Saturday, 11:39 p.m. - Standard Overview
by Jake Van Lunen
Hello and welcome to Salt Lake City, Utah! Today 1137 players will be battling each other with their favorite Standard decks. The current Standard metagame is quite diverse. Let's take a look at some of the decks players are expecting to see this weekend.
Blue/White Delver has become the format default. The deck backs up absurdly cheap aggression (Delver of Secrets) with cheap countermagic and tempo effects like Vapor Snag. This is, without any doubt, the deck to beat coming into this event after Yuuya Watanabe's win last weekend at Grand Prix: Kuala Lumpur.
Yuuya Watanabe (UW Delver)
1st Place Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur
Esper Spirits chooses to lose out on some of the consistency that comes with the Blue/White versions of Delver. However, the black splash lets this version of the deck play Lingering Souls, which is one of the best cards against other Delver of Secrets strategies.
Jon Finkel (Esper Spirits)
Top Four Pro Tour Dark Ascension
Humans has evolved into a new version of Delver. This deck, an evolution of Sam Black's deck from Grand Prix: Orlando, gives its pilot access to the two most powerful one-drops in the format, Delver of Secrets and Champion of the Parish. The deck gets to play a similar suite of spells as the other Delver decks, but Gather the Townsfolk makes optimal Champion of the Parish draws very impressive.
Nick Spagnolo (UW Humans)
2nd Place Star City Games Invitational Baltimore
Red/Green Ramp was the breakout deck of Pro Tour: Dark Ascension. An overwhelming amount of board sweeping effects and value cards make the Red/Green Ramp deck a very daunting opponent for anyone. Primeval Titan is still widely considered to be the most powerful thing you can do in the format.
Brian Kibler (RG Ramp)
1st place Pro Tour Dark Ascension
Red/Green Aggro is a powerful aggro deck that matches up well against Delver strategies. Cards like Strangleroot Geist and Huntmaster of the Fells make the deck a nightmare in racing scenarios. The deck has a fast clock, inexpensive removal, and a resilient creature base which makes it very good against snapcaster decks. However, Red/Green Aggro does not do very well against Red/Green ramp or Zombies.
Mono-Green Aggro has maintained a following since the first week of the format when it had a great deal of success. Sword of War and Peace and Sword of Feast and Famine are still some of the most powerful cards in standard. Mono-Green Aggro is better at casting a Sword on turn two than any other deck, and that's a really nice thing to be best at. The Swords eventually find themselves attached to Hexproof cards like Dungrove Elder and Thrun, the Last Troll making the game very difficult for any opponent.
Todd Anderson (Green Aggro)
Pro Tour Dark Ascension
Zombies has come out of nowhere to be the most well-represented aggro archetype in the format. The deck has access to powerful cards like Geralf's Messenger and Gravecrawler. Phyrexian Obliterator is sure to make all Red/Green matchups a breeze. The deck gets a lot of late game value out of Mortarpod, using the equipment with Gravecrawler or Geralf's Messenger allows for many activations and a surprising amount of board control.
Joshua Wagener (UB Zombies)
- 1st Place Star City Games Standard Open Baltimore
Blue/Black Control was a reaction to Red/Green Ramp's success at the Pro Tour. Many players quickly realized that a dedicated Blue/Black control deck would be very well positioned against the ramp decks. The deck provides a rare opportunity to play a control deck in standard, but the current standard metagame makes the deck jump a number of hurdles. Spot removal spells no longer remain at parity with the creatures they destroy. (Moorland Haunt makes tokens, Huntmaster of the Fells leaves behind a wolf, Strangleroot Geist and Geralf's Messenger come back bigger.) Blue/Black Control needs to trust that it can draw a correct mix of removal spells, card draw, and disruption to achieve victory.
David Shiels (UB Control)
2nd Place Grand Prix Baltimore
Frites, or French Rites, is perhaps the most powerful strategy in the current standard metagame. The deck is capable of having Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite in play on the third turn, and that's nothing to sneeze at! If players choose to include a lot of graveyard hate in their sideboards then Frites will have trouble making its way through the field. However, a lot of players are looking to make room for one or two more Celestial Purges in their sideboards; they may be giving Frites an opportunity to sneak in and do some serious damage.
Raphael Levy (FRites)
Pro Tour Dark Ascension
This is just a taste of what's available in the new standard metagame. There's always room for a rogue deckbuilder to come in and flip the format upside down. Stay tuned to Grand Prix: Salt Lake City for the latest standard innovations.
Round 4: Feature Match - David Sharfman vs. Andrew Cuneo
by Jake Van Lunen
David Sharfman is no stranger to the feature match area. The Florida native has a Pro Tour win, a Grand Prix Win, and multiple Nationals Top 8s under his belt.
Andrew Cuneo is an old-school Pro Tour player that's making quite the comeback. Cuneo popularized the Melira Pod deck in Modern with his impressive finish at Worlds 2011 and continued to show his prowess with the deck by making it all the way to the finals at Grand Prix: Lincoln.
Both players sat down and immediately started passing friendly jabs back and forth. "I hope you mulligan to five," joked Cuneo.
"All I need is a Delver and it doesn't matter."
David won the roll and led things off with a Delver of Secrets. He continued attacking for one, but Delver of Secrets failed to flip for three turns. Meanwhile, Cuneo only had a Think Twice which he cast and Flashbacked on successive turns.
Andrew Cuneo made his first move with Ratchet Bomb, but Sharfman had a Mana Leak. Sharfman pressed his advantage with a Geist of Saint Traft.
Andrew was able to stabilize with a Day of Judgment, taking control of the game.
David answered with Invisible Stalker. Not all that threatening now, but a Runechanter's Pike or Sword of War and Peace could turn it into a real problem.
Cuneo started churning out card advantage with a Blue Sun's Zenith for two. A Druidic Satchel continued his theme of card advantage and he passed back to David, who only had Invisible Stalker on the table.
David cast a Delver of Secrets and passed the turn. A Druidic Satchel activation revealed ponder. Cuneo, now at 16, cast Ponder, kept three on top, and passed back.
Sharfman flipped his Delver of Secrets and attacked for four. Cuneo found a pair of lands with Druidic Satchel, thanks to Ponder, but was quickly falling behind again since Sharfman had been able to flip his Delver of Secrets into Insectile Aberration.
Sharfman tried to sway things further in his advantage with Geist of Saint Traft, but Cuneo had Psychic Barrier. A Blue Sun's Zenith for three was cast on Sharman's endstep.
Cuneo shifted the game in his favor by resolving Karn Liberated, which exiled Insectile Aberration the moment it hit the table. Sharfman attacked and used Gut Shot to get rid of the Planeswalker, but Cuneo had another Karn Liberated in hand, which he resolved the next turn. Sharfman Conceded.
Sharfman went down to five cards and Cuneo kept his opening seven.
Sharfman had Delver of Secrets on his first turn and it flipped right away. Cuneo tried to answer with a Ratchet Bomb, but Sharfman had the Mana Leak.
Another Delver of Secrets came down for Sharfman, but Cuneo had another Ratchet Bomb. Sharfman chose not to flip the second Delver of Secrets and Cuneo used the Ratchet Bomb to kill off the Insectile Aberration during Sharfman's attack step.
Cuneo took another hit and stabilized the board with Day of Judgment.
Sharfman started making tokens with his Moorland Haunt and began poking Cuneo for a few points of damage at a time. Cuneo was quickly falling behind as he continued taking damage from the Spirit tokens. Cuneo tried to find answers with Think Twice and Blue Sun Zenith, but the Gideon he found was countered when Sharfman had Snapcaster Mage to flashback his Mana Leak.
Cuneo conceded. David managed to win despite his mulligan to five.
Both players kept their opening seven. Sharfman cast Delver of Secrets on his first turn, but Cuneo used a Ratchet Bomb to kill the human before it became Insectile Aberration.
Sharfman knew he couldn't play draw-go against Cuneo's control deck, so he decided to get aggressive with an end of turn Snapcaster Mage and a Gut Shot that was aimed at Cuneo twice. Cuneo took the wind out of Sharfman's sails when he had a Snapcaster Mage of his own, which he used to trade with Sharfman's.
Sharfman cast an Invisible Stalker with a Runechanter's Pike in hand, hoping that he could sneak in lethal damage if Cuneo ever tapped out.
Cuneo took a few hits from Invisible Stalker, but a Ratchet Bomb came down and began to tick up. A few Think Twices and a Blue Sun's Zenith for three kept Cuneo's hand full, but he still couldn't find an answer to Invisible Stalker.
David managed to to resolve a Runechanter's Pike on the turn it would be lethal, but Cuneo revealed that he had a Divine Offering and used the Pike to buy himself a few more turns of Invisible Stalker hits.
Pristine Talisman came down for Cuneo, keeping his life total safe from Invisible Stalker. Sharfman managed to resolve a Geist of Saint Traft, but Cuneo had a Phantasmal Image to legend rule it away.
Another Pristine Talisman came down for Cuneo, now Sharfman needed to win through Cuneo gaining two life a turn.
Sharfman tried to get threats onto the table, but Cuneo seemed to have an answer for everything.
Eventually, Cuneo managed to resolve Karn Liberated and Sharfman conceded a few turns later.
Andrew Cuneo wins 2-1!
David Sharfman (UW Delver)
Grand Prix Salt Lake City 2012
Andrew Cuneo (UW Control)
Grand Prix Salt Lake City 2012
Saturday, 4:30 p.m.: The Race to the World Magic Cup
by Steve Sadin
On August 17-19, 2012 at Gen Con® in Indianapolis, USA, four player teams from over 50 different countries will compete in the World Magic Cup for over $120,000 in prizes, extremely valuable Pro Points, and the right to bring the title of World Magic Cup Champion home with them.
Each of the selected countries will send a team comprised of a team captain – the player in their country who ended the 2011-2012 season with the most Pro Points – and the winners of three World Magic Cup Qualifiers.
Wondering how you can qualify for the World Magic Cup? Click here to learn more about 2012 World Magic Cup Qualifiers near you .
Want to learn more about the frontrunners in the race to become the United States World Magic Cup team captain? Then read on...
1st: Brian Kibler, 56 Pro Points
When Hall of Famer Brian Kibler won Pro Tour Dark Ascension with his Red-Green Ramp Deck featuring the then underappreciated Huntmaster of the Fells – he earned himself a $40,000 check, locked himself up for Platinum Level in the Pro Players Club for 2012-2013, and qualified himself for the exclusive 16 person Player's Championship. Oh, and he also catapulted himself into the lead for most Pro Points in the United States (and the world).
If Kibler is able to maintain his lead, he'll represent his home country as the captain of the US team at the World Magic Cup this summer. But despite his lead (and his talent at the game) Kibler is far from a lock, as there are a number of extremely good players who are eager to pass him.
2nd: Josh Utter-Leyton, 53 Pro Points
While Josh "Wrapter" Utter-Leyton hasn't won a Pro Tour (at least not yet), he's had an incredibly impressive run over the past few months highlighted by a second place finish at Pro Tour Philadelphia, a Top 8 finish at Worlds in 2011, as well as Top 8s at Grand Prix Orlando, and Grand Prix Nashville.
Going into this weekend, Josh is only three Pro Points behind Kibler for the lead in the United States. If Kibler fails to Top 64 here in Salt Lake City, Josh will only need to Top 16 to tie himself for the top spot in the USA. And If Josh Top 8s, he can even start building a lead for himself...
3rd: Luis Scott-Vargas, 52 Pro Points
While most of the top players in the United States made their way to Grand Prix Salt Lake City in an attempt to cut into Brian Kibler's lead -- Pro Tour Berlin Champion, and arguably the best player in the world, Luis Scott-Vargas decided to make a slightly longer trip this weekend. Instead of making a relatively quick hop from California, to Utah – Luis decided to fly half way across the globe to compete in Grand Prix Melbourne.
The last time that LSV went to Australia, it worked out well for him as he finished in second place at Grand Prix Sydney. But will he be able to replicate that success this weekend? You'll need to follow the Grand Prix Melbourne coverage to find out.
4th: Matthew Costa, United States, 47 Pro Points
While most of the other frontrunners in the United States have been forces to be reckoned with on the Pro Tour for a while now, the 19 year old Matt Costa began making his presence felt in competitive Magic less than a year ago.
When Matt Costa made the Top 8 of Grand Prix Kansas City last year, few people outside of the Northeast knew who he was. When Costa Top 8ed Grand Prix Toronto, the very next limited Grand Prix that he played in, players across the globe started to take notice of the young limited standout who had been terrorizing local PTQs for years.
But even after posting back to back Grand Prix Top 8s, Costa knew he could do better. Costa began putting countless hours into his constructed game, and was rewarded for his diligence with a Top 8 finish at Pro Tour Dark Ascension in Honolulu (where he was eliminated by none other than Jon Finkel), and a win at Grand Prix Baltimore.
While Costa has a good amount of ground to cover in order to become the United States team captain – you shouldn't count him out yet. A Top 8, or even a Top 16 finish at Pro Tour Avacyn Restored in Barcelona could be enough for Costa to lead his country's flag at the World Magic Cup this summer.
5th: David Ochoa, United States, 46 Pro Points
Unlike the other players atop the standings, David Ochoa doesn't have a Pro Tour Top 8 to catapult his Pro Point total upward. Instead, Ochoa has gotten to 46 Pro Points through strikingly consistent finishes at the Pro Tour, and on the Grand Prix circuit. Heck, even if you take away the Pro Points that he received from his Top 8 finishes at Grand Prix Austin, and Grand Prix Orlando – David Ochoa would still be a lock for Platinum Level in the Pro Player's Club for 2012-2013 just by showing up at Pro Tour Avacyn Restored in Barcelona.
Over the course of the last year, Ochoa has demonstrated that he has the ability to play extremely high level Magic at every event he goes to. And while Ochoa's dedication hasn't led him to a Pro Tour Top 8 yet, you shouldn't be at all surprised to see David Ochoa rise to the top of the United States standings on the backs of a Top 8 finish at Pro Tour Avacyn Restored in Barcelona.
Rounding out the top 10 spots, we have internationally renowned rogue deck designer Conley Woods with 39 Pro Points. Sam Black (who has been on quite a tear recently despite a "curse" that causes him to take two early match losses in every tournament he plays in) and recently crowned Grand Prix Indianapolis Champion Tom Martell are tied for 7th place with 38 Pro Points each. And all time great Jon Finkel finds himself tied for 9th place with reigning Player of the Year Owen Turtenwald with 37 Pro Points.
Jon Finkel proved that he's still one of the game's best with his Top 4 finish at Pro Tour Dark Ascension
Will Brian Kibler maintain his spot at the top? Will Matt Costa cement his status as the best young player in the game with a Top 8 at Pro Tour Avacyn Restored in Barcelona? Will David Ochoa become a Pro Tour Champion, and simultaneously earn with it the right to lead the United States at the World Magic Cup?
Keep following the action live at DailyMTG.com to find out!
Round 5: Feature Match - Brian Kibler vs. Eric Centauri
by Steve Sadin
Pro Tour Dark Ascension Champion, and Hall of Famer Brian Kibler is currently holding on to a narrow lead in the race to become the United States team captain at the World Magic Cup. A good finish this weekend could help him further that lead, but should he stumble there are quite a few players (including Luis Scott-Vargas who is currently playing in Grand Prix Melbourne) who would love to take his spot.
After dispatching a Blue-White Delver of Secrets deck last round with his Naya Beatdown deck, Kibler must again face the Blue-White menace this round against relative newcomer Eric Centauri.
As the two players were shuffling up for their match, Centauri explained the Kibler's article on Friday (where Kibler described the deck that he is playing this weekend) had a big impact on Centauri's testing process.
"Last night you were the talk of my testing group. We were all trying to decide if we should switch to your deck, or if we needed to do anything special to beat it." Said Centauri.
"After drawing his opening hand, Centauri stated "I'm going to assume you're playing what your article said you would yesterday – and my hand isn't that good against it, so I'm going to mulligan." Centauri seemed happier with his next hand, declaring that he would keep it before he had even seen the last two cards.
Kibler opened on Forest, Gavony Township, Birds of Paradise, and Llanowar Elves – but a couple of Gut Shots prevented the Pro Tour Champion from ramping up his mana, or even casting the Strangleroot Geists that were in his hand because he had only a single green mana at his disposal.
While Kibler was dealing with his Gut Shot-induced mana woes, Eric Centauri wasted no time killing him with Delver of Secrets, Invisible Stalker, and a Geist of Saint Traft.
"I'm glad I added those Gut Shots. They were just for you."
Eric Centauri 1
Brian Kibler 0
Eric Centauri (left) took advantage of the fact that he knew what Brian Kibler (right) was playing to help him win the first game of their match
Kibler got off to an early lead with a Llanowar Elf, and a Strangleroot Geist – but it didn't take long for Centauri to pull way ahead with a couple of Vapor Snags, a Geist of Saint Traft, and two copies of Dungeon Geists.
Kibler had an Oblivion Ring to buy himself a bit of time, but a Snapcaster Mage flashing back Vapor Snag was enough for Eric Centauri to take the match without ever once feeling like he was in real danger of losing.
Eric Centauri 2
Brian Kibler 0
Saturday, 5:30 p.m.: Card Spotlight - Huntmaster of the Fells with Brian Kibler
by Jacob Van Lunen
Huntmaster of the Fells is one of the most powerful cards in Dark Ascension. It functions well on offense, defense, or in card advantage wars. Brian Kibler's winning decklist from Pro Tour: Dark Ascension played four copies of the powerful mythic rare. Since then, Kibler has utilized the power the creature in a number of different archetypes. I sat down with Brian Kibler to talk about the evolution of Huntmaster of the Fells decks in standard.
What makes Huntmaster of the Fells so appealing to you?
"Huntmaster is the sort of creature that I really like. It has a significant board presence and it disrupts your opponent, like Knight of the Reliquary. It's a great threat by itself, but it also contributes to the game in a number of other ways."
Why did you play your deck at Pro Tour Dark Ascension?
"I thought it was the best positioned deck overall. I felt it had a great matchup against Humans and Delver. Huntmaster was one of the major reasons we played the deck. Players were inexperienced against Huntmaster and they might make mistakes and not know how to interact optimally."
Why did you play your deck at Grand Prix: Baltimore?
"In Baltimore, I basically just played the deck I wanted to play in Honolulu. I couldn't justify playing the deck at Pro Tour: Dark Ascension because it had a bad matchup against the ramp deck and I knew that the team I had tested with would all be playing that deck. I basically just wanted to play Huntmaster and Daybreak Ranger because they're sweet."
What do you believe is the best home for Huntmaster of the Fells in the current standard metagame?
"I think my Naya pseudo-pod deck is the best home for Huntmaster currently. The deck takes advantage of everything Huntmaster has to offer."
Saturday, 6:20 p.m.: Quick Questions - What Deck has the Best Matchup Against Blue-White Delver?
by Steve Sadin
| Conley Woods: "A Mono-Red Beatdown deck – but that wouldn’t beat anything else in the format, so I don’t think you can play it."
|| Patrick Chapin: "Grixis Control. "
| Jesse Hampton: "Blue-Black Control – if you tailor your deck for the Delver matchup. No matter what you’re playing, you need to tune your deck to beat Delver, or you’re just going to lose to it."
|| Owen Turtenwald: "Delver."
Round 7: Feature Match - Owen Turtenwald vs. Jackie Lee
by Jacob Van Lunen
Owen Turtenwald needs no introduction. Last year, Turtenwald won the Player of the Year race. Turtenwald's success has largely come on the Grand Prix Circuit. He is widely considered to be one of the best players to never top eight a Pro Tour.
Jackie Lee had her breakout performance at Grand Prix Baltimore last month. She has to be feeling good about her chances with a top four finish at the most recent Standard Grand Prix in the United States.
Turtenwald won the roll. Both players kept quiet while shuffling their decks. Some friendly banter was exchanged once they presented.
Turtenwald, playing Esper Spirits, had a Ponder for the first turn, but the top of his deck didn't look great and he chose to shuffle.
Lee, playing Red/Green Aggro, didn't have a play for her first or second turn.
Turtenwald had the first creature of the game with Delver of Secrets, but Lee was ready with a Galvanic Blast.
Lee tried to sneak a Sword of War and peace in, but Turtenwald's Mana Leak kept it off the table.
Turtenwald cast a Drogskol Captain and Lee answered with a Huntmaster of the Fells.
Dungeon Geists came down for Turtenwald and tapped Lee's wolf token.
Lee furthered her board presence with another copy of Huntmaster of the Fells, forcing Owen to play a spell every turn or suffer some serious consequences.
Turtenwald got in for four damage with his Dungeon Geists and used a Vapor Snag to dispatch of a wolf token and prevent Lee's Huntmasters from flipping.
Lee decided not to attack into the Drogskol Captain and simply made a bird before passing back.
Turtenwald attacked for another four and activated Vault of the Archangel to gain some life. Things began to get out of reach for Turtenwald when he didn't have a spell and Lee's pair of Huntmasters flipped.
Lee's werewolves killed Turtenwald's Drogskol Captain and dealt some extra damage. Acidic Slime was added to the table and Lee sent her team into the red zone.
Turtenwald had fallen too far behind and decided to move on to game 2.
Jackie Lee 1 - 0 Owen Turtenwald
Jackie's Red Green Aggro deck has been serving her well.
Both players kept their opening hands. Lee made the first significant play of the game when she cast Green Sun's Zenith for one and found Llanowar Elves.
Turtenwald cast Timely Reinforcements, made three tokens, and used a Gut Shot to kill Lee's Llanowar Elves.
Lee didn't have a play for her third turn and things were looking very good for Turtenwald.
Turtenwald began flooding the board, Lingering Souls put Turtenwald at five creatures to Lee's Zero.
Lee could only cast a Hellrider and send it into the red zone. Turtenwald used a Snapcaster Mage to Flashback a Ponder. The flashback on Lingering Souls put things further out of reach for Lee.
But Lee wasn't going down without a fight. She used Phyrexian Metamorph to copy Hellrider, cast Strangleroot Geist, and made a very impressive attack. Turtenwald chump blocked and fell to three life.
Turtenwald would need to win the next turn or die to Hellrider triggers. He revealed a Drogskol Captain for lethal damage on his turn and forced a third game.
Jackie Lee 1 - 1 Owen Turtenwald
Owen looks for victory in the face of a very difficult matchup.
Lee led things off with a turn one Birds of Paradise which met a Gut Shot from Owen.
Owen used Gitaxian Probe to get some information, but he failed to find anything to make a board presence.
Lee was able to resolve a Sword of War and Peace on her third turn.
Turtenwald pondered for a third land, but he was forced to shuffle when it wasn't on top. Turtenwald passed the turn without hitting his third land drop.
Lee dropped a Thrun, the Last troll onto the table and things were looking very grim for the reigning Player of the Year.
Turtenwald missed his third land drop again and was forced to discard at the end of his turn.
Lee cast Strangleroot Geist, equipped her sword, and attacked. Turtenwald had Divine Offering for the Sword and a Gut Shot which turned Strangleroot Geist into a 3/2.
Another draw step revealed nothing of note for Turtenwald. Lee had far too much of a board presence and Turtenwald was still stuck on two lands. He was forced to concede.
Jackie Lee 2 - Owen Turtenwald 1
Saturday, 8:30 p.m.: Quick Questions - What's the Best Sideboard Card in Standard?
by Event Coverage Staff
| "Celestial Purge. It’s really good against Hellrider, Huntmaster of the Fells, Curse of Death’s Hold, and even Manabarbs (which I hate losing to). Plus you can Snapcaster Mage it back. Celestial Purge is actually the reason why I’m playing white in my Blue-Black-White Control deck this weekend."
| "It’s between Ray of Revelation, Ancient Grudge, and Dungeon. Ray of Revelation isn’t that well positioned right now because White-Blue Humans isn’t very popular, so it probably isn’t Ray – but there are a lot of good artifacts to kill with Ancient Grudge, and Dungeon Geists is an amazing card to bring in against creature decks."
| "Ancient Grudge. It’s intrinsically powerful, and there are a lot of good artifacts (like the swords) to kill in Standard right now. Ancient Grudge is also the best Standard legal Sideboard card in Modern, Legacy, and Vintage."
| "Last week it was Surgical Extraction because people still played Frites -- but this week I think it’s Revoke Existence, or Jace, Memory Adept. "
Round 8: Feature Match - Willy Edel vs. Conley Woods
by Steve Sadin
After some time away from the game, old school Brazilian pro Willy Edel has been slowly working his way back into the competitive Magic scene. Last year Edel showed that he still has what it takes to win by Top 8ing Grand Prix Kansas City – and with an invitation to Pro Tour Avacyn Restored in Barcelona already in his back pocket, Edel could very well find himself once again becoming a fixture on the Pro Tour.
Following a breakout season in 2009 that saw him Top 4 Pro Tour Honolulu, and a strong 2010 where he made the Top 8 of Grand Prix Oakland, and Grand Prix Nashville -- Conley Woods hit a bit of a rough patch. No matter what he tried, things just didn't seem to work out for Conley – and he found himself in serious danger of falling off of the Pro Tour "gravy train" before Worlds last season.
But with his back against the wall, things once again began to click for Conley – and he was able to breeze through the Swiss portion of Worlds, entering the Top 8 in first place. A couple of months after his Top 4 finish at Worlds, Conley won Grand Prix Orlando – and not long after that, he earned himself enough Pro Points to lock himself up for Platinum Level in the Pro Player's Club for 2012-2013.
Going into this round, Edel is 6-1 with Blue-White Delver deck, while Woods has dropped only a single match with his Green-White-Black Mana Ramp deck that people have been referring to as "American Pickers."
"No flipped Delvers on turn two please" begged Woods as the players drew their opening hands.
"Now I'm definitely going to flip my Delver on turn two" replied Edel with a smile.
Edel kept his opening seven, but Woods mulliganed down to six... then five... before finally keeping a four card hand.
Edel used a Gitaxian Probe on turn one, and saw a hand of three lands, and a Rampant Growth, before playing a first turn Delver of Secrets.
Woods played a land and passed, and Edel promptly revealed a Ponder off the top of his library. "Told you!" said Edel as he transformed his Delver of Secrets on turn two.
Edel played a second Delver of Secrets, and ensured that it too would transform by setting up the top of his library with Ponder – while Woods did nothing but play lands, and mana accelerators before dying.
Willy Edel 1
Conley Woods 0
Both players mulliganed, and Conley groaned a bit before keeping his six-card hand, and playing a Forest.
Edel began his first turn by playing a Gitaxian Probe, again seeing a less than impressive set of cards.
"Alright, you get to see this really rinky-dink hand – but I figured it was better than going to five" said Woods before revealing a hand of Ghost Quarter, Beast Within, Lingering Souls, and Curse of Death's Hold.
Edel played a first turn Delver – but this time he wasn't able to transform it on his second turn, and had to pass after attacking for one.
"Well that was good" said Woods as he played a freshly drawn Plains before casting a Lingering Souls which was promptly countered by Mana Leak.
Edel again missed on his Delver, and shrugged before stating "let's see how good you are" as he played a Geist of Saint Traft – leaving himself vulnerable to Day of Judgment should Woods draw a second white source.
Woods did indeed draw his second Plains, allowing him to Day of Judgment away both of Edel's creatures, and give himself a bit of breathing room.
Edel rebuilt with a Moorland Haunt, and a Delver of Secrets, which quickly turned into an Insectile Aberration – but a Ghost Quarter activation, and a Ratchet Bomb bought Woods some time as it prompted Edel to Vapor Snag his own Insectile Aberration.
However, that time wouldn't do Conley much good as Willy was able to quickly close out the game with Insectile Aberration, Gideon Jura, and a pair of Phantasmal Images to go over the top of Conley's Grave Titan.
Willy Edel 2 – Conley Woods 0
Round 9: Feature Match - Connor Lester Vs. Jesse Hampton
by Jacob Van Lunen
Jesse Hampton is quietly making a very impressive resume for himself. A Top 8 finish at Pro Tour Philadelphia and a Top 16 finish at Pro Tour Dark Ascension puts him in good position to achieve platinum status in the pro player club. A Top 16 here in Salt Lake City will lock Jesse Hampton up for platinum after Pro Tour Avacyn Restored.
Connor Lester is a Utah native. He began the day without any byes. This will be his first Grand Prix Day 2.
Both players have made it through eight rounds of standard battling with untarnished records.
Only one of these players will enter the second the second day of competition undefeated.
Connor won the roll and revealed that he started the day with zero byes.
"Zero byes!" exclaimed Jesse, "you must be a master."
Connor just smiled, "I got pretty lucky."
Connor's lucky streak continued and he won the die roll.
Hampton went to six cards and Lester kept his opening hand.
Hampton made the first play of the game with Delver of Secrets, "surprise!"
Hampton attempted an Invisible Stalker to further his board presence, but it met a Mana Leak from Lester.
Lester continued developing his mana and passed the turn after a third land.
Hampton made Geist of Saint Traft and Lester was forced to let it resolve. Go for the Throat dealt with Delver of Secrets and Thoughtscour milled Lingering Souls.
Hampton successfully resolved Runechanter's Pike, equipped his Geist of Saint Traft, and sent it into the red zone. Lester chump blocked the angel and took two damage from the Geist.
Lester struggled to find an answer to the equipped Geist of Saint Traft as his life total quickly dwindled. Eventually, he was able to play a sixth land and stick a Sun Titan.
Hampton capitalized on Lester being tapped out by resolving Sword of War and Peace. Geist of Saint Traft picked up the Sword and was sent into the red zone. Leaving Lester at just 3 life.
Lester just had a Thoughtscour, but it was very kind. It flipped up an Oblivion Ring (Which he could get back with Sun Titan) and a Lingering Souls. Lester attacked with Sun Titan and used Oblivion Ring to exile the Sword of War and Peace. Flashback on Lingering Souls flooded the table with guys and a Ratchet Bomb gave added insurance.
Hampton failed to find any more action while Lester continued drew another Lingering Souls.
Hampton was forced to concede.
Jesse Hampton 0 - 1 Connor Lester
Both players kept their opening hands. Hampton had a turn two Invisible Stalker.
Hampton continued to pressed his advantage with a Geist of Saint Traft.
Lester had Lingering Souls, but the game was quickly spiraling out of control for him.
Hampton attacked and left mana open for action on Lester's turn. Lester could only flashback a Lingering Souls before passing the turn back.
Hampton successfully resolved Sword of Feast and Famine and attached it to his Invisible Stalker. Lester got hit by the sword and was forced to discard a card and deal with Hampton having all his mana untapped.
Lester dug for an answer with Forbidden Alchemy. He found a Sun Titan and managed to get it to resolve. It returned a Phantasmal Image, which copied the Sun Titan, and returned another land.
The game was looking like it might favor Lester as he cast Thoughtscour and flipped another Phantasmal Image.
Hampton crushed any chance of a race when he revealed he had Snapcaster Mage to flashback his Vapor Snag.
Hampton's attack brought Lester down to one life. Lester swung with his team, and then went for Day of Judgment. Hampton had the Mana Leak and they were moving onto the third game.
Jesse Hampton 1 - 1 Connor Lester
Lester went down to six cards. Hampton made the first play of the game with a Ponder. Meanwhile, Lester had a pair of Thoughtscours, but failed to find a second land and things began looking grim right away.
Hampton had another Ponder, but he had to shuffle his deck. Lester continued to miss his second land drop and Hampton was able to resolve a Geist of Saint Traft.
Geist began attacking before Lester had a second land in play. It picked up a Sword of Feast and Famine and Lester was dead before he played his second land.
Jesse Hampton 2 - 1 Connor Lester
Both players exchanged kind words and wished each other luck in the second day of competition. Congratulations to Jesse Hampton on his undefeated performance here on Day 1 of Grand Prix Salt Lake City!