Sunday, October 10: 9:24 pm - Finals: Eugene Levin vs. Jon Sonne
by Brian David-Marshall
Eugene Levin had no expectations of getting out of the quarterfinals against Neil Reeves. But he dispatched the Texas superstar in a tight three game match. His black-white deck made maximum use out of Blessed Breath, including one of the finest plays anyone could recall in recent memory against Gerry Thompson in the semifinals. The twenty-year old Los Angeles based student was up against a much more experienced player in the finals with the deck many considered to be the best of the draft.
Jon Sonne is just the latest in along line of TOGIT players to reach the Top 8 of a Grand Prix--not that he is any stranger to high level success. He has high finishes at multiple team Pro Tours and this was his second GP Top 8 for his resume. Sonne is perhaps best known for his glacial pace of play and his deliberate decision making process. While still not the fastest player in the room, Jon's pace has quickened considerably. His deck for the finals featured hasty Ronin Houndmasters, four Cage of Hands, and Kiki-Jiki Mirror Breaker.
The room was pretty much cleared out by the time the finals began to play out. Only a few of the TOGIT faithful remained in the room to alternately cheer Jon on and get in some well-timed barbs.
Eugene was on the play and he would be starting with six cards. 8bc/kljcbcX--Sorry that was because Craig Krempels was squeezing my arm and because Jon's opponent shipped back his opening hand.. Jon made the first play of the game with Kami of Ancient Law. Levin's Kitsune Blademaster was removed from the game with Yamabushi's Flame and Jon beat for two. He had Cage of Hands for a Nezumi Ronin and added a Devoted Retainer to his board.
Eugene's Cruel Deceiver threatened to hold Jon at bay but Sonne was uncharacteristically aggressive--he played Ronin Houndmaster and swung with the team. Levin offered his Cruel Deceiver up to the Kami of Ancient Law and Jon accepted the trade. Levin removed the Ronin from the game with Reciprocate.
Frostwielder looked like a big card for Jon who returned his Cage of Hands and shot the Ronin. Levin had the black dragon which was promptly imprisoned and Jon continued to smash with his 1/1 samurai. Levin played a Cruel Deceiver and passed the turn. When Sonne shot the spirit, Levin cast Otherworldly Journey and spliced Blessed Breath onto it. Jon returned Cage of Hands but Levin still had Blessed Breath in hand.
Jon made him use the Breath but had no other play. Levin's Cruel Deceiver returned at the end of Jon's turn. He attacked with a Dragon and Jon fell to 15. Jon's deck yielded another Cage and a Hearth Kami and Levin rolled his eyes.
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker gave Jon two pingers a turn but Levin put an end to that on his next turn with a Pull Under. Didn't matter, Jon drew another actual Frostwielder and the two reached for their sideboards.
Jon - 1 Eugene - 0
While the players shuffled Osyp entertained the intimate gathering of spectators with a story about Sonne yelling at people in the crowded TOGIT room last night. Patrick Sullivan was not happy, "Jon is getting a little bit of a sass-mouth on him -- I don't know when that happened. He's starting to get a spine, -- it makes him less fun to hang out with, but I still love him."
Jon opened with a Zubera and Ronin Houndmaster. Eugene had Reciprocate again but Jon wanted to read the card. Osyp exploded as Jon examined the new Swords, "It's the same card as last game Jon!"
Eugene chuckled, "In the Swiss he played Samurai of the Pale Curtain and then in the next game I played one…and he had to read it." Eugene's Cruel Deceiver stepped in the path of the Zubera but Jon had Indomitable Will. Eugene summoned the Scuttling Death--he was holding Dragon but was not able to achieve six mana.
Jon had another Ronin Houndmaster and attacked with both his guys. Scuttles blocked Zubera and Jon did one to Eugene who soulshifted back a Deceiver.
Jon played out two Frostwielders over the next two turns but Levin had the Rend Flesh for one of them before things could get out of hand. His Kabuto Moth was encaged with hands and Levin countered it with Blessed Breath. Jon dropped him to 9 with the Houndmaster.
Levin found the mana to play his dragon but Jon was ready with Cage of Hands. A couple of turns later Jon played Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and passed the turn. He tried to use the waylay trick to make a Frostwielder that would last through to the next turn but Levin stopped him, "Hold on hold on. What if the target is not there?"
"It is countered on resolution."
"Great." Levin cast Pull Under on the pinger and spliced Blessed Breath, targeting his Dragon. Jon responded by returning his Cage of hands.
Jon attempted to recage the Dragon on his turn, knowing full well that Blessed Breath would counter it and leave Levin tapped out. Jon then showed him a Yamabushi's Flame and the TOGIT gang erupted--
--but not in cheers. "Boooooo!!!" shouted Osyp and Sullivan in chorus.
"Boooooo….what a baggy slow-roll."
Jon looked genuinely surprised, "Why not tap him out?"
Again, in chorus, "He had no cards in hand!!!!! Booooooo!"
Final result: Jon Sonne - 2 Eugene Levin - 0
"I felt like I was going to win this last night," said the happy--I assume he was happy--Sonne.
Sunday, October 10: 8:40 pm - Semifinals Roundup
by Mason Peatross
Gerry Thompson vs. Eugene Levin
Game 1 was over when I arrived, but Levin had won and apparently had made a nice little play with the Kami of the Waning Moon. Thompson had used his Katsu-Tribe Decoy to make a bunch of Levin's creatures block - Eugene cast an Arcane spell and made the Decoy have Fear, meaning that Eugene didn't have to block at all. It was apparently crucial.
Game 2 It quickly became apparent that Gerry had sideboarded in Yosei when he cast Kodama's Reach and searched out two Plains. A Kami of Ancient Law and Kitsune Blademaster were applying the beats for Eugene, and a Sakura-Tribe Elder searched out the sixth land that Gerry needed to cast Yosei. Pretty good for a mulliganned hand. A Moss Kami on his next turn really put Gerry in the driver's seat. Scuttling Death was still coming in for damage, but Yosei, the Morning Star was ruling the skies. Gerry wanted me to make sure and point out that Yosei was splashed. I know, I typed the decklists. His other splashed card was a Ghostly Prison, and it saw play soon enough as well. The truth is, without an answer for Yosei, the random creatures that Gerry put out were more than enough to put Eugene in an uniwinnable position. An all-in attack from Gerry brought out some tricks from Eugene, though. Using an Otherworldy Journey to remove Yosei bought him a turn. An amazing top deck turned the game and gave it to Eugene - Two Blessed Breaths gave the Scuttling Death pro-white and pro-green, sending the creature past both of Gerry's blockers, giving him the win. Talk about clutching victory from the jaws of defeat!
Jonathan Sonne vs. Chris Prochak
This match features the relatively experienced Jonathan Sonne (over $30K in lifetime winnings) versus the amateur Chris Prochak who is riding an undefeated match record in this Grand Prix.
Prochak's deck is very fast and he opened with a Wicked Akuba, but Sonne had an answer in the form of a Hearth Kami. First blood was drawn with a Ronin Houndmaster from Sonne, but the damage was returned by Prochak with a Nezumi Cutthroat. Sonne had a turn 4 Kabuto Moth, Prochak added an Uncontrollable Anger to his Cutthroat and then a Kami of Fire's Roar that was sure to make things hard for Sonne. Sonne found an answer for the Cutthroat with a Yamabushi's Flame and a permanent answer in the form of Kitsune Diviner. However a Pull Under from Prochak put a halt to Sonne's attacking plans by taking out the Ronin. Sonne added a second Moth and that ground the game to a halt with the life totals at 14 a piece. I don't think that bodes well for Prochak in this game. A Kami of Ancient Law started to come in for Sonne and the No-Dachi that Prochak played wasn't doing much to help him out. A pair of lands in Prochak's hand along with a Devouring Rage weren't going to get him back into the game at all. A couple of attack phases later (combined with Prochak's deck crapping out on him) spelled the end of the game.
Sonne 1 - Prochak 0
Sonne's deck seems pretty quick two, coming out with a Devoted Retainer and Ember-Fist Zubera to match up with Prochak's Zubera. The mirroring continued when Prochak played out a Ronin Houndmaster that immediately hopped into the red zone, and then Sonne did the same. A Kami of Fire's Roar from Prochak met up with a Cage of Hands from Sonne and the beats continued. Not a lot of blocking in this match. A Nezumi Ronin met another Cage, and again Sonne swung in. Prochak's Houndmaster was undeterred and came in again. Sonne missed his fourth turn land drop, but made it on turn five and used the mana to drop a Mothrider Samurai - which brought out the hammer from Prochak - Hideous Laughter nearly cleared the board. Another Ronin Houndmaster from Sonne (release the hounds, Smithers!) swung in, and then a Kitsune Diviner looked like it was going to compound Prochak's problems. An Earthshaker from Chris looked menacing, but just got tapped down by the Diviner. Smithers came in again, the Kami of Fire's Roar just not doing the blocking job. A third Cage of Hands locked down the Earthshaker and earned the concession from Prochak.
Sonne 2 - Prochak 0
Sunday, October 10: 8:18 pm - Quarterfinals Roundup
by Brian David-Marshall
Neil Reeves vs. Eugene Levin
Neither player was confident in this match-up. Eugene thought that "Neil's deck is a million times better than mine."
Neil, on the other hand, believed, "He is going to beat me senseless."
Game 1 went on forever with both players trading bombs. They each had a dragon in play by turn six but somehow dealt with them without suffering any ill side effects. Eugene Reciprocated Jugan, the Rising Star while Neil bounced Kokusho, the Evening Star with his Mirror-Mage and countered it on the way back down with Hisoka's Defiance.
Neil tried to go in for the kill by bouncing a troublesome Kabuto Moth with the Mirror-Mage and Eugene took that opportunity to Rend Flesh the pesky wizard and splice Blessed Breath on to save the flier. "Does this kid ever draw lands?" complained Reeves. "Dear God!"
Eugene somehow hung on turn after turn while at one life--hiding behind a Kami of Lunacy and Kabuto Moth. It started to get scary for Reeves when Levin summoned Konda, Lord of Elganjo but after drawing lands for nine straight turns--or so he claimed--Meluko the Clouded Mirror arrived to seal the first game for the Texan.
Game 2 was as quick as the first game was long and Neil fell to a Wicked Akuba in concert with a Kami of the Waning Moon. Levin played out a series of spirits and gave his 2/2 fear and used the ability freely. He even got in for five on the third turn. Neil laughed, "You don't want this game to take a million turns? Is that what you are telling me?"
Game 3 was even quicker as Neil discarded for multiple turns after getting stuck on three lands.
Final result: Eugene Levin -2 Neil Reeves -1
Jon Sonne vs. Jim Finstrom
Sonne took down the first game with a pair of Frostwielders. Jim was worried about Jon's four Cage of Hands and had Quiet Purity and Blessed Breath but he couldn't stop the pingers from doing their thing.
Jon lost the second game when he found himself behind on the board and Jim opened with Moth and Nagao, Bound by Honor. He could never get anything going and although he game took a long time, Jon was never in a strong position.
Sonne's deck showed up for the third game with a Kabuto Moth and a pair of Ronin Houndmasters. He also had Hundred-Talon Kami and a Cage of Hands. All Jim's deck could muster were a couple of Harsh Deceivers and a Nagao that showed up one or two turns too late.
Final result: Jon Sonne - 2 Jim Finstrom - 1
Mike Thompson vs. Chris Prochak
Chris Prochak was the only undefeated player in the tournament with four draws on the weekend and zero losses. He is clear of the danger of draws at this point--not that it should matter for his extremely aggressive red-black deck. With two Nezumi Cutthroats he posed a serious threat to Mike Thompson's blue-green deck.
In the first game Chris did not have a two drop--at least one that he could cast. He was stuck on two land but could not play the Wicked Akubas he was holding. Mike had the turns to develop his board and after Mike discarded for a couple of turns it was clear he was not going to win that game.
Game 2 saw Mike's deck work like a well oiled machine. He had plays on every turn from 2 on up and there was nothing that Mike's deck offered that could cope with a pair of feared Cutthroats. In the third game it was Mike turn to discard when he got stuck on two lands. Chris had the Cutthroat on turn two and No-Dachi a couple of turns later was too much for Mike who was still discarding.
Final result: Chris Prochak -2 Mike Thompson - 1
Gerry Thompson vs. Michael Jacob
Gerry smirked at Michael's turn one play of Sensei's Divining Top and the two bantered back and forth about the quality of the card. "I'm pretty sure he is just going to activate the top until he dies," quipped Thompson as Jacob found land after land on top of his deck.
The game became bogged down with mediocre creatures on Gerry's side and a Cursed Ronin and Nezumi Cutthroat on the other. "I have an Abyss," shrugged Jacob as Gerry had to block it each turn. Things were looking pretty grim for Thompson until he ripped a Strength of Cedars off the top of the deck."
US Champion Craig Krempels trumpeted the top deck. "This guy is so lucky. Gerry is buying everyone dinner."
"Did you buy me dinner?"
Craig was confused, "When?"
Thompson just shook his head sadly, "I don't know, when?"
Game 2 saw another stream of land from Jacob and Gerry ran him over with Strength of Cedars on a flier.
Final result: Gerry Thompson - 2 Michael Jacob - 0
Sunday, October 10: 7:09 pm - Top 8 Draft Report
by Mason Peatross
Neil Reeves sat down at the final draft thinking "don't draft green". Then Chris Prochak opened Jugan, the Rising Star and didn't take it (opting instead for Glacial Ray). How do you pass a Dragon? Neil sure doesn't know how, and the Jugan dropped into his lap. However, like the "two land tease", the Dragon tease is even worse. Drafting a Dragon is something it's hard to give up on, and if the cards aren't coming, a player will loathe giving up on such a bomb. Neil fell into this trap. Green was picked up Gerry Thompson two players to his right, filtering the cards he would see in two of the three packs, and Gerry never ventured into his second color when a green card would have been able to make it to Neil. I don't think it was intentional, I think that Gerry just focused on making his own deck as solid as possible. The packs just didn't cooperate with what Neil wanted to do. I walked around the table with each pack and every time I would brush by Neil, I could just feel the waves of disappintment coming off of him. Neil was not happy during deck construction, declaring that there was no way he would win beyond his opponent's mana problems. Luckily, his opponent, Eugene Levin, felt the exact opposite way.
When I sat down with Eugene, he declared that Neil's deck was "a million times better than mine" and that Neil was a good player that he didn't really stand a chance against. Funny how we all undervalue our own abilities at times. I think Eugene has a good chance to win his match.
I also wandered around and talked to some of the other top 8 drafters. Significant things were the Rend Spirit in Michael Jacob's sideboard - declaring that he wasn't sure that there were all that many Spirits in Thompson's deck. There were at least six by my count. He also drafted Nezumi Graverobber over Koskusho, the Evening Star. When questioned about it he stated that it wasn't even close in his mind. He stated that his opponent will likely rule the late game with flyers and big green creatures, and that he wants to win as quickly as possible. Also, the Graverobber is quite the little bomb himself, "a 4 drop most of the time", implying that you drop the Graverobber and immediately use his ability before your opponent has anything to say about it.
Chris Prochak, who finished undefeated on day one, and technically undefeated on day 2 - with a stellar 2-0-4 record (2 intentional and 2 unintentional draws) in the draft portion, drafted a VERY aggressive black-red deck. If I had to put money on someone winning the top 8 (and I'm glad I don't), then the player I would bet on is Prochak. His opponent is no chump though: Mike Thompson, veteran pro tour player. Mike declared that he had done a lot of preparation for this event with kitchen table drafts where he had followed the philosophy of "draft the under-drafted colors". He felt that blue and green would be those colors and he's drafted it each time he's been able.
The opinion about Jim Finstrom's drafting was mixed at best. For the players who observed him, I'm sure that they were confused at his complete obliviousness to color signalling. There was a reason for it, though. Jim, who declared "I'm just happy to be in the top 8", was so wiped out by two days of drafting and playing Magic that he could only stick with what had got him there - he played red-white in his sealed deck, he played red-white in both of his drafts, and by gosh he was going to draft it in the top 8.
You can find the complete Top 8 decklists here.
Sunday, October 10: 7:09 pm - The Brackets Are Set
by Event Coverage Staff
The Top 8 is underway and we're already in the semifinals as four hungry Magic professionals look to end a gruelling weekend with a big payout. Want to know what they drafted? Check out the Top 8 complete draft packlist here. Want to know more about these titans of Magic? We've got their profiles here.