t has been a crazy week. There is a lot of stuff to cover in the wake of Pro Tour–Amsterdam and on the cusp of Grand Prix–Portland. Not to mention the fact that we are smack dab in the middle of Scars of Mirrodin previews and I just happen to have a card to show you.
My preview card this week dovetails nicely with the results from Pro Tour–Amsterdam—an event dominated by cheap white creatures that offered a modicum of disruption. I am talking, of course, about the White Weenie deck that took two spots in the Top 8 of the Pro Tour last weekend including the top spot in the hands of long-time Pro Paul Rietzl.
Paul Rietzl's White Weenie
Extended - 1st Place - Pro Tour–Amsterdam
While one-drops like Steppe Lynx, Figure of Destiny, and Student of Warfare may have done the bulk of the heavy lifting it was the main-deck Ethersworn Canonists that stood out to me in this list when I got my first glimpse of the deck. White Weenie is not a collection of seventy-five cards that is supposed to beat combo decks. Canonist allowed this deck to buy a couple of extra turns against Ad Nauseam and Scapeshift decks that hoped to play a lethal meld of cards in one turn. Combined with the toughness boost from Honor of the Pure it also shut down any chance of Punishing Fire doing double duty to take it down. It was the right tool for the right job.
My preview card today is all about making it difficult for your opponent to find the right tool for their job. How often have you seen a White Weenie deck get shut down by a Trinket Mage fetching up Engineered Explosives? Or sacrificing a fetch land to find a red source for Firespout? Basically if they are reaching for their deck it is unlikely that anything good is going to come of it for your army of little guys.
Check out this little slap to the back of their hands by clicking here:
I love this card. Imagine a scenario where your opponent is on the draw and keeps a hand with a land that enters the battlefield tapped, a fetch land and a Rampant Growth. You play Student of Warfare on turn one and they play their Raging Ravine. You play Leonin Arbiter. They cry.
Even in scenarios where you don't just shut your opponent down (can you imagine their dismay as they draw additional fetch lands, Rampant Growths, and Cultivates?) you simply put them off their game. I am pretty excited that Trinket Mage is coming back in this set but that excitement was tempered by the knowledge that this card means I can't just go and fetch a Mox Opal on turn three to turn on all my Metalcraft.
I especially like this card against control decks playing fetch lands. It becomes a lot easier to play around Mana Leak when your opponent has to pay two mana at the end of your turn to crack a Misty Rainforest or Scalding Tarn. You can just go ahead and Demystify their Pyromancer Ascension or Path to Exile that pesky creature.
Now there is a thought. Path to Exile will be rotating out of Standard when Leonin Arbiter is just unpacking his boxes but they could make for a nice tag team in Extended. I doubt that it will be in a deck that looks exactly like the one Rietzl and Kai Budde made the Top 8 with since Leonin Arbiter and Steppe Lynx are not exactly on speaking terms but still an interaction that has to be considered when planning for the new iteration of that new format.
Couple of quick notes about the Arbiter that were handed to me along with the card:
Paying to ignore Leonin Arbiter's effect is a special action. Any players may take this special action any time he or she has priority. It doesn't use the stack and can't be responded to.
This means you can't Path to Exile something in response to a player paying their last two mana to the Arbiter. They will still get to search their library for whatever they were planning on in the first place and can also search for a land from the Path.
Paying doesn't allow a player to search any library unless instructed to by another effect.
Ummm ... duh!
A player who has paid may search any library when instructed to do so that turn, not just his or her library.
So if you have paid the seven mana needed to do so, you can Bribery your opponent or get max value out of your Thought Hemorrhage if you have paid the extra two. What I really like about this card is that it represents a series of incremental Time Walks while you are swinging for two—or more—a turn. Memoricide is a lot less scary at six mana then it is at its printed casting cost. And by the time your opponent has found enough mana to pay for that you may have found another Arbiter; which brings me to the final note on the card:
If there are multiple Leonin Arbiters onthe battlefield, players must pay for each one before being able to search libraries that turn.
I am excited to see where the Leonin Arbiter ultimately ranks in the hierarchy of hate bears that includes such past luminaries of loathing as Gaddock Teeg, Ethersworn Canonist, Samurai of the Pale Curtain, Kor Firewalker, and Qasali Pridemage.
Leonin Arbiter | Art by Shelly Wan
Congratulations to Bram Snepvangers on his inclusion in the 2010 Class of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame. Bram was not originally announced to be in the Hall of Fame when it appeared that he just missed crossing 40% of the weighted ballots.
There are two committees that vote for the Hall of Fame—the Selection Committee and the Players Committee. The Selection Committee votes count as two-thirds of the total vote while the Players Committee counts for one-third.
The initial calculations were made using 66.67% and 33.33% to tally the 2010 class but it was pointed out that it clearly states on the Hall of Fame rules page that: "Votes from the Selection Committee will comprise 67% of the total vote. Votes from the Players Committee will comprise 33% of the total vote."
The votes were recalculated using the method stated above and when the dust had settled it had Bram Snepvangers—one of only two players—three, as of Pro Tour–Amsterdam—to ever beat Kai Budde on the Sunday of a Pro Tour—becoming the fourth member of the 2010 class of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame. You can read the announcement of his inclusion here.
Bram has been on the ballot since the second class of the Hall of Fame but his Top 8 at Worlds last year breathed new life into his Hall of Fame chances. That result gave him four Top 8s at the Pro Tour level—to go along with eight at the Grand Prix level—and shined a spotlight on his longevity, consistency, and the community building he did to make The Netherlands one of the most successful countries in the game of Magic.
Coming into Pro Tour–Amsterdam, Bram's 319 lifetime Pro Tour Points represented the most from a Dutch player other than Hall of Famer Jelger Wiegersma. The only player with more than 300 lifetime points not in the Hall of Fame is Shuhei Nakamura—who does not become eligible until the 2011 class.
A Bounty in Portland
If you are playing in Grand Prix–Portland this weekend and find yourself paired against Scott Elliott you could win a bounty if you beat him. That's right, there is a bounty on the head of Scott Elliott for anyone that beats him during the Swiss rounds of the Grand Prix. Who placed that bounty there? Why none other than Scott Elliott himself.
Scott has been playing Magic since the earliest days of the game. He became a Level 2 judge in 1997 and was elevated to Level 3 a few years later and was a judge at many of the Pro Tours, Nationals, and Grand Prix from the early part of this decade. He has worked in gaming throughout the decade and is currently one of the people that assembles "the best four days in gaming" every year.
"After several years of event management and Organized Play work, I decided to move into sales, and eventually made another move to help run Gen Con—The Best Four Days in Gaming," explained Scott. "It felt like a natural progression, and a chance to work with literally hundreds of amazing companies and tens of thousands of gamers. It is one of a series of dream jobs. I am incredibly happy and privileged to be able to feed my children because of gaming."
That job with Gen Con ties directly into the bounty he has placed on his own head.
"The bounty is straightforward. Battle me in the Swiss portion of GP–Portland. Defeat me. Win a promo pass to Gen Con Indy 2011. The pass is worth $68 plus tax—which is our pre-registration price."
With all his years of involvement, his deep understanding of the rules of the game, and his behind the scenes knowledge of Organized Play, just how formidable a challenge will Scott present for Portland players looking to get a free pass in Indy?
"Alright—you can laugh, but I'm also an honest man. My current rating as of this week hangs around 1700. Amazing, eh? I would say that GP participants have a good shot at taking my loots," admitted Scott.
He has been studying hard and growing strong in the Magic 2011 Limited format and knows exactly what he needs to defeat you.
"I have actually played a pretty good amount of M11," cautioned Scott. "I played in the pre-release and release party (4-0 at the release party); I have played in probably twenty or more M11 drafts on Magic Online (8-4 drafts usually) and I have played a few live drafts, which I have won. I hope to open as many Æther Adepts as possible. Given foils, I guess I'm hoping for twelve Æther Adepts! The card owns this format. Obviously Mind Control, Scroll Thief, Ice Cage and other blue goodies would be ok, too. Oh, and one Crystal Ball to make sure I get there. That card is ker-razy!"
Players who cannot make it to Portland this weekend can stay tuned to here or here for more details about upcoming promotions in other cities, although Scott did point out:
"If you never win a promo pass, you can always register for Gen Con the way most do: www.genconreg.com. Early registration will start in January of 2011."
He did say he worked in sales!
Another late-breaking development in Portland is the fact that none other than Magic creator Richard Garfield will be in attendance. He'll be on-site Saturday for a signing from 2-4 p.m. Garfield doesn't go to many shows each year, so if you have the chance to get to Portland and meet him, I highly recommend it!
Good luck to everyone this weekend in Portland.
Let Me Oks You a Question: Five Questions with MOCS Winner Oliver Oks
Oliver Oks is an Australian Magic player who was a fixture on the Japanese Magic scene throughout the past decade while he lived there teaching English. He became the latest player to qualify for the $100,000 Magic Online Championship Series in Chiba this winter and I caught up with him for five questions.
1. How did you qualify for the MOCS and what was your deck like for the Swiss rounds?
Oliver: I played a lot of M11 Sealed. During release events I get addicted to the Sealed Swiss queues and probably played about thirty to forty of them along with a few of the premier events too.
MOCS Sealed Deck
As you can see it was actually pretty janky. I didn't have much faith in it to begin with. Fireball, Mind Control and Chandra are all bombs but the mana base was pretty bad. I didn't have much choice though. I recall my white had triple Blinding Mage and Day of Judgment but no depth at all. I went with the green just so I could fix my mana to afford the splash.
2. I was struck while talking to players at Amsterdam by how much everyone seemed to hate green and yet your draft deck was green. What made it work for you?
(Oliver Oks) mindcandy's Draft Deck
Magic 2011 Draft - 1st Place - MOCS Draft #1529738
Oliver: Actually I had some really bad/good luck. My computer froze just before the draft started so I missed my first two picks! I thought my draft was done for already but I figured that since green is so unpopular yet still fairly deep in "playables" even if most of them aren't that great, that was probably my best bet to cobble something that wasn't too embarrassing. It worked out well when soon after I got a fairly solid signal of fourth- or fifth-pick Mitotic Slime and then busted Garruk in my second pack. I'd like to say that I mastered the format and just crushed everyone with my superior knowledge of how to draft green, but in all honesty I think I just played pretty tight and did what I could with a bad drafting situation and had to have a lot of luck fall my way to win the draft.
3. You lived in Japan for several years—how exciting was it for you to get an invite to Worlds in Japan?
Oliver: It's fantastic. Despite the tournament ending at about 10 am I still couldn't sleep all day because I was so busy calling and messaging all my friends. I've wanted to go back to Japan ever since I left. It will be great to catch up with all my old mates and hit the hot springs and karaoke again. But the scary part is that I've just recently gotten engaged to a Japanese girl and this will be my first opportunity to meet the—completely non English-speaking—family. I think that's going to be more intimidating for me than anything World's can throw at me!
4. In light of the ridiculous tear he has been on, how large is Brad Nelson looming in your mind in terms of that final Championship?
Oliver: Mr FFfreak seems unstoppable at the moment. I've had the pleasure of seeing both Carlos Romao and Akira Asahara play at their best and even with their impressive resume I'd say they're both still underrated. That said; I've resigned myself to the fact I'll probably have to take down Brad twice if I want that trophy.
5. If you could dispense one essential piece of advice for players visiting Japan for the first time what would it be?
Oliver: Get out there and try anything and everything you can. Japan is a weird and wonderful place with literally thousands of things to see and do that you wouldn't find anywhere else in the world. Don't be discouraged by the alienness of the place. Most locals are very friendly and will try to help you out if you get lost. Even if you only have a couple of days by yourself, get out there and explore. I was there four years and there are still a hundred things I didn't get a chance to see or do. Also if you bring your laptop the Jorudan web site is invaluable for getting all the info you need for train timetables. Believe me you will be using a lot of public transport.