Grand Prix–Los Angeles: Day 2 Blog

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EVENT COVERAGE

 

  • Sunday, 10:06 a.m.: Undefeated players and decks
    by Dane Young and Bill Stark
  • Five players smashed their way into day two without losing a match. Hall of Famer Rob Dougherty led the charge of undefeated players with his take on the All-in Red deck. His decision to run Martyr of Ashes in the main deck caught animals of all shapes and sizes off-guard on his run to the top of the standings.

    Justin Stanley ended up right behind Dougherty, storming his way to the 9-0 Promised Land with a U/R TEPS designed by Luis Scott-Vargas.

    Jed Dolbeer piloted his Faeries deck to third place after day one. His army of winged beaters flew right through the first day, entering the critical second day in third place with a record of 8-0-1.

    Sam Black ran the Elves combo deck to an 8-0-1 record on day and isn’t looking back. Will the deck that took Pro Tour Berlin by force be able to re-establish itself this weekend? Sam sure hopes so.

    Rounding out the undeafted is the ever-jovial Gabe Walls slid into the second day as the last undefeated player. Gabe couldn’t keep the smile off of his face as he blinked Kitchen Finks and Cloudthreshers into and out of the game with his beloved Astral Slide deck. Life from the Loam provided a nearly endless supply of cycling lands to fuel the powerful white enchantment.

     

  • Round 10 Feature Match: Rob Dougherty vs. Justin Stanley
    by Bill Stark
  • “Playing against a Pro Tour Hall of Famer?” A friend from the crowd leaned in to ask his pal Justin Stanley before the beginning of round 10 of Grand Prix-Los Angeles.

    “I know! I’m really excited!” Stanley replied. Even though he was new to the Feature Match area, Stanley was playing a deck used by a number of high caliber California pros, most notably Luis Scott-Vargas.

    “So do you play a lot of Pro Tours?” Rob asked Justin as they shuffled.

    “Ummm...this is actually my first Day 2.” Stanley replied, a big grin on his face as the excited energy from the crowd began seeping in to the spirit of the match.

    Stanley’s Storm/TEPS hybrid didn’t come to bat in his opening hand, and he shipped it back for a look at six. When those cards didn’t look any better, he was back to France for five. Dougherty looked on nonchalantly, and didn’t flinch when Justin sent his five card hand back for four cards. Reluctantly Stanley kept that and opened on a Polluted Delta.

    Playing a unique version of All-In Red, Rob Dougherty opened on Martyr of Ashes before passing the turn. In addition to the Coldsnap common, he also had Umezawa's Jitte in the deck to help defeat Faerie builds. The plan had worked well on the first day, but the deck was a slight dog to combo like Storm. Having his opponent mulligan to four certainly didn’t hurt.

    Justin Stanley storms his way through the competition.

    Justin tried to get some action going with Sleight of Hand, but Dougherty fired back on Empty the Warrens for six Goblin tokens. The first attack with the token army dropped Stanley to 11, but having found four lands to play and with two turns to win, Justin had some time before needing to go off. He didn’t wait, however, playing a Rite of Flame and starting a storm count. Thanks to Dougherty’s own copy of the card sitting in the graveyard, Stanley’s Rite made an extra mana. That let him play Seething Song, then he used Cascade Bluffs to filter some of the red to play a Mind’s Desire for three.

    Rob checked the storm count, then nodded. It was a relatively weak Mind’s Desire, and considering Stanley had at least another draw step was a bold move, trying to go off before Rob could potentially draw something that would end the game faster (most probably a Demigod of Revenge).

    The first flip revealed Rite of Flame. The second hit Ponder. The third? Dougherty cut carefully, hoping to give his opponent a blank. Instead, Stanley carefully flipped the card to reveal...Tendrils of Agony! The card wasn’t lethal just yet, but it would help Justin survive a lot longer in the game. He played Ponder, agonizing over the top three cards, then leaving them in order and drawing one. Rite of Flame gave him four more mana thanks to one copy being in each players’ graveyard already, and he used some of the mana to play the Peer Through Depths he had just drawn from Ponder. Peer nabbed a Manamorphose, and when Justin played the hybrid spell the storm count went to seven. The cantrip revealed a Seething Song which Justin played, putting the storm count at eight, but he was out of gas. Tendrils was added to the stack with a storm count of nine, putting Dougherty to 2. Justin briefly hit 29, but had to mana burn for 5 and fell to 24.

    It was time for Dougherty to capitalize. He bashed Justin to 17 on his attack step, then played a second Martyr of Ashes. Justin was completely out of cards, and needed to find a single copy of Tendrils of Agony to win. His first draw step yielded Sleight of Hand, which gave him a Flooded Strand. Dougherty hit five mana and found Demigod of Revenge, turning his troops sideways to send Justin to 4. When he sacrificed his Flooded Strand, he fell to 3 and had one draw step to find a miracle. With no access to black mana, he had to play Tendrils off of Manamorphose or Mind's Desire; it wasn’t looking good for the California upstart. He carefully peeled his top card, surveyed the board, and conceded the extremely close squeaker.

    Rob Dougherty 1, Justin Stanley 0

    “I love the way that deck can come back from mulligans.” Rob said, pointing at his opponent’s deck. Justin nodded good naturedly, but while his comeback was impressive, nearly killing Dougherty in one fell swoop, it didn’t give him the dubya so it wasn’t a true comeback at all.

    Lotus Bloom hit first turn suspend for Justin Stanley, while Rob Dougherty made an interesting play to answer: he simply drew a card and discarded Demigod of Revenge. Did he have the ritual effects to power two 5/4s into play on the second turn? The crowd pressed in to get a look, but Dougherty just smiled and sheepishly played a Martyr of Ashes.

    “The beats cometh!” He boomed authoritatively, tongue firmly in cheek.

    Justin Stanley was content to work on charging up a Dreadship Reef. Rob used a Seething Song accelerated by Simian Spirit Guide to get the mana he needed to play the Demigod of Revenge still in his hand. When Stanley didn’t counter, things momentarily looked good for Rob. He bashed for 11, but Justin had a trick in Chain of Vapor to bounce one of the 5/4s. The attack dropped Stanley to 14, and he looked poised to go off. He charged up his Dreadship Reef one more time, then put his Lotus Bloom into play on his turn. It looked all but over for the Hall of Famer Dougherty, but Justin did some math, checked his hand, and could only pass the turn back.

    Hall of Famer Rob Dougherty in classic form.

    Not betraying any hint of surprise, Rob untapped and cracked his opponent to 8, then played Umezawa’s Jitte. Not exactly a powerhouse against combo, but the lifegain ability could come in handy for keeping Rob out of lethal Tendrils range. His next attack dropped Stanley to 2, then Justin used a Flooded Strand to thin a Steam Vents out of his deck, falling to 1. His turn was going to have to be a big one if he wanted to keep his hopes of remaining undefeated alive.

    He peeled the top card from his deck, looked at his hand, and passed the turn. Was he bluffing? Either of Rob’s threats were lethal, so Stanley would need two bounce spells to stay alive. Was he bluffing to see if Dougherty, a Hall of Famer and Pro Tour champion, would forget to attack?

    Dougherty did some math before combat, then turned his creatures sideways. “Hold on,” his opponent said, slowing the game. “Before attackers, Gigadrowse your creatures.” That spell would definitely do it, but it was a bit of a surprise to see the card sideboarded against All-In Red. Rob played a post-combat Trinisphere, and Justin looked all but out of it. He peeled the top card of his library into his hand, and checked the board.

    “That’s game man...” Stanley nodded, extending his hand.

    Rob Dougherty defeats Justin Stanley 2-0.

     

  • Sunday, 11:44 a.m.: Impact of New Grand Prix Policy
    by Bill Stark
  • Grand Prix-Los Angeles marked the first Grand Prix under a new rules policy from the DCI. In a move heralded by the playing community, it was decided that instead of just the top 64 or top 128 players qualifying for Day 2 play, the top XXX players or all players with an X-2 record or better would qualify for Day 2, whichever number was greater. What does that mean from a practical standpoint? Tiebreakers would no longer be the difference between one 7-2 player waking up early on Sunday for a shot at the Top 8, while another got to sleep in despite having worked just as hard.

    So how did things work out this weekend? With 834 players, Grand Prix-Los Angeles was just large enough to qualify for a cut to 128 (or, of course, all X-2s and above). Had the event registered under 800 players, the cutoff would have been Top 64, but since it was just over, the cutoff was doubled. That meant a high probability there would be far fewer 7-2s or better than 128, meaning some 6-3s would be making the cut to the second day of play.

    By the time the smoke cleared on Day 1, eight lucky players at 6-3 found themselves eligible to come back on Sunday. Of course, not everyone realized that. Numerous frantic cell phone calls were made to friends who, dejected after losing the final round of play to fall to 6-3 and assuming they had no hope of playing on, left early for dinner, only to find out they were q’ed to keep battling. And of course, many a seasoned pro was horrified to find that dropping after their third loss had meant they were dropping while still potentially in contention for the second day. Some had even dropped at X-2-1, a record that guaranteed Day 2 play had the players finished off strongly. One uninformed early riser had to rush from the PTQ signup line to the Grand Prix player’s meeting as his name was paged over the loudspeaker with an ominous “This is your last chance to take your spot in Day 2 of the Grand Prix.”

    Of course, the baddest beat probably belonged to poor Richard Oleksak. He started the Grand Prix at 6-0, picked up two losses and decided to drop after the second, unhappy with his performance. Despite his final round no-show, his standing and tiebreakers were still strong enough at the end of the day to make him eligible for Day 2 had he only decided not to drop. The lesson to be learned? Heading forward in 2009, come to play Magic because, even when you think you’re out, you may not be!

     

  • Round 11 Feature Match: Luis Scott-Vargas vs. Forrest Pitts
    by Dane Young
  • Level 8 magician Luis Scott-Vargas has been dropping enormous storm bombs on his opponents all weekend with his U/R TEPS deck. His opponent has been smashing faces with his R/G Zoo deck. Both players have just a single loss and winning this round will provide a lot of momentum in the run for the top 8.

    Luis kept his opener, but Forrest dejectedly sent his first hand back. His second hand was passable so Luis led off with a tapped Steam Vents. He was met by Temple Garden and Wild Nacatl from Forrest. Luis used Polluted Delta to find another copy of the dual-land took a shot from the Nacatl. Forrest didn’t have a second land, but Figure of Destiny would definitely help the cause.

    Luis Scott-Vargas
    Luis whiffed on land during his third turn and took four on the chin. He was ready to go off on the next turn, however, playing a Rite of Flame into a handful of ritual effects. Mind’s Desire for six revealed a handful of gas and Tendrils of Agony wrapped things up.

    Scott-Vargas 1, Pitts 0

    Both players mulliganed and kept their second hands. Wooded Foothills fetched a Stomping Ground to power out Wild Nacatl and Luis replied with an Island into Ponder. A pair of Lotus Blooms were close behind. Forrest again had no action for his second turn so Luis had a lot of time to piece his combo together.

    Luis Remanded a Figure of Destiny before his Lotuses arrived. Electrolyze took out the opposing Cat Warrior, but the Figure was ready to take its place. LSV dug with Peer Through Depths but seemed resigned to wait for a huge turn. Forrest landed a Mogg Fanatic and got in with the Figure and it looked like Luis would only have a few more turns now that the clock had increased. Ethersworn Canonist put the screws to the combo deck and a frustrated Luis packed it in from 6 life.

    Scott-Vargas 1, Pitts 1

    Forrest Pitts
    Both players kept their openers for the deciding game and Luis shuffled with his Ponder before suspending Lotus Bloom. Forrest had a Figure of Destiny off of Sacred Foundry which Luis answered with Cascade Bluffs. Forrest hit his second land for once and made a Tarmogoyf before sending with the Figure of Destiny. Luis had an end step Peer Through Depths and a Polluted Delta for his turn. Forrest came across for 4 damage and had a Mogg Fanatic behind. Electrolyze split a damage between the Kithkin and Goblin and Forrest allowed his Figure to die after doming LSV with his Fanatic. Luis ritualed into a five point Mind’s Desire on his turn revealing Rite of Flame, Desperate Ritual, two lands and a Mind’s Desire on the last peel.

    More rituals were fired off and the second Desire stormed for eight. Luis found a Cascade Bluffs to net some blue mana for a hard-cast 13-pointer and that was all she wrote.

    Luis Scott-Vargas defeats Forrest Pitts 2-1.

     

  • Sunday, 12:47 p.m.: Archetype Breakdown – Grand Prix-Los Angeles
    by Josh Silvestri
  • Faeries 29
    Affinity 11
    Death Cloud 11
    GRW Zoo 9
    Zoo 9
    Burn 8
    TEPS – Tendrils 8
    Elves 7
    Swath Storm 4
    All-In Red 4
    Next Level Faeries 3
    Swans 3
    Beasts 2
    Gifts Rock 2
    RGB Aggro Loam 2
    Bant Aggro 1
    BG Bitter Crime 1
    Blood Cloud 1
    BRW Martyr-Proc 1
    Dredge 1
    GB Loam Dredge Control 1
    GW Hatorade 1
    Martyr-Proc 1
    Mono-Green Aggro 1
    Seismic Swans 1
    Slide 1
    UB Faeries 1
    UB Tron 1
    UG Faeries 1

    As you viewers at home can see from the data, Grand Prix-Los Angeles has been quite the switch from Pro Tour-Berlin where Elves clearly dominated the metagame. Instead the Little Green Tribe have largely been supplanted by that other dominant tribe, Faeries. At the top of the board with almost a 3 to 1 margin over the closest other archetype, blue is definitely not dead, despite Sensei’s Divining Top being gone. The distinction in normal Faeries and other versions is typically broken up by color, but the biggest break in the archetype is Next Level Faeries run by pros such as Patrick Chapin and Manuel Bucher. A key difference from normal Faeries is a Gifts Ungiven engine, allowing them to get Life from the Loam and their utility lands straight from the deck, absolutely devastating Faeries mirrors. An old favorite, Triskelion, also makes an appearance to help against aggro and ping away x/1’s all day.

    Combo-wise, Elves still had a presence, but was largely held in check by the sheer number of Faeries players, as well as prepared Burn, Zoo and Death Cloud players. Instead the combo of choice for many pros and one of the undefeated players from Day 1 has been TEPS. There has been a split in the exact builds of the Mind’s Desire deck, but the core of the deck is largely the same. In fact the main difference is the choice of kills, Swath Storm killing with Pyromancer's Swath and Grapeshot, with sideboard Brain Freeze. Meanwhile the version Luis Scott-Vargas and Day 1 undefeated Justin Stanley chose to use Tendrils of Agony as the main kill condition, opening up space for cards like Electrolyze and Vendilion Clique to help deal with Storm hate. Be prepared; this could be the breakout deck of the tournament.

    Though Zoo got off to a rocky start for Day 2, with nearly all of its players being 7-2 coming into the second day, for aggro players, don’t despair! Zoo, Affinity and Burn have still had a healthy presence on here, holding up well with the Fae and combo hordes. For midrange, Death Cloud was by far the most popular and successful version in the field, playing resource attrition via Raven’s Crime and Death Cloud, staying ahead with Life from the Loam and constantly clearing the board until a Kitchen Finks or Tarmogoyf can finish the game. Death Cloud is tied for the second most popular archetype on Day 2.

    Later in the day we’ll look at some of the rogue lists that made Day 2, so stay tuned for that!

     

  • Round 12 Feature Match: Mark Herberholz vs. Josh Wludyka
    by Bill Stark
  • “Did you come early at all, or are you staying late?” Josh Wludyka asked his opponent as they shuffled up for the 12th round of Grand Prix-Los Angeles action.

    “Yeah, I came a week early to visit with Gabe Walls, and I’m staying a week later.” Replied Herberholz. The two Midwesterners no doubt were happy to enjoy California’s beautiful weather before returning to the sub-zero temperatures of their home states.

    Josh Wludyka, happy to be back in the Feature Match area.

    Engineered Explosives for one was the first play for Mark Herberholz, known as Heezy to his friends, and it was an important one against Josh’s Elves list. Wludyka lost a Birchlore Rangers and Heritage Druid to the troublesome artifact but went on the war path with the Wirewood clan, first playing a Hivemaster, then a Symbiote. Mark tapped out to dig for help with Thirst for Knowledge, and Josh took advantage, sneaking in a Chord of Calling to find himself a Mirror Entity. The Shapeshifter, one of the kill cards that debuted in the deck during Pro Tour-Berlin in the hands of a contingent of Belgian players, had been seen rarely on the PTQ circuit. Did Wludyka have an edge the rest of the world was missing?

    Skipping land drops, Heezy played a Trinket Mage and searched up a Seat of the Synod, promptly playing the pseudo-Island. He had slowly accumulated a mini-army in the form of double Spellstutter Sprite and a Venser, Shaper Savant to go alongside Trinx. But his troops were outmatched by the Insect and Elf horde chomping at the gates across the table from him. Vedalken Shackles allowed Herberholz to keep Mirror Entity under control as Josh had to bounce it to his hand with Wirewood Symbiote to protect it from being stolen by his opponent’s Fifth Dawn artifact.

    Trying to get out from under the Control Magic tyranny, Wludyka used Summoner’s Pact to find a Viridian Shaman. Herberholz had a counter for the 2/2, and Josh glaringly omitted putting any type of marker on top of his deck to protect himself from forgetting to pay for the Pact. Mark played a Vendilion Clique targeting himself to draw some action, then started on the offensive with his own turn back using his 3/1 flyer and a Mutavault. Josh, to his credit, paid for Pact without the reminder but fell to 10 in the combat step. It was the first time he had fallen behind in the life totals, trailing by 1 at 11-10.

    With only one card in hand, Herberholz could only watch as Josh dropped his Mirror Entity with a plethora of mana open, able to pump his team significantly. Mark didn’t have the counter, and couldn’t even steal the Entity with Shackles because he had it tied up burgling a Wirewood Symbiote. Wludyka did some math, pumped for four, and attacked with seven Insect tokens. Herberholz checked his hand again, then scooped facing more than lethal.

    Josh Wludyka 1, Mark Herberholz 0

    “You’re the first blue deck I’ve played against.” Wludyka informed his opponent as he shuffled his Elf deck for a mulligan. “Pretty lucky for me I guess.” Lucky in both matchup and because some 29 players had brought Faeries to the table on Day 2.

    Pro Tour-Honolulu champion Mark Herberholz.

    Flashfreeze, Thirst for Knowledge, and Vendilion Clique all went to bat for Mark Herberholz, but Josh’s Elves didn’t care. He exploded onto the board with Wirewood Hivemaster and Elvish Visionary, though a second wave each met a counter from Mark. When Spellstutter Sprite snagged a Wirewood Symbiote for Heezy, it marked the third straight countered spell played by Josh Wludyka. Adding insult to injury, Herberholz played and equipped an Umezawa’s Jitte to trim Josh’s forces even further.

    Wludyka used a Summoner’s Pact to find Viridian Shaman, then played the 2/2 to blow up the troublesome equipment. Mark used the counters from the equipment to blow up Josh’s team in kind leaving only the Shaman, and attacked to drop Wludyka to just 10 life. When Mark used his following turn to Academy Ruins the Jitte back to the top of his library and put Josh dead in one attack, Wludyka wisely conceded ending the game in under ten minutes.

    Josh Wludyka 1, Mark Herberholz 1

    The Elves came to beat down in the final game of the match, with Josh coming out guns blazing via Nettle Sentinel. He was stuck on just a Temple Garden for land, however, and Heezy tried to keep it that way by using Threads of Disloyalty on a second turn Llanowar Elves from Josh. Unfazed Wludyka played a Birchlore Rangers, then made a spare mana and dropped Heritage Druid. For being manascrewed, Josh sure could generate a lot of mana.

    Heezy was having no trouble in the lands department having played one each turn, including a Mutavault. Making a meager attempt to go off, Josh tried for a Glimpse of Nature but Heezy was ready with Spellstutter Sprite. Thanks to the stolen Llanowar Elves, he even had enough mana left over to Thirst for Knowledge. Wludyka tried to run a Jitte onto the board, but found it countered at the hands of a second Spellstutter Sprite. It wasn’t going well for the young Josh Wludyka.

    A third Sprite, then a Mana Leak jumped out to counter Wludyka spells for Herberholz, and Josh was left with three lands, a Heritage Druid, Birchlore Rangers, and no hand. When Heezy added a Vendilion Clique to the board, then an Explosives for one, Josh decided he was too far out to have a chance. Scooping up his green cards, he reached for the match slip.

    “Good luck Josh,” Herberholz offered to his young opponent.

    Mark Herberholz defeats Josh Wludyka 2-1.

     

  • Sunday, 2:17 p.m.: Play the Game, See the World
    by Bill Stark
  • International friends Manuel Bucher (l) and Patrick Chapin (r) at Grand Prix-Los Angeles.
    It is a mantra many know all too well: Play the game, see the world! Every year, thousands of players all over the globe take advantage of the wonderful opportunities provided by the international Grand Prix and Pro Tour circuits. A lucky few are even talented enough to enjoy a lifestyle based around working with friends all over the world and playing one of the best games around. Two such big names were here this weekend, and the coverage team got a chance to speak with both of them. The players in question? Swiss superstar Manuel Bucher, and former Worlds finalist Patrick Chapin.

    So how did the two meet? “We have a lot of mutual friends,” Chapin explained. “David Besso invited us all to his house to test for an event, and we had a really good time together. We’ve been working on stuff ever since Grand Prix-Rimini, so through Pro Tour-Berlin and Worlds.” How much had the two prepared for Grand Prix-Los Angeles? “Manuel flew in to meet me early in California, and he’s flying back with me to Michigan to prepare for Kyoto.”

    Manuel added his point of view: “I’m not going to be in Switzerland for two months. It’s fun. If I didn’t like traveling I wouldn’t play Magic. The two go hand in hand.” As a European player visiting friends from other parts of the world, how does Manuel enjoy traveling in the United States? “What’s the difference between traveling in the U.S. and everywhere else?” He asked in response. “I love it, but immigration is strange and keeps getting stranger.”

    Besides the Swiss/American ties, did the two work with any other international stars? “We’re testing with Mark Herberholz and Gabriel Nassif [of France] for Kyoto after this event.” Chapin replied. Manuel cut in to add a few more big names.

    “We’re meeting the Ruel brothers and Guillaume Wafo-Tapa in Japan.”

    As a parting shot, the two added their predictions for the upcoming season. “We’re both going to Top 8 this year!” Chapin beemed, flashing his trademark mischievous grin. Said Manuel “Yeah. I want to win!”

    Play the game, see the world. Not just a motto, but truly a way of life.

     

  • Round 13 Feature Match: Brett Piazza vs. Drew Christensen
    by Dane Young
  • Colorado vs. Canada. Sounds like a hockey game, but this promises to be much less physical an affair. Lord Stanley’s Cup may not be on the line in this match, but a spot in the top eight will likely await the winner. Grand Prix – Atlanta top eight competitor Brett Piazza is rockin’ the robots this weekend, while British Columbian champion Drew Christensen is running Faeries.

    “You’re playing Affinity. Definitely not a favorable matchup,” Drew said dejectedly.

    Brett won the roll and each player kept. Tree of Tales and Arcbound Worker ignited the Affinity engine, while an Island and Ancestral Vision for Drew promised a big return, should it resolve in time.

    The worker got in for a point and was joined by a Great Furnace powered Atog. Drew played Mutavault and sent the turn back. Blinkmoth Nexus was animated to make Frogmite almost free, but the little guy got Mana Leaked. Springleaf Drum allowed Brett to make a Myr Enforcer and the Atog got in there.

    Robot Army General Brett Piazza
    Drew found an Island and simply said go. Brett made an Ornithopter and used it and his drum to animate Blinkmoth Nexus. He sent the squad and Drew played Vendilion Clique, snagging Fatal Frenzy from Brett’s hand before blocking Atog. Arcbound Worker was eaten, giving his counter to Myr Enforcer and keeping the Atog alive. Drew was on a quick clock now, with just 12 life to work with and simply had another land for his turn. He Mana Leaked Master of Etherium and chumped the 5/5 Myr Enforcer with his Mutavault, going down to 9 after Atog had a snack.

    Ancestral Vision finally resolved, but Drew found no help and the players went to Game 2.

    Piazza 1, Christensen 0

    Drew kept his opener quickly, but Brett thought for a while about his. He eventually nodded his acceptance of the hand and Drew laid an Island for his turn. Brett had a Vault of Whispers and a Springleaf Drum, while Drew set a Mutavault. Ornithopter got a “sure,” from Drew, but Mana Leak picked off Frogmite despite Brett’s three available mana. Master of Etherium showed why, but Hurkyl’s Recall Obliterated Brett’s board.

    Brett shrugged and played his Vault of Whispers, Springleaf Drum, a pair of Ornithopters and a Chromatic Star. Not a bad recovery. Drew made Umezawa's Jitte and River of Tears. Brett loaded up the Master of Etherium again and Drew let it hit. On end step he once again cast the two-cost Upheaval and Brett was steamed. He discarded two cards and got Vendilion Cliqued during his draw step, sending Springleaf Drum to the bottom and significantly hampering Brett’s second recovery.

    Vindilion Clique picked up the legendary sword and got in for three damage. Brett tried to Terror it, but Cryptic Command said no. Brett found Seat of the Synod to cast a discounted Thoughtcast after making an Ornithopter. Springleaf Drum allowed another Thoughtcast to resolve, but Drew took Brett down to 1 by using the counters on his Jitte.

    Brett tried to claw his way back into the game with Arcbound Ravager, but Annul sealed the deal for the British Columbian champion.

    Piazza 1, Christensen 1

    Brett sighed as he looked at his hand and decided to keep. Drew went fishing but kept his next set.

    Drew Christensen
    Seat of the Synod kicked the action off and was matched by an Island from Drew. Frogmite snuck into play and Drew played Riptide Laboratory. Master of Etherium was met with Hurkyl’s Recall and Brett discarded two lands.

    Drew imprinted Glen Elendra Archmage on Chrome Mox and shipped the turn. Brett replayed his Seat of the Synod and lost a Master of Etherium to Vendilion Clique. Drew sent his legend in and suspended Ancestral Vision before Annuling an Arcbound Ravager. Drew allowed both Master of Etherium and Frogmite to resolve on Brett’s next turn, content to race with his Clique while his Vision ticked down.

    Brett drew two off of Thoughtcast before playing Ornithopter, Chromatic Star and Arcbound Worker. Drew fell to 9 from the huge Master of Etherium and let Brett go again after playing Mutavault. Ancestral Vision had just one last counter on it.

    Thoughtseize resolved, revealing Glen Elendra Archmage, Spell Snare, Vedalken Shackles and Ancestral Vision. Spell Snare went in the bin as Brett fell to 9 himself. Cranial Plating and Frogmite arrived and Drew pounded on his library, desperate to see a Hurkyl’s Recall in the top four. He put Mutavault in front of Frogmite and Vendilion Clique in front of Master of Etherium and squeezed the top four cards off of his deck. Sitting on 4 life, he passed the turn back to Brett.

    Terror greeted Venser, Shaper Savant and the robots kicked in the door as Brett aimed for back-to-back American Grand Prix top eights.

    Brett Piazza defeats Drew Christensen 2-1.

     

  • Sunday, 3:03 p.m.: Rogue’s Gallery
    by Josh Silvestri
  • Who says you can’t win in style? This Grand Prix is no exception to rogue decks showing up and doing well. The first of which I’ll be covering is the Beasts deck being piloted by Kyle Sanchez and James Wise. Some of you may remember the classic Beasts Rock deck from last season, featuring it’s namesake tribe along with Contested Cliffs. This features the same, but with some choices that befuddled me when I first saw them. Such as… Heartwood Storyteller!?!

    Yes friends, this deck features Heartwood Storyteller, Woolly Thoctar and Thornscape Battlemage alongside classics like Ravenous Baloth and Indrik Stomphowler. It powers out various fatties much the same way as classic Rock decks of the past and can dominate a mid-game with 4/4’s, 5/4’s, Cliffs, and Umezawa’s Jitte alongside Sword of Fire and Ice. Considering the average size of Zoo’s creatures, and the complete absence of them in Burn (while having plenty of life-gain), one could see why this deck could be a devastating choice in the metagame. Even against the larger creatures of Affinity, Cliffs can allow the Beasts to gang up and crush larger creatures while Thornscape Battlemage resolving with kickers can best be described as a blowout.

    Although it doesn’t feature much resistance to combo game one, other than Jund Charm for pesky Elves players, post-board it features Extirpate and Thoughtseize to help out. Although I suggest being careful with Storyteller against combo, as in one game against TEPS it helped cut a few notches off the storm count needed to be decked via Brain Freeze.

    Since we’re on the topic of midrange, Death Cloud decks have been the poster-child for them during the Grand Prix. However they’ve all been black and green, save one featuring red and Nihilith. Ladies and gentlemen I present: Blood Cloud.

    Blood Cloud by Conley Woods

    Main Deck

    60 cards

    Blood Crypt
    Bloodstained Mire
    Mountain
    Overgrown Tomb
    12  Swamp

    22 lands

    Nihilith

    4 creatures

    Bitterblossom
    Chalice of the Void
    Chrome Mox
    Death Cloud
    Engineered Explosives
    Firespout
    Guardian Idol
    Phyrexian Arena
    Tendrils of Corruption
    Void

    34 other spells

    Sideboard
    Ancient Grudge
    Boil
    Damnation
    Extirpate
    Persecute

    15 sideboard cards


    As you can see, some of the same tools are in this version of Death Cloud as others, but it features quite a few cards that I bet you had to look up. Nihilith is clearly insane with a resolved Death Cloud serving as a 4/4 hitting a mostly clear board, the same with Guardian Idol sitting back and waiting for a resolved Cloud. Bitterblossom rounds out the pressure package in the deck. Against other creature decks, Tendrils of Corruption makes an appearance, usually killing a creature and gaining at least 4 life in the process as well as industry standards Engineered Explosives and Firespout.

    Now we move onto a long-awaited sight for many Magic players who think green constantly gets shafted, a Monogreen deck.

    There’s not a whole lot to say here that isn’t obvious from the list. It plays a few fatties, maybe attaches a piece of equipment to them and then smashes the opponent until they turn into paste. Do note cards like Stomphowler, Wickerbough Elder and Arashi, the Sky Asunder are wonderfully useful outside of just smashing the opponent. Arashi in particular is a great choice considering how much blue is here today. For those who haven’t heard, some players have been packing Wilt-Leaf Liege, Dodecapod and even Guerilla Tactics in their attempt to give Death Cloud a reason to not use their discard. Getting a 4/4 pumper for free is pretty good there.

    Now this isn’t entirely roguish, but any deck running Wildfire needs to be looked at. It has the traditional Swans shell, but instead of counters and trying to control the stack until it can kill the opponent, this deck focuses on controlling the board directly and then winning. Wildfire in particular is amazing if you have a Swans of Bryn Argoll in play at the time you cast it. Drawing four, effectively destroying creatures and a mini-Armageddon while keeping a 4/3 flyer in play is quite difficult to beat. Also note the traditional Life from the Loam – Seismic Assault package which can win games all on its own, without any help from the other piece. The sideboard looks relatively standard but note four Choke as a surprise for blue players who may have made their decks immune to Blood Moon, opening up the opportunities for Choke to capitalize.

    Our final list for the day is a Bant aggro deck, essentially an updated version of the one seen at Pro Tour-Berlin a few months back. It features some hard-to-deal with three drops in Troll and Rhox War Monk while still keeping some of the trickiness blue provides with Vendilion Clique, Glen Elendra Archmage and Venser, Shaper Savant. Probably the most notable part is yet another user of Sword of Fire and Ice to compliment Jitte. Sword on Troll or War Monk is nearly unbeatable for blue decks and puts a very quick clock on any opponent.

    That about sums it up for the newest, most intriguing decks of the day, and even if you don’t play them, hopefully they’ve given you some ideas for your own PTQ decks.

     

  • Sunday, 3:13p.m.: Elder Dragon Highlander
    by Dane Young
  • 25 players entered yesterday’s Elder Dragon Highlander tournament and carnage ensued.

    Elder Dragon Highlander is an exciting and popular multiplayer constructed format in which players build decks themed around their “General.” A player’s general can be any legendary creature and defines what cards he or she can include in their 100 card deck. For example, I want to build an Intet, the Dreamer EDH deck. The only cards I can build my deck with are red, blue and green ones. For further rules, check out this article .

    As for the tournament, Judge John Shannon shared all the bloody details with the coverage team and now we get to share them with you.

    The players were separated into five pods of five players. The first player was knocked out by being dealt 21 general damage. The next four players were crushed by the only girl in the tournament, Elizabeth Black, whose Nicol Bolas deck stormed out her entire pod with a Tendrils of Agony combo. Three other pods were won by combo decks and the last was taken by a Karn, Silver Golem deck that attacked for the win

    The final pod consisted of three Karn, Silver Golems, Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind and the aforementioned Nicol Bolas. Two of the Karn players worked together to blow up everyone else’s lands with Mycosynth Lattice and Karn, Silver Golem’s ability. Elizabeth managed to plop a Nevinnyral's Disk into play via Mana Vault, stopping the avalanche of resource advantage.

    Daniel Hanson was the eventual winner, going infinite with Triskelion and his M.V.P. Extruder to take it.

    Daniel Hanson, EDH Master


     

  • Feature Match: Round 14 Derek Umamoto vs. Carl Hendrix
    by Dane Young
  • Both Carl Hendrix and Derek Umamoto entered the next-to-last round of Swiss play on two losses. They were within striking distance of the Top 8, but as they greeted each other in the Feature Match area, revealed some uncertainty about doing so well so late in the weekend. “Do I have to use all the specific zones?” Carl asked, pointing at the red zone playmat set up for players to use in the feature area. Clearly he was new to the spotlight, but he had been battling tough all weekend long and earned the right to be there.

    Derek Umamoto looks to add to his resume.
    Derek kicked the game off with a Thoughtseize nabbing a Hendrix Cranial Plating. Carl came right back, dropping a Seat of the Synod, Ornithopter, and Arcbound Worker all on the first turn. He was going to come out of the gates to try to get an early lead against Umamoto’s Death Cloud deck. Derek went to work cycling lands, using a Kitchen Finks to stay even in the life race.

    Across the table, Hendrix was a bit chagrined at the amount of lands his opponent had seen. Derek had such an overflow of mana access, he could afford to cantrip some to the graveyard. Hendrix, meanwhile, had only a Seat of the Synod for mana, falling behind in the land department. He sacrificed a Chromatic Star to draw a card, but still couldn’t find a second source of mana. Instead he played an Ornithopter, leaving his mana floating, then played a Frogmite. It was a tiny misplay from the Robots player as it forced him to mana burn for 1. Had he played his Frogmite first, he would have only had three other artifacts in play allowing him to use his floating mana to play the 2/2. Instead he burned to 19, then lost his entire mechanoid army to a Damnation from Umamoto. The totals stood 17-9 in Carl’s favor, but Derek had a 2/1 Kitchen Finks and Raven’s Crime active while Hendrix was stuck on just a land and a Chromatic star with no other action.

    By the time Carl found his second land of the game, his opponent’s board consisted of the 2/1 Finks, Sakura-Tribe Elder, and Garruk Wildspeaker. Carl used his newfound second mana to play an Arcbound Ravager, then fed his Chromatic Star to pump the 1/1 and draw another card. He looked at the fresh draw, then looked at the board, then looked at his life total. Clearly seeing the writing on the wall, Carl packed it in to get to the second game.

    Derek Umamoto 1, Carl Hendrix 0

    Carl didn’t have the blazing start of multiple first-turn creatures he’d had in the first game, but he did have a second-turn Arcbound Ravager. Derek Umamoto used a Darkblast at the end of Carl’s turn to force Hendrix to sacrifice an artifact land to keep his artifact Beast, but Hendrix didn’t seem to mind, binning a Vault of Whispers to keep the Ravager alive.

    With plenty of (artifact) lands in the second game, Carl hopped out to an early lead. Frogmite joined his team, then he refueled with a Thoughtcast. Derek’s life was at 17 as he made a Garruk Wildspeaker to try to stem the bleeding. He quickly put a 3/3 Beast into play, but Carl, oddly, opted not to attack with his team. When Umamoto went for a Damnation, Carl revealed why: Delay. The Future Sight counterspell sent the Damnation off into limbo allowing Carl to play not one but two Myr Enforcers. Derek’s life total was in a very precarious position.

    He tried for a second Damnation, but Carl had the second Delay. He also had an Ornithopter and a Cranial Plating allowing him to attack for a huge chunk of damage. He tapped out to equip his Plating to a Myr Enforcer, but was it a mistake? If he equipped to an Arcbound Ravager and Derek blocked with his sole Beast token, Carl had just enough artifacts to all-in on his Ravager, sacrifice it to itself to pump an Enforcer, and deal 17 damage. Because the Ravager would be lethal in conjunction with one unblocked Enforcer, Derek would have to block the Ravager, allowing Carl to safely all-in on his Enforcers with Ravager and kill Derek.

    Hendrix didn’t see the play, but it didn’t matter. Umamoto was down and out, and a Krosan Grip the following turn wasn’t enough to stop the onslaught of 4/4s with Cranial Plating with his life at just 9.

    Derek Umamoto 1, Carl Hendrix 1

    The first land on the board for the final game was a Swamp for Derek Umamoto, but the first play of the game was a flurry of action from Carl Hendrix. He opened on Seat of the Synod, then played Springleaf Drum and Ornithopter. Making one more mana, he played a second Springleaf Drum, then passed the turn. Derek tried a Thoughtseize and saw Master of Etherium, Cranial Plating, Chromatic Star, and Delay. He forced his opponent to discard the counterspell after losing to it the previous game, and Carl took his turn to play Cranial Plating.

    Can Carl Hendrix' Robots take Grand Prix-Los Angeles?
    Putrefy dealt with Cranial Plating, but Umamoto had to also find a solution to Carl’s Master of Etherium which was Hendrix’ follow-up play. Kitchen Finks and Thoughtseize helped to stall things, but unfortunately for Umamoto the discard spell dropped him to 15 and only stole a Chromatic Star. Derek Umamoto was doing a good job of stalling the board with persisting chump blockers, but as Hendrix made an Arcbound Ravager and Umamoto could only answer with Garruk, he found himself in nearly dead territory to a topdecked Cranial Plating that quickly hopped onto Ornithopter for Hendrix. An attack put Derek to 9, but Umamoto had a rip of his own: Damnation. With Garruk on the board and a post-wrath Beast, he had pulled himself out of the grave.

    The Affinity deck wasn’t letting up, however. Hendrix played Thoughtcast, then Myr Enforcer, then a second Thoughtcast all in one turn before finally equipping his Enforcer with Plating. If Derek wanted to kill the Myr, he’d need to draw removal or use his final loyalty counter on Garruk to make a second 3/3 for blocking. He did exactly that and the crowd leaned in to see what Carl’s next draw would be. The peel? Another Thoughtcast!

    “They tend to find themselves...” Hendrix dead panned.

    The two Beasts traded for Enforcer, and Hendrix played an Ornithopter. Derek used Smother to stay alive for another turn, but didn’t have an immediate answer to an Arcbound Worker. Facing exactly lethal damage, he came up with a trick: he used Ghost Quarter to blow up one of his opponent’s artifact lands. That let him squeak through for the turn with exactly 1 life, and Carl sheepishly played a post-combat Blinkmoth Nexus. The mistake gave Derek one more turn to try to stay alive, but when he didn’t find a miracle to answer both Worker and Nexus, Umamoto extended his hand.

    Carl Hendrix defeats Derek Umamoto 2-1.


     

  • Feature Match Round 14: Asher Hecht vs. Paul Rietzl
    by Josh Silvestri
  • Paul - 'So are you a pro?'
    Asher - "No. I'm still in high school."
    Paul - 'Oh, planning to embark on the world-seeing spell-slinging 4-year plan here?'

    After pitching his opening seven, Paul started the game with an early Arcbound Worker while Asher started things off with an untapped Steam Vents into Ponder and a suspended Lotus Bloom. Paul added a Ravager and Ornithopter to his side and knocked Asher to 17. Following a Dreadship Reef, go from Asher, Paul played a second Nexus and attempted Cranial Plating which got Remanded. Once again, it was land-go by Asher as his Bloom came one turn closer to hitting play. Paul attempted Plating yet again, which met another Remand. A swing knocked Asher to 12 and ended the turn.

    Young Asher Hecht looks to steal the Pro Tour spotlight.
    On the fourth turn, Asher's Bloom hit play. Peer through Depths was cast, looking to build up storm count, and Asher found Ponder, resolved it to find another Rite of Flame to join the two already in his hand. All three were played along with Seething Song, making seven storm and subsequently Mind's Desire hit for a storm of 8. The Desire netted Asher four land, two Peer Through Depths, and a Grapeshot; leaving the actual copy of Mind's Desire still on the stack in case he could dig up Remand with a Peer Through Depths. The first of the arcane instants was played, finding Grapeshot, and the second netted Gigadrowse.

    After playing a Drowse, both Grapeshots hit play for 11 and 12 copies respectively and the players moved on to Game 2.

    Asher Hecht 1, Paul Rietzl 0

    A Great Furance and Springleaf Drum kicked things off for the crowd from Paul Rietzl, only to be met by a tapped Steam Vents from his young opponent. Paul's second turn saw Ravager and Thoughtcast.

    Asher started off his second turn with a Dreadship Reef and immediately tried to go off. Rite of Flame, Rite of Flame, and Seething Song all hit in quick succession followed by a Manamorphose netting UU. Another Song hit along with Desperate Ritual and Hecht finally finished with a Mind's Desire for seven. A powerful series of plays for just the second turn of the game!

    The flips included: Echoing Truth, land, Pyromancer's Swath, Manamorphose, Ponder and a second Swath. Asher wasn't quite there yet.

    Ponder was played and after some disgust with the top three, Asher shuffled up and drew Remand. Manamorphose then hit play, making another UU and drawing a Peer through Depths. He threw out Peer with URR still floating in the pool, desperately looking for a Grapeshot. Instead he found Ponder and threw it out as well. Unable to find a Grapeshot in the top three cards again, he shuffled up and drew...

    A Flooded Strand.

    At this point all Asher could do was put a counter on Dreadship Reef and bounce Arcbound Ravager with the Truth off Desire.

    Paul - 'So you're at 20 still? Got some workin' still.'

    Down came Atog and Ravager. Asher's hand didn't improve and he simply passed the turn. Paul went for a Plating which was Remanded. Atog came in for 1 leaving the totals 18-20 and Plating was replayed. Once again Asher drew and passed. Paul played another Plating and attached both to Atog. In it came for 15, dropping Asher to 3.

    Out of time, Hecht attempted to combo out again. Desperate Ritual, Seething Song, and Echoing Truth on an Atog build up mana and storm; Paul stood down as Desire for 4 hit the table.

    Everyone stared waited for the flips. Down comes land... Peer Through Depths... Land... and...

    A Cascade Bluffs.

    On to Game 3.

    Asher Hecht 1, Paul Rietzl 1

    Asher started on the play by cracking a Flooded Strand for Island, cast a Ponder and hit Lotus Bloom. Instead of suspending, however, he ended the turn with a hand that contained Echoing Truth, Desperate Ritual, Mind's Desire, and Manamorphose as well as two Lotus Blooms. Clearly he hoped to go off with the two artifacts one turn later than he otherwise could.

    Arcbound Worker hopped on to the battlefield for Rietzl.

    Paul Rietzl tries to robot his way to the Top 8.
    The second turn saw Asher draw, then suspend both of his Blooms and pass. Paul got in for 1, dropped Ornithopter and played Cranial Plating. Again, Asher simply passed after drawing, his Blooms two more turns away from hitting play.

    Paul equipped Plating to Ornithopter and swung for 7. An Echoing Truth put an end to the Plating in the short term and Asher took just 1 damage. Rietzl followed-up with Atog instead of replaying his Plating, however. Hecht drew and passed, stuck on two land, but with both Blooms coming in the following turn.

    Paul thought for a moment and cast Thoughtcast for some more options. Knowing he'd probably die the following turn, he went into the tank. He played an artifact land, Plating yet again, and attached it to Arcbound Worker. Paul then attacked with Worker, Atog and a 7/2 Ornithopter. With Asher at 8, Rietzl could do nothing but pass the turn.

    In came both Blooms for Asher and the race was on. Seething Song and Manamorphose gave him UURRR and another Manamorphose did the same. Ponder hit raising the storm count to six, followed by Peer Through Depths finding another Peer. Desperate Ritual raised the storm to eight and down came the Desire. The flips were land, Seething Song, then another Desire.

    With a Grapeshot in Asher's hand, the game was effectively over, but Rietzl wasn't convinced. 'I'm at 20, he doesn't have creatures. What could he possibly do?' The East Coaster joked.

    After a few more spells and a Remand, out came the handshake.

    Asher Hecht defeats Paul Rietzl 2-1


     

  • Sunday, 5:13 pm.: Tales from the Floor
    by Josh Silvestri
  • There are always a lot of happy and saddened people around the range of 124-130 at a Grand Prix of this size. Some just sneak into Day 2 by the skin of their teeth, while others lose out on an infinitesimal difference on tiebreakers. For high ranking judge and Pro Tour-Berlin Top 16er Rashad Miller, he got to experience both highs and lows within a 12 hour period for the same tournament! After Rashad had lost his last round with All-In Red, he was sure his tournament was over. Finishing with a record of 6-3, he left the site without checking the standings to go get some food after a long day of slinging cards.

    After that he went back to his room to rest, take apart his deck and prep for the PTQ the following day. He even went so far as to sell some Chrome Mox for cash as he didn't want to have to hit up an ATM. Just as he had his deck together and was ready to play at the PTQ, Head Judge Scott Marshall found Rashad and made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

    "Wouldn't you like to play on Day 2 of the Grand Prix?"

    It turned out after a few too many drops by players who didn't realize they were in contention, Rashad had actually finished in the final Day 2 slot, 128th place! After a lot of last second scrounging to put his All-In Red back together, he was ready to rock. Unfortunately for Rashad, his day two results weren't great and he dropped his first three matches to Proclamation/Martyr, Dredge, and Aggro Loam before playing and beating The Dragon Master - Brian Kibler - in round 13, leaving him sitting at a 7-6 record.

    Win or lose, Rashad Miller knows how to enjoy himself.


     

  • Round 15 Feature Match: Gabe Walls vs. Saul Alvarado
    by Dane Young
  • Gabe Walls has been having fun all weekend playing his pet deck. Astral Slide fueled Gabe's run to the U.S. Nationals team in 2003 and he is one win away from taking it back to the top eight. Panama player Saul Alvarado is playing a U/G Faeries deck and a win here would propel him into the top eight also.

    Both players kept their hands and Saul played a Breeding Pool tapped. Gabe countered with a tapped Stomping Ground.

    "Didn't have the Kird Ape."

    Tarmogoyf entered play on the blue side of the board, while Gabe had just a land. Saul suspended Ancestral Vision before attacking for a point with his Tarmogoyf. Gabe thought he had a read on Saul, so he went for Astral Slide. Saul had the Mana Leak.

    Sal played Vedalken Shackles and Gabe blew up the Tarmogoyf with Engineered Explosives now that the coast was clear. He had a Life from the Loam to answer the Umezawa's Jitte Saul played on his turn so his deck was ready to start humming.

    Duergar Hedge-Mage blew up Vedalken Shackles and more lives were Loamed. Gabe was up a few cards, but Saul's Ancestral Vision was ready to catch him back up. Another Hedge-Mage took out the Jitte as Gabe collected cycling lands via the powerful Ravnica rare.

    An Engineered Explosives exterminated the pesky Hedge-Mages so Gabe was forced to go back to digging . All Saul had was a suspended Ancestral Vision, so a smirking Gabe stuck an Astral Slide after getting the read on his opponent with a glare.

    "I have a feeling 'sure' is the word."

    Gabe gets the read.

    He ended his turn with a Kitchen Finks.

    Engineered Explosives answered the troublesome enchantment, but the Kitchen Finks persisted and was joined by Loxodon Hierarch, putting Gabe back up to 18 after some pain from his lands.

    "Can I see your graveyard please?"

    "No."

    Gabe did hand his yard over and Saul browsed for a bit before Vendilion Clique sacked a Lightning Helix. The Clique picked up Umezawa's Jitte and Gabe cycled after choosing not to block. He found a spicy little Spark Spray to kill the Clique before the Jitte gained counters.

    Saul played his last card, Academy Ruins and sent the action back to Gabe. Kitchen Finks and Hierarch came across to drop Saul to 7, and Astral Slide slammed onto the table. An evoked Cloudthresher was Flickered before it died and dropped Saul to 3 when it came back. Saul peeled his four but none of them were good enough to continue the game.

    Walls 1, Alvarado 0

    Island and Ancestral Vision portended a great start for Saul and a second one joined the removed from game crew on turn 2. Gabe Ghost Quartered his Flagstones of Trokair in response to Saul cracking his Polluted Delta, fetching a Mountain and Temple Garden. Saul played his third land and shipped, so Gabe cycled two lands and took three from Wooded Foothills to get Stomping Ground. Life from the Loam picked up both Forgotten Caves and the Wooded Foothills and Gabe discarded two more lands. Saul's first Ancestral Vision was nearly ready to fire and he played a fourth Island before passing back to Gabe.

    The American continued cycling his lands and Eternal Witnessed one back. Saul plucked four cards and played a tapped Breeding Pool, content to sit back and wait.

    "Discard?"

    "No."

    Eternal Witness dug in, tying the game at 17 all and Gabe just waved the turn back after playing a land. Tarmogoyf arrived for the blue deck. Gabe cycled some lands before Saul went to discard. Vedalken Shackles and Polluted Delta went to the bin and Gabe took his turn.

    Life from the Loam picked up drew more cards for Gabe and Engineered Explosives for two met Cryptic Command. Gabe had a second Explosives, so he played it for two before passing the turn tapped out.

    Saul had a ton of land and bashed with his 4/5 'Goyf. Gabe absorbed it with his face and did nothing on his turn other than crack back with Eternal Witness. Gabe blew up his Explosives when the Tarmogoyf came back the next turn, but Repeal sent it safely back to Saul's hand.

    Saul Alvarado refuses to lose.

    Gabe cycled a chunk of his hand away before untapping and playing Loxodon Hierarch. Saul looked pained, but had to let it resolve and Gabe went up to 15. His second was met with a Cryptic Command, countering it and bouncing the first copy. Saul flashed a Rude Awakening and Gabe conceded after counting Saul's lands, singing, "I can see clearly now..."

    Walls 1, Alvarado 1

    Flagstones of Trokair was trumped by Island and Ancestral Vision from a nodding Alvarado. Gabe cycled Secluded Steppe and Edge of Autumn, drawing two cards and plucking Temple Garden out of his library. He played Forgotten Cave on his second turn and Saul chose not to crack his Polluted Delta, perhaps showing he was light on land.

    Gabe chose to play the waiting game with his opponent and sent the turn back after playing Tranquil Thicket. Saul had Academy Ruins and let Loxodon Hierarch resolve. He blew his Delta for Breeding Pool and ran out Vendilion Clique, but chose to take nothing from a stocked Walls hand. The players traded hits but Saul's Cryptic Command turned into Terror and not Repulse as Gabe sacrificed it.

    Ancestral Vision put Saul way ahead as the Clique was still firing away on Gabe's dwindling life total. Plow Under met a second Cryptic Command, but Astral Slide arrived safely. Echoing Truth put it back in Gabe's hand while the Clique put Gabe on 9.

    Two Astral Slides hit the table and a second Echoing Truth Boomeranged them both before the Clique dropped Gabe to 6. Gabe tried for Astral Slide again and again it resolved. Saul Repealed it at the end of the second main phase, refusing to let it stick around. Gabe pointed Spark Spray at the threatening Clique, but got Leaked and Gabe fell to 3.

    Another Cryptic Command bounced the Slide and Gabe tried to peel a Spark Spray. It didn't come and Gabe was unable to stop the lethal legend.

    Saul Alvarado defeats Gabe Walls 2-1.


     

  • Sunday, Blog, 5:34 p.m.: Photo Essay
    by Bill Stark and Dane Young
  • That monstrous stack of cards? It's a Battle of Wits deck. In the Grand Prix…

    Look in the sky! It's a mortgate payment! It's a brand new car! It's…your average Vintage deck!

    Like to trade, sell, and buy? Grand Prix tournaments are home to card dealers from all over the world who want to talk to you!

    Pro John Fiorillo gets his PTQ on.

    A look at the many Day 2 competitors at Grand Prix-Los Angeles.

    A PTQ with over 200 players on Day 2 of Grand Prix-Los Angeles.

    Gabe Walls' 'combo'.

    Oooooo…shiny!

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