Sunday, April 24: 9:17 am - Draft One
Osyp Lebedowicz was seated for Draft One to the right of Billy Postlethwait. Osyp and Billy were two of the three remaining 8-0's heading into round nine. They could easily be playing each other to kick off Day Two which could make for some combative drafting between two players from the TOGIT supersquad.
"I hate to pass any removal," explained Osyp who was hoping to be red-black for this draft. He was willing to go green if need be and had great success with that color in Nagoya. "I think I like green. The only time I didn't draft green I lost my pod."
His first pack opened with a ridiculous selection of red cards that included Glacial Ray, Honden of Infinite Rage, Pain Kami, and Godo, Bandit Warlord. The best-looking non-red card in the pack was Soratami Mirror-Guard. Knowing full well that he was going to be triggering a chain reaction of red drafters to his left there is a case to be made for taking the blue flier and pushing the whole color down the line. Osyp could not get away from the color though and took the Honden.
His second pick was Scuttling Death and by pick three he was looking at green cards and took a Moss Kami. No red was coming and he kept his options open with a couple of picks but looked to be green-red at the end of pack one. He still had some options to go either black or white to complement his green creatures.
His first pack going the other way asked him to choose between Hanabi Blast and Moss Kami -- he took the reusable burn spell. The next pick did not offer him anything exciting in green other than a Feral Deceiver. He agonized over which direction to take his draft with a choice between Befoul and Nagao. He took the removal spell and shipped the samurai to the nearly mono-white Postlethwait. Osyp was crestfallen when he looked at the next pack containing Candle's Glow, Sensei Goldentail, and Kitsune Blademaster and zero cards in his colors. He took the Blademaster with a loud sigh.
Things did not get much better in the next pack as he was passed a third-pick Teller of Tales and no green cards or black cards. Kami of Fire's Roar went into his pile as he thought about the blue-white deck that could have been. Pack after pack seemed to come with an array of white and blue picks. There was a Time of Need that Osyp picked up and a Brothers Yamazaki. At the end of the second set of packs Osyp had only fifteen playable cards in green-red and less than that if he was green-black. Three colors was a definite possibility and the draft could not have gone worse for him to this point.
As he flipped through the first Betrayers pack, Osyp put the cards of note on top. He saw Torrent of Stone, Unchecked Growth, and Frost Ogre before he got to the rare ninja lurking in the shadows -- Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni. He was passed Horobi's Whisper and a late Okiba-Gang Shinobi but had to watch in dismay as good cards in the two colors he would not be playing flowed past him.
Moss Kami or Hanabi Blast? This decision is even more difficult when you have blurry vision.
After the draft he was chastised by Mark Herberholz who had been watching the draft. "Imagine if you were blue-white? You literally would have had the best blue-white deck ever…Nagao, Teller of Tales, two Ninja of Deep Hours."
Osyp threw his hands up as he laid out 19 green and black cards with a couple of red cards waiting in the wings. "Maybe I should have taken the Mirror-Guard but to be honest all I saw was the Honden and the Glacial Ray and went crazy. I was hoping I could cut off all the red and maybe he would have to splash the Ray. If I ended up splashing the Honden it is a better card to splash and I think they are almost equal in effect."
At this point Herberholz could watch no longer and walked off announcing, "I going to watch someone build a deck with Devoted Retainer. I hope you play against blue-white every round."
Osyp looked at his final build of 22 cards that splashed red for Honden of Infinite Rage and Kami of Fire's Roar. "Look at this splash… Oh well there is always next draft. I will probably go 0-3 with this although maybe Ink-Eyes can pull one out for me."
Sunday, April 24: 11:22 am - Round Nine: Osyp Lebedowicz vs. Chris Lepinski
Draft Deck One
Mark Herberholz is one funny guy. No, really.
In the interests of making Feature Match coverage more like actual sports reporting, this match had my play-by-play while Limited specialist and one-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor Mark Herberholz provided color commentary -- maybe even some off-color commentary. Both of these players were 9-0 coming into this match with Billy Postlethwait as the only other player with a pristine record.
Game 1 was an inelegant, if not interesting, affair with a lead off Genju of the Fields for Chris. Osyp cast Time of Need.
Mark: "Turn two time of need for Inky -- The secret is out boys!"
Turn two equaled a Dripping Tongue-Zubera from Chris.
Mark: "How lucky…Osyp's opponent played a Forest after turn one Plains. That means Osyp still has a chance."
Osyp's third turn yielded a Matsu-Tribe Decoy, which blocked Genju of the Fields on the next turn and locked down the Plains for a turn. Osyp cracked back and snuck an Okiba-Gang Shinobi into play. Chris ditched a land and another Genju of the Fields.
When Osyp swung in the next time he was destroyed by Hundred -Talon Strike on the Zubera which smoked his ninja. Things still looked shaky fro Chris until he found an Island and made Honden of the Seeing Winds. Osyp had a Moss Kami while Chris's turn six was less impressive with a Soilshaper.
Osyp attacked with the Decoy and Moss Kami. Chris chose to double block the Decoy with Soil shaper and his Genju. Osyp could have put down Ink-Eyes but instead chose to Horobi's Whisper the Genju. Chris fell to 14. His next play did offer much in the way of inspiring confidence.
Mark: "On turn 7 Chris was in bad shape -- staring down Moss Kami and Inky in hand. All he could muster was Harbinger of Spring."
Chris hung his head, "The horrible guy."
Osyp brightened, "Hello…hello. What does that guy do?"
Osyp sent in his team and out came Ink-Eyes to take Soilshaper. Osyp had a second Decoy. All Chris got for his two cards on the next turn was another Plains to replay the Genju. Osyp kept up the pressure with Inky and two Decoys. Chris activated his Genju and was able to block Ink-Eyes with his pro ninja dude. He double-blocked one of the Decoys and Osyp Serpent Skinned the Decoy. Chris activated his Genju a second time for a little more life with which to maneuver.
Lepinski played a Swamp. "Look at all these colors…ain't it pretty?" He put out Petalmane Baku and Harsh Deceiver to staunch the blood flow. Moss Kami reappeared for Osyp and made a 3/3 courtesy of Soilshaper. That got sent in along with the Decoy with Serpent Skin and Ink-Eyes. Chris took two from the Decoy.
Osyp Lebedowicz feels the pain.
Osyp was devastated on the next turn when he attacked with Moss Kami, Decoy, and Ink-Eyes. Chris bounced the enchanted Decoy with Consuming Vortex and spliced Horobi's Whisper to smoke the 5/5. He untapped to equip No-Dachi to his Harsh Deceiver and attack for three. Konda's Hatomoto was his post attack play. Osyp felt the game slipping away from him -- somehow. "You're undefeated, right?"
Chris' Honden was beginning to swing the game around his way and Osyp started counting cards as he considered decking as an option. He played his own Genju -- the green one but the game was mired down in a groundstall.
Waxmane Baku promised to change that and Horobi's Whisper smoked the Soilshaper. He used the resulting counter to tap Ink-Eyes. Deceiver, Konda, and Harbinger came in. Osyp activated his Genju and blocked Harbinger to kill it. "Oh that is a spirit."
"Nice attack," smirked Osyp. The score was 10 to 8 in Chris' favor with at least five turns before decking would become relevant. Osyp drew and played Kami of the Hunt hoping for a way out of the increasingly dire situation. Chris played the soulshifted Soilshaper and Child of Thorns. He activated a land with Soilshaper and tapped two guys with Waxmane. He sent in Plains, Konda, and Harsh Deceiver. Osyp animated his own Genju and blocked the Plains. A Decoy stepped in the way of Konda. Chris went all in on his No-Dachi'd Deceiver by activating it and enchanting it with Indomitable Will. They say that which will not kill you only makes you stringer but Osyp was feeling to healthy at only two life when the din of the battle died down. With seven critters and the potential of more from Soilshaper and white Genju to his four there looked to be no way out. Osyp waited for Chris to attack with everyone before scooping. "You figured it out."
Mark, a strong advocate of taking Mirror-Guard over any of the red cards in Osyp's first draft pack added, "If Osyp had a flyer he would have broken through long ago."
Osyp pitched back his openers. Chris was looking at an ugly hand with no Forests. Osyp kept his six and Chris kept his seven.
Mark: "Osyp's hand was five land and Time of Need -- a very poor slow hand on the play but much better than going to five cards."
The Time of Need for Ink-Eyes was the first play of the game.
Mark: "Hopefully Harbinger of Spring doesn't make a reappearance."
Konda's Hatamoto was Chris' turn two. Osyp had nothing while Chris dropped a No-Dachi and Genju of the Fields. Lebedowicz had a lucky turn-four Kami of Fire's Roar with his one Mountain.
Chris considered attacking with his No-Dachi'd Hatamoto but was leery of Ink-Eyes. "Do you have a Swamp?"
Osyp, of course, had the Swamp and Ink-Eyes leapt into play on his next attack. Chris kept up the attack with Konda's dude and played Dripping-Tongue and another No-Dachi.
Osyp looked at board in disbelief and looked around for cameras and Ashton Kutcher's trucker cap in the crowd. "What is this? Am I getting Punk'd?"
Mark: "Yes Osyp. You got punked when the judge handed you Forests for your deck!"
Kami of Fire's Roar reappeared. Chris was able to get in there with a No-Dachi'd Dripping-Tongue.
Burr Grafter made it so Konda's dude, laying back on guard duty could not block. Osyp attacked for seven and Chris fell to three. The dreaded Harbinger of Spring came to the party but Kami of the Hunt stopped it from being able to block the ninja.
Jeroen Remie had joined the crowd a spectators and chuckled as he looked over at Osyp's board. "I like how Osyp doesn't limit himself to two colors.
Osyp took umbrage, "My opponent is four colors! Three colors has to be better."
Osyp snapped his fingers -- he had chosen to play in Game 2, "I thought I screwed that one up last game."
Mark: "Osyp evened up the game score but even a squirrel can find a nut."
Genju for Chris and Petalmane Baku for Osyp. Chris followed up with the Hatamoto while Osyp had no play. Chris attacked for three and gained two.
Osyp Befouled the enchanted Plains and was surprised that the Genju returned to Chris' hand. Chris replayed the Genju. Osyp's deck yielded Burr Grafter but Chris was able to get in for three again. Osyp tapped out for Kami of the Hunt and Honden of Infinite Rage. Chris continued to get in his beats three points at a time.
Chris Lepinski held on and managed to draw.
The game eventually bogged down into a copy of the first game with both players unable to get through the steadily mounting boards. Eventually it looked like Chris might find a way out with his Honden of Seeing Winds. Osyp was slowly nibbling down his life total with the Honden and getting his beats through thanks to Kami of Fire's Roar.
There was one turn where it seemed like Osyp might be able to win by playing Scuttling Death. Sacrificing his Burr Grafter to pump something. Sacrificing his Scuttling Death and returning the Burr Grafter and replaying it. Two creatures would not be able to block and he would have an extra four points of power to toss around.
The two players ran out of time and they each looked through their options in extra turns to come up with a win. Chris tried very hard to get through on his last turn with a Kami of Tattered Shoji for the win but fell two points shy. He left Osyp a chance to win on his last turn but he needed a spirit or arcane spell to pull it out. The match ended with neither player satisfied.
Mark: "And that is it! Osyp drew with his best match-up-- another green deck!"
Sunday, April 24: 12:50 pm - Round Eleven Feature Match Action: Osyp Lebedowicz vs. William Postlethwait and Gadiel Szleifer vs. Patrick Sullivan
Patrick Sullivan sports an impressive black-white deck.
At Pro Tour Atlanta Patrick Sullivan made the decision to keep Eight-and-a-Half-Tails in his sideboard of a black-white deck because he had aggressive black cards such as Wicked Akuba that required double black. After the first draft of the day was over he sheepishly displayed the tools he would be plying for the first three rounds today. Included in his deck were Distress, Wicked Akuba, and Eight-and-a-Half-Tails. His deck was actually ludicrous with double He Who Hungers and an excellent soulshift chain to exploit them. That was not the end of his rares either as he was also playing Patron of the Kitsune.
Gadiel Szleifer also had a solid deck although it lacked the rare bombs of Pat's concoction. His deck was blue-white which pleased the unofficial ambassador of the blue-white archetype Mark Herberholz. Mark pointed to Gadiel and one table over at Billy Postlethwait. "They're both 2-0 and they're both blue-white."
Gadiel's deck did not come off the blocks as it was drawn up on paper and he stalled on three lands behind River Kaijin, Ghostly Prison, and Heart of Light. Over the course of two turns Patrick systematically tore apart Gadiel's hand taking a pair of Mothrider Samurai, a healer, Mystic Restraints and another card. He started with Cruel Deciever and got that back when he sacrificed Moonlit Strider. He sacrificed his He Who Hungers which was enchanted with the Heart of Light and got back the Strider. He had another He Who Hungers on the next turn and was able to do it all over again.
By the time he played Eight-and-a-Half-Tails and Patron of the Kitsune it was all over.
Gadiel Szleifer hungers for victory.
Meanwhile…Osyp squared off with a second green deck in the last round, this one piloted by Jordan Berkowtiz, and unexpectedly won a match. He was 1-0-1 with his deck but he was going up against Billy Postlethwait. Billy was the beneficiary of all the blue-white that Osyp passed in the second pack including Nagao, Teller of Tales, and Sensei Goldentail. He also had Yosei and the white Myojin in his deck and had easily swept through his two matches. He was the only 10-0 player left in the tournament. Osyp was also undefeated at 9-0-1.
Billy scuffled for his mana in the first game. He did have Nagao in play but was holding his bombs that fell higher in the curve like Yosei and Myojin of Cleansing Fire. Osyp had out Ink-Eyes, Kami of Fire's Roar, and a Matsu-Tribe Decoy which allowed him to able to slip the ninja though and fortify his board with Billy's Sensei Goldentail. He was not able to recover from the board advantage Osyp established and soon fell to a swarm of guys.
Back over at the other match Gadiel mulliganed to six on the play. He kept those but had no early plays while Patrick made Eight-and-a-Half-Tails on turn two. He took his beats for a few turns and Gadiel's first play was Kami of the Painted Road. Patrick tapped out for He Who Hungers and Gadiel was able to kill the Eight-and-a-Half-Tails with a Shuriken. When Patrick shrugged and played Patron of the Kitsune and Scuttling Death on the next two turns he just packed up his cards and prepared for the next draft.
Back over at the Osyp/Billy match, Osyp played a turn-two Matsu-Tribe Sniper and laughed as Billy slumped down in his chair. "Look at his face!"
Osyp has perfected his seated victory dance.
Billy gamely offered a Mothrider Samurai to give the Sniper target practice. Osyp obliged and swung in with a green Genju on the next turn. With a handful of fliers Billy was never able to get out from under the Sniper's scope and he eventually fell to the Genju with a little help from assorted other creatures.
Despite Osyp's dire predictions about his deck he managed to go 2-0-1 with it and was the only undefeated player left in the tournament. One more win would lock up his seat at the Top 8 draft table.
Sunday, April 24: 2:22 pm - Round Twelve : Michael Krumb vs. Richard Hoaen
Michael Krumb couldn't stop the hurt.
I wandered over during the draft to see how Hoaen was doing. Matt Vienneau was looking on over his shoulder and assured me, "Richie is doing just fine." Rich was set up in red-black with Billy Postlethwait to his right. Billy loves to draft blue-white and the black-red cards were coming hot and heavy in the first and third packs. By the time the third pack rolled around, Rich was picking up Torrents and Whispers and as long as he had any critter to speak of he would likely be fine.
Rich played Mike Krumb this round and the games were brutal. Rich opened up to Psychic Spear a Callous Deceiver and came out with Cruel Deceiver and Shinka Gatekeeper on the next two turn while Krumb was casting Counsel of the Soratami. Richie kept the pressure up with a nice curve and Kami of Fire's Roar.
Krumb hoped for the best behind a Mothrider Samurai but it was quickly dispatched by Swallowing Plague. "What pick did you get that Plague? Was that the one I opened?"
Rich leered, "You can tell if you look at the stamp."
Krumb tossed some creatures out to hold back the tide -- Diviner and Mirror-Guard -- but he picked them up once Hoaen flashed him another removal spell. "This Swallowing Plague is the one you opened."
"I would wish you better luck but I would not mean it."
Richie Hoaen is doing just fine. Just fine.
Devoted Retainer from Krumb followed by Kami of Ancient Law led off the game. Richard Hoaen put a Cruel Deceiver out but he was trumped by an Indomitable Will. Krumb missed land number three. Rich didn't wait for Krumb to untap and used Horobi's Whisper to kill the enchanted bear.
Rich played a pair of Kami of Fire's Roar over the next two turns and on turn six went Bleeder and Shinka Gatekeeper. All Krumb could muster was Kami of False Hope and Phantom Wings. Rich showed him Scuttles and Krumb didn't even bother going through the motions.
Rich would need one more win to assure a Top 8 berth. Krumb now needed two.
Sunday, April 24: 2:56 pm - Round Thirteen: Rich Hoaen vs. Sam Gomersall
Richard Hoaen needed this win to make the Top 8.
Both of these two good friends needed one more win to advance to the Top 8. Sam's Samurai of the Pale Curtain was doubly removed from the game with Yamabushi's flame. Kami of Fire's Roar appeared for Richie. Sam summoned Nagao. There were no spirits from Rich and he simply played Skullsnatcher and Villainous Ogre and passed the turn.
Kami of Tattered Shoji came down for Sam. Rich used Swallowing Plague to get rid of the samurai and made it so his Shoji could not block. Rich got in for seven. Sam played Kitsune Blademaster. Rich made it so neither creature could block with Ember-Fist and Cruel Deceiver and attacked with everyone. Sam used Rend Flesh on the Ogre. Cage of Hands took out the Cruel Deceiver but Sam could not attack. Another Swallowing Plague took out the Blademaster.
Sam Eradicated the Kami of Fire's Roar and went wide-eyed as he pawed through Rich's arsenal. He passed the turn with no cards in hand. Richie played a Scuttling Death and Sam had to decide if he wanted to return Cage of Hands. He chose not to. Sam attacked with his Tattered Shoji and took one from the chump blocking Ember-Fist. He played Meloku -- off the top, mind you -- and made a guy and replayed the land.
Mark Zajdner strolled by and rolled his eyes at the fortuitous draw. "Meloku? That is blessed. Definitely blessed."
Richie could see the victory slipping out of his grasp and he glared at the legend. "After this match I am going to rip that card up."
Sam, who lives on a shoestring budget, laughed at the thought, "Give me three bucks and you can rip it up."
Sam was at three while Rich had some room to maneuver at 26. But Sam went all in with his lands and was able to keep his big-butted men back to watch the gates. Rich was finally out and a game that seemed impossible to lose had gotten away from him. He would get no sympathy from his friend Sam, "We have played twice in limited in the Pro Tour and he got lucky both times. The last time we played I mulliganed to four one game and then he ripped Pristine Angel in another. This time it came around."
Rich kept his hand which featured a side boarded Ronin Cliffrider while Sam shuffled his back in for six new more.
Richie knew how badly Sam needed this tournament win while Sam and Mark Herberholz lamented the state of Sam's finances. "If I was playing against anyone else I would be so mad right now."
Sam Gomersall needed a win to make Top 8 as well, but would have to try for it next round.
Rich came roaring out of the gate in Game 2 and just as it looked like Sam could stabilize there was a Seizan on top for the final two points. The match would come down to Game 3. They both kept their hands and Sam led off with a Kitsune Diviner that kept a Cruel Deceiver busy for a while. Sam played Nagao and when Richie tried to Yamabushi's Flame the legend the damage was Shining Shoaled back at a Ronin Houndmaster.
The Nagao retuned to hand to allow Okiba-Gang to strip a pair of cards from Rich's hand. Rich untapped and killed the Ninja with an X spell. Nagao came back down and was promptly pummeled to death by a Torrent of Stone. The two players settled into a gentle give and take with the Diviner locking up a spirit while bears on each side traded blows. Sam was willing to trade creatures and bide his time until Meloku arrived. Rich did his best to hasten that with Seizan.
Once Rich had a turn of Seizan under his belt he was able to get his deck rolling again and finished off Sam's team with Pull Under and a spliced Horobi's Whisper. Rich advanced to the Top 8 and Sam was still within a match win of joining him.
Sunday, April 24: 3:07 pm - Final Round Wrap-Up
Jordan Berkowitz looks hard as he lands in the Top 8.
Sam Gomersall got his elusive final win to join an already impressive Top 8 featuring Jeroen Remie, Osyp Lebedowicz, and Rich Hoaen. Mike Krumb also made it in. There seemed to be a chance that Jordan Berkowitz could concede to Gadiel Szleifer and both of them could make it but Jordan was not sure and they could not look at the standings.
Jordan pummeled a frustrated Gadiel in two games. The first saw Akki Coalflinger and Kodamo of the North Tree give Gadiel fits and even with Keiga in play there was no way out for him. In the second game he came out of the gates slowly against Sosuke and by the time he was in a position to do any blocking Jordan was holding a pair of Kodama's Might. Jordan Berkowitz joined at least three other players with Pro Tour Top 8 appearances in the Top 8 of this event.