This is such an exciting time to be playing Magic right now. There are just so many questions that need answering. And what better way is there to find those answers than to play Magic? That's just what happened last Saturday at Neutral Ground in New York. I can't remember the last time I saw so many Magic players playing so many different formats that were all relevant to upcoming events. Here is a sampling of what was going on.
There was a Grand Prix Montreal Trial with close to 30 players participating. The format was Time Spiral Block Constructed and for many of the players it was their first opportunity to test out the new cards Future Sight threw into the equation. Despite the success of Mark Herberholz and Guilluame Wafo-Tapa with Mystical Teachings-fueled control decks, the vast majority of the field opted for green-red, green-blue, or some combination of them both. Yet when the dust settled, the only player in the tournament playing a Teachings deck was the only player left standing.
Chris Whitman's TeachingsControl
Grand Prix Montreal Trial First Place
There were also multiple eight-person drafts firing off as people looked to explore the still-new full block draft experience, played in Invasion drafts, and even drafted RGD. On top of that there were four full teams of qualified players preparing for Pro Tour–San Diego. I don't know what conclusions people arrived at regarding pick orders for Two-Headed Giant, but the debate over whether to play or draw has resumed now that the team leading off no longer draws one extra card.
At Grand Prix–Amsterdam and in Massachusetts, the B player got to draw a card at the start of the game. That led teams to feel that the outcome of matches was completely dependant on winning the coin flip. That was remedied with a change to the floor rules and now that there was no longer an eighth card to be had for the team playing first, it was assumed that teams would want to draw. I can tell you that there is no consensus on that opinion among the top players in this area. How teams approach that decision is sure to be an ongoing storyline throughout the upcoming Pro Tour.
Despite all of that action...30 players with block decks, two dozen players in various drafts, and eight Pro Tour-bound players in training, there were still easily another dozen players scattered throughout the gaming area preparing for this weekend's Northeast Regional Championships. Neutral Ground had gotten the jump on the new Standard format the weekend before when Christian Calcano and Patrick Albergo squared off in the finals of the New York City Champs. The matchup was Calcano with Pickles and Albergo with the much anticipated/dreaded Dredge deck—and Albergo emerged victorious.
|Winners of the 2007 Beta season of City Championships. Note that due to high participation numbers, Cleveland, Denver, Montreal, and Vancouver awarded two slots to Nationals.|
|James Clarke||Austin/San Antonio|
|Clayton Mooney||Cedar Rapids|
|Newt Cole||Grand Rapids|
|Ryan Messick||Kansas City|
|Jonathan Job||Las Vegas/Phoenix|
|Tom Thai||Los Angeles/San Diego|
|Patrick Albergo||New York|
|Jonathan Vick||Oklahoma City|
|Jonas Randall||Salt Lake City|
|Rafael Solari||San Francisco|
|Brian Beemer||St. Louis|
|Thomas Leveille||Virginia Beach|
|Michael Di Piano||Montreal|
|David Maltais||Quebec City|
I did not have the opportunity to speak with him about his experience but I did talk to a semi-regular guest of TWTW, Sean Vandover, about his victory in the Baltimore City Champs. Vandover is a 30-something retail manager who has been playing Magic since Revised and competitively since the release of Judgment. Sean is a two-time Maryland Standard State Champion, Q'd for Nationals last year, and has been to four Pro Tours (with a 65th-place finish at Pro Tour–Kobe his best showing).
"I also once started Grand Prix–Detroit at 9-0," added Vandover, who cites Johnny Chapman's Pirates! deck as his foray into competitive Magic. "And I am a lifetime 10-0 in Friday Night Magic."
On to the Q&A!!
BDM: Can you tell me how often you played in City Champs and how dedicated you were to qualifying for the Top 8 in your area?
Sean: I started out with plans to play as often as possible at the two stores nearest to me, with the idea that if I couldn't earn enough points at those two stores I would travel farther out to go to one of the other four stores participating in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area. My biggest obstacle was the fact that usually there were tournaments on both Saturday and Sunday of each weekend, and I could not attend both due to work obligations. This restricted me to one weekend tournament a week, as well as any weeknight tournaments I cared to travel to. After about the first month it became apparent that I was going to be able to qualify for the Top 8 pretty easily just going to the two closest stores, so that is all I ended up doing. I ended up playing in 15 tournaments, making the finals of almost half of them and winning three.
BDM: What formats/decks were you playing in the "Swiss"?
Sean: I played mostly Limited, focusing on Booster Drafts. My strategy in these was simple—always open Firemaw Kavu and play as many colors as possible. For the Constructed tournaments I played in, I played Elf/Opposition in Extended, and in Standard I played the whole range of decks: TriscuitTron, Gruul, Mono-black Rack, blue-red 'Tron, and Beach House. Interestingly, my three worst finishes were all in Standard, going 0-2 drop twice and 2-2 once.
BDM: Once you got to the Final 8 that would determine the City Championship, what deck did you play and why?
Sean: I played a Sea Stompy variant designed by Phil Tolson, a local player who had just used it to win a MSS event. I had a slight advantage in that I head judged the event, so I got to see first hand a representative metagame for Standard. Phil's deck stood out to me, as I watched him roll over almost everybody in the event, even refusing to ID in the late Swiss rounds of the tournament. His only loss came to a blue-black 'Tron build, and even that was in three games and the 'Tron player had to play Tendrils three turns running in both Games 2 and 3 just to survive. Knowing everyone in the Top 8 of City Champs also helped inform my decision, as I was pretty sure I knew what decks everyone would be playing, so I got to metagame nicely, especially with my sideboard.
BDM: Were you relieved to find yourself qualified for Nationals or disappointed you could not play in Regionals?
Sean: Relieved. Really relieved. UNBELIEVABLY RELIEVED.
BDM: What do you think your local metagame will be like for Regionals? Do you think it will be different than the broader global metagame?
Sean: I think locally it will be the same as globally—a plurality of Gruul, Dragonstorm, and Teferi with tons of other known and rogue decks thrown in.
BDM: Who will you be working with in preparation for Nationals?
Sean: In preparation for Nats I will be working with a lot of the pros from my area—Brad Taulbee, Alex Majlaton, John Moore, Michael Patnik—as well as a few who haven't yet (but will!) qualify for Nats like Tommy Ashton, Allen Jackson, and Tyler Kreitz.
BDM: How much impact will the rotation from Ninth to Tenth have on the metagame for Nationals?
Sean: I'm not sure, since I don't know a lot of what will be in Tenth. I think Troll Ascetic and Incinerate are two of the cards that will have the biggest impact, and hope to play a deck with both in it at Nats. I don't think things will get shaken up too much however, unless Wizards brings back a big splashy rare that a deck can be built around, like Dragonstorm. Maybe they'll reprint Corrupt so I can play MBC again? We can only dream.
BDM: Turning our attention back to the current metagame...do you care to share your Sea Stompy deck for players who might want to audible into it for this weekend?
Sean: Sure. Here it goes, although I imagine many players will cringe when they see the numbers of two- and three-ofs. I think they are important to the deck's success because they allow the deck to easily play whatever role is appropriate for the matchup—beatdown, control, or a mixture. The sideboard I used was heavily metagamed towards the decks that would be present at the Top 8, a better sideboard for a larger tournament would be this one.
Sean Vandover's Sea(n) Stompy
Congratulations to Sean, Patrick, and everyone who won their City Champs. You can find a full list of the winners in the sidebar to this article. Great job everyone and good luck at Nationals!
For the rest of us stiffs who need to grind out an invite this weekend at our Regionals, I have some more last-minute decks for you to try out/test against. These are from a Japanese Nationals Qualifier in the Nagano Prefecture that had 65 players. Takeshi Miyasaka's UR Urzatron
2007 Japan Regional Championship Nagano Prefecture WinnerHironobu Sugaya's WRB Sliver
2007 Japan Regional Championship Nagano Prefecture WinnerHiroyuki Kaga's WUR Control Deck Lovely KATWOO
2007 Japan Regional Championship Nagano Prefecture SemifinalistHiroyuki Ogawa's UR Dragonstorm
2007 Japan Regional Championship Nagano Prefecture SemifinalistHiroki Ootsuka's BGU Dredge
2007 Japan Regional Championship Nagano Prefecture QuarterfinalistYuuichi Saijou's GW Beatdown Deck
2007 Japan Regional Championship Nagano Prefecture QuarterfinalistTomonori Tanaka's Mono-G Beatdown Deck
2007 Japan Regional Championship Nagano Prefecture QuarterfinalistJun'ichirou Bandou's UWR Control Deck
2007 Japan Regional Championship Nagano Prefecture Quarterfinalist
Firestarter: The Polls are Open!!!!
The voting for the 2007 Magic Invitational is under way and you can find the main page here. There are 11 weeks of voting, with a new ballot posted each Friday right here in my column. This year's ballots are trimmed to only five players apiece and no player can appear on more than three different ballots—which should make things pretty spicy. Mark Rosewater addressed a few more Invitational issues in his column on Monday if you missed it. So vote early (but not often) for your favorite Road Warrior candidate. After you're done, head back to my forums and tell us who you voted for and why, along with who you think will be on future ballots.