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Costa Outlasts Baltimore's Best

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After Pro Tour Dark Ascension introduced the world to the new Standard format, a huge crowd of 1546 players invaded the Baltimore Convention Center, all of them looking to take home the Grand Prix Baltimore trophy.

Helped out by a couple of miraculous topdecks, Grand Prix Dallas champion Dave Shiels found himself in the finals against friend and fellow Boston native, Pro Tour Dark Ascension Top 8 competitor Matt Costa. Both so close to adding another trophy to their mantle, they engaged in an extremely close match with Costa's UW Delver deck eking out the winner-take-all game three against Shiels' UB Control.

Congratulations to Matt Costa, your Grand Prix Baltimore Champion!






Quarterfinals Semifinals Finals Champion
Eric Meng Matthew Costa
2-1
Matthew Costa Matthew Costa
2-0
Matt Scott Matt Scott
2-0
Matthew Costa
2-1
Max Tietze
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa Dave Shiels
2-1
Dave Shiels Dave Shiels
2-1
Jackie Lee Jackie Lee
2-1
Adam Snook


Follow live streaming video coverage of Grand Prix Baltimore at ggslive.com with Rashad Miller, Sheldon Menery, Nate Price, and Steve Sadin. Stream is live now!





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EVENT COVERAGE TWITTER

INFORMATION
  1.  Matthew Costa $3,500
  2.  Dave Shiels $2,300
  3.  Jackie Lee $1,500
  4.  Matt Scott $1,500
  5.  Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa $1,000
  6.  Max Tietze $1,000
  7.  Eric Meng $1,000
  8.  Adam Snook $1,000
Pairings Results Standings
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  • Top 8: Decklists

    by Event Coverage Staff








  • Adam Snook (Humans)
    Grand Prix Baltimore 2012 (Standard)



    Matt Scott (Ub Zombies)
    Grand Prix Baltimore 2012 (Standard)



    Eric Meng (Frites/Reanimator)
    Grand Prix Baltimore 2012 (Standard)


    Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa (UB Control)
    Grand Prix Baltimore 2012 (Standard)

     
  • Top 8: Player Profiles

    by Dane Young
  • Name: Adam Snook

    Age: 22

    Hometown: Upton, MA

    Occupation: Carpenter

    Previous Magic accomplishments

    GP Top 8s:

    PT Top 8s:

    What deck did you play and why?

    Humans

    What card won you the most matches this weekend?

    Angelic Destiny, Thalia

    What changes would you make to your deck and why would you make them?

    -1 Destiny, +1 Sword

    Name: Dave Shiels

    Age: 23

    Hometown: Boston

    Occupation: Student

    Previous Magic accomplishments

    GP Top 8s:3. Won GP Dallas.

    PT Top 8s:

    What deck did you play and why?

    UB Control. It has good matchups against most of the decks from the Pro Tour.

    What card won you the most matches this weekend?

    Consecrated Sphinx

    What changes would you make to your deck and why would you make them?

    More Nephalia Drownyards maindeck. It's the only card that matters in the mirror.

    Name: Max Tietze

    Age: 23

    Hometown: Mamaroneck, NY

    Occupation:

    Previous Magic accomplishments

    GP Top 8s:2

    PT Top 8s:

    What deck did you play and why?

    UB Control. Seemed like the strongest for the format.

    What card won you the most matches this weekend?

    Volition Reins

    What changes would you make to your deck and why would you make them?

    Play another Grave Titan over Sphinx or Sorin. He's usually the best six drop to resolve.

    Name: Jackie Lee

    Age: 27

    Hometown: Boston, MA

    Occupation: Card Alterist, Scientific Illustrator

    Previous Magic accomplishments

    GP Top 8s:

    PT Top 8s:

    What deck did you play and why?

    Red-Green aggro because I went undefeated on day one of PTDKA. I almost audibled to a WBG ramp list, but I felt much more comfortable with a modified build of my PT deck.

    What card won you the most matches this weekend?

    Strangleroot Geist

    What changes would you make to your deck and why would you make them?

    I might play more Hellriders, but I'm not sure. I would have to rework the mana.

    Name: Eric Meng

    Age: 26

    Hometown: Charlottesville, VA

    Occupation: Student

    Previous Magic accomplishments

    GP Top 8s:

    PT Top 8s:

    What deck did you play and why?

    Frites because I wanted power over an open field in a long tournament. I felt sick of losing because of flooding out when playing aggressive decks as well as losing to aggro when playing control decks.

    What card won you the most matches this weekend?

    Inferno Titan for its flexibility and reach.

    What changes would you make to your deck and why would you make them?

    I would want something more against UB Control, but I'm unsure what. I was considering things like Burning Vengeance, Curse of the Pierced Heart, and Geist of Saint Traft, but each has issues that prevented me from playing them this weekend.

    Name: Matt Costa

    Age: 19

    Hometown: Eastham, Mass

    Occupation: Student

    Previous Magic Accomplishments: T8 PT Honolulu

    GP Top 8s:3

    PT Top 8s:1

    What deck did you play and why?

    UW Delver. Same deck I played at the Pro Tour and thought people would have less artifact removal.

    What card won you the most matches this weekend?

    Gitaxian Probe.

    What changes would you make to your deck and why would you make them?

    Maybe cut a Corrosive Gale. There were fewer Spirits than expected.

    Name: Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

    Age: 24

    Hometown: Porto Alegre, Brazil

    Occupation: Student/Player

    Previous Magic Accomplishments: won Brazilian Nationals twice

    GP Top 8s: 12

    PT Top 8s:9

    What deck did you play and why?

    UB. It has a decent to good matchup against almost everything.

    What card won you the most matches this weekend?

    Curse of Death's Hold

    What changes would you make to your deck and why would you make them?

    Something for the mirror, which turned out to be bigger than I expected maybe a third Drownyard main and some better sideboard cards.

    Name: Matt Scott

    Age: 28

    Hometown: Fredericksburg, VA

    Occupation: Engineer

    Previous Magic Accomplishments: Won a few PTQs

    GP Top 8s:

    PT Top 8s:

    What deck did you play and why?

    UB Zombies. My friend, Nate Chafe, and myself decided earlier this week that it was a good call. We changed it a few times and we're really happy with the final list.

    What card won you the most matches this weekend?

    Geralf's Messenger by a mile.

    What changes would you make to your deck and why would you make them?

    Cut Skirdag Bro; he's real bad.

     
  • Quarterfinals Round-Up

    by Marc Calderaro
  • Believe it or not, there were three matches going on during the quarterfinals other than Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa against Dave Shiels. I know, hard to believe, but it's true. I had to cover all three of them at the same time. They were all awesome matches in different ways. And here's your Quarterfinals Round-Up.

    Jackie Lee (RG Aggro) vs. Adam Snook (UW Humans)

    Game 1

    Adam Snook was the aggressor in this match-up with a very quick Champion of the Parish into a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben into a Loyal Cathar. Jackie Lee mustered a couple mana birds then forced out a Daybreak Ranger with a Green Sun's Zenith, but a Fiend Hunter allowed Snook to continue the beatings. It was 20-5 when Snook dropped a Hero of the Bladehold. Yeah, Lee didn't come back from that.

    Adam Snook 1 – 0 Jackie Lee

    Snook and Lee

    Game 2

    Lee redeemed herself fully from the first game. Snook started out just as strongly as he had before with a Doomed Traveler, Thalia and a Mirran Crusader, followed closely by a Loyal Cathar and Fiend Hunter removing a Strangleroot Geist. But Lee also brought the beats like gangbusters. Huntsman of the Fells was good, but it was nothing compared to the Thrun, the Last Troll equipped with a Sword of War and Peace. Humans has a lot of trouble dealing with that combination.

    The Thrun did the thrust of the damage, and Lee had sandbagged a couple of Galvanic Blast to finish mopping the floor with Snook.

    Jackie Lee 1 – 1 Adam Snook

    Game 3

    The rubber game was tight the entire time. Lee thought a two-land hand would be ok, but five turns into the game, facing down a Thalia – again – was quite the challenge. She had a bevy of mana birds to help here, especially when there was another Sword floating around her side of the board. But Fiend Hunter kept those accelerators on a tight leash.

    Snook finally got some aggression going of his own with a Mirran Crusader, but by that time, Lee was able to cast a Thrun, the Last Troll. Remember what happened last time a Thrun met up with a Sword? Yeah, so does Adam Snook. So did all the people watching. But just in case we'd forgotten, Lee gave us an encore presentation.

    As quickly as she went down in game one, Jackie Lee won the next two to secure a spot in the semi-finals.

    Jackie Lee 2 – 1 Adam Snook

    Matt Scott (UB Zombies) vs. Max Tietze (UB Control)

    Game 1

    Matt Scott's Zombie deck went first and was merciless. I mean, really merciless. Double Diregraf Ghoul into a Diregraf Captain, then into a Phyrexian Obliterator. All Max Tietze did was cast a Liliana of the Veil. And he had to lose life when he made Scott sacrifice something. Bad news.

    Matt Scott 1 – 0 Max Tietze

    Game 2

    Scott enjoys his win

    It was just as brutal as Game one, except for a second there it looked like Tietze had a chance. It started with Diregraf Ghoul into two Gravecrawlers. It was 12-20 when Tietze cast Sever the Bloodline on the Gravecrawlers. The board state had momentarily stalled. But Scott was on fire. He kept dropping Zombie after Zombie faster than Tietze could even think of dropping the Curse of Death's Hold in his hand. And with that, Matt Scott advanced to the semi-finals.

    Matt Scott 2 – 0 Max Tietze

    Eric Meng (Reanimator) vs. Matthew Costa (UW Delver)

    Game 1

    This game went long and went hard. Costa got an early flipped Delver of Secrets and took a commanding lead on Eric Meng as he dug and dug and dug through his deck for some good reanimation targets. Lingering Souls helped him out immensely. At any given time, Meng seemed to have infinite tokens out. I'm sure it was fewer than that, but I couldn't tell the difference honestly.

    For a while an Invisible Stalker with a Runechanter's Pike (five relevant cards in the graveyard) threatened to take Meng out. It was 16-8 and Meng had cast and flashbacked three of his Faithless Lootings. Vapor Snags from Costa kept Meng off his money reanimation targets.

    Meng

    That is, until Costa was down to one card and the last Looting found a Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite which Meng hard cast. It took out a Geist of Saint Traft and an Invisible Stalker immediately, and the five Spirit tokens concurrently swinging in told Costa to scoop them up.

    Eric Meng 1 – 0 Matthew Costa

    Game 2

    Game two was a difficult one for both players. Costa started early with triple one-mana cantrips. When he used his Gitaxian Probe he saw a Lingering Souls, two Mulch and bunch of land in Meng's hand. He could certainly beat that, right? Especially with his double Geist of Saint Traft. Not so fast, said Meng. After doing a series of "bad" blocks, he was able to wipe off both Geists and start to get himself back into the game. It was 16-12 in Costa's favor for a long time while he tried to punch throw damage with a Thrun, the Last Troll.

    Once Costa found a Moorland Haunt, it got harder and harder to Meng to deal the damage he needed to. He eventually made the totals 5-11, and it looked like he would eke out the win.

    But more and more turns meant more and more Spirits from Costa. He was yet to run out of Moorland Haunt food. Meng struggled to keep up, and with his last ditch hope, Costa had a counterspell ready and waiting. Matt Costa eagerly shuffled up for game three.

    Eric Meng 1 – 1 Matthew Costa

    Meng and Costa

    Game 3

    Turn one Delver of Secrets again for Costa, while Meng when for a Faithless Looting then flashed back Lingering Souls. The tokens didn't last long, as Costa flipped the Delver into its insect counterpart, then Dismembered the other one to clean up the board. Meng barely blinked and cast the second one from his hands. And when those died, he just flashed back even more.

    Geist of Saint Traft with the help of a Vapor Snag took out both of the tokens, but for some reason, I expected more tokens. They just never seemed to stop for Meng.

    The totals were 14-15 in Meng's favor. But he just had a Llanowar Elves and a Birds of Paradise to his name. Neither were strong enough to take down a Geist of Saint Traft, or the accompanying Angel token – neither separate nor together. Meng sunk to 9, then to 2. He thought his Thrun, the Last Troll would save him like it had for Jackie Lee, but Costa had the Phantasmal Image waiting.

    Matthew Costa 2 – 1 Eric Meng

     
  • Quarterfinal - Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa vs. Dave Shiels

    by Dane Young
  • Both David and Paulo had harnessed the power of UB Control to overpower their opponents in the swiss rounds, and now they collided here in the quarterfinals with just a difference in six drops between their lists as Dave's Consecrated Sphinxes would be taking on Paulo's Grave Titans.

    UB Control mirrors in the current Standard format center around Nephalia Drownyard milling the opponent out of cards, and the grind started early in game one with both players plowing through card drawing spells to find Nephalia Drownyard, opting to discard rather than give their opponent a chance to crush them with a six-cost bomb by tapping out. Interestingly, Dave fired off Forbidden Alchemy at will and Paulo seemed happy to let him while not playing any of his own. Was letting Forbidden Alchemy resolve part of a devious Brazilian plan to win the mirror?

    Game 1

    Dave's Nihil Spellbomb sat as the battlefield's lone non-land permanent for what seemed like ages until he found the first Nephalia Drownyard with Forbidden Alchemy. He got two mills in before a Ghost Quarter shut it down, but the deck sizes stayed pretty close due to Dave's own mills.

    Both players had a lot of cards in hand and a lot of lands in play when a pair of Curse of Death's Hold landed for Dave, shutting out any Snapcaster Mages and Grave Titan zombie tokens. It didn't seem to matter to Paulo, however, as he found a Nephalia Drownyard of his own, but he only got one mill in before losing it to Ghost Quarter.

    Reverting back to a weird game of draw-go, Shiels started firing off empty Black Sun's Zeniths to buffer his library. Paulo laughed, but matched him, grimacing as Dave found another Nephalia Drownyard. PV was down a handful in the land count, but he had a slight lead in cards remaining, and he traded some of that lead to find more land with Forbidden Alchemy. He didn't know it, but Dave had already found his Blue Sun's Zenith and was just looking for a window to fire it off for the kill.

    Despite nothing really happening, every turn took a long time as they counted libraries, checked graveyards and decided what cards to discard. All the while Dave's Nephalia Drownyard was working its magic on PV's deck, and soon he was down a card in the race, 9-8, in the face of double Nephalia Drownyard. PV's draw step and a mill left him with just four cards left, and his nervous energy was apparent as he tried to devise a way to win.

    Another mill left him with just a single card left, and it was all up to this last turn. He tapped three Islands for a blank Blue Sun's Zenith and paid three more for Mana Leak. He used a Mana Leak of his own on a second soft counter and Dave paid for it with six more mana to work with. Paulo tried for one more Mana Leak and Dave let the stack resolve. PV put his Blue Sun's Zenith onto his empty library, but the second Nephalia Drownyard ripped it away and Paulo conceded.

    Dave 1, PV 0

    Dave Shiels

    Game 2

    PV opened a hand of Island, Swamp, Drowned Catacomb, Nihil Spellbomb, Nihil Spellbomb, Ratchet Bomb and kept, leading with one of his Nihil Spellbombs and following it with the Ratchet Bomb. Dave's draw was lighter on things to do, but he did have a Ghost Quarter to protect him from the Nephalia Drownyard PV played.

    Shiels found his own Nephalia Drownyard on the very next turn, but swallowed a mill in to play his own Nihil Spellbomb. Paulo was hitting all of his land drops naturally, so Dave couldn't afford to cash out his Ghost Quarter this early in the game.PV spun his Millstone again and Shiels was quickly down a dozen cards. Every spin was agony for Dave, who slowly squeezed out the three cards with crossed fingers.

    "No whammies..."

    They started trading Nephalia Drownyard until Shiels lost another Nephalia Drownyard off the top. Paulo pounced, pointing Surgical Extraction at the land and forcing it through Shiels' Negate with Dissipate.

    The Surgical Extraction revealed that Shiels was playing at a different game, however, with a hand of Liliana of the Veil, Bloodline Keeper, Consecrated Sphinx, Blue Sun's Zenith and another Negate. Paulo was down to just Tribute to Hunger and Snapcaster Mage for action. Dave went for Liliana of the Veil and used her to make both of them discard a card to clear a path for the rest of his hand, but PV used his Ratchet Bomb to cut her off. He flashed back Surgical Extraction to rebuy Surgical Extraction, making sure all of Dave was without Liliana of the Veil for the rest of this game.

    Dave tried to trump with Bloodline Keeper, prompting Tribute to Hunger, and Dave slammed Consecrated Sphinx thinking the coast was clear.

    But PV had drawn the Go for the Throat.

    He killed the giant flyer on Dave's end step and untapped into Grave Titan against the tapped-out Shiels, who suddenly had just one turn to find an answer. He drew, surveyed the board and said, "you win," reaching for his sideboard.

    Dave 1, PV 1

    Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

    Game 3

    The final game was going to be a struggle as Shiels led off with a double-mulligan. PV took one of his own, and the draw-go game started. Paulo fixed his mulligan quickly with both sides of a Think Twice, but Dave was okay with his own hand, finding two Ghost Quarters and a Nephalia Drownyard early.

    PV had a Bloodline Keeper in hand, but he couldn't risk going for anything crazy against Dave's unknown hand, and the puzzle got more complicated when Shiels skipped his sixth land drop, telegraphing that he had a hand full of spells.

    The neo-millstone got busy on PV's library, but Shiels had to pause when he spilled a Surgical Extraction, fearing Snapcaster Mage. He declined to mill for turn, preferring to keep his mana available for the time being, but Paulo took the fight to him during Dave's end step.

    Ghost Quarter blew up Nephalia Drownyard, evening the land count at six before Snapcaster Mage enabled the lost Surgical Extraction. Dissipates traded, but Dave had the Mana Leak to keep his remaining win conditions safe.

    Content with the result of the fight—leaving Shiels tapped out and defenseless for a turn—PV stuck Bloodline Keeper and attacked with Snapcaster Mage. Shiels fired back with a big vampire of his own, but Paulo had successfully stolen the initiative.

    Go for the Throat snatched it back, leaving Paulo with a vampire token and a Snapcaster Mage against Dave's active Bloodline Keeper, and now it was up to Dave to take advantage before Paulo's new Nephalia Drownyard could grind him out.

    Even on cards, Paulo looked to dig out of his predicament with a Snapcaster Mage flashing back a three-point Blue Sun's Zenith. He found a Mana Leak and a Dissipate, but that was not exactly a promise of help with the vampires starting to press in. It did help against the Liliana of the Veil Dave went for.

    Paulo untapped into a Ratchet Bomb that cleared out all three of Dave's vampire tokens and one of his own, allowing his Snapcaters to get in for four and forcing Dave to switch gears to the Drownyard plan, where he was ahead 36-20.

    Paulo struck in with his Snapcaster Mages again, but Shiels battled back with one of his own, cutting the pressure in half after blocking. He kept working his land-stone, realizing he could in fact finish off Paulo's library before the remaining Snapcaster Mage would get him. It helped that Paulo's hand was full of lands aside from one Mana Leak.

    Before taking another hit from Snapcaster Mage, the American used his Ghost Quarter to tear down Paulo's new Nephalia Drownyard and hit a big one with Surgical Extraction. He ripped a second copy of the land from PV's hand and two more from his deck, leaving's dwindling library almost dry.

    Smelling blood after seeing Paulo's remaining resources, David went for the kill with Forbidden Alchemy to find some backup. PV was running on fumes, having drawn most of his lands, and he was unable to stop Liliana of the Veil from getting rid of his Snapcaster Mage.

    "Can I kill you?" PV asked.

    "I don't think so," Dave replied, reciting the lackluster remaining contents of Paulo's library.

    "Okay," Paulo nodded, extending the hand.

    Dave Shiels wins the match 2-1 and moves onto the semifinals

     
  • Semifinal: Matt Costa (UW Delver) vs. Matt Scott (UB Zombies)

    by Marc Calderaro
  • These two have both been doing great all weekend. This is Matt Costa's third trip to the Top 8 of a Grand Prix (Montreal and Kansas City) and he knows how to run this Delver deck to a "T". Scott is piloting the UB Zombies deck that has made a strong showing here, and Scott decimated his quarterfinals opponent in a grand total of ten turns in both games. Actually, I might be exaggerating; it could have been nine turns.

    Before making the Top 8, Costa was worried about booking last-minute flights to chase points around the country, but with this finish he's already secured his next rung on the ladder and he can rest just a bit easier.

    Game 1

    Costa went first and started with his trademark turn-one Delver of Secrets. Scott, who had to go to six cards, went Gravecrawler into a Mortarpod. The Germ was immediately sacrificed to take out the Delver before any flipsy, tricksy things could ensue. More Delver hate came in the form of Fumespitter as his opponent sunk to 16. Costa also allowed a post-combat Skirsdag High Priest and made a Spirit token off Moorland Haunt before he untapped for his turn.

    The High Priest was not long for this world as a four-life Dismember took him out (and took Costa to 12), while second Mortarpod was hit by an incoming Mana Leak. The Fumespitter took out the Haunt token (leaving Costa out of gas in his graveyard) and Scott kept on the pressure with another Gravecrawler. He took Costa to 10, then 6, then equipped the surviving Mortarpod to a 'crawler – anticipating silly sacrificing tricks.

    Matt Costa

    On Scott's next attack step, Costa made a Snapcaster Mage, flashed back the Dismember (going to 2) and took out the unequipped Gravecrawler . The Mage then jumped in from of the other creepy crawler, ready to sacrifice himself for the cause. But Scott allowed the wizards to survive, sacrificing the zombie with the Mortarpod and to taking Costa to 1. A lowly 1.

    Now with no forward motion for Scott, Costa took to the offense. He cast a Geist of Saint Traft and quickly attacked Scott down to 9. Scott cast a desperation Phantasmal Image right before he was to die and Costa did not have the game winning counterspell to stop it. The Image traded with the Legendary Geist and Scott had bought himself some renewed life.

    However, Costa still wasn't done and used the fuel now in his graveyard to pump out some flying Spirit tokens. Scott ran out a questionable Geralf's Messenger. I say "questionable" because when he cast it he looked like he was asking a question. You know, something like, "Please?!" Costa countered it with a Mana Leak, prompting a "Rats," out of Scott. "Am I dead yet?"

    "Well, I have the Runechanter's Pike..."

    Scott pick up his cards, referring to next game when he said, "I'll play."

    Matt Costa 1 – 0 Matt Scott

    Game 2

    Scott started the zombie party with a Diregraf Ghoul, then shook his head as he cast a Phantasmal Image copying it. Scott wanted to put enough pressure on Costa so that he had to spend his mana so Scott could force through a Geralf's Messenger. Costa sculpted his hand with a Ponder, drawing him a Gitaxian Probe, then played it looking at a Cemetery Reaper, the aforementioned Geralf's Messenger, and land.

    A Vapor Snag killed the Image on the next attack step but the Messenger quickly filled its void as Scott intended. Costa continued not allowing Scott's attacks to proceed with a Celestial Purge on the Messenger and a Vapor Snag on the Ghoul. Scott reset in his second main phase using a second Messenger and a Ghoul. As if we all had Alzheimer's, the next attack met a Snapcaster Mage flashing back the Celestial Purge on the second Messenger, and then the Mage blocked and traded with the Ghoul.

    Matt Scott

    Scott tried to rebuild his fallen comrades with the Reaper, but it would be an uphill climb. Costa was still on 12 and he had just cast a Geist of Saint Traft. Scott slammed down Sword of War and Peace to swing the pendulum right back into his favor. The totals were 6-20. Scott could taste the victory. He swung for the fences, but Divine Offering took out the Sword and left Costa at 7.

    The Geist came in and took Scott to 14, then 11 and Costa didn't skip a beat casting Batterskull and passing the turn back. Reaper made some guys but they quickly fell to the 4/5 Lifelinking Germ, and the Hexproof, Angel-making monster.

    It was around this time people starting walking away from behind Scott. They could see what was happening. It was valiant Scott didn't get up himself. He hung in for a few more turns, but Costa had this one in the bag.

    Matt Costa 2 – 0 Matt Scott

    Matt Costa advances to the Finals!

     
  • Semifinal: Jackie Lee vs. Dave Shiels

    by Dane Young
  • Game 1

    "I've gotta admit, I was rooting against you," David said. "Eric's my friend and I don't really want to play against you in this matchup.

    Shiels' brain was fried after a grueling match against Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, but he had to feel a little better after winning the die roll against Jackie's RG Aggro deck. Her mulligan must have had him doing mental cartwheels, right?

    But Jackie came out strong with a third turn Thrun, the Last Troll off the back of Birds of Paradise.

    "Seems good," Dave said as he looked for help with Forbidden Alchemy, but when Sword of War and Peace found its way onto Thrun the next turn, it was clear that he hadn't found any.

    "A million?" he asked, confirming the total damage he would be taking with six cards in hand. 12 was close, and his back was firmly up against a wall. Strangleroot Geist sealed the deal with a shrug.

    Jackie 1, David 0

    Jackie Lee

    Game 2

    The pair shuffled in silence, studying the others' decklist as they settled on their final sideboarding decisions. Finally ready, Jackie quickly sent her hand back for her second mulligan of the match. David looked happy, but it didn't help him much last game.

    Jackie's six gave her a bunch of options, all starting with Birds of Paradise. She took some time to think on her second turn, settling on a one-point Green Sun's Zenith over Sword of Feast and Famine. David let it resolve and Llanowar Elves hit play for just a second before Black Sun's Zenith wiped both accelerators out.

    Sword of Feast and Famine snuck in, but David was able to keep Strangleroot Geist at bay with a Mana Leak. He cycled a Think Twice before untapping into a fully-entrenched defense.

    A second Mana Leak took down Llanowar Elves and Ratchet Bomb gave him some protection from the sword with Jackie stuck on three lands. She had an Ancient Grudge to off the Ratchet Bomb and squeeze a Birds of Paradise in, but she decided to wait.

    And it turned out to be a great read, as Shiels tapped out for Batterskull. Both of Shiels' artifacts hit the bin and suddenly he was staring down a Birds of Paradise holding Sword of Feast and Famine. He flashed back Think Twice to look for something to help, but was forced to take a hit from the bird, discarding Bloodline Keeper.

    Consecrated Sphinx worked, drawing a sigh from Jackie as Dave pulled ahead on cards with a way to stop her lone attacker. She was forced to use a Phyrexian Metamorph to copy the Consecrated Sphinx, hoping to find a way through the beefy wall.

    They traded sphinx triggers on Dave's turn, each one collecting approximately a million cards before deciding to end the madness. Shiels, already mentally drained from his quarterfinal match, was forced to sort through the half of his deck he was holding to figure out the best line of play.

    He arrived at Phantasmal Image for another Consecrated Sphinx before discarding a bundle of lands and passing the turn.

    "I just don't say no. It's an addiction," Shiels admitted.

    Jackie tapped all three of her lands to kill the clone on upkeep and said no to both of her sphinx triggers, leaving David with card withdrawals. She tried to resolve a Strangleroot Geist, but Snapcaster Mage for Mana Leak stuffed it, and it was back to Dave.

    Batterskull gave him a big-time threat, and he denied Jackie one of her own, Dissipating a second copy of Phyrexian Metamorph. Realizing she needed to get her cloned sphinx over the hump, she moved the Sword of Feast and Famine from Birds of Paradise to Consecrated Sphinx and passed the turn, clearing the way for Black Sun's Zenith and Liliana of the Veil to wipe her board.

    Slightly smaller, Consecrated Sphinx and the germ token inside Batterskull rumbled in for six, and Dave was once again back in control. Jackie fought hard, drawing a Mana Leak from David's hand with Phyrexian Metamorph and sneaking through Ancient Grudge on the Batterskull.

    But David shrugged it off, replacing his lost living weapon with an equally-deadly Bloodline Keeper, and that was enough to finish Jackie off.

    Jackie 1, David 1

    Dave Shiels

    Game 3

    On the play for the final game, Jackie went for her third mulligan of the match and David joined her. He declined to come along for her next mulligan, and Jackie shuffled in silence. Her five card was missing any lands and she went to four with a "pretty lame."

    Her four card hand of Forest, Thrun, the Last Troll, Sword of Feast and Famine and Corrosive Gale was as good as it was going to get, but she missed her second land drop with a shake of her head.

    She managed to find a second Forest and played Strangleroot Geist, attacking David for two while he cycled Think Twice. The spirit dropped Dave to 14 as Jackie peeled two straight lands to play Thrun, the Last Troll, but Shiels' Think Twice had found him Phantasmal Image to keep the monster off his back.

    Strangleroot Geist dropped David to 12 before David presented Liliana of the Veil. The planeswalker ate a Batterskull and Corrosive Gale and gave Jackie a decision. She played Sword of Feast and Famine and paid for Mana Leak before sending the Strangeroot Geist at Liliana.

    That was the window Dave was looking for, as he dropped Curse of Death's Hold into play and finished off the undying spirit with Liliana's -2 power. Bloodline Keeper and Ratchet Bomb followed when Jackie whiffed on her turn, but Phyrexian Metamorph quickly copied the vampire and picked up the sword.

    That sword was joined by a second as another Phyrexian Metamorph copied it, and she bashed Shiels down to 6. He discarded two, but managed to keep a Curse of Death's Hold to buy a turn. The dual-wielding Bloodline Keeper clone came knocked Dave down to a single life point, and he would need either Black Sun's Zenith or Consecrated Sphinx to stay alive.

    He called for Consecrated Sphinx...and found it! He slammed it into play and picked off Jackie's Kessig Wolf Run with a Ghost Quarter, crossing his fingers as he passed the turn with a legitimate blocker in place. All he needed was one more turn to melt the deadly swords with his Ratchet Bomb, but Jackie had some outs with Hellrider and Strangleroot Geist, even Corrosive Gale.

    She drew and David drew two off his sphinx, but, excited, he declined to draw 10 when she cashed in a topdecked Garruk, Primal Hunter for five cards.

    It didn't matter as Ratchet Bomb and Tragic Slip wiped out Jackie's board and gathered vampire army swooped in for the kill, led by the miraculous Consecrated Sphinx.

    Dave Shiels wins the match 2-1 and advances to the finals of Grand Prix Baltimore!

     
  • Final - Dave Shiels (UB Control) vs. Matt Costa (UW Delver)

    by Marc Calderaro
  • So after all the archetypes going back and forth, it comes down to this: the old best deck versus the new threat. Matt Costa's playing his tight Delver list that's brought him good success in the past. Dave Shiels has a good, if not outstanding of the many variant builds of UB Control that emerged the clear big monster out of this tournament. They both studied each other's decks and talked about their experience throughout the weekend, especially the Top 8, joking that regardless of who wins, the trophy would stay in the same five-mile radius.

    As they both when down to six, Shiels remarked, "I've been mulliganing a lot." Then, they both kept their sixes and were off to the races.

    Game 1

    Shiels led off and killed Costa's first-turn Delver of Secrets with a Go For the Throat. Costa found a Runechanter's Pike with a Ponder, then watched Shiels drop a Nephalia Drownyard and pass with three mana up. Costa started the next turn with a Gitaxian Probe, revealing Think Twice, Drownyard #2, Black Sun's Zenith and Consecrated Sphinx. Snapcaster Mage made the second Ponder and Costa passed two life ahead of his opponent.

    Shiels left all his mana up, but had nothing to do but chant "Lame," when Costa ran out a Sword of War and Peace. He had six cards in his hand. That would be a veritable manure-ton of damage to the face. Shiels dug with his Forbidden Alchemy and gave it back to Costa. Shiels could only sigh and mutter, "Yup," when the Sword was equipped to the Snapcaster Mage and it made the totals 9-23 in Costa's favor.

    Shiels dropped his sixth land, studied his hand complete with a Consecrated Sphinx, Curse of Death's Hold and a Snapcaster Mage. He had five cards so, theoretically, a Mage swing this turn would be lethal. He declined to play anything on his main phase and passed to Costa.

    Costa declared attacks and Shiels made Go For the Throat have flashback with his shiny new Snapcaster Mage of his own. He neglected to immediately cast the instant and instead put the minty Mage right in the way of the one equipped with a flaming sword. After Costa laid a post-combat Runechanter's Pike, Shiels slit the Mage's throat and untapped for his turn. He, again, left all his mana untapped and watched as Costa made a Moorland Haunt token before the next untap. It quickly died to a Tragic Slip, but Costa's next play, an Invisible Stalker, stayed on the battlefield for a bit longer – Costa passed with three mana untapped, and two cards in his hand. He could have equipped the Sword, but if Shiels had pretty much anything besides the Curse of Death's Hold, it was a subpar play.

    Shiels basically slammed the Curse of Death's Hold onto the table, neutralizing a whole host of Costa's threats – including the poor Stalker who slunk his way to the graveyard. On Shiels's next turn he cast Forbidden Alchemy leaving open only one Blue mana. This was a problem when he tried to Dissipate the Geist of Saint Traft Costa made. Liliana of the Veil made up for that on the next turn and took out the equipped Geist herself.

    Shiels had six cards; Costa had three. That's bad Liliana math right there. It was still 9-23, and Shiels finally turned on the Nephalia Drownyards. It was only a matter of time before the combination would overcome Costa. A mere four turns later, without a spell being cast, Costa went to game two.

    Dave Shiels 1 – 0 Matt Costa

    The two silently sideboarded, checking the lists again, and shuffled up to ready for the next game.

    Dave Shiels

    Game 2

    Shiels again went to six and Costa's first-turn Gitaxian Probe showed a Black Sun's Zenith, Ratchet Bomb, Think Twice, Consecrated Sphinx and a couple land. Costa brought the early beats with a Snapcaster Mage but generally spent his time sculpting the hand for later – Celestial Purge, Moorland Haunt, two Mana Leaks and Thought Scour all awaited their day in the sun.

    Black Sun's Zenith ate a Mana Leak, and after flipping his Delver and looking at his opponent's hand, Costa attacked and made the life totals 11-14. (By the way, Shiels's hand was Consecrated Sphinx, another Black Sun's Zenith and a Phantasmal Image.) Shiels kept his Ratchet Bomb at two, and tried for a second Zenith. Again it met a Leak and again Costa brought the pain – 6-11.

    Two Vapor Snags meant that Costa had at least two more Mana Leaks if he wanted to bounce his Snapcaster Mage. And he didn't really fear Shiels's Liliana, as he just made a Spirit token and sacrificed it instead of a more potent threat.

    "How many creatures left in your graveyard? Zero? That's a good number." Shiels quipped as he cast Go For the Throat on the Insectile Aberration that had be clawing his guts out for a few turns.

    Everyone around was silent. There was distant clatter, but nothing could be heard within thirty feet of the game other than card sleeves brushing against one another. There were the talkative audience members earlier, but the had long fallen silent, transfixed by the game. When Shiels ran out a Phantasmal Image copying Snapcaster Mage, then flashed back Black Sun's Zenith for one, it was still hushed. Vapor Snag in response on Costa's own Mage was responded to by the Ratchet Bomb activation killing everything that cost two. This was preempted by another Vapor Snag targeting the same Mage, and a Celestial Purge on the Liliana. Both boards were completely reset. 4-13.

    And then there it came. Like a freight train. Boom. Geist of Saint Traft filled the vacuum of the empty board. If silence could get any more silent, it just happened. Shiels looked at it for a minute, and we were onto game three.

    Dave Shiels 1 – 1 Matt Costa

    "There had to be a Game Three; it wouldn't be right if there weren't," Shiels said. "You know, I'm going to keep seven this time."

    Matt Costa

    Game 3

    Shiels kept to his word and finally started with a full hand. As Costa cast yet another first turn Gitaxian Probe, Shiels said, "You always have perfect information." And now so does everyone else: Bloodline Keeper, Forbidden Alchemy, Ratchet Bomb, Nephalia Drownyard and some more land.

    The Delver of Secrets was suspiciously less threatening this turn and stayed a lowly 1/1 for longer than Costa wanted. It was just long enough for Shiels to pop it with a Ratchet Bomb. After that, the next turns were just spent refining hands. This was not as great for Costa, as he had previously always had some sort of clock ticking away. He corrected that with a Moorland Haunt token a few turns in. Costa had a lot of threats in his hand, but only one counterspell; he would have to use it wisely.

    Threat #1 came down – a Sword of War and Peace – but it was binned by a Mana Leak. Threat #2 followed a couple turns later – a Snapcaster Mage. It resolved an creating a flashbacking Thought Scour that found some more Moorland Haunt food.

    When Costa untapped and cast a Gitaxian Probe, Shiels splayed his cards on the table and said, "Have fun." We will, thanks. The entire crowd leaned in over us at the table to get a look at the cards: Think Twice, Mana Leak, Snapcaster Mage, Tragic Slip, Bloodline Keeper and Curse of Death's Hold. A couple turns later Shiels had added another Mage and a Go for the Throat. Costa kept draining Shiels, but at way too slow of a pace. It was 12-16. Costa refused to cast the Geist of Saint Traft; he waited for the opportune moment.

    With five extra land, Shiels finally laid the Bloodline Keeper. Costa waited until the end step and bounced it back with a Vapor Snag. Shiels retaliated with a Go for the Throat, taking out one of Costa's three Spirits. And with only three more land for Shiels, Costa finally ran out Threat #3 – the Geist of Saint Traft. (This was probably because he just ripped Threat #4 – Batterskull.) Snapcaster Mage + Tragic Slip knocked out another Spirit, and Curse of Death's Hold got the last token, but there were bigger, Hexproof Spirits that needed slipping and cursing. As Celestial Purge whisked away the player-enchanting Aura, Shiels exhaled a deep exhale. 9-16; Geist vs. Mage. And then came Threat #4, and the two remaining cards for Costa were Mana Leaks. He had exactly four mana up. Another exhale from Shiels as Costa countered his Negate.

    Shiels untapped and laid Bloodline Keeper Number 1, then Bloodline Keeper Number 2. "That's fine," Costa said, then got his turn back and ripped a Vapor Snag. Tap five, Geist picks up the Batterskull and swings in. No blocks on the Angel and a Mage chumps the Geist; then Vapor Snag bounces a Keeper. 4-22.

    The cat came back the very nice day, and again, like Grand Prix champion, Costa ripped another good one with Snapcaster Mage. He Snagged the Bloodline Keeper token and Shiels was forced to chump with the second Keeper and his last remaining Mage. It took a bit of thought and a draw step, but Shiels realized he was in the presence of an imminent Grand Prix Champion.

    It was all over. And Matt Costa is your new Grand Prix Baltimore Champion!

    Matt Costa 2 – Dave Shiels 1

     
  • Top 5 Cards of Grand Prix Baltimore

    by Marc Calderaro and Dane Young
  • Game 1. Geist of Saint Traft

    As John Madden would say: "Here's a guy who when you play him, and people don't stop him, mages get killed." At the beginning of the weekend, dealers were talking about how they couldn't sell him. People kept saying that Corrosive Gale would wreck this deck in general, but it just didn't happen. Matt Costa shut up all the haters and took his tuned UW Delver deck straight to the finals. And though there are tons of great cards in that deck, to me, it's the Geist of Saint Traft that causing the most pain and suffering. If you drop it at the right time, it can suck the air out of a room. And backed up by a Vapor Snag or two, it can deal 20 damage all by itself – well, with the help of its Angel cohort of course. Geist has appeared before this tournament, but today was its resurgence. Do you guys remember the finals?

    Game 2. Strangleroot Geist

    Jackie Lee and her RG Aggro deck. She was using Strangleroot Geist to put constant, annoying pressure on the litany of Control decks she slaughtered all weekend. Not only did she mention this card as her MVP in her player profile, but her actions spoke louder than those words ever could based on how often she would fetch it up with Green Sun's Zenith. Yesterday Brian Kibler talked about how RG Aggro wasn't really that well set up in the format, but anyone who watched Jackie Lee's rise to the Top 8 knows that with the help of this small 2/1 for two this deck can beat the best decks, piloted by the best players in the format. And what was that first card she used to almost win the last game after a mulligan to four? That's right, Strangleroot Geist.

    Game 3. Nephalia Drownyard

    What card defines the UB Control deck? Is it the Grave Titan? Or the Liliana of the Veil? What about Curse of Death's Hold? Nah. It's this colorless land. Knowing that Control mirrors would be constant throughout the weekend, some enterprising players even went up to a full four copies in the main deck. Though most Pros kept copies three and four in the board, managing this card was the key to any successful Control-on-Control slugfest. And wasn't it the stripping of Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa's remaining Drownyards that finally allowed Dave Shiels to take him down in the Quarterfinals? I think so.

    Game 4. Geralf's Messenger

    The UB Zombies deck is one of the big successes of the tournament. It's as fun to play as it is resilience, powerful and consistent. What's the reason for this power? One could argue the Phantasmal Image, but that's only because the Image allows you to make more copies of this 3/2 self-recurring beatstick. Geralf's Messenger makes opponents readjust their virtual life total constantly. Together with his life partner, Diregraf Captain, these dudes make your life painful when they're there and painful when they go away.

    When Dark Ascension was released, was a ton of speculation about how this card compared to Kitchen Finks. "...It's not that good", "But it comes into play tapped...", etc. Blah blah blah. Try saying that the next time the Messenger, Image, Mortarpod punches out over half your life total with basically no effort at all.

    Game 5. Snapcaster Mage

    I don't care if it's passé, but this card is just a phenom. It made appearances at every level of play, and it's just as good giving flashback to a previously countered Black Sun's Zenith as it is allowing a second Gitaxian Probe. It plays as an Ambush Viper, it does a good Goblin Raider impression; the card is whatever it needs to be.

    And in the finals, what it needed to be was right on the top of Matt Costa's deck, right after he had ripped a big ol' Vapor Snag. This card allowed him to keep two, TWO, Bloodline Keepers at bay so his little UW dudes could earn him the trophy. It might have taken a long time for Tiago Chan's invitational card to see the light of day, but oh boy howdy it was worth it.

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