Grand Prix–Oakland: Day 2 Blog

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EVENT COVERAGE

 

  • Feature Match Round 10 – Matt Nass vs. Adam Yurchick
    by Rich Hagon
  • Matt Nass. Also featuring Conley Woods and Antti Malin.
    A killer day two schedule opened with two of the three remaining perfect records being put to the test. Matt Nass is heading to San Diego next week for his first Pro Tour, having qualified via Magic Online. His opponent, Adam Yurchick, has played at fourteen Pro Tours, and starts 2010 as a Level 4 Pro.

    After a perfect Day One, Yurchick began in spectacularly unfriendly fashion by mulliganing to just three cards on the play. To be fair, he still managed Thopter Foundry on turn two, but Nass was away with Llanowar Elves into Elvish Archdruid on turn two. Out came Boreal Druid, Llanowar Elves, before he tapped the Archdruid for four mana. Cloudstone Curio left him one mana open, and he cast Summoner’s Pact for Heritage Druid. He was, as they say, off to the races. Another Summoner’s Pact for Nettle Sentinel, and he was able to generate infinite mana, drawing as many cards as he wanted via the Elvish Visionary, generally brutalizing Yurchick in a totally savage fashion.

    Matt Nass 1, Adam Yurchick 0.

    The mulligans kept on coming, with both falling to six, and then Nass falling further behind on five. The early game should be about the Elves, but Yurchick was the first on board with Dark Confidant. No turn two play either for Nass, and Thoughtseize from Yurchick revealed why – just four land sat in the Nass hand.

    Adam Yurchick
    Dark Confidant continued to do its work for Yurchick, generating pain-free card advantage. With Yurchick adding Vampire Hexmage to the board, Nass was in a ton of trouble, down to nine, and fading fast. Five....Thougtseize away Summoner’s Pact....SmotherElvish Archdruid....one life....

    Matt Nass 1, Adam Yurchick 1.

    Glory be! Seven cards each for the decider. Oh wait, my mistake, Yurchick goes back to shuffle mode. What a misfunctioning opener. That’s eight mulligans between them in three games. And these decks are both 9-0 machines. Make that nine mulligans in three games. Truly car crash Magic.

    Boreal Druid opened for Nass, followed by Cloudstone Curio. With no second land off his mulligan to five, Yurchick passed. Ranger of Eos for Nass set his hand up beautifully, and Yurchick remained without a second land for precisely one more turn, a turn in which Nass dropped Regal Force into play, and both players shuffled up, after one of the most unsatisfactory non-games of Magic this reporter has seen. The scorebooks, however, will record:

    Matt Nass 2, Adam Yurchick 1.

     

  • Sunday 11:58 a.m. - Day Two Metagame Breakdown
    by Brian David-Marshall
  • The tournament started with 769 players on Saturday and by Sunday morning everyone with worse than a 7-2 record had been culled from the event. 96 players remained and we thought a breakdown of the Day Two field would provide an interesting snapshot of the successful decks in this format. Coming into the event the most popular decks were expected to be aggro Zoo and controlling Dark Depths/Thopter Foundry combo decks. They were the clearly dominant archetypes advancing to Day Two with more than half the players here playing one of those two decks. Zoo decks held the edge over Depths/Foundry but when you look at decks running one combo or the other they were more numerous than Zoo.

    Zoo players totaled up to 21 and that number could be even larger with a broader description of Zoo. There is tremendous overlap between the Zoo decks and the Bant decks -- in fact many of the Zoo decks were running Bant Charms -- but in the end the line that was drawn between the two was the presence or absence of burn in the decks regardless of how many creatures and other spells overlapped. If you want to step back and look at green based aggro decks you end up with roughly 30 players sporting either Doran, Bant cards, or the burn needed to be called Zoo.

    There were 19 players playing the build advocated by Gerry Thompson to win an online PTQ. The deck has been tuned by LSV and the ChannelFireball gang and recently won another online PTQ in the virtual hands of David Ochoa. Not counted were three players sporting the Foundry combo but in the shell of a blue-white Tezzerator deck. There was another player who was just running the Dark Depths combo with green for Into the North and another sporting the Thopter Foundry combo in Krark Clan Ironworks. There was also a small passel of players with Mystical Teachings decks and a couple of those featured the Thopter Foundry combo but it was not common to all of them. Those decks are all accounted for separately and not included in the number of players with both combos in their decks.

    The numbers drop off significantly with no deck exceeding a third of either of the top two archetypes and no other decks in double digits. Here is the way the 25 different types of decks on Day Two broke out:

    Zoo 21
    Depths/Foundry 19
    Scapeshift 7
    Faeries 6
    Bant 5
    Teachings 4
    Dredge 4
    Doran 3
    Hypergenesis 3
    Tezzerator 3
    Brozek Boros 2
    Living End 2
    WB aggro 2
    Elves 2
    Smallpox Vampires 2
    All-in-Red 2
    Snowy Depths 1
    KCI Foundry 1
    GW Haterator 1
    Garg-edddon 1
    Fish 1
    Hive Mind 1
    Kithkin 1
    GWB 1
    RDW 1
     

  • Sunday, 12:09 p.m. - Do The BART, Man
    by Rich Hagon
  • Unless you’ve been out of the game for a while, you’re probably aware that there’s quite a lot of land rocking around Standard right now. Zendikar alone brought us a full twenty:

    The fetchlands: Arid Mesa, Marsh Flats, Misty Rainforest, Scalding Tarn, Verdant Catacombs.
    The Refuges: Akoum, Graypelt, Jwar Isle, Kazandu, Sejiri.
    The Tapped: Kabira Crossroads, Piranha Marsh, Soaring Seacliff, Teetering Peaks, Turntimber Grove.
    The Special: Crypt of Agadeem, Emeria, the Sky Ruin, Magosi, the Waterveil, Oran-Rief, the Vastwood, Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle.

    Then along came Worldwake:

    The Tapped: Bojuka Bog, Halimar Depths, Khalni Gardens, Sejiri Steppe, Smoldering Spires.
    The Manlands: Celestial Colonnade, Creeping Tar Pit, Lavaclaw Reaches, Raging Ravine, Stirring Wildwood.

    That’s before we even get started on the Alara block, and M10.

    Now it seems to me that there’s always going to be a need for new lands that do funky stuff. That’s the job of R&D. But all those lands are going to need funky names too, and that’s the job of the Flavor team. Where do they get all their ideas?

    Sometimes inspiration strikes, and the names just flow like wine. Mostly, writers riff off each other, constantly honing until they find the perfect answer. And then there are the times where writers dig into their cultural memories, and pluck subtle references from stage, screen, music, books, art – the world around them, in other words.

    Now I’m the first to admit that this particular idea struck me en route to the hotel here in Oakland, approximately 23 hours into my journey to the Grand Prix, and that therefore my faculties may not have been operating hugely effectively. See, at the time I was sitting on the BART, or the Bay Area Rapid Transit, to give it its proper title. This fabulously low-cost, efficient travel system gets you from A to B, or Airport to Oakland, very swiftly.

    And then I looked at the map:

    And then I started thinking, ‘Wouldn’t some of these names look really good on a Magic card?’ So, next time you open up Rise of the Eldrazi, or ‘Lights’ or ‘Camera’ or ‘Action’, take a look at the map of the BART, and see whether any of these top ten Bay Area locations have made it in:

    Pacifica – white.
    Mill Valley – blue/green.
    Larkspur – white.
    Millbrae – blue/black.
    Fruitvale – red/green.
    Walnut Creek – blue.
    Bay Fair – blue/green.
    Rockridge – red/green
    Pleasant Hill – red/white.
    Warm Springs – red/blue.

    And if there’s ever a Legendary creature called Hercules, you know what happened...

     

  • Feature Match Round 12: A Very Scary Pig - Tomoharu Saitou vs. Gabe Walls
    by Rich Hagon
  • Gabe Walls
    Both these stellar players find themselves at 9-2 heading for the halfway point here on day two. While Gabe may not have much time for Magic these days, he’s very much part of Magic history, and a huge part of Magic folklore. When tall tales get told, Gabe features in many of them. And they’re all true. As for Saitou, he’s still very much at the heart of the game, a former Player of the Year who must remain as one of the favorites for 2010.

    Saitou was quick to keep his opening seven, while Walls went to six, and five, and four. Good grief. Tendo Ice Bridge opened for Saitou, while Walls had a turn one Dark Confidant. Simian Spirit Guide gave Saitou Violent Outburst, Cascading into Hypergenesis....Angel of Despair....Angel of Despair.....good game.

    Saitou 1, Walls 0.

    Saitou in Hypergenesis shirt. Apparently.
    "I hate you Saitou."
    "Why? I like you."

    Just thought I should bring you the dialogue, as Gabe mulliganed to six, and to five, and to four...
    Together the players worked out the optimal hand for Gabe:

    Thoughtseize, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, Vampire Hexmage, Dark Depths. Suffice to say, that isn’t what he found, but he did keep four.

    Saitou began Game 2, despite Walls being on the play, because the Japanese man had Gemstone Caverns. Walls couldn’t believe his eyes:

    "A LUCK counter? Are you kidding?"

    Walls had a turn one play, being a Chalice of the Void set to zero. The game progressed with Saitou ramping up mana, and culminating in an Angel of Despair. The Angel blew up the Chalice of the Void. Walls found Vampire Hexmage on top of his deck, and suddenly he had a 20/20 Marit Lage token in play, in the form of a cute little pig.

    Marit Lage. Obviously.
    Saitou cast Violent Outburst, Cascading into Hypergenesis (of course), and Saitou ran out Progenitus and Terastodon on the back of Hypergenesis. Gabe meanwhile, had nothing to benefit from Saitou’s card. Three sacrificed lands later, and Saitou had three bonus 3/3s, along for the ride with Terastodon. In came Gabe’s 20/20, blocked by Angel of Despair.

    In Saitou’s upkeep, Walls showed Slaughter Pact, killing Terastodon, and surely ensuring victory on the following turn. Unless, of course..

    Gabe: "Violent Outburst? +1/+0?"

    That was indeed Saitou’s lone card. And that made it just enough. Unreal.

    Tomoharu Saitou 2, Gabe Walls 0.

     

  • Sunday, 1:45 p.m. - T.O.
    by Rich Hagon
  • Trevor Blackwell, PT Los Angeles 2000

    To football fans, those initials mean Terrell Owens. For Magic players, it stands for Tournament Organizer, and here at Grand Prix Oakland, it stands for Conan Blackwell. Conan’s been involved in the games industry since before Magic was born.

    "I was working in a games store in the 1990’s, and I got into huge trouble for ordering three boxes of Alpha, especially when they sat on the shelf for a while. Then there was a games convention locally that showcased the game, and everything went nuts. I got into huge trouble again for only ordering three boxes of Alpha!"

    Since 1996, when Mirage appeared, Conan has been organizing Magic events big and small.

    "The Bay area has always been huge for Magic. Our record Pre-Release had over 750 players. I like Magic to be more than just an event, but a whole scene, and so I tend to run them as single tournaments, rather than 32 man flights, which kind of detracts from the feeling of being part of something huge. I’ve always had a great group of people near here, like Level 5 Judge Toby Elliott, and we’ve seen the game grow incredibly."

    How have things changed down the years?

    "At the first Grand Prix I was involved in, it was scheduled opposite Pro Tour Mainz in 1997. That’s unthinkable now, as it’s become a truly global game. We like to make sure that everyone has a clean and comfortable experience, so that they can focus on the games themselves."

    Conan Blackwell
    It must be quite an art, or maybe a science, trying to work out how much space you need.

    "Yeah, that’s certainly one of the more interesting aspects of the job. It’s part of the fun, and part of the gamble. I remember doing a Betrayers of Kamigawa Pre-Release, and we had maybe 150 players. Then Time Spiral came along, and we had 500! On day one, we completely ran out of product. So, we ended up calling everyone on the west coast, and I spent the next sixteen hours driving all over the country getting product from other organizers, and made it back just in time for nine the next morning. Fun times."

    These events are a serious logistical undertaking, and have a serious price tag to match. Without talking specifics, it’s clear that we’re dealing in multiple tens of thousands of dollars. So, with all the work over many months, why does he keep on doing it?

    "Well, I taught my brother how to play the game many years ago, and he went on to be pretty good. (He’s the 2000 Pro Tour Los Angeles champion Trevor Blackwell.) It quickly became clear to me that I had just as much fun organizing as playing. I’ve been doing it for fifteen years, and I want to do it for plenty more."

     

  • Decklists - Undefeated Decklists of Day One
    by Brian David-Marshall
  • After nine rounds of play on Saturday there were only four players, out of the starting field of 769, who were able to get through the day without a loss. Three players swept their matches and one had only a draw to blemish is otherwise perfect day. At the top of the heap were one each of the most popular decks -- Thepths as played by U.S. National team member Adam Yurchick and Zoo played by Joby Parrish. Also perfect was up and coming Bay Area player Matt Nass (who we were told to keep an eye on by the owner of his local store in my most recent column) who was playing Elves Combo. John-Paul Kelly was the last member of the Day One club and he was playing Tezzerator to a fitting 8-0-1 record.

    While we did not do a metagame breakdown for the decks from Day One we did do a quick tally of how many players played the two most popular archetypes. There were 142 out of 769 players with Zoo with 22 advancing. There were 94 Thepths decks and 19 of them were still fighting on Sunday.

    Joby Parrish - Zoo
    9-0 Day 1 - Grand Prix Oakland 2010

     

  • Decklists - The Cool Decks of Day Two
    by Brian David-Marshall
  • Having looked at the undefeated decks from Day One let us now take a look at some of the decks that were featured in coverage yesterday or are just plain ol' cool and unexpected.

    Conley playing Charmed
    Conley Woods has a reserved seat in the Tournament Center -- regardless of format -- based on some of his crazier concoctions over the past few events. He has continued to draw crowds, and was featured on three different video segments that people in the room were shooting, for his latest creation, which he has dubbed Charmed. You may know it as Bant but it is clearly not your everyday Bant list. Tom Martell was shaking his head after losing a Day Two match to one a singleton legend out Conley's board.

    "Crovax," muttered Martell, who was playing Thepths. "That card is just nuts. I never thought I would be saying that about Crovax."


    Adam Koska playing Brozek Deck Wins
    For players not making the cut to Day Two -- aka playing in the Sunday PTQ -- Petr Brozek's Brozek Boros deck was the number one shopping priority last night and this morning. Players were scrambling to pillage draft leavings, scooping up all the Flagstones of Trokair that they could find, and limbering up to get into the red zone. AJ Sacher was one of the players who shifted to the deck, away from his blue-white Sword combo that came up short on Day One. AJ was still a couple of cards shy of finishing the deck as the PTQ was threatening to seat all players.

    "I knew I should have taken those Searing Blazes from last night's draft," said AJ as he faced the prospect of buying commons from the dealer tables. The deck had both Petr and Adam Koska in Top 8 contention halfway through Day Two.

    Petr Brozek - Brozek Deck Wins
    Top 8 - Grand Prix Oakland 2010

    Talking to Tomoharu Saito yesterday it became apparent that he was tired of his opponents keeping hands against him under the assumption that he was playing Zoo. Up until this event that would have been a correct assumption to make as Saito continually evolved the Zoo archtype over the last year of Extended from Ranger Zoo to Wooly Zoo to the current popular variants of Knight Zoo. He decided to play Hypergenesis -- a deck that may have been one misplay away from winning Pro Tour Austin -- with Terastodon added into the mix from Worldwake.

    Saito played against Martin Juza in round four of the tournament and the Czech player was stunned by a first turn Gemstone Mine from Saito. "That definitely changed the quality of my opening hand," said Juza, who had kept a hand thinking it was against Zoo. "It got much worse once he played that land."

    There were two decks that were bobbing along just out of Top 8 contention but which definitely caught my eye. The first is Kevin Holmes' Garga-Geddon deck which cascades the usual three mana spells into the less than usual Restore Balance. With a suspended Greater Garagadon the Balance effect can clear the opponent's board of permanents with little impact on the Borderpost mana of Holmes' deck.

    "I would love to play more some games and less in others," said Holmes of his 11 Borderpost mana base. "I would hate to play this deck in a field where everyone has Ancient Grudge."

    He liked the deck against many of the decks in the format and even felt it matched up well with Dark Depths pointing out that any of his cascades could kill a Marit Lage.

    "Vendillion Clique, Bant Charm, and Riftwing Cloudskate," listed Holmes. "So you have disruption."

    The last deck is one designed by Mathias Hunt and has put two Northwest area players -- of five players playing it overall -- through to Day Two for the first times in their careers. The deck is built on a shell of Vampires but it also features Bitterblossom and Smallpox.

    Aaron Hareleman - Vamp-Pox
    Top 8 - Grand Prix Oakland 2010

     

  • Sunday, 3:55 p.m. - The Top 8, Two Rounds Early
    by Rich Hagon
  • Here in round fourteen, there are plenty still in contention, but by the end of this penultimate round the picture will be much clearer. We checked in on all four of the top tables that would form the Top 8 if the event stopped right now. Here’s what happened:

    On Table 4, Brian Kowal and Patrick Cox faced a Zoo mirror match.
    On Table 3, it was Alexander West’s Bant Charm-Zoo against Conley Woods with his Bant+ deck.
    On Table 2, John-Paul Kelly brought Tezzerator to battle Adam Yurchick with Thopter-Depths.
    On Table 1, the undefeated Matt Nass went with Elves against Zoo with Bant Charm run by Joby Parrish.

    Patrick Cox
    T4 – Kowal opened on double Wild Nacatl, and soon added Umezawa’s Jitte. Cox meanwhile found Path to Exile, and a second Path to Exile, and a third Path to Exile. That third Path sent Tarmogoyf to the yard, and with a Lightning Bolt for Wild Nacatl, Cox was able to drop Kowal to just one. On the back of Stirring Wildwood, Kowal looked to race before Cox found burn, but it didn’t happen. Cox 1, Kowal 0.

    T3 – Conley Woods began with Double Tarmogoyf and Noble Hierarch. Jace, the Mind Sculptor followed soon after. Frankly, West did very little in the opener. Woods 1, West 0.

    T2 – John-Paul Kelly had an early Trinket Mage, and although Adam Yurchick had both Dark Depths and Vampire Hexmage, it wasn’t relevant, as Kelly had fetched out Aether Spellbomb. A lengthy standoff ensued, with Kelly eventually clearing the board with Engineered Explosives, and bouncing the 20/20 as previously advertized.

    Soon after, both players had Thopter Foundry in operation, before another stall began. This time the culprit was Pithing Needle, which Kelly had set to the Foundry. It didn’t matter. Yurchick Transmuted for Engineered Explosives, blew it for one, destroying the Pithing Needle, and Foundry advantage saw him home. Yurchick 1, Kelly 0.

    T1 – Matt Nass had an explosive start, but couldn’t seal the deal. With six Elves in play, he had Parrish at just six life, but Parrish fought back in a brave rearguard action that eventualy saw him pull out the victory. Parrish 1, Nass 0.

    T4 – The second game was sluggish for both players, with Kowal settling on Elspeth, Knight-Errant, while Cox had little. That changed when he cast Ranger of Eos, and soon his board consisted of Ranger, double Wild Nacatl, Loam Lion, and then, to top it off, Umezawa’s Jitte. It was clear that even the Grove of the Burnwillows/Punishing Fire combo wasn’t going to save Kowal, and he duly folded. Cox 2, Kowal 0.

    T3 – West opened strong with Noble Hierarch and double Loam Lion. When he went for a Knight of the Reliquary, Woods countered with Cryptic Command, but West had mana open for the Negate in hand. Not done for, Woods produced a ,stream of creatures, featuring double Noble Hierarch, and a pair of Rhox War Monks.

    Joby Parrish
    The lifegain they provided turned out to be critical, and with double Exalted triggers, they were nigh-unstoppable. West stopped things getting worse when he had Negate for Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but the pressure was intense. Eventually, Woods found a Path to Exile for the final blocker, animated his Treetop Village, and crashed over for the win. Woods 2, West 0.

    T2 – Yurchick had a turn two Vampire Hexmage, and added Thopter Foundry. Kelly meanwhile had slammed Baneslayer Angel into play, and that made this game very interesting, as Yurchick continued to make guys, but not in such numbers that he could easily negate the huge presence on board of the Baneslayer. Eventually, though, weight of numbers told. Kelly Transmuted for Engineered Explosives, which sent an ungodly number of tokens packing, but he couldn’t prevent the second wave from taking him down. Yurchick 2, Kelly 0.

    T1 – Nass had a poor start in Game 2, but turned it around, landing Heritage Druid, Llanowar Elves, double Nettle Sentinel, and Essence Warden in short order. Nass 1, Parrish 1.

    The decider did not take long. Parrish had Meddling Mage set to Heritage Druid, and a Lightning Bolt took out the Nettle Sentinel, sitting alone on the Elves side of the board. With no second land coming, Nass conceded, secure in the knowledge that he was already in the Top 8. Nass 1, Parrish 2.

    So Parrish, Yurchick, Woods, and Cox advanced. While Woods and Yurchick were clearly into the Top 8, it was less clear for Parrish and Cox, who would have to see how the pairings fell for the final round of Swiss.

     

  • Feature Match Round 15: Tomoharu Saito vs. Francis Toussaint
    by Brian David-Marshall
  • Tomoharu Saito

    Choosing feature matches can be slightly awkward in the closing rounds of the Swiss. As Tomoharu Saito and Francis Toussaint made their way to the feature match area the Japanese Pro was puzzled.

    "BDM, why the feature match?" he asked. "I can’t make Top 8 -- can I?"
    "Just head over to the Feature Match tables, Saito," was my only reply.
    "Hold on."
    After a quick look at the pairings, Saito practically skipped over to his table. "BDM! I can make it!"
    Funny how that works. Saito needed to win out and have another match toggle his way but he had the best tiebreakers out of everyone in his point class. He was playing against two-time Canadian Nationals Top 8 competitor Francis Toussaint who was playing Scapeshift -- a favorable match-up for Saito’s Hypergenesis deck.
    Game 1

    Saito shipped back his opening hand but kept his next six with a confident smirk. He went straight up to three lands while Francis suspended Search for Tomorrow, played a Tarmogoyf and played and equipped it with Jitte on turn three. Saito played Thirst for Knowledge at the end of his opponent’s turn and untapped to flip through about half his deck to find Hypergenesis off of Ardent Plea. When the dust settled Saito had Progenitus and virtual Progenitus named Sakashima and an Oblivion Ring for the Tarmogoyf.

    Francis Toussaint

    Toussaint was able to buy himself one extra turn from the lifegain off of his Jitte but he did not draw the Scapeshift that would have allowed him to snatch victory from the jaws of two protection from everything monsters.
    Game 2

    Saito mulliganed again and seemed happy with the decision when he peeked at his next two cards. He kept the next six and was going to be find himself on the wrong end of a turn three Cranial Extraction but Saito played a turn two Ardent Plea thanks to Simian Spirit Guide. Saito stuck an Angel of Despair and Bogarden Hellkite while Toussaint landed Kitchen Finks and a land.

    Saito destroyed a Stomping Ground -- leaving Toussaint with two Groves -- and did five to the Canadian to leave him at 15 when the dust settled. Toussaint’s Cranial Extraction was not of much use at this point and he conceded before Saito could take the two turns needed to finish him off.
    Final result: Tomoharu Saito defeated Francis Toussaint 2-0
    Saito was hoping for the best from his tiebreakers but felt it was most likely that he would finish 9th.
    "The deck is really good," said Saito with his round four loss to Martin Juza still on his mind. "But my play was very bad. I did not playtest enough. I only played 10 games against Yuuya (Watanabe)’s Zoo. I won 10-0."

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