous, but his Noble and Crossway Vampire went unanswered. The tables continued to flip when Dead Weight (number three!) took down the Sentry. After damage and various Noble stackage, the scores became 11-10, and Owen took the point lead for the first time in the game.
When the Revelers came down the next turn, and Berlin's lone Bell-Ringer looked conspicuously like a tasty human, all the creatures turned sideways and Berlin extended his hand.
Owen Turtenwald 2 – 0 Martin Berlin
Round 11 Feature Match - Melissa DeTora vs. Justin Gary
by Brian David-Marshall
Although they live on opposite coasts these days, both Melissa DeTora and Justin Gary saw plenty of each other in the robust New England tournament scene throughout the early parts of their careers. Justin was, of course, one of the big name players of that era with three Pro Tour Top 8s including his historic win where he and YMG teammates Rob Dougherty, and Darwin Kastle all finished 1st - 3rd at Pro Tour Houston playing three different decks.
Melissa was more of a grinder back then, getting to the PT occasionally and regularly playing in PTQs and GPs. Actually she might be even more of a grinder now -- despite getting her first Grand Prix Top 8 a couple of weekends ago in Santiago. While the two players shuffled up they reminisced about the glory days of YMG when Melissa noticed that Justin was using an old school YMG die with the red dragon on it to roll for choice.
"One of the stores in Rhode Island actually still has them for sale but nobody buys them because nobody knows what that they are," lamented Melissa.
"They are sitting on a gold mine," clucked Justin who won the die roll. "II will play -- shocking I know."
Justin came out quickly with Walking Corpse followed by Kessig Wolf while Melissa did nothing until a turn three Chapel Geist. Justin could only attack with the Wolf and Melissa took three -- he followed up with Skirsdag High Priest.
Melissa drew blood with the Geist and played a second copy of the 2/3 flier.
"Double Geist..." gulped Justin, who had first picked/first pack a Travel Preparations only to have nothing in those colors come his way at the table -- for obvious reasons. Melissa fell to twelve from Justin's Wolf and he added Riot Devils to the team. Melissa untapped and played Travel Preparations targeting her two fliers.
"That's a good card," sighed Justin as Melissa tapped another two mana and flashed it back. "That's also a good card." He took 8 in the air from the two fliers. Justin attacked with everyone and Melissa announced:
"I am at four."
"Four is low..." said Justin who played Riot Devils and cast Bump in the Night.
"That is the three damage thing?" asked Melissa.
"I am at one," she said waiting to see if there was anything more coming. When there wasn't she untapped and finished Justin off with Rally the Peasants.
"So close but yet..." grinned Justin who had just taken 20 damage over three turns with only four non-lands doing all the work.
DeTora - 1 Gary - 0
Cloistered Youth led off the action for Melissa who was on the draw. Riot Devils came down for Justin -- but he did not look happy. Melissa got her inner Fiend on and attacked him down to 17 before playing Chapel Geist. Justin had Victim of Night for the flier and attacked for two.
Melissa cracked in for three more and played Sharpened Pitchfork which she equipped to the Unholy Fiend. Justin was at 14 and she fell to 16 from the Fiend at the end of her turn. Justin attacked her down to 14 with the Riot Devils, played Walking Corpse and then cast Bump in the Night to bring her down to 11.
Melissa played Clifftop Retreat and cast Instigator Gang which let her swing for four with the Fiend. She moved the Pitchfork over to the werewolf post combat. Justin's deck was full of removal and Falter type effects and Nightbird Clutches let him get Melissa down to 6. He played the last card from his hand, a Bloodcrazed Neonate.
Melissa considered her turn. "Do you have any cards?"
Justin held up empty hands but looked down at the flashback spells in his graveyard. "I do have some cards I can cast though...I wouldn't want to misrepresent anything" Melissa attacked with both -- 8 power of attackers -- and Justin ultimately put the Neonate in the path of four points of damage. The score was 6 apiece but Justin had Bump and Clutch looming. Melissa played a post-sideboard Divine Reckoning -- she has sided out the Rally the Peasants -- and pointed at her Instigator Gang. "I am going to choose this one."
"Good choice," said Justin who was left with Riot Devils. After some debate he ultimately decided to attack and Melissa went to 4 before he played Skirsdag High Priest.
Melissa attacked for four and Justin sat back in his chair and thought about what to do and what tricks Missy could have. If he could get just one point through on the next attack he could just win by flashing back Bump.
"How many cards do you have?" he asked
"I have three." -- Justin was empty handed. He picked up the Priest and finally decided to block. Now it was Melissa's turn to think. She played Avacyn's Pilgrim and moved the Pitchfork.
Justin did calculations with his fingers and sighed: "Okay...I...do not have a lot of good choices here. We will attack."
Melissa showed him the Spidery Grasp that crushed his remaining creature.
"I figured you had something like that," nodded Justin. "You win."
"You can write that I flashed back the Bump so that I got her to 1 again," he laughed as the two players packed up for the remaining round with their first draft decks.
Final result: Melissa DeTora won two games to none over Justin Gary.
Round 12 Feature Match - Ricky Sidher vs. Michael Bonde
by Marc Calderaro
Michael Bonde is the current Cinderella story. Coming into the event with no byes and currently undefeated at 11-0, the Danish player is vibrant and bubbling with enthusiasm.
"It would be pretty great to 3-0 the Table 1 Draft pool!" He smirked. "I'm just livin' the dream."
But don't count out Ricky Sidher; he's quite a good Cinderella himself. If he hadn't won a Grand Prix trial last night, he would have been in the same position as Bonde. And now, sitting at 10-0-1 (getting a draw in his first round of play), he's also looking to 3-0 the pod at Table 1 – with Player-of-the-Year-lookin' of Shuhei Nakamura, Owen Turtenwald in the midst.
Sidher's Deranged Assistant helped power out a Slayer of the Wicked (targeting Bonde's Bloodcrazed Neonate), but it milled a Mausoleum Guard in the process. Sidher was ok with that, following up with a Fiend Hunter on Bonde's Riot Devils and subsequently sinking Bonde to 11, then 6.
Bonde had an Armored Skaab equipped with a Runechanter's Pike, but continued the life-total slide to 3 on the next attack, and Sidher showed no signs of slowing, casting a post-combat Stitched Drake.
"How many cards?" Bonde asked.
"Two." A sigh came through the Dane's nose.
"Attack." He turned the Skaab sideways.
"With a 2/4?! Blasphemous Act?" It was indeed. Good call, Sidher.
And though Sidher was able to follow the board sweeper with a second Stitched Drake, Bonde had an Into the Maw of Hell to take it out, then a Riot Devils and a Makeshift Mauler, to start the slow climb back. He attacked to make he totals 15-2.
"Yeah," Sidher grunted. He had been reduced to chump-blocking. And the game had been so closely in his reach. The Devils were getting +4/+0 from the Pike and +Flying/+Flying from a Cobbled Wings and took Sidher to 9. A couple turns later that was that.
Michael Bonde 1 – 0 Ricky Sidher
Bonde let out an excited sound when he clinched Game 1. Inching closer to 3-0-ing this pod, and inching closer to a Top 8 birth. His happiness was palpable.
"I thought I had that one for sure," Sidher said. He had been a fair amount more calm than Bonde to begin with, but his mood had dampened a bit with the loss.
Sidher's Doomed Traveler was able to get in a few points before staring down a Selhoff Occultist and a Delver of Secrets.
Battleground Geist followed from Sidher and it was equipped with a Demonmail Hauberk. Believe it or not, Sidher was perfectly ok with sacrificing a Doomed Traveler to make a 7/4 flyer and take Bonde down to 11.
Bonde was light on land, but he still had a Riot Devils and a Bloodcrazed Neonate to help hold down the fort, if the important fort were on the ground. But when a yet another flyer in Stitched Drake came down, the optimism on Bonde's side of the table turned to into mere hope.
"Go, go Blasphemous Act!" Bonde drew his top card, then picked up his cards.
"It wasn't Blasphemous Act."
Michael Bonde 1 – 1 Ricky Sidher
As they shuffled up for the rubber game – the intensity ratcheted up fairly high by these up-and-comers' excitement to be doing so well – Sidher coined, "Man, it's been a long two days. And this day isn't even half over."
"And Worlds is next week." Bonde smiled. His excitement is a bit infectious.
The first few turns saw many wings from Bonde – a Lantern Spirit and some Cobbled Wings. The newly cast Riot Devils would be more than happy to pick up some of those, but Sidher sent it away with a Silent Departure and had a Deranged Assistant and a homicidally flipped Civilized Scholar.
It looked like Bonde was having land troubles yet again. He had out three a few turns later than he should have.
"How many cards in your hand?" Sidher asked.
"Five. One of them is Blasphemous Act." Bonde suggested his opponent play accordingly. If "accordingly" included flashing back a Silent Departure to bounce the Riot Devils for a second time and make the life totals 18-11 in Sidher's favor, than he did as such.
The board was Sturmgeist, Doomed Traveler and Deranged Assistant for Sidher and just the Riot Devils and Cobbled Wings. Seems like a decent enough time to wipe the board. Bonde cast the Act that he indeed had. Sidher was prepared though, he followed with the Spirit-producing Mausoleum Guard joined by the 1/1 Spirit from the Traveler.
Bonde was more prepared though, and starting spilling his cards out onto the battlefield: Armored Skaab, Stitched Drake, Runechanter's Pike, and Rakish Heir. However, Sidher had another Guard, a Rebuke and a Divine Reckoning awaiting their call of duty in his hand.
Which was now. The call of duty came now. After the dust settled there were three Flying Spirits and a new Guard, against the flying, 4/4 Armored Skaab (thanks to Cobbled Wings and Runechanter's Pike) and a fresh, large, Skaab Goliath.
"How many cards?" It was Sidher's turn to ask.
"Three. I have Into the Maw of Hell." Bonde said matter-of-factly and assertively. He has a habit of saying exactly what's in his hand. It's refreshing really. It makes my job easier.
Like usual, the low-key Sidher paid the comment no mind as he gave Mausoleum Guard a Cackling Counterpart and swung in with the team. The score became 8-6, and Sidher's flying army kept growing and growing. He had more than enough mana untapped to flashback the Counterpart at Instant speed whenever he pleased.
"I'm probably going to lose the next turn, so I'm going to go for it." He saddled up the Skaab Goliath, cast Nightbird's Clutches on the two untapped flyers and sent in the necessary 8 damage to take out the remaining life total of Sidher.
Bonde nervously eyed Sidher's last card. "Do you have the Rebuke?"
Sidher tossed his final card down on the table. Bonde didn't give it a glance and extended his hand, expecting the win. He was ecstatic. He then saw that the thrown down card. It was indeed Rebuke.
"Oh, you do?!" Bonde sat back down in his chair, despondent. Sidher's flyers came in next turn to finish Bonde off.
"You're crushing my dreams, man." Bonde said as he sat at 11-1, not having his dreams crushed in the least.
Ricky Sidher 2 – 1 Micheal Bonde
Sunday, 2:00 p.m.: Draft #1 - Owen Turtenwald, Chasin’ It, Kinda
by Marc Calderaro
I think it's fair to say that Owen Turtenwald has been having a good year. Dallas, Denver, Singapore, Atlanta, Providence and Santiago are all cities in which Turtenwald now has Grand Prix Top 8s. That's nuts. And all these impressive finishes have vaulted Owen Turtenwald to the top of the standings in the Player of the Year race. Though others are close behind, and Owen seems to think some are more deserving that he is, going into San Francisco, Turtenwald is the one with a crosshair on his back. And you know what? After yet another undefeated Day 1 here at Grand Prix—San Diego, who's surprised by that?
I loomed over Owen's shoulder during his draft at Table 1 (surprise, surprise) to watch how he approached this first Innistrad draft of the day. He wound up with a better-than average, straight-forward Red-Black deck. Though it's not a guaranteed 3-0, Owen said, "I'd be really disappointed if I went 1-2." Sounds somewhat in the 2-1 territory to me.
The deck started with a Galvanic Juggernaut over the more commitment-heavy Avacynian Priest, Harvest Pyre and a Kessig Wolf Run. However, the next couple picks of Dead Weight over Stitched Drake, Geistflame over Unburial Rites, and Harvest Pyre over Elder Cathar, Owen solidified the Red and Black.
The first two packs rewarded his decision with things like Falkenrath Noble, two more Dead Weights and a couple very late Walking Corpses. However, that came at the expense of a few good white cards that might have dissuaded the less committed. And that commitment came back to bite Turtenwald in the third pack, just a bit.
"I should've gone White, I think. My Red is pretty mediocre," he said of the final pile. Two Harvest Pyres, Geistflame, a Night Revelers, Crossway Vampire, Tormented Pariah isn't awful, but it certainly wasn't outstanding. "You'd be proud, Conley [Woods]. I'm playing Bump in the Night."
Conley gave a first-pump as he sat down at the table next to us. "Man, I can't get anyone else on my side with that one." Owen gave a slight look suggesting that, indeed, he was not on Conley's side, and not happy the be currently playing the card.
Another interesting card that made the cut was Runechanter's Pike. "It was the 23rd card for sure, but it's pretty good – even if it's just a Viridian Claw, it's probably good enough in the format."
So though the deck isn't a knock-down, drag-out winner, sitting undefeated allows Turtenwald to be happy with a 2-1 finish. Unlike many people who barely made the day, needing the 3-0 just to stay in competition.
When the conversation turned to the Player of the Year race, the pragmatic Owen Turtenwald downplayed the honor choosing to talk up others in the race instead.
"I would much rather see Luis [Scott-Vargas] or Martin [Juza] win it; they've always been in the race and deserve to win it. It just kind of fell into my lap. I think it means more to them." Though that sounds a little humble, there's an understandable practicality behind it. Though Owen has Top-8ed those countless GPs I've previously counted, he's yet to actually win a Grand Prix, and yet to Top-8 a Pro Tour. "The Player of the Year is a pride win; it's bragging rights. That's great and all, but really, I'd like to win a Pro Tour."
Well, Owen could just win out today and clinch his first Grand Prix win. That would probably feel good, though I guess he might just be forced to settle with being Player of the Year. Ho-hum. What a shame.
Sunday, 2:31 p.m. –Dino-Myte!
by Marc Calderaro
So the usual late-season Grand Prix Day 2 activities have been going on: the Player of the Year race is heating up, the Grand Prix field is whittling down, my brain is being extracted by some Stitcher's Apprentice and used for some nefarious purposes during a Rooftop Storm. You know, the reg. But as the focus narrows, sometimes it's nice to take a step back and widen the scope from the 1,000+ people who came to compete in the main event. Because there's always plenty of card-playing and brain-melting going on outside the bounds of the 20 or so Day-2 draft tables portioned off, surrounded by judges, and closely scrutinized by players for the format's next big twists.
Grand Prixes are great excuses to just come and have a fun weekend with some friends and play some awesome Magic. There're tons of artists constantly signing and tons of public events constantly starting. There're the two sets of artist playmats being given to the winners of a Modern or Standard tournament, and a big Legacy event (the winnings being packs of Revised – or as I like to call them, Dual-land Wheels of Fortune) just around the bend. Grand Prixes events aren't just for the cutthroat (or cutbrain) competition in the chosen event format. Plenty of Magic players drive down, or even fly down, to play in public events and soak in the Magical atmosphere. Just ask Tyrell Kizer and his friends from Reno, Nevada. They all drove ten hours to be here this weekend and most of them aren't even playing in the Grand Prix.
"I'm here for Legacy," Kizer told me. His friend Kristine had just competed in her first tournament ever. "I got my ass kicked." She said. This made me very happy. Because that's what happened when I first competed, and it makes me uncomfortable when people perform better than I did.
"Any large event that's less than a 12-hour drive away, we're there." Which, granted, doesn't cast quite as wide of a net from Nevada as it would in a more geographically condensed locale, but they still get themselves to a great number of large-scale tournaments to participate in the smaller-scale events. And there's plenty of Magic events to go around this weekend. Just today, in addition to the Legacy tourney, the Artist-Playmat Standard and the PTQ—Honolulu Sealed, there's a "Modern for Mox", a "Foil Your Standard Deck", and an "Extended for a Foil Innistrad Set". This is, of course, is in addition the infinite drafts constantly firing off for those people looking to maximize their Planeswalker Points. I think I just heard them call out "Draft #97."
At each Grand Prix there are streams of events like these, and with the GP reach extending next year, it's highly likely there's one coming to your area. It's even more likely that there's one within a Kizner-endorsed, 12-hour drive. If you haven't taken the time to come out yet, this upcoming year will be a fantastic opportunity. As Kizner is just one of the many people who didn't even consider entering into the main-event area. But just how and why did I decide to talk to the Nevada-based Magic player? What made him stand out from the crowd, you ask? Check out this:
KIzner's been going from event to event getting different artist to make Dinosaur sketches on a single playmat. It's called Dino-Myte. It's awesome. Tyrell Kizner's awesome. Magic is awesome. End of story.
Day 1: Undefeated Deck Lists
by Event Coverage Staff
Owen Turtenwald 9-0
Grand Prix San Diego 2011
Jason Schein 9-0
Grand Prix San Diego 2011
Martin Berlin 9-0
Grand Prix San Diego 2011
Michael Bonde 9-0
Grand Prix San Diego 2011
Ricky Sidher 8-0-1
Grand Prix San Diego 2011
Round 13 Feature Match – Jelger Wiegersma vs. Shouta Yasooka
Corbett Gray 9-0
Grand Prix San Diego 2011
by Marc Calderaro
I always love seeing Hall of Fame members show up to events and take them down hard. Class of 2008 inductee Jelger Wiegersma has been doing just that today. Dressed sharply in a nicely pressed, button-down shirt, he's been smashing through up-and-comers and veterans alike without remorse. He's like some sort of a Dutch Juggernaut or something. Oh man, I think I just coined a new nickname – guys, I just invented it, promise.
Player of the Year Contender - Shouta Yasooka
However, Player of the Year contender, Shouta Yasooka, isn't just someone you can attack through like he had Defender. Yasooka is the Lightning Bolt to a Juggernaut, ya feel me? Yasooka has had three Grand Prix Top 8s so far this year, finishing first in his homeland at Grand Prix—Kobe. And he's at equal footing with Wiegersma in the standings and with mirror Blue-Black decks (though not in physical stature – Jelger's reallytall). This was set to be a long, hard-fought match. Or maybe it was going to be a really short one.
Player of the Year Contender - Shouta Yasooka
The opening Screeching Bat from Shouta Yasooka was put inside of a box, and thus received Claustrophobia. Wiegersma's opening gambit had stunted Yasooka and the Dutchman seized the opportunity to take the upper hand. He cast a Battleground Geist, a Bloodgift Demon and a Moon Heron, and made the totals 17-12 in his favor.
Yasooka used Tribute to Hunger to get rid of the worst creature for Wiegersma (a 3-power flyer), and attacked multiple times with a Lantern Spirit, believing he could win the race against Jelger's aerial assault. This belief was more believable after Yasooka cast Victim of Night on the Bloodgift Demon, then added a 4/4 Sturmgeist.
But Wiegersma wasn't through. A Moan of the Unhallowed, another flyer, and a second Claustrophobia on the Sturmgeist within two turns was enough to send Yasooka packing up for game two wondering just where that Lightning Bolt was.
Jelger Wiegersma 1 – 0 Shouta Yasooka
Showing the speed of the format, Yasooka led by casting a Silent Departure on Wiegersma's second-turn Deranged Assistant. This was a great maneuver as it successfully delayed for a turn the Battleground Geist and Makeshift Mauler that followed, while Yasooka just had to look on and cast an end-of-turn Forbidden Alchemy, hoping for to slow Wiegersma. It's like he had a "must attack each turn if able" clause or something. Yasooka had a large Skaab Ruinator in his hand, but was not close to the creature-count in the 'yard to cast it, and his Victim of Night was one Swamp short. Yasooka played confidently, but his situation did not seem to improve.
Yasooka's Night Terrors took a Claustrophobia and then he brought Lantern Spirit, but it barely stemmed the bleeding. Wiegersma really put on the pressure as the totals went from 20-8, to 25-1.
The Dutch Juggernaut - Jelger Wiegersma
Makeshift Mauler, Falkenrath Noble and Deranged Assistant were left after the second swamp was found to execute the flying Geist, and a Walking Corpse traded with a Markov Patrician. And the Noble said that once a creature died, so would Yasooka. And really, in a format with a keyword like Morbid, it's bound to happen eventually, right?
Well, it did – almost immediately.
Jelger Wiegersma 2 – 0 Shouta Yasooka
Ok, so it was more a short match. The reign of the tall, Dutch Juggernaut continues. Seriously, pass on that nickname guys, I think it's got a shot of making it. Tell your friends.
Sunday, 6:19 p.m. - Garbageman
by Brian David-Marshall
"This is the only deck I draft," said Aaron Cheng after defeating Alex West in the second to last round at the end of Day Two. Alex West had confidently declared that his bomb-laden deck was THE 3-0 deck at the table and he had tried to lock up his Top 8 aspirations with a draw. Cheng, who was 11-1-1 and needed a win and a draw where Alex just needed two draws.
Alex's deck had a pair of Charmbreaker Devils and an Angelic Overseer among his bombs but he could not deal with Cheng attacking him along both axes of damage and decking with his SIX copies of Dream Twist and three copies of Burning Vengeance.
"I just take all the garbage cards nobody wants," was how Cheng described the deck. He barely played any creatures in his two draft decks over the course of Day Two. Two decks that had him at 5-0 on the day and within a handshake of the first GP Top 8 of his career.
"In general I really like control decks," said Cheng who started out in this format drafting blue-black mill yourself decks. " I have really come to fall into red because Burning Vengeance is really, really good late game. I have switched into loving late game more than early game and Vengeance is great for milling yourself."
When he sits down to draft I asked him what cards he looks for when forcing the archetype -- which he apparently always does.
"There is the obvious stuff like Snapcaster Mage -- which is not even a rare draft for me -- it gives Brimstone Volley flashback," said the Northern Californian. "Uncommons and stuff like Grasp of Phantoms, Burning Vengeance, Rolling Temblor -- those are all very high picks."
Why has he been forcing this archetype -- aside from the fact that it keeps winning?
" It is my favorite deck," he said simply. "I have been trying to work on keeping myself focused when I am playing and I am focused 100% when I play this deck. I can play a deck like GW humans and -- its not that I don't focus -- it is just not as much fun. And if it is not as much fun I am not going to play as well. If I am playing a deck I love I am just going to do better."
I asked Aaron how he had gotten so much experience with the archetype and he explained that it is because he set aside time to prepare for this event.
"My girlfriend has been really nice," he said emphasizing the word 'really' that conveyed how grateful he was for the opportunity to prepare. "She knows I have been practicing Innistrad Limited a lot so I can literally play Magic all throughout the week and get no crap for it. She is letting me do that because I am going into my teaching credential program and this is my last shot to do well at a tournament."
While we were talking it dawned on him that he was qualified for Honolulu and that he would not be able to play in the two PTQs he had pencilled in for next weekend while attending the public events at the World Championships.
"I don't know what I am going to do now!!" he gasped. "That is ridiculous."
I asked if he had any concerns about having his draft strategy exposed through his tenure at the top tables throughout Day Two.
"It doesn't really matter," he said with the confidence of someone who knows other people are not taking his strategy seriously. "Hate drafting is a terrible idea in draft. You are not going to take a Burning Vengeance if you are green-white humans -- you are going to take the Bonds of Faith. I am just going to slam it. I end up getting plenty of playables and if they take those cards from me I will just kill them with burn. It doesn't matter."
Here are the two draft decks that he piloted into the Top 8 today:
Aaron Cheng - Draft One
Grand Prix San Diego 2011
Aaron Cheng - Draft Two
Grand Prix San Diego 2011
Sunday, 6:37 p.m. - Cascade Games' Tim Shields – Nice Guy? Or Really Nice Guy?
by Marc Calderaro
As I become a grizzled old veteran of these large-scale Magic events, my prospective has begun to shift. Unlike when simply the enormous size of the room and sheer amount of people playing cards could wow me, it's become more and more about the little things. Like seeing a well-managed space, having an entire Artists' Alley filled to the brim with great artists, witnessing unique and interesting events, and having an outlet for my computer. But more than anything, I like to I walk into the tournament space, and within five minutes have the Tournament Organizer introduce himself, shake my hand, and ask me who I am and what he can do to make my job easier. That's Tim Shields in a nutshell. Dressed in a nice jacket, bespectacled and wearing a jovial smile, Tim, head of Cascade Games, has been running back and forth all weekend, helping judges, vendors, artists, players and me, and making it all look easy.
Of course, as expected, if you ask him about how it all happens, he immediately points the finger elsewhere. "We have awesome people," he stated. "I'm so proud of the level of the staff. Their competence is amazing." But we all know it's not that simple. Dating back just about as far as you can and not be Richard Garfield, Tim's protracted involvement with Magic allows him to put together such smooth-running events. His knowledge of the game and the people are his guides. And that knowledge shows in the sheer amount of people he encounters and knows by name. Throughout our fifteen-minute conversation, Tim was marauded with questions he answered with ease, barraged with phone calls he could always direct efficiently, and all the while he pointed out players, judges and other staff members 50 meters away – referencing them by their full names – to elucidate a point. When he talked about loving to watch in the community grow, he raised his arm and said, "See that kid over there? I've known him since he was fourteen. I'm pretty sure it was fourteen. Gabe, how old were you when we met?"
"Fourteen." Gabe shouted from across the room.
"He's a great kid."
Additionally, he tried to get me to interview one of his recently promoted staff members and praised him for his efforts in the community. This is fairly unsurprising, because it's clear Tim appreciates people showing effort towards the Magic community. "For example, all those great tournament ideas," he said in reference to the various Foil-Your-Standard-Deck and Win-A-Bunch-of-Playmats tournaments and the like, "most of those were the vendors' ideas. They came up with those on their own." And what a success those ideas have been.
Tim attributes such success to partnering. With so many great people in the community, if you can create partnerships with competent people who want to be involved, you'll almost always wind up with a superior product. "That's my model; you could say that's my style." It's certainly a style that works. Because generally, enthusiastic people are successful people – enthusiasm within reason, of course.
It's always illuminating to listen to good Tournament Organizers talk about their job because you get to hear their unique perspective within the community events. Whereas I have kept to my little myopic coverage space, rarely conversing with people I'm not writing about, and the players generally talk amongst themselves, seldom interacting with a judge or a vendor, tournament organizers run the gamut – intricately discussing with the conference hall staff, the judges, the artists, the players, all of them. It takes a certain type to seek such a job out. And hearing why Tim is involved in the way he is, explained it all.
"I don't know if you're a parent, but we were on vacation with my son not too long ago," he told me why showing me his son Patrick on his iPhone. Patrick was dressed like a Tiger. Tim continued, "And we saw this bird. Getting to see a bird through the eyes of a four-year-old is astounding. That's the feeling I have when I get to see Magic through the eyes of a new player." It's very easy to translate that from "new player" to "judge", to "vendor", to "artist". That sort of joy in the joy of others (perhaps anti-schadenfreude) would naturally draw you to such a person-oriented profession. Tim wears that badge proudly.
Since discovering the game at his comic book shop, upon the game's initial release, his life has changed around Magic. A few years later, around the release of Chronicles, he and his then-girlfriend (now wife) Traci, both got jobs working for Wizards. Tim was a part of the Arena team that really helped shape the direction of organized play. "I certainly didn't think Magic would last this long. But look at it now; it's an institution. I'm going to be interacting with these people for the rest of my life." And with the friend base that Tim's built up from his days at Wizards, his years of organizing and his years of being a die-hard player, it's hard to imagine that'll be too bad a life.
I think it's important from time to time to thank the people that make such huge events a reality. And with someone like Tim running things – as gracious, kind, and just as good at his job as he is – makes it really easy. If you find yourself attending a Cascade event in the future, make sure to find Tim and thank him. Don't worry, he'll be easy to spot. He'll be the one constantly surrounded by people, fixing their problems, and smiling.
Oh, and as promised, here's the second installment of the Win-A-Veritable-Crap-Ton-Of-Unique-Playmats tournament. Are they even better than first? They just might be.