The US National Team is almost set! After fourteen rounds of play (including two drafts and eight rounds of Standard), we've got a star-studded Top 8. David Ochoa, Josh Utter-Leyton, Eric Froehlich, Tim Sussino, Anthony Eason, Conrad Kolos, Gerard Fabiano, and Brad Nelson are going to come back Sunday to fight for the right to represent their country in the World Team Competition. Be here!
Saturday, 12:00 p.m. – Tales From Across the Pond:Checking In With Great Britain Nationals
by Nate Price
With Great Britain Nationals just winding down and US Nationals just taking off, my British counterpart Rich Hagon and I decided to sit down for a quick chat about the status of our respective National tournaments and reigning champions. Here’s how the conversation went!
Feature Match Round 8: You Would Scry 2 If It Happened to You – Luis Scott-Vargas vs. Zvi Mowshowitz
by Dave Guskin
Other titles considered for this feature, but ultimately discarded: "L-S-Zvi," "Big Boys Do Scry," and "Future War 6: Attack on the Past!"
These players need no introduction, but they are going to get one anyway, because the people demand it. Zvi Mowshowitz, a brilliant deck designer and Pro Tour Hall of Fame inductee, found himself seated against one of the new breed of Magic professional, Luis Scott-Vargas – PT Berlin 2008 winner and second and third place respectively in Kyoto 2009 and San Diego 2010. They chatted amicably about their decks, having drafted in the same pod, and both remarked on how deep their pools seemed to be for deckbuilding.
Mowshowitz started off with a Llanowar Elves into Crystal Ball, while Scott-Vargas had only a Reassembling Skeleton to answer the powerful future-telling artifact. Mowshowitz upkeep-Scry'd and found himself a Gargoyle Sentinel.
Luis attempted to maintain position in the card selection race with a Sign in Blood, going to 18 and drawing the cards. Zvi had a leg up, however, with an Island and a Foresee. He put all four on the bottom.
"Better than the alternative," Scott-Vargas remarked. Mowshowitz nodded and ended his turn with another Elf.
Scott-Vargas had merely a Goblin Tunneler to add to the board next to his Skeleton; as yet, neither player had a dominating board position, focused as they were on card advantage.
Mowshowitz took 1 from an unblockable Skeleton down to 19, then he laid a Azure Drake and cracked Scott-Vargas down to 15 with it the next turn. His Crystal Ball continued to find gas, as he cast a Spined Wurm to answer a recently cast Nightwing Shade from Scott-Vargas.
Scott-Vargas had the efficient Deathmark to answer the Wurm, but continuing to go one-for-one with Mowshowitz seemed a losing battle… or so it seemed. The ChannelFireballer sent his Shade through the skies and pumped it to 4/4, bringing the Hall of Famer down to 15. Mowshowitz had an Air Servant to apparently prevent any more air shenanigans, but Scott-Vargas had a plan for the wispy Elemental and to pour the pressure on.
Luis cast Act of Treason, smashed Mowshowitz down to 9 with the stolen Servant and his Shade, and then cast Fling to take care of both the traitorous Elemental and its Azure Drake buddy. Scott-Vargas finished his amazing turn with a Bloodthrone Vampire, earning a laugh from Mowshowitz, both at the bonanza of sac outlets and the completion of the combo.
Zvi kept digging, but with the sick triumvirate of Bloodthrone Vampire, Goblin Tunneler and Reassembling Skeleton, his nine remaining life points did not seem particularly safe. After scrying and finding nothing, he fell to the subsequent Fireball-esque attack for lethal.
Scott-Vargas 1 – 0 Mowshowitz
"In theory, I have some answers to this," said Mowshowitz, noting the power of Scott-Vargas's combination. "Somewhere. I didn't put them on the bottom!"
Mowshowitz sided in a Warlord's Axe, a portentous change from the man who could see into the future.
Mowshowitz kept up the scrying with a turn one Preordain, but then chuckled as he just shuffled them back in with a turn two Sylvan Ranger. Scott-Vargas again had his trusty Reassembling Skeleton and bashed in the following turn, taking Mowshowitz down to 19. He laid the complementary Bloodthrone Vampire and passed.
"Really?" said Zvi, exasperated. He used his newly cast Crystal Ball to dig to Foresee which let him dig even further, searching for answers to the imminent combo.
Scott-Vargas, with no particularly trickiness up his sleeve, just smashed in with Vampire and Skeleton, and the Ranger traded with the Skeleton. Scott-Vargas had a Manic Vandal to deal with the pesky Crystal Ball before too much alteration of destiny occurred.
Mowshowitz had an Azure Drake for defense, but it was helpless against the distressingly large 1/1 Vampire, which bashed in unblocked and nipped a point, taking Zvi down to 18. Scott-Vargas tried an answer to the Drake with his own Nightwing Shade, but Mowshowitz had an Aether Adept to solve it… temporarily. Scott-Vargas took a Drake hit down to 18, and Mowshowitz added the mighty Warlord's Axe to his board. With the additional tempo of the Axe powering up his flying force, Zvi had time on his side.
Luis replayed his previous turn with one from the Vampire and then the same Nightwing Shade, putting Zvi at 18. Zvi untapped and thought for a bit before equipping the Drake and bashing in with it and the Adept. Vandal and Adept traded, but Luis took the now 5/6 flyer in the face down to 13. Zvi finished up with a Scroll Thief.
Scott-Vargas untapped and aimed an Act of Treason at the Scroll Thief, attacking Mowshowitz down to 13 with the stolen Thief, an unpumped Vampire and an unpumped Shade. He then chowed down on the Scroll Thief, and passed it back.
Zvi, fearless, bashed in again with the Drake, taking Luis down to 8 life. Luis pecked in for another point, and held back his Nightwing Shade to block. Zvi had the Plummet, however, further cementing his tempo lead, and put Luis down to just 3 life.
"Remove this, you win," said Mowshowitz with a shrug, casting a Llanowar Elves and passing the turn.
Scott-Vargas reanimated Reassembling Skeleton and considered his options. He bashed with the Vampire and the Skeleton, but Mowshowitz quickly blocked the Vampire and Scott-Vargas was forced to eat his Skeleton before damage. He pumped it twice more, Skeleton jumping in and out of the graveyard, and then Flung it at the enhanced Azure Drake. Scott-Vargas, the board now empty, laid down a Viscera Seer and sent the turn to Mowshowitz. It wasn't much, but it was something.
Zvi, however, found a powerful Air Servant on the top of his deck. Luis tapped 1B and used his Skeleton to Scry on upkeep, but couldn't find an answer to massive air beatings and scooped it up.
Scott-Vargas 1 – 1 Mowshowitz
Luis let Zvi play in the final game, and the Hall of Fame inductee made good use of it, laying a turn one Llanowar Elves. He followed that with an Augury Owl, electing to ship all three, and bashed Luis down to 19 with the Elves.
Scott-Vargas had his ubiquitous Reassembling Skeleton, which was soon joined by a Barony Vampire. Mowshowitz overpowed that team with his own, however – Azure Drake and Spined Wurm joined up, and the flyers attacked Scott-Vargas down to 15.
Scott-Vargas dug for action with a Sign in Blood, going down to 13, and found a Bloodthrone Vampire, but the flying armada was his primary concern and he still hadn't found answers. Mowshowitz bashed again to put Scott-Vargas down to 10.
When Luis's only play was a Goblin Tunneler, Zvi again attacked with his flyers. Luis stopped him and aimed a Stabbing Pain at the Owl, taking only the Drake damage and going to 8. Zvi found a Crystal Ball and began to Scry in earnest, but couldn't stop the Doom Blade on his primary attacker, the Drake.
With all the air force eliminated, Scott-Vargas's life total was safe, but he merely cast a Viscera Seer – his life now low enough that he couldn't use all of his creatures to go offensive without taking some serious ground poundings in return. Mowshowitz added a second Crystal Ball, his ability to peer into the future mildly outstripping Scott-Vargas's ability to combine Seer and Skeleton into 1B: Scry 1. Mowshowitz found and added a Cloud Elemental to the table, but Scott-Vargas found a Rise from the Grave to zombify Azure Drake to block.
Zvi finally found an answer after six times Scry 2 or so, his Warlord's Axe, which made the Cloud Elemental into a monstrous 5/4 flyer. Luis blocked with the resurrected Drake, then dug for answers. He found a Captivating Vampire, putting his Vampire count at four – so close, and yet so far.
Mowshowitz took the clear skies as an invitation to put Scott-Vargas down to 3 once more, and added an Air Servant to really put the pressure on. Scott-Vargas performed the Scry 1 operation approximately a million times, but couldn't find a Fling or a fifth Vampire and extended the hand.
Scott-Vargas 1 – 2 Mowshowitz
Saturday, 12:30 p.m. – Viewing Ben Lundquist
by Monty Ashley
The process of making a Draft Viewer is more complicated than you might think. We on the event coverage staff are but people, after all, so it all starts with this:
Eight people (usually a combinaton of event coverage staff and stray judges who we managed to dragoon into service) take their positions behind each of the drafters at the Feature Draft table. For the Day 2 Draft at the 2010 United States National Championship, I stood behind Ben Lundquist, giving me this view of the action.
Ben is passing to Patrick Chapin and receiving from Brian Kowal. His job is to put together the best deck he can. My job is to look over his shoulder and record his picks. Here, he's looking through his first pack.
He's already tentatively chosen Brittle Effigy for his pick, and that's what he settled on thirty seconds later. He's already thinking about going white-red, which is why he's scanning through those cards. Hidden in the back of the pack is an Aether Adept which Pat Chapin is going to take as his second pick.
Lundquist's second pack gave him a choice between Pyroclasm and Pacifism, which he flipped back and forth between before finally taking the Pacifism. When Chapin received the Pyroclasm as his third pick, he started dipping into red. This would have presented a problem for both Chapin and Lundquist, but luckily for both of them, Chapin moved int ogreen in the second pack, so he was free to pass red cards back to Lundquist. Moving on to Lundquist's first pick from the second pack ...
He opened, and took, a Stormfrornt Pegasus. He decided on this pick almost immediately, but then spent the rest of his time scanning through the pack and memorizing the cards so that he'd know which cards had been taken when he came back. Lundquist's third pack again presented a choice between white and red.
After going back and forth between Vengeful Archon and Chandra's Outrage, Lundquist chose the Archon. This time Chapin did not take the proffered red card, choosing instead to draft a Doom Blade.
When the draft is over, the players are separated and begin to build their decks. At the same time, the coverage staff rushes back to our computers to start typing in our notes. Remember that nearly blank sheet of paper? It looks like this now.
Feature Match Round 9: Empirical Evidence - Gerard Fabiano vs. Josh Ravitz
by Nate Price
This one's for Antonino DaRosa.
Fabiano's first move of the match was to secure himself the seat with his back to the audience. Ravitz thought this was amusing.
"You think that chair's lucky? I bet it is."
As they sat shuffling before the match, the players discussed the finer points of classical music. On the topic of B.O.B., Fabiano admitted that his new album was quite good, especially the song that goes…
"The kids don't, the kids don't, the kids don't stand a chance."
After a little more thought, a big grin spread across his face as he looked into Ravitz's dead eyes and started singing, "Josh Ravitz, Josh Ravitz, Josh Ravitz don't stand a chance."
Fabiano started off a little behind the gun, stalling on two Islands for a couple of turns until an Augury Owl found him a Plains and a Mystifying Maze. Luckily for him, Ravitz had nothing in the way of permanents. All he had added to his board was a Wall of Vines. With a third land in play, Fabiano was able to get a Scroll Thief into play, though he was still blocked by the Wall. Unfortunately for Fabiano, while he was stumbling on mana, Ravitz was accumulating his. A Yavimaya Wurm hit the table, dwarfing all of the other creatures. Fabiano was ready for it, aiming a Pacifism to stop the Wurm before it could hit once.
The Rampaging Ravitz is Pacified for the moment.
Ravitz revealed a splash when he used a Sylvan Ranger to fetch out a Mountain from his deck. When Fabiano went to Excommunicate his Wall of Roots a couple of turns later, which would clear the way for his Scroll Thief, Ravitz fried it with a Lightning Bolt. Over the next couple of turns, Ravitz did nothing while Fabiano amassed his army. Ajani's Pridemate, all-star from the Standard rounds yesterday, and the shifty Water Servant joined his team, and started dropping Ravitz's life. After a few attacks, Ravitz had dropped to nine.
Ravitz hadn't added anything except a second Sylvan Ranger to his board in a few turns. This left him forced to start chumping, dwindling his board away to near nothing. Before dying, he was given a large boost in the form of a Harbor Serpent. The Serpent was both large enough to stop Fabiano's men, but it was a large Islandwalker should he ever get to go on the offensive. Undaunted, Fabiano took to the sky with an Armored Ascension on his Water Servant. Ravitz was forced to chump with his Wall of Vines. Just in the nick of time, he found himself an Æther Adept to return the Servant, getting rid of the Ascension in the process.
This game had been haymaker after haymaker, with Ravitz scrambling to survive. Fabiano landed what appeared to be the final blow on the following turn. With a Day of Judgment he was able to clear the board away, killing his own Roc Egg in the process, and replay the Water Servan Ravitz had so kindly saved from the Wrath of God. Into the void left behind, Ravitz made an Awakener Druid and a Yavimaya Wurm, attacking with his newly animated Forest, dropping Fabiano to eight.. On his attack, Fabiano simply sent his Bird, putting Ravitz at three. His Water Servant stayed home to defend the fort.
Ravitz sent the Wurm and Forest into attack, and Fabiano sprang into action. He started by blocking the Wurm with his Servant. Before assigning damage or pumping his Servant, Fabiano played Safe Passage. If it resolved, he intended to pump his Servant's power to kill the Wurm. If Ravitz countered, he would simply pump the toughness the blank the attack. Ravitz let it resolve, but had a Giant Growth to save his Wurm. After combat, Ravitz stole Fabiano's Bird with a Mind Control, leaving him with a single Water Servant and Ravitz at a tantalizing three.
The next turns involved some careful posturing by Fabiano to stay alive, culminating on one turn. With just a Water Servant in play, Fabiano passed the turn with all of his mana open. Ravitz drew his card for the turn, tapped four mana, and played Sleep. Prior to Sleep, Fabiano had enough mana to block the Wurm with his Servant and pump it to survive, as well as removing the Bird with his Mystifying Maze. Unfortunately, this took out his only way to survive. Fabiano did the math and conceded.
Gerard Fabiano 0 – Josh Ravitz 1
"I think I messed that game up," Fabiano admitted.
"You look like you think you messed that game up," Ravitz replied.
As they shuffled, the players discussed upcoming travel plans for Magic. When trying to figure out when the Star City Games tournament in Baltimore was, they turned to Cedric Phillps and asked him if he knew when it was. When he said no, Ravitz just gave him a cold stare, looked at his clothes, and tossed in a "nice shirt."
This man knows nothing about Star City Games.
Fabiano started the second game off in incredibly strong fashion. Augury Owl found a pair of Scroll Thieves, which started kicking butt and drawing cards. Ravitz had an Awakened Druid on the third turn, but found himself forced to chump the first Scroll Thief to deny Fabiano the card. He brought him back immediately with a Gravedigger, which would allow him to play the Druid on the following turn and leave two creatures up to block the Thieves on the following turn. Fabiano threw a wrench into the works with a Pacifism on the Gravedigger. When he followed up with an Excommunicate, Ravitz packed it in. All in all, the game went no more than six turns.
Gerard Fabiano 1 – Josh Ravitz 1
As the players discussed previous finishes at US Nationals, the topic of the year Antonino DaRosa came up. Fabiano wasted no time revealing probably the most understandable man crush in the history of ever.
"I hope it makes it into the coverage how much I love Antonino DaRosa. He's sooooo dreamy."
The only thing Fabiano really wanted to steal was Antonino DaRosa's heart.
For the final game, Ravitz tried two consecutive Sylvan Rangers only to have them hit with consecutive Mana Leaks. Ravitz was stuck on nothing but Forests on his side, clearly having needed the Rangers to diversify his mana base. Fabiano took to the skies with an Augury Owl with and Armored Ascension and an Azure Drake, with a Roc Egg waiting in tow. Ravitz did manage to get a Giant Spider in play, but the Ascension kept it from blocking anything but the Drake. Nothing but Forests came to his rescue and Ravitz died a few turns later. Another incredibly fast finish after such an involved first game.
After the match, Fabiano wanted to make sure that people knew how he got so good.
"I definitely want to mention that I learned how to draft from Anton Jonsson. Seriously, he's amazing. I hope he gets into the Hall of Fame."
Gerard Fabiano 2 – Josh Ravitz 1
Saturday, 1:30 p.m. – Questing Continues
by Adam Styborski
While the main show was slugging it out in the second rounds of draft, another little competition was getting underway: a PTQ for the first Pro Tour in 2011. 245 players decided they were good enough to go despite that, ultimately, there can be only one.
Despite that the atmosphere around the crowd was happily positive. I managed to catch one of the winners of round one, Jack Dobbin.
Jack was feeling things were looking good.
Jack is from the Chicago area and joined in a full car ride to Minneapolis with some other friends, including some from the Indianapolis area as well as already Nationals qualified Chris Anderson.
Jack had come to enjoy a great weekend of Magic, and despite not pulling through in a Nationals Last Chance Qualifier he was having a great time. With a fresh victory under his belt in the first round our conversation turned to Magic 2011 Sealed. Jack liked the format a lot more than its year-ago predecessor Magic 2010. He felt that there are a lot of ways to build decks that resist bombs and provide the power to punch through.
Or, in his words, "It's a pretty good format."
Jack's pool and deck left little to be desired.
Jack was all grins as he showed me his slick deck: while the Ajani Goldmane and Day of Judgment were the immediate highlights, Serra Angel and Air Servant looks like deadly flagships to an aerial attack. The real sweetness to his deck had to be the triple Blinding Mage.
I asked how he felt he would do today.
"It's lots of rounds but I think I have the tools to start and make it."
With the time remaining the round winding down I asked him if he had heard any great stories this weekend.
"Yeah! Last night I went to dinner with Cedric [Phillips] and other guys. This one guy said he was playing Jund against Pyromancer Ascension or something. The Jund guy mulled to four then played Mind Rot, with four cards in his hand, targeting himself."
"Wait, really?" I asked.
"Yeah. So the other guy sat there and thought about it for a second, then played a Reverberate to copy the Mind Rot."
"So he'd have to discard all four?"
"Yeah. Except the Jund guy discarded two Obstinate Baloths to the ReverberateMind Rot. He won that game."
Feature Match Round 10: It’s a Primeval Shame - Cedric Phillips vs. Brad Nelson
by Monty Ashley
US Nationals has two feature matches per round: one for ggslive and one for the text coverage you're reading right now. This means that when someone is chosen for a feature match, they're guaranteed to receive some form of Internet fame. This has not stopped people from complaining about being in the "fake feature match" no matter which side they end up on, which doesn't seem entirely fair. In this case, Brad Nelson liked being in the text coverage, saying that his lifetime record was 8-2. Cedric Phillips , on the other hand, said that he had a much worse record. It's presumably possible to go through the event coverage archive to determine an absolute answer to this question, but it's more interesting to just get to the action.
Phillips started the game with a pair of Plains and a White Knight. While Nelson was busy playing Cultivate, the knight dealt four damage and was joined by Assault Griffin. Nelson brought out a Cudgel Troll to slow down the attacks on the ground, so Phillips put an Armored Ascension on his White Knight. With four Plains out, that made it quite large, and the ensuing attack took Nelson down to 7 life.
Nelson attacked with his Cudgel Troll and employed the power of Foresee to look for an answer. And he found one in the form of Plummet, which ended the White Knight's illustrious career. However, the Assault Griffin was still around to take Nelson's life tital down to 4. Nelson had a Giant Spider, but Phillips had a Pacifism. Phillips went for the knockout blow by playing Mighty Leap on his Assault Griffin, but Nelson Unsummoned it before it could kill him.
Phillips replayed the Griffin and was dismayed to see Nelson play another Giant Spider. But then he drew an Excommunicate to remove the Giant Spider from play just long enough to win the game
Cedric Phillips 1 - Brad Nelson 0
"You're first, I assume?" "Yeah."
"I'll keep." "As will I."
Phillips started strong with a turn-one Elite Vanguard and a turn-two Silvercoat Lion. But Nelson had a pair of stoppers in the form of Augury Own and Scroll Thief. With Phillips's early attack plan thwarted, Nelson was free to Foresee, although he just put all four cards back on the top of his deck, explaining, "The deck wants what the deck wants."
The two players spent some time putting out creatures, with Nelson casting Elvish Archdruid and Wall of Vines while Phillips stuck with Assault Griffin, adding a Berserkers of Blood Ridge. Both players insulted the intelligence of the Berserkers for awhile, then Nelson busted out Primeval Titan.
Phillips was despondent, saying, "Can't stop ya. I'd like to, but I can't." Then he played Pacifism on the Titan and attacked with both the Assault Griffin and the Berserkers, who are apparently too stupid not to attack. Nelson played Foresee, and Phillips explained that he was happy with just drawing one card a turn and making the best of it.
Finally, Nelson played a Giant Spider, which immediately drew a Pacifism. On the ensuing attack, Nelson had to chump-block the Berserkers of Blood Ridge with Scroll Thief and fell to 7. Phillips added a Stormfront Pegasus to his air force, but Nelson had a Pacifism of his own. Nelson put out a Yavimaya Wurm, which looked quite intimidating until Phillips pulled a Chandra's Outrage off the top of his deck.
It was time to stop messing around. Phillips attacked with everything, which at the time was Berserkers of Blood Ridge, Stormfront Pegasus, Silvercoat Lion, and Elite Vanguard. Nelson blocked the Elite Vanguard with Augury Owl and Stormfront Pegasus with Wall of Vines, then added a little twist by Unsummoning the Berserkers of Blood Ridge. At the end of the attack, he was at 3 life.
Both players passed the turn a couple of times until Phillips was able to replay his Berserkers of Blood Ridge with two Plains and a Mountain untapped. Nelson answered with a Greater Basilisk, which killed the Berserkers on their next attack.
Phillips's next creature was Juggernaut, which traded with the Greater Basilisk. But Nelson had gotten to his Acidic Slime, which destroyed the Pacifism that had been holding back the Primeval Titan. A few turns later, Phillips revealed his hand full of basic land and conceded.
Cedric Phillips 1 - Brad Nelson 1
Phillips took two mulligans while confirming to Nelson that he'd forced white cards in both of the tournament's drafts. He looked like he'd landed on a pretty good opening hand, but his second-turn Stormfront Pegasus fell victim to a Hornet Sting. Phillips commented, "I wanna kill myself right now."
Nelson played an Augury Owl and a Llanowar Elves and Phillips responded with a Goblin Tunneler and Assault Griffin. Phillips was down to one card in hand, and Nelson was still pumping out creatures. His Greater Basilisk was followed by a Primeval Titan, which threatened to dominate the game.
Phillips was able to Excommunicate the Primeval Titan, but that only slowed Nelson down a little, since he was able to play it again the next turn and thin his deck of another two lands. Nelson was soon reduced to chump-blocking and didn't have enough cards to deal with the onslaught.
Brad Nelson 2 - Cedric Phillips 1
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. – You Drafted What?!
by Monty Ashley
In any big draft event, there are decks that instantly become legenday. Even the people that lose to them just marvel at the power. One such example is Arthur Reynolds's deck from the second draft at 2010 US Nationals. The coverage team learned about it when Gavin Verhey stopped by our table to tell us that we absolutely had to feature the deck he'd just lost to. And here it is!
Day 2 Draft, 2010 United States National Championship
That's ... a lot of vampires.
Another deck that quickly became talked about throughout the tournament was Tom Ross's Combo Deck. Multiple Roc Eggs and Gravediggers meant that he had access to more 3/3s than are normal for this format.
Day 2 Draft, 2010 United States National Championship
Feature Match Round 11: A Fully Fauna Festival - David Ochoa vs Robert Graves
by Adam Styborski
Round 11 – A Fully Fauna Festival - David Ochoa vs Robert Graves
With the shuffling out of the way, game one opened after Graves took a mulligan. Ochoa's first turn Hierarch led to an attack and Fauna Shaman. Graves changed his Arid Mesa into a Plains, played a Misty Rainforest and passed yet again.
Ochoa's new Hedron Crab was joined by a Scalding Tarn to grab an Island, milling himself for 6. Graves's Rainforest became a Forest which saw another Forest and a hardcasted Vengevine, taking Ochoa to 15.
At the end of the turn Ochoa cranked his Shaman, throwing away Enclave Cryptologist to find his own Vengevine. Untapping, Ochoa played a Verdant Catacombs for a Swamp, milling himself both times again. This time: two Vengevines hit athe 'yard.
Ochoa also nabbed an Extracter Demon in the mill flops, which he unearthed to hit Graves. Graves only played a Knight of the Reliquary and passed back which Ochoa paused so he could pitch a Vengevine for an Extractor Demon.
Ochoa untapped then Shaman'd his Extractor Demon away for a Renegade Doppelganger. He played the Shapeshifter and a Birds of Paradise to buy back the triple Vengevine, and faked a forth with the Doppelganger.
One of these things is not like other things. It seemed like it did belong, however.
Robert Graves simply scooped.
David Ochoa 1 - Robert Graves 0
The very still competitors piped up as they sideboarded and shuffled.
"I've played variations of this deck." Graves said, referring to Ochoa's similar choice of using Fauna Shamans and Vengevines.
"It's a lot of fun." Ochoa quietly admitted.
Graves wanted to play and kept his opener, but Ochoa dropped his starting to 6. They continued to banter as the shuffling continued.
"People borrow cards from me because I'm the only one with a real collection. I used to sleeve everything but my friends would always desleeve everything anyway." Graves related to Ochoa.
"Yeah, it's annoying." Ochoa joined.
With the slowdown done, both players opened with lands of the fetch variety: Graves transformed an Arid Mesa into a Plains again – this time dropping a Fauna Shaman – while Ochoa swapped his Misty Rainforest for an Island which led into a Merfolk looter.
Graves opted to swing in with the Shaman, then played a sizeable Knight of the Reliquary after using a Misty Rainforest for a generic Forest. Ochoa untapped and paused in the tank, ultimately choosing to loot with his Merfolk.
The 'tank' is not a comfy looking Channel Fireball shirt.
Discarding an Exclave Cryptologist, he played a Hedron Crab followed by a Swamp to begin milling his library. Extractor Demon was the highlight of the roll.
Back to Graves, he played a sideboarded Cunning Sparkmage to handle the Looter then swung in with the Knight. Ochoa untapped and played a Swamp but found nothing in the graveyard action. The follow up Pithing Needle, similarly sideboarded, was met by Graves activating his Shaman in response.
"Maybe you'll draw land for the rest of game?" Ochoa asked while shuffling, much to Graves's humor. Once the Needle actually landed, Cunning Sparkmage was named.
Graves untapped and dropped, and cracked another fetch land to sent his Knight riding in. Without hesitation, Ochoa then took his turn entering the scoop phase.
Ochoa 1 - Robert Graves 1
Ochoa made a few more changes to his deck as he pressed for different information.
"Did you find anything for Extended?" he queried.
"No. Gerry was supposed to find me something but he's not going [to Amsterdam] now." Graves explained.
"I just haven't been interested in playing."
Ochoa related differently: "Yeah, our schedule has been tight. We were planning to test for legacy in Chicago, and we needed to test for Standard too."
Graves just nodded in agreement as Ochoa took to playing.
Ochoa played first but Graves had a Birds of Paradise to start the action. Ochoa cracked a Misty Rainforest, for an Island, and found his Fauna Shaman. Graves responded with a Rootbound Crag leading to Cunning Sparkmage.
Ochoa had another Shaman, leaving green up, and passed. Graves's third turn revealed some more tech: Linvala, Keeper of Silence. Ochoa used his green mana to Shaman away Extractor Demon to find a Vengevine before the Angel resolved.
"You're not making this easy for me." Ochoa admitted while shuffling.
"I'm not making it easy for you. I want it to be easy for me." Graves winged back.
Ochoa played a land and swung in with the freshly cast Vengevine. Linvala repaid the favor for Graves before passing. Ochoa unearthed the Demon and sent in the entire team. Birds stepped up to the Demon but Graves thought long and hard about what to do with his Sparkmage.
He opted to keep it out of blocking and Graves dropped to 8. Ochoa played a Swamp and yet another Fauna Shaman.
"I'm regretting milling myself. I would have drawn Sleep." Ochoa stated.
"Oh! Yeah, that would work." was a slightly surprised Graves's response.
Graves found his own Fauna Shaman and opted to keep the team back. Undaunted, Ochoa sent in his team team again. This time, Linvala took out a Shaman, Shaman on Shaman action traded, Vengevine ate the Birds, and one lone Shaman from Ochoa made it through.
Card trading doesn't always involve ownership changing.
Going back to the milling approach, Ochoa played a Hedron Crab and milled a chunk, finding another Extractor Demon. Graves could only pass back but did get to watch Ochoa mill yet another Sleep away with a land drop.
"That is really nice." Ochoa bemoaned.
He unearthed the Demon, which Linvala stepped in front of as Graves dropped to a meager 3 life. Linvala had passed away and with a quick last draw Graves extended the hand.
A hard defeat at the end of the close match.
David Ochoa 2 - Robert Graves 1
Feature Match Round 12 - Calosso Fuentes vs. Michael J Flores
by Nate Price
"What are you gaming with, Calosso," Flores inquired as he sat down.
"Oh, sweet!" Flores said with a smile. "I beat that in my last feature match. Wait, isn't UW Control a little cerebral for you?"
After winning the coin flip, Flores got in a little more good-natured ribbing.
"Guess who's going first…not you!" Flores taunted.
Flores started off with a Preordain, finding himself a Spreading Seas. That Seas found itself right onto Fuentes's first-turn Savage Lands. The second Savage Lands also found itself becoming an Island under another Spreading Seas.
"I can't believe I believed that you were playing UW Control. You really had me going."
"There is no way you believed me," Fuentes said with a hint of disbelief.
After Fuentes spent three turns in a row doing absolutely nothing, Flores became suspicious.
"How is that possible! You must have done something wrong in a previous life."
"Well I am Hispanic, aren't I?" Fuentes countered.
Calosso Fuentes: He's Hispanic.
Flores finally found himself a Pyromancer Ascension, getting the powerful enchantment into play. He had enough mana left over for a Mana Leak to stop a Sarkahn the Mad.
"This is so embarrassing," Flores said with a sigh.
"What, that you're playing Pyromancer Ascension?"
What he meant was that he was passing the turn with no play. Fuentes took advantage of the opening to deal with the Ascension with a Maelstrom Pulse before it could get powered up, but Flores immediately replaced it. With the Ascension in place, Flores began digging for spells to power it up. After only a turn of hunting for copies of cards to power up his Ascension, Flores got it online. All it took from that point was a Time Warp (or two) to get Fuentes to concede.
Calosso Fuentes 0 – Michael Flores 1
"Nice Spreading Seas, right?" Flores asked with a smile.
"Right. You won that game because you Spreading Seased all my lands," Fuentes deadpanned.
"Well, you didn't play anything until turn five."
Fuentes came out much better in the second game. Putrid Leech hit on turn two and started swinging. His Blightning ran into a Spell Pierce, keeping Flores's hand safe for the time being. When Fuentes dropped a Bloodbraid on the following turn, he cascaded into a Maelstrom Pulse to kill the Spreading Seas on his Savage Lands.
During this time, Flores had been hunting for an Ascension. Thanks to a Preordain, he managed to drop one into play, leaving two mana up. Fuentes started thinking about what he could have. Assuming Flores had cast the earlier Spell Pierce because he had a second to power up his Ascension, Fuentes just played a Bloodbraid Elf, cascading into a Duress.
Michael Flores: Keeping coverage beautiful, one feature match at a time.
"Let me guess, Spell Pierce this?" Fuentes asked.
Flores just dumped his hand on the table. He had a See Beyond, Lightning Bolt, Time Warp, Ascension, and Call to Mind.
"So you actually have nothing?" Fuentes asked.
Flores just said, "Pretty much."
Fuentes took the Lightning Bolt and swung in with the team. Unable to get himself righted, Flores fell a couple of turns later, before getting any copies of anything.
Calosso Fuentes 1 – Michael Flores 1
After losing the last game, Flores came up with a brilliant strategy to win the match.
"I plan on having three Spreading Seas in my opening hand. Write that down."
"Cool, I'll play first," Fuentes tried to slide in.
"No sir, I get to choose."
True to his word, Flores managed to Spreading Seas Fuentes's first land drop, a Savage Lands. His following Swamp and Forest allowed him to cast a Putrid Leech on the third turn. When Flores drew and cast a See Beyond on his fourth turn, Fuentes had to rib him.
"How does it feel to run like a god?" Fuentes asked him.
"Well, it's just what I deserve, if you think about it…at least that's how I think about it," Flores replied with a smile.
When Flores made a Pyromancer Ascension on the following turn, Fuentes sighed.
"You are very good. You are a man playing a children's card game. Seriously, you're married. I have nothing. I'm here wearing this Aeropostale hoodie like a twelve year old."
Even Flores had to laugh at that. The laughter quickly stopped when Fuentes cascaded into a Sprouting Thrinax off of his Bloodbraid Elf. Flores fried the Elf with a Lightning Bolt. Flores stopped a second Thrinax with a Mana Leak. He killed off the first Thrinax with a Lightning Bolt, putting the first counter on his Ascension. A See Beyond turned it on. This let him double Spell Pierce an attempt to Maelstrom Pulse on the Ascension. Now fully loaded, Flores untapped and started to go off.
Time Warp gave him two extra turns. At this point, Fuentes put his feet up on the chair next to him and sat back to watch Flores killed him. Flores set a couple of quarters on the table to represent his extra turns.
This is the face of defeat.
"You'd better watch yourself, I might take those. I'm kind of poor," Fuentes warned Flores.
When Flores untapped for his first extra turn, Fuentes snapped up one of the quarters sitting on the table.
"Wha!" Flores gasped.
"I warned you!"
This is the back of the head of defeat.
Flores drew some more cards, took some more turns, et cetera. Every so often Fuentes would interrupt him to pump his Putrid Leech. Or to steal another quarter.
After the inevitable end of the match, Flores looked at Fuentes and asked, "Can I get my fifty cents back now."
"No way! I'm off to buy a soda!"
Calosso Fuentes 1 – Michael Flores 2
Info - Standard Metagame Breakdown
by Nate Price
Here is the metagame breakdown from the Standard portion of US Nationals.
|Red Deck Wins ||11|
|UR Runeflare Tra||7|
|RUG Good Stuff||4|
|GWR Destructive Force||3|
|GW Fauna Shaman||1|
|WUR Mana Denial||1|
|Open the Vaults||1|
|RG Titan Ramp (no Valakut)||1|
For these decks, it’s important to note that for these decks, all slight variations of the decks were listed under one category. For example, the major differentiation point for Naya decks this weekend was the inclusion or exclusion of Eldrazi Monument. For our sake, we just categorized them all as Naya since the decks are functionally the same.
Video Feature: Deck Tech Dredge-uh-Vine with David Ochoa
by Nate Price
Feature Match Round 13: It's Nap Time - Gavin Verhey vs. Brad Nelson
by Monty Ashley
From the other Feature Match table, Conley Woods told Brad Nelson that he had no chance of beating Gavin Verhey's deck. "I know," answered Nelson, "but if there's a player in this room that can do it, it's me."
Brad Nelson, Having a Good Day
Gavin Verhey started the game with a mulligan and didn't have a land on turn two. In fact, it took quite a few turns until he got his second land, and even then it was a Kabira Crossroads, which came into play tapped. Meanwhile, Brad Nelson had a Birds of Paradise on turn one Fauna Shaman on turn rwo.
This allowed Nelson to discard a Vengevine on Verhey's turn in order to get another Vengevine, which he discarded on his own turn to a Merfolk Looter, which meant that when he played a Renegade Doppelganger, there were suddenly three Vengevines attacking Verhey.
Verhey was not entirely dead, since he'd had a Soul's Attendant giving him life since the beginning of the game. But Nelson wasn't done, using his Merfolk Looter to put an Extractor Demon in his graveyard, which provided even more attacking power. Verhey blocked a Vengevine with his Soul's Attendant and used Brave the Elements to keep it alive, but he was now down to 6 life. He played Ajani's Pridemate, but soon conceded. The game had been pretty much foretold by the second turn.
Brad Nelson 1 - Gavin Verhey 0
In this game, Brad Nelson was the one who had to mulligan. And he did it twice. Verhey took advantage of Nelson's slow start, with a textbook "Soul Warden into Ajani's Pridemate" draw.
Nelson played a Hedron Crab and used a Drowned Catacomb to mill six cards of his library into his graveyard, but he didn't hit any Vengevines or Extractor Demons. When Verhey used Oblivion Ring to remove the Crab, Nelson conceded to move on to Game 3.
The Nattily-Dressed Gavin Verhey
Verhey took a mulligan. After thinking about it, he kept a hand that had two Tectonic Edge and a Kabira Crossroads, but no Plains. He had a Soul Warden as of turn two, but not much else.
Nelson started strong with another Fauna Shaman and a Merfolk Looter. Verhey was able to put an Oblivion Ring on it, but not before Nelson used it to put a Vengevine into his graveyard and get a replacement Vengevine. The Looter put the second Vengevine into the graveyard, and a Renegade Doppelganger didn't have to wait very long for a second Merfolk Looter to provide Nelson with a triple-Vengevine attack.
Verhey's Soul Warden meant that all of Nelson's creature shenanigans gained him life, but the Vengevine attack was still enough to take him down to 15. Nelson proceeded to loot and loot, even going to the effort of summoning an Enclave Cryptologist so that he could copy it with the Renegade Doppelganger, level the Doppelganger, and loot right away.
This is not what you want to see in your opponent's graveyard.
The game proceeded like that, with Verhey gaining some life but then losing more. Nelson found a Hedron Crab, which he combined with the Renegade Doppelganger and a fetchland to mill twelve cards off his own deck. This turned up two Vengevines and an Extractor Demon, although Verhey was more surprised at the two Sleeps that were now in Nelson's graveyard.
The next attack took Verhey down to 2, even though he was able to use Brave the Elements to kill a Vengevine. On the ensuing turn, Nelson announced that it was Nap Time: he had another Sleep to shut down Verhey's defenses and charge across for the win.
Brad Nelson 2 - Gavin Verhey 1
Saturday, 4:30 p.m. – Zero to 6-0
by Dave Guskin
Magic 2011 may seem to be quite simple on the face of things, being that it is a Core Set, and continues many of the themes of Magic 2010. However, the four competitors here at U.S. Nationals that went 6-0 in M11 Booster Draft had some insight into the key differences between the two Core Sets, and how to take advantage of them.
"It's slowly becoming my favorite draft format, actually," claimed Brad Nelson, winner of GP DC and quarterfinalist at PT San Juan. He pointed out how much better M11 is from M10; not just in the cards, but in the general construction of the format.
"I was not a fan of M10," Nelson continued. "But in M11, cards that were unbeatable are now beatable because of cards like Plummet." When the bombs are less important than consistency, he remarked, then it becomes very skill-intensive.
Brad drafted a clunky RG deck and UGw deck with Foresee splashing white – but even the RG deck had a Fauna Shaman to add to its consistency. He stated quite simply that cards like Foresee, that increase your consistency, are so good that "you can build your deck around it." He added, "I like to have some one mana spells in my deck, like Diminish, when I have Foresee, so that I have something to do with extra mana."
Gerard Fabiano, GP Philadelphia 2008 champion, also made a perfect run at the draft tables, but he laughed at the experience that brought him up to it. "I lost a ton on Magic Online, like five drafts and a few sealeds. It was a good learning experience." Eventually he had to borrow some product from Anton Johnson, who also delivered to him some advice: draft Blue.
"Blue common is so good. Anton mentioned his pick order was different than most people he had talked to," Fabiano said. "A lot of people think Azure Drake is up there, but Anton had Foresee #1, then Aether Adept followed by Scroll Thief." He put the advice to good use, with a match in his draft playing out as Scroll Thief into five consecutive Aether Adepts!
"M11 is good, better than M10," Fabiano concluded. "In M10, there were a lot of commons that really rewarded you for mono color, but not in M11. That really helps because people don't just force mono color."
A local Minnesota ringer, James Beltz, also sat pretty at 6-0 from draft, and said that although he had no particular strategy coming into, he was just on the lookout for bombs. "I play a ton on Magic Online," he said. "M11 is more complicated than M10, but still less so than like Rise of the Eldrazi."
Beltz added his voice to the opinion that Magic 2011 is better than Magic 2010, but primarily attributes it to the returning mechanic Scry. Eric Froelich, avid poker player and long-time Magic player, agreed.
"Scry is incredibly strong," EFro said. He smiled as he declared he had no experience at all with the format before yesterday. "A lot of people said green sucks. I usually take that to mean I should draft it, because when people say that, they are usually wrong."
One point that the top players kept coming back to was playing to your strengths. EFro claimed, "My mono-green deck was very good, but it was also pretty straightforward to play. I had like literally no sleep, so that was good."
Nelson agreed with the sentiment. "I think the reason I do so well is that I can alter how I value cards as I see what's going around the table," he said. "You have to measure the worth of cards against what you see."
Saturday, 7:00 p.m. – A Race to the Finish
by Adam Styborski
Checking back in on the PTQ found me talking to Zach Jesse, a recently minted Chicagoan who had also run up to Minneapolis to play some Magic. He had tried to sneak into Nationals at the last minute with Last Chance Qualifiers yet despite being unsuccessful was having a great time.
He was showing for 'serious business' but was smiling and laughing away from the camera.
He had recently attended both Pro Tour San Diego as well as last year's Grand Prix Minneapolis and shared that he loved big events because "even if you go '0-2. Drop.' you're still left with so much to do!"
Like M11 Sealed in a PTQ. I asked him how things were going and he shared a story.
"I don't usually sleeve my Limited decks but at the end of the last round my opponent pointed out that one of my cards now had a scuff on it. So I went and bought some sleeves. I was deck checked the next round. I definitely dodged a game or match loss thanks to the sleeves."
He showed me his deck and was quite happy about the synergy abounding. Sun Titan could grab back Quag Sickness, Liliana's Specter, Wild Griffin, and just about every other creature his deck could offer. Mind Rot and Gravedigger complimented his suite of removal.
Not pictured: irrelevant cards not white or black.
He pulled out a Duress that wasn't sleeved.
"I've been siding this in just about every game. Sometimes it's an awkward late game draw but it's caught lots of things: Overwhelming Stampede, Crystal Ball, and Mana Leak just today."
I ask if he had anything else.
"There was this one game where my opponent played Roc Egg, then Cloned the Roc Egg. Obviously he had the Day of Judgment in his hand so I played around it. By the time he had to play it I still had a hand full of things to deal with. I had never seen such an obvious Wrath coming!"
Feature Match Round 14: Double It, Again - Tim Sussino vs. Austin Fritz
by Dave Guskin
Tim Sussino, a New Jersey resident who qualified to Nationals on rating, battled Austin Fritz in the final round, a Nebraska resident who qualified to Nationals on rating. Seeing double? The two players also both went 3-4 yesterday and won out 6-0 today to meet here in the final round where the winner was into the Top 8.
Sussino kept and led with a Preordain, quickly becoming the preferred turn one play in both Standard and Draft. He kept only one on top and put it directly into his hand. Fritz elected to play only a Terramorphic, leaving Sussino in the dark about what he was playing.
He didn't let it bother him; he just laid down a second foil Zendikar full art basic – this one a mountain – and cast See Beyond. When Fritz broke his common fetch for a Forest, it quickly became apparent that he was playing a RG Ramp style deck. Indeed, Fritz cast a Rampant Growth to start the ramp.
Sussino used a Ponder to dig a bit deeper, and then laid down another Island to keep up Mana Leak. When Fritz cast a Bloodbraid Elf, it went about 20 cards deep.
"Out of targets, I guess," he joked, eventually finding a Harrow. He did a little pondering of his own against the 1U open, and eventually decided not to cast the mana accelerant. The writing was on the wall: better to stay on the lands he had than run it into a counterspell and Stone Rain himself.
Sussino was ready to kick his engine into action with his deck's namesake, Pyromancer Ascension. He quickly followed it with a See Beyond, finding another Preordain for next turn and poising on the edge of ascension.
Fritz merely continued to do what his deck does, casting another Rampant Growth. Sussino cast his Preordain for a second counter, and then cast two Treasure Hunts, finding a Halimar Depths, a Lightning Bolt and a Time Warp. Fritz sent a bolt of Lightning at Sussino's face, taking him down to 16, but only had a Primeval Titan.
Tim was ready with a forked Mana Leak, and then had free reign against his tapped out opponent – he used Halimar Depths to set up, then forked a Time Warp into a new turn of much deck manipulation: two Ponders, two Ponders and then four Lightning Bolts to take Austin down to 8. He had the second Time Warp, again doubled, which led into a new turn and a kicked Burst Lightning – just enough to seal the deal.
Sussino 1 – 0 Fritz
Fritz had to start with a mulligan. Unsurprisingly, he had a turn two accelerant – a Rampant Growth. Perhaps more surprisingly, however, Sussino had a Spell Pierce to stop it, breaking his Tarn for an Island and putting himself at 19.
Tim untapped and explored the Depths of Halimar. Austin's response was to begin scaling Mount Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. Neither player really wanted to do much more than fiddle around and acquire mana sources.
Sussino used a Ponder to continue to manipulate his draws, and broke a third fetch, down to 17 now, to shuffle away some junk he didn't need. He then used a Preordain to sort more useless parts to the bottom of his deck.
Fritz had an Explore on his turn with three mana up, but Sussino had found a hard counter in Flashfreeze. He re-bought the effective counterspell with a Call to Mind on his own turn, but had no further land drops and still hadn't cast the powerful enchantment he needed to get going.
Austin continued to lay down Mountains, up to four on his way to Valakut's summit. Tim had an effective cage of counterMagic set up to contain the ramp player, but Valakut's fires would reach through and kill him just the same, given enough time.
Both players repeated Draw-Go for a few turns, with Sussino barely edging Fritz out with an extra land here and there. Fritz was still stuck on four mountains with Valakut, and his attempt to Cultivate was met with a Flashfreeze.
Tim broke his fourth and final Tarn, down to 16, and then cast another Ponder, this one finally hitting an Ascension but keeping it in hand. Austin had a response to that, now that Tim was tapped down to less lands: Bloodbraid Elf. The Elf cascaded into a Cultivate, which brought forth another Spell Pierce to stop it. The Elf brought the beats, taking Tim to 13 and then to 10 while he set up with Pyromancer Ascension.
He only had a Ponder to grow the counters on the Ascension, but when Fritz attempted a Back to Nature to wipe the Pyromancer Ascension, Sussino had a Flashfreeze. Fritz had a Ricochet Trap in place to send the Flashfreeze elsewhere, but when Sussino had a Spell Pierce to make Fritz pay, the two got into an argument over whether the Ascension had indeed received its second counter.
Head Judge Erik Shukan handled the appeal, and upheld the table judge's ruling. He stated that the basis for the ruling was both that the players had set a past precedent of communication over the adding of counters to Pyromancer Ascension, and that at the time of Ricochet Trap, there were already two counters on the enchantment.
Once the dispute had been resolved, the dust cleared, everything left the stack, and a second counter was indeed on the Ascension. Fritz untapped and cast Harrow, dumping a Forest for a Mountain and a Forest. He then cast a second Bloodbraid Elf, cascading into Rampant Growth. Fritz resolved the Growth into a Mountain, Valakut took his opponent down to 7, and the two berserking Elves took him down to a single life point. When Fritz had a final Back to Nature for the Ascension, Sussino had a Flashfreeze.
At 1 life, Tim had his engine. He Time Warped, Preordained, Treasure Hunted, and eventually had THREE fully active Pyromancer Ascensions on the board – the engine leveled up to near max. Tim cast triple Ponder, triple See Beyond and finally quadrupled Lightning Bolt. With Austin at 8, Tim took his final extra turn and Called to Mind his Lightning Bolt. His quest for pyromancy was complete.
Sussino 2 – 0 Fritz