Pro Tour–Honolulu Blog: Day 1

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Welcome to Pro Tour–Honolulu! The crack reporting squad of Bill Stark, Rich Hagon, Tim Willoughby, Tom LaPille, and Craig Gibson are combing the halls of the Hawaii Convention Center for all the inside information.



TABLE OF CONTENTS
  • 7:35 p.m. – Running Hot
    by Tim Willoughby
  • 7:08 p.m. – The Eternal Struggle
    by Tom LaPille
  • 6:51 p.m. – Searching for The Rule
    by Tim Willoughby
  • 6:22 p.m. – Back in the Saddle
    by Bill Stark
  • 5:38 p.m. – What Makes a Judge Dance?
    by Tom LaPille
  • 4:28 p.m. – Assault and Bantery
    by Tim Willoughby
  • 4:13 p.m. – Lost, Season One
    by Rich Hagon
  • 3:10 p.m. – Not Exactly the Shirt Off His Back
    by Bill Stark
  • 12:16 p.m. – Suit Up Honolulu?
    by Tim Willoughby
  • 11:35 a.m. – Borderline Crazy
    by Tim Willoughby
  • 10:31 a.m. – Round 1 Quick Hits
    by Tom LaPille
  • 9:55 a.m. – Elves Chance It in Paradise
    by Tim Willoughby

BLOG

 
  • Friday, June 5, 9:55 a.m. – Elves Chance It in Paradise
    by Tim Willoughby
  • LCQ players wait for their next round to start.
    Most Last Chance Qualifiers at Pro Tours are pretty well packed with hopefuls looking to sneak their way onto the Pro Tour, at the final possible moment. These tend to be those who are pretty local, or who have travelled at low cost.

    Getting to Hawaii isn’t necessarily cheap. There is plenty to recommend a jaunt out to the islands, though, and that brought more than the typical number of players who are happy to take a break on the beach if that final shot missed.

    In total, four players made it into the Pro Tour through tight play in the Standard LCQs. See if you can spot a common theme from their deck lists ….

    Gabriel Carlton-Barnes
    Standard - Pro Tour-Honolulu LCQ





    Yup. That’s a lot of Elves. It seems that the Standard format is far from solved. After the week of Cascade Swans, and the week of Faeries, not to mention all that time that Black-White Tokens was the best deck, now we see Elves taking all the slots at the last minute here in Honolulu. While these lucky four will now be battling with Block Constructed decks for the rest of the weekend, I think it’s safe to say that there is now another big contender for the Austin PTQ season. This is a deck that Tomoharu Saito and Shuhei Nakamura have been championing for the last couple of Grand Prix, but now there are the results to back it up.


     
  • Friday, June 5, 10:31 a.m. – Round 1 Quick Hits
    by Tom LaPille
  • Going into this Pro Tour, the only data we had about Shards of Alara Block Constructed came from the Magic Online Championship Series, where the top finishers were a sea of similar Jund decks. This raised some concerns about how robust the format was. Was Jund the only deck in the format? A quick walk around the tables in Round 1 shows that the best we had players in the world have answered that question with a resounding no. There is plenty of innovation going on. Here's a quick peek at interesting things that a few notable players are doing.

    Tomoharu Saito brought a green-white attack deck for this weekend. Many players' attacks have been stopped by Wall of Denial this tournament, but Saito was not one of them. Thanks to a stack of Noble Hierarchs that a Ranger of Eos helped assemble, Saito forced his opponent to pile both a Wall of Denial and a Sprouting Thrinax in front of a 7/7 Thornling that eventually killed both of the blockers and still damaged the opponent. The Elspeth, Knight-Errant and Behemoth Sledge in Saito's graveyard hinted at how much more brutal that Thornling's attack could have been.

    When I walked up to Gabriel Nassif's match, he had a Sharuum the Hegemon in play next to a Glassdust Hulk. His opponent tapped down to a single land, leaving Gabe free to execute his master stroke. He played a second Sharuum, looped them infinitely in and out of play thanks to Sharuum's comes-into-play trigger, then attacked with an arbitrarily large and unblockable Hulk. While he packed up his cards, I caught a glance of Protomatter Powder and Sphinx Summoner, two cards that undoubtedly will help him assemble his Sharuum combination many more times this weekend.

    We showed you a picture of Brian Kibler on the Twitter feed earlier, but his choice of deck is just as unconventional as his choice of attire. When I saw him this round, he had just finished converting a pile of Mistvein Borderposts and Fieldmist Borderposts into Thopters with Thopter Foundry to accompany his Esper Stormblade in a flying assault. His Ethersworn Canonist had to stay home due to a blocker, but still did its job of keeping his opponent's cascade spells from producing free spells.

    As I returned to my computer, I walked two players sitting next to each other who both had Noble Hierarch, Sprouting Thrinax, and Sedraxis Specter in play on turn three. It's clear that we have only scratched the surface of the variety that is here this weekend. Stay tuned for more!


     
  • Friday, June 5, 11:35 a.m. – Borderline Crazy
    by Tim Willoughby
  • In the Arena in Round 2, of a possible six, there were three Pro Tour Hall of Fame members. In those sorts of circumstances, it was hard for me not to find myself railbirding on Jon Finkel playing against Jelger Wiegersma. Wiegersma, who is well used to island living, sported a deep tan, and was comfortable in the Arena in shorts and a loose t-shirt, with no shoes.

    Finkel admitted that he too liked the island lifestyle, and had been lured to Honolulu as much by the location as by the magical cards.

    The match itself between these two great pros was a little abortive, due to mana issues experienced by Finkel, but one interesting point of note was the way that the Borderpost cycle is working in the format. Wiegersma, with a very aggressive Esper deck sporting Glaze Fiend and friends, gets a lot of value from his Borderposts, which pump the flyers, and Master of Etherium, before eventually becoming food for Thopter Foundry to get in a few final points of damage.

    On the other side of the board, Finkel's aggressive Jund deck utilised borderposts to set up Jund Hackblade attacking in on turn two. However, it is dangerous to look at Borderposts quite like Invasion tap-lands. In Game 2 of their quick fight, Finkel found himself short on mana when he kept a hand including a Borderpost and Savage Lands as its mana sources. Without a basic land to bounce, his gamble did not pay off, and he was soon destroyed by a large Master of Etherium, thanks to the many Borderposts on Wiegersma's side of the table.

    The Borderposts have also been used by some players to keep Exotic Orchard on the opposing side of the board from being too overpoweringly effective. By keeping lands off the board, Exotic Orchard can be effectively neutered, without harming the colours available to oneself.

    A final point of note about the Borderpost cycle is quite what they do to Maelstrom Pulse. When the spell first came out, a few players seemed a little saddened not to be able to use the spell to hit lands. Given its ability to hit multiple permanents, that was never going to be reasonable, but Vindicate had obviously made some players greedy. Block Constructed is the place where that greed gets to pay off. Maelstrom Pulse can quite happily off a few Borderposts in one go, which in this complicated colour-intensive format could be a killer.


     
  • Friday, June 5, 12:16 p.m. – Suit Up Honolulu?
    by Tim Willoughby
  • In a format where Broodmate Dragons have been ruling the skies thus far, it seemed that the original dragon-master Brian Kibler’s return was aptly timed. Having been lured by the exotic location, Kibler took down a PTQ with a deck sporting, of all things, Cabal Interrogator. Now that he’s here, Brian has a whole new style. Somehow, the trademark flowery shirts and headphones didn’t seem appropriate for Brian coming here where everybody seems to be rocking that look.

    Having seen the “suit up for Berlin“ campaign, Brian is the latest pro player to be seen on the Tour in a suit, and not a swimsuit either. Kibler, being Kibler, has done it in his own special way.

    “I was on Rodeo Drive with a couple of friends, and we walked into Bernini’s. When I saw this suit, not only did I know that I needed to have it in my life, but also that I would have to wear it to this Pro Tour.”

    Having got the white suit, Brian also invested in shoes, waistcoat, belt, the works. He also spent a bit of time on the Block Constructed format, having been a while off the tour. With Ben Rubin, he’s put together “a hot little brew” that he hopes to be able to fight off the “Bloodbraid Elf” metagame that he’d been expecting in the format.

    In a room where Jelger Wiegersma is running hot enough to eschew wearing shoes, Kibler seemed unconcerned about the temperature concerns of wearing a full suit. Kibler is in his comfort zone, and at the time of writing is on winning form.

     
  • Friday, June 5, 3:10 p.m. – Not Exactly the Shirt Off His Back
    by Bill Stark
  • Gerard Fabiano is one of the more lovable characters on the Pro Tour. A Grand Prix champion and well-respected New Jersey area player who had to grind his way up to the top of the game via the excruciatingly difficult East Coast qualifier circuit, he is known to be a bit of a clown when it comes to the highest level of competition. Fond of goofing with his friends, he is known as much for his antics and shenanigans as he is for his play prowess.

    Pro Tour–Honolulu promised to be the best of two worlds: your usual super-talented pool of players battling it out on the Pro Tour stage, with a beautiful tropical paradise setting the stage. Headed into the event, it appeared Mr. Fabiano had been paying more attention to the “tropical paradise” portion of the week than the “play in the Pro Tour” portion.

    “I had a deck list I wanted to play,” Fabiano explained, describing his process before coming to the Pro Tour. “I just didn’t bring any cards. I figured everyone else would have them ....” he trailed off, with his trademark sheepish grin. Give the man credit: he did the hard part (testing for the Pro Tour), he just didn’t quite finish the job by, you know, getting the deck.

    Enter Michelle Cove. For those who follow the Pro Tour and Grand Prix circuits, you’ll recognize her as the brains behind the game store GamingEtc.com. She is one of the many dealers who attend high-level Premier events, selling cards and other Magic gear and making sure players like Gerard aren’t left in the cold. “Gerard came up to me on Thursday and asked ‘Can I have a deck?’“ Michelle explained. The only problem? Fabiano didn’t want to actually buy the deck for the weekend—he wanted to borrow it.

    Michelle Cove, Gerard Fabiano, and Gerard Fabiano’s board shorts
    Luckily for Gerard, Michelle also happens to be an ardent collector of Pro Tour memorabilia. One of the many perks to the Pro Tour lifestyle is getting free things just for playing events. In store for players this weekend? Official Pro Tour board shorts (though, as one reporter mentioned, it possibly should have been official Pro Tour aloe vera, judging by some of the very pink players and judges on hand), and it just happened Gerard had his pair of shorts on him as he pleaded his case. Turning on his best “you’ve known me since I was a kid on the PTQ circuit” face, Fabiano finally got Michelle to cave.

    “Fine,” she said, “you can use the deck, but it’ll cost you your board shorts!”

    When it comes to playing the big time, some players will do just about anything to get their game on—even, in the case of one Gerard Fabiano at Pro Tour–Honolulu, if it means giving up their pants to do it!

     
  • Friday, June 5, 4:13 p.m. – Lost, Season One
    by Rich Hagon
  • Over the first five episodes of the hit MTG series, 396 brave souls found themselves on an island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, an island packed with mysterious references to the Lightning Helix, an island of mystical spells and fantastical creatures, an island where all but one soul will eventually be ... Lost.

    First to go with only walk-on parts in the series were Michael Bianco and Eric Schaller. Just one Round was enough to see them done, joined two Rounds later by Grand Prix winner Tim Landale. Nakamura left the cast in Round Four, but he was a ringer, designed to confuse and befuddle the audience, since it was revealed to be Hajime who was defeated, not Player of the Year Shuhei, who remains in touch with the leaders. Five more fell victim, including Japan’s Tsuyoshi Ikeda, a man with five Grand Prix and three Pro Tour Top 8s to his name.

    At the end of the first run of Block Constructed, Israeli Niv Shmuely and American Ben Wienburg were amongst those calling it a day without exploring the wonders of the draft. By this time, however, the strange system of the island had ensured that many more would be out of the Day Two reckoning. Eight players soldiered on without a win, and cast members Cedric Phillips, Grand Prix–Barcelona winner Joel Calafell, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa of Brazil, Portugal’s Invitational winner Tiago Chan and Worlds Finalist Jamie Parke would not have their Day Two contracts renewed, with a single victory each.

    From long-serving performer Bram Snepvangers in 199th place right down to Daniel Hernandez of Mexico in 320th, a mass of big names knew that they were in a dogfight for their Pro Tour lives, as the producers of the show had cunningly arranged it so that only one in every eight could emerge triumphant from their Draft Pods to face Day Two. That meant names like De Rosa, Ruess, Edel, Herberholz, Yurchick, Pascoli, Asahara, Brackmann, Bucher, Rubin, Lundquist, and more were all teetering on the precipice of destruction.

    More than a hundred sat at three wins and two losses, and amongst the throng discerning viewers spotted players who we might yet expect to see playing leading roles in the Player of the Year Race. Luis Scott-Vargas, so prominent in recent MTG productions, has made a quiet start, and must now look for the shards to come together if he is to make a major impact here. Alongside him sit dozens with Top 8 experience, including multiple Pro Tour winners and Hall of Famers.

    With only one defeat, the players on 4-1 have reasons to be grateful. Only an 0-3 disaster can now prevent them from returning to our screens tomorrow. For Japan, they include Players of the Year both current and former, in Shuhei Nakamura, Tomaharu Saito, and Shouta Yasooka. Also on that mark sits Yoshitaka Nakano, Kazuya Mitamura, and Koutarou Ootsuka. A formidable lineup indeed. For the Americans, prominent names include Pro Tour–Geneva champion Mike Hron, Paul Cheon, and online star Brad “FFreak” Nelson.

    With such an international cast there’s regional interest wherever you care to look. Canada looks to National Champion Dan Lanthier. For Sweden, the Tezzerator, Kenny Öberg, remains in touch. The Russian contingent stars Nicolay Potovin plus relative unknowns Denis Andrejchikov and Alexander Privalov, while France has Raphael Levy doing his usual better-than-most performance.

    But what of the elite, the true greats whom the island has so far utterly failed to tame? Twelve brave souls lead the way to this point. The sextet for the home team are led by the mysterious Man In The White Suit—not the departed Cedric Phillips, but Brian Kibler. He’s joined by Eric Deluca, Matt “Cheeks” Hansen, Jeff Pyka, Jim Davis, and Zac Hill. Taufik Indrakesuma brings Indonesia into the plot, while true Brit Dougie Penman flies the flag for Scotland. Is he having flashbacks? Christoph Huber flies the flag for Sweden, and former Rookie of the Year Sebastian Thaler leads the German challenge for the summit. But lurking ominously are the two Japanese with perfect records, Osamu Fujita and the 2006 World Champion, Makahito Mihara.

    How many of these twelve will survive to Sunday? Only these twelve can even be sure of seeing Day Two. As the series gathers pace, you can tune in all weekend on the home of MTG, magicthegathering.com, to follow all the twists and turns in this multilayered, multi-format plot. Who will lead the way? Who will disappear unexpectedly? Why does the strange glowing clock keep resetting to 55 minutes? And what happens when the time runs out?

    All the questions, and all the answers. Coming soon.

     
  • Friday, June 5, 4:28 p.m. – Assault and Bantery
    by Tim Willoughby
  • While the talk of the tournament at the start of the day might have been Jund, it seems that various players had other plans than Bloodbraid Elf for their time here in Hawaii. Wandering around the top tables, there all sorts of varieties of Bant exalted decks doing better than the hype might have suggested.

    At one end of the spectrum are green-white aggro exalted decks. These get to play with simpler mana bases than most, and have a few interesting choices that are proving very powerful. Behemoth Sledge is an easy include for green-white decks looking to punch through, and Valeron Outlander has proven a popular choice due to its protection from Jund removal spells. In a field filled with Bloodbraid Elf–powered cascade, these green-white decks are often running Rhox Meditant, as a blocker that can deal with the hasty Elf, and a little bit of card drawing to make up its own sort of card advantage. Finally, this deck is in many cases running Thornling at the top end as a massive threat. Thornling with mana up more or less requires a Path to Exile to finish off, and if they don’t have it, it will more or less rule the board for as long as the game continues (which is often not very long).

    The other side of things is a rather fun four-colour Bant deck that is being played by a whole bunch of the British players here in Hawaii. It was described by Pro Tour–Kyoto Top 8 player Matteo Orsini-Jones as “a whole mess of creatures and pump spells.” This didn’t stop him ruing the fact that he had gone with something different, though, as those four-color Bant decks have been doing it all day long. With the addition of red, this version gets to go crazy with Woolly Thoctar and Colossal Might in the mix. Colossal Might combined with Rafiq of the Many is a big play, being able to end games long before many of the decks in the format are ready to start casting their key spells.

    Going into the draft rounds, it seems that a number of players have taken this plan to heart and are reaping the rewards. Stay tuned to see if such Bantish behaviour can take anyone all the way to Sunday.

     
  • Friday, June 5, 5:38 p.m. – What Makes a Judge Dance?
    by Tom LaPille
  • Your PT–Honolulu '09 head judge, Toby Elliot

    The head judge of each Pro Tour is responsible for making sure that it runs smoothly. This weekend, that man is Pro Tour–Honolulu 2009 head judge Toby Elliott. Toby is very pleased with how well the tournament has gone so far. One breath of fresh air is that, of 396 players in the Pro Tour, there were only two deck registration problems. One player registered a fourteen-card sideboard. Another player registered four copies of Crumbling Sanctuary, a card from Mercadian Masques that falls awkwardly between Crumbling Necropolis and Arcane Sanctum. Deck registration penalties are miserable both for judges to deliver and for players to receive, and having only two errors in almost four hundred deck lists is great for everyone.

    Block formats tend to be small, and therefore the number of confusing cards and interactions in them is usually low. That has proven true today, where the two most common things that have caused a judge to be called have nothing to do with rules confusion. The first category of common judge calls is players who didn’t stop flipping cards for cascade after hitting a card that should have stopped them. The other is that players whose creature is on the receiving end of a Celestial Purge sometimes pick their deck up and begin searching for a basic land as though the opponent’s card were a Path to Exile. Both of these are simple mistakes that can be corrected easily.

    The most interesting rules question that Toby has received so far involves Ethersworn Canonist. An Esper player controlled an Ethersworn Canonist, then played a second one. His opponent Terminated the first one in response, then attempted to Terminate the second one later that turn. As it turns out, this is not legal. Ethersworn Canonist only cares about whether a non-artifact spell was played this turn, not whether that non-artifact spell was played while that particular Canonist was in play.

    Toby was thrilled that this was the most challenging question that the cards had produced so far and that the rest of the tournament was going so well. He was so happy that before he stopped talking to me he performed a strange dance of joy. It takes a lot to get most judges to dance in the middle of the tournament floor, so today must be going well indeed!

     
  • Friday, June 5, 6:22 p.m. – Back in the Saddle
    by Bill Stark
  • Chris Lachmann, right, and Jacob Van Lunen after winning Pro Tour–San Diego in 2005

    Honolulu is a tropical paradise nestled amidst the Pacific Ocean a few thousand miles from anything else. It is the rare locale that meets and exceeds expectations of it from those who visit. Combined with the luxury and high level play of the Pro Tour, Pro Tour–Honolulu is no doubt one of the most highly anticipated Pro Tour stops of all. That meant some familiar faces were making the concentrated effort to get to the event to catch up with old friends, new friends, and return to their glory days on the Pro Tour. The coverage team caught up with a few such players who have been as high as Pro Tour champion, but since their time on top have been forced away from the game for one reason or another, but found themselves headed back to Hawaii thanks to PTQ wins.

    Chris Lachmann, better known as half of the “Sliver Kids” duo, was a Pro Tour Champion as recently as San Diego just two years ago. He explained his absence on the Pro Tour plainly. “I never wanted to leave the Pro Tour, but had to for work. I never stopped wanting to play.” As soon as he was able, “Doc” Lachmann PTQed for Hawaii.

    Another member of the Pro Tour Finals Appearance in California Club, Billy Moreno (who managed the feat in Los Angeles in 2005), also found himself eligible to PT again after some time off. What made him decide to come back? “The lure of the Pro Tour. It’s just my favorite thing to do. It’s the best Magic experience. I was really excited, thrilled, to win my PTQ. I started drafting [in preparation for Honolulu] immediately after winning the PTQ.”

    Osyp Lebedowicz wins Pro Tour–Venice in 2003.
    Former Pro Tour–Venice champion Osyp Lebedowicz also managed to win a ticket to Honolulu thanks to a local PTQ. “There was a Pro Tour Qualifier literally right next to my house; it was the first one I played, and I won. It was for Hawaii, but I want to go to Austin now.” The East Coast player was up to his usual antics this weekend, getting a penalty early for accidentally registering “Crumbling Sanctuary” instead of “Crumbling Necropolis” in his main deck. It cost him a game loss, and he jokingly informed friends and listeners that the ruling had been made he would be forced to play with Crumbling Sanctuary for the rest of the weekend (that’s not how it actually works). Before long, the hall was abuzz with how to beat the Mercadian Masques artifact, a surefire sign that Osyp, and his infamous penchant for spinning tales, are back on Tour.

    The final pro, who has already seen some coverage this weekend after starting off on a blistering X-0 run decked out in an all-white suit, was Brian Kibler. The Dragonmaster had his competitive fires reignited during Pro Tour–Hollywood during the last Pro Tour season. “I went to Pro Tour–Hollywood with my friends [and former pros] Ben Seck and Patrick Sullivan. I 4-2ed the Last Chance Qualifier, then 4-2ed the PTQ the next day, and I realized how much I missed playing.”

    Here’s to hoping we’ll be seeing Brian, and the rest of the old school pros, at this and future events!

     
  • Friday, June 5, 6:51 p.m. – Searching for The Rule
    by Tim Willoughby
  • Many moons ago, Zvi Mowshowitz proposed that for any given Draft format there would be “the rule.” This was the overarching strategy which, all things being equal, would maximise one’s chances of success in a given format. Often, this rule would be pretty simple and catchy, like “Draft blue,” or “Don’t draft green.” These days, though, as colours are busy and strategies varied, this rule doesn’t seem as clear cut any more. With a spirit of adventure, I hit the floor here at Pro Tour–Honolulu, in the hopes of finding a plan that would prove compelling for my own future drafting.

    The first person I hit up for a little advice was none other than Luis-Scott Vargas, who is well in the running for the title of Player of the Year. Having opened a Cruel Ultimatum, Luis had been happy to go Grixis all the way, and seemed to be doing just fine as a consequence. Cruel could not be the rule though, surely?

    “I normally like to either be Esper or Green-White Aggro. Esper particularly seems to just have so many tricks to it that even the fairly mediocre Esper decks do great things. At the other end of the scale, I’m happy enough to be playing a control deck too. Basically I just don’t want to get stuck in the middle between being very aggressive or being very controlling.”

    I liked the sound of Esper, and certainly the notion of “mediocre deck does good” gives me more room to manoeuvre, given my own level of drafting. Next up came Zac Hill, who is currently undefeated on the day.

    Zac certainly liked going aggressive, particularly with blue and white, but was hesitant to speak of forcing.

    “This is a format with such high variance between the good cards and the bad ones that forcing is really dangerous. Sometimes it just won’t work out, so you really have to be flexible. Personally I like to be aggressive in this format, but I know that Patrick Chapin really, really likes being the five-colour drafter.”

    That Chapin chose to go the five-colour route was interesting. Alara Reborn is chock full of powerful spells, and the lure of being able to pick the best of them with impunity was certainly strong.

    Shuhei Nakamura’s take on things seemed to suggest that this plan too was not without flaws. His own leanings went in the direction of Esper, and although he had lost the previous round to a five-colour deck, he felt it was a fairly awkward choice to go into a draft with as plan A.

    “Five-colour decks have to have both bombs and really good mana. Once they have both they are amazing, but to get both they have to be a little lucky.”

    The more I looked at what players were running with success, the more it became clear that this is a format where being aggressive is often the right plan, and in spite of the large amount of gold power around, being a two-colour deck with perhaps a small splash was normally a good idea. For beatdown, blue-white and green-white both seem like reasonable options. However, all of this can be thrown out of the window when you are offered up bombs. This is not a format in which to force, and it is certainly one open to individual interpretation.

    The first rule of Draft Club is ... there are no rules.

     
  • Friday, June 5, 7:08 p.m. – The Eternal Struggle
    by Tom LaPille
  • Although the qualifying season for Pro Tour–Honolulu used the Extended format, this year’s Legacy-format Grand Prix–Chicago also qualified its Top 16 finishers for Pro Tour–Honolulu. Legacy-format Grand Prix give players who focus much of their attention on eternal formats a chance to shine, and that has given a few players who don’t normally chase Pro Tour invitations the chance to play on Magic‘s biggest stage this weekend.

    Two of those players are Andy Probasco and Rich Shay, who are both well known in the United States eternal communities. Andy placed second at Grand Prix–Chicago, losing in the finals only to a red-hot Gabriel Nassif who had just won a Pro Tour the previous weekend. Andy’s only prior Pro Tour was Charleston in 2006, at which his finish was, in his own word, “terrible.” Rich finished just inside the Top 16 in Chicago but has more Pro Tour experience than Andy. He made money at Pro Tour–Columbus in 2004 and “at least one other Pro Tour, but I don’t remember which one.” His most recent was Pro Tour–Los Angeles in 2005. Although their Legacy skills are what qualified them for this Pro Tour, both Andy and Rich are also strong Vintage players. Each of them has a second place finish at the yearly Vintage Championships; Andy’s was in 2005, and Rich’s was in 2007.

    Today, both players are playing a Zombie Skeleton deck of Rich’s design. Early in testing, Rich was playing Shards of Alara Block Constructed against a player who wasn’t qualified. That player cast a Kathari Remnant that cascaded into a Death Baron, and the resulting 1/2 flying regenerator with deathtouch tore apart Rich’s offense. Rich built a version of the deck for himself and reported good results with it, but no one other than Andy really believed in it. Rich and Andy are the only two players playing it today, and both ended the Constructed portion with 3-2 records.

    Of the deck, Rich reassured me that “It’s much better than it looks!” Andy’s deadpan response to this was to remind us that “Almost anything is better than Death Baron looks.” Andy wasn’t being fair to the deck, though, and noted that he was satisfied with every part of the deck except for a few of the sideboard slots.

    Rich Shay and Andy Probasco's Zombie Skeletons

    Both players had some adjustments to make for this event. For Rich, the split format meant he needed to work on his Limited game. All of his previous Pro Tours were Constructed, and the only previous high-level Limited he had played was at Nationals. For Andy, the adjustment was simply that he had to learn a lot of new cards. The fact that it was a completely new format was helpful because there wasn’t much established knowledge he needed to learn, but the cards themselves were still unfamiliar to him before he started preparing.

    When I spoke with them after Round 6, both Rich and Andy had lost their first round in the draft and needed to win out to make Day Two. Andy was hopeful; he was satisfied with his deck, had lost his first match only to his own mistakes, and planned to tighten up for the next two rounds. Rich was less confident. He had just come off of a rough loss against Pro Tour Hall of Famer Jelger Wiegersma, and his draft pod also included Osyp Lebedowicz and Olivier Ruel.

    Both Rich and Andy said that they have had a great time here in Hawaii and that the tournament’s surroundings were a big part of why they had chosen to attend. Both were using the tournament as part of a vacation that left plenty of time for experiencing the rest of what Hawaii has to offer. I still had a hard time keeping Rich from talking about the Pro Tour itself, though, and he specifically called out yesterday’s luau player party as a high point of the experience. “The food and the music were great, and I enjoyed just being around tons of people who were excited about Magic.”

    Rich and Andy may have taken very different paths to the Pro Tour than most players here, but both have still had a great experience. The Pro Tour offers something for any Magic player. Should you find yourself in position to attend one, take the opportunity. We’re pretty sure you’ll have fun!

     
  • Friday, June 5, 7:35 p.m. – Running Hot
    by Tim Willoughby
  • Draft can be funny sometimes. On the top table draft here on day one of Pro Tour Honolulu, three copies of Thought Hemorrhage got opened. None too shabby for Constructed play, but not the most exciting in Limited. Elsewhere in the room, though, something more exciting was going on.

    Walking through the play area, I was drawn to a game where Martin Juza was in pretty good shape. He had a Filigree Angel in play, along with enough artifacts that he had gone up to a safe life total. While his opponent Calosso Fuentes had both Scepter of Dominance and a sizeable team, Juza had the answer in Martial Coup.

    At some point shortly thereafter, things got a little weird. After a couple of copies of Glassdust Hulk, Juza found a second Filigree Angel. Fuentes looked pretty confused. He had a Filigree Angel of his own, and was looking to make a game of things, gaining 15 life of his own, and still having his Scepter to keep Juza’s big flyer from attacking or blocking.

    In the end, it turned out that Juza had the best of it with his pair of commons beating in turn after turn thanks to a steady stream of artifacts to make his Glassdust Hulks unblockable. On the final turn, Fuentes revealed that even a Sharding Sphinx he’d just drawn was not going to be enough to steal the game. He’d felt lucky with his rares, but was unable to get past Juza’s impressive assortment.

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