Saturday, July 24: 9:21 pm - Unfinished Business
Round seven is underway and we are almost done for the evening. I wanted to follow up on some of the decks and players we have featured so far today and see how they fared.
Poor Pulperm was fighting an uphill battle against a Goblin deck this round. He went down quickly in Game 1 when he kept a seven land hand and drew two lands to follow. In Game 2 he discovered that Fecundity is probably not so hot to leave in against a goblin deck as he watched a Clickslither become a giant insect straight out of a fifties horror movie.
Masashi Oiso was playing against Chih-Hsiang Chang at table twelve. He went down in Game 1 to a series of counter spells from the Taiwanese player but a sideboarded Xantid Swarm allowed him to have free reign in Game 2 and forced a grueling Game 3.
Tomohiro Kaji dropped a second match and was struggling to stay alive at table 51--he would need to win to advance to day two. He was up one game but his opponent was siding in an arsenal of artifact hate including four Tel-Jilad Justice for the second game. He lost that game in short order and they prepared for Game 3.
Albertus Law looked like he was losing his third match as he faced off against G/W Tooth and Nail. He was fighting side-by-side with Tsuyoshi Fujita. Fujita was against Big Red and up a game with his G/W Slide deck. His deck looked different than the Singapore Slide deck and featured main deck Duplicants and Solemn Simulacrums.
His deck was a flurry of card advantage and he easily found his COP: Red to save himself from a handful of burn. He won the match with an Eternal Dragon but shook his head about his chances to win yet another Standard tournament this year, "I think I can't win tomorrow. I misjudged the metagame."
The Japanese were looking like they could put six players through to Day Two. Masahiko and Oiso were likely onto Day Two even with a loss while Tsuyoshi and Osamu both won their seventh round to secure a berth. Kaji was still playing for his tournament. Itaru Ishida was also playing but was likely locked in even with a loss. The Japanese were all crowded around his match and laughed as I looked over his shoulder to see an unusual board that showcased Seedborn Muse on Itaru's side of the table. "It is Seedborn Control. It is a very god deck but not against Affinity. Affinity is a very bad match-up," explained Osamu. Even as he was explaining it, Ishida dropped the match to Affinity--his second loss on the day.
Masahiko Morita was dominating the Affinity mirror match with a Moriok Rigger and looked like he was not only a lock for Day Two but was in good position to make a run for the Top 8. Oiso ended up drawing and was in solid shape as well but things were looking dire for Kaji.
Kaji was on the third game against Tooth and Nail and was staring down a Oblivion Stone that would come online next turn. He thought for a long while about how to play the turn and then really showed off what his deck was capable of. He played an Ironworks and began to sacrifice cards to have enough mana to Fabricate for a second Myr Retriever and a Salvaging Station. He then sacrificed the remainder of his lands to play the Station and the Myr Retriever. He was able to generate infinite mana by cycling the two Retrievers back and forth--putting and artifact land or Chromatic Sphere or Spellbomb back into play each time with the Station.
His opponent kept waiting for the Roar or the Second Sunrise but Kaji did not need them. He proceeded to start cycling through his Chromatic Spheres to draw his entire deck. His opponent tried to figure out what was happening but his friends just patted him on the back and began to laughingly mimic circus music--"doo-doo-doo-dootle-doo-doo-doo"--as Kaji searched for the Pyrite Spellbomb to seal the deal.
Kaji ended up just squeaking in at 64th place.
Saturday, July 24: 7:36 pm - Archetype Breakdowns at the Top Tables
There were nineteen players left with pristine records after five rounds. I did a quick eyeball of the top ten tables and broke down the pairings in purely match-up form. When I knew the result I have included it as well.
||Affinity on Affinity (Affinity wins--derf)
||Affinity on Beasts (Beasts wins)
||Affinity on Death Cloud
||Affinity on G/W Slide
||Affinity on Obliterate
||Affinity on Ponza
||Affinity on U/W
||Ironworks on Affinity (Affinity wins)
||Ponza on Goblins
||R/W Slide on Tooth and Nail
The last match-up was between Nick Wong with Slide and Ding Yuen Leong with the artifacts. Nick was the first of a small handful of players at 4-0-1 and had been paired up against the reigning Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur champion. Ding is an old friend of Nick's from Singapore and the Slide deck was up one game in round six when I walked over to watch their match.
"He works with a different team," explained Nick when asked why he didn't share his Singapore Slide decklist with his old fried. "They have T-shirts and everything. I didn't get a T-shirt." Of the five or six Singaporean players with nearly identical Slide decks, only Nick and Albertus Law were holding fast. Law had only dropped one match and Nick could lock in Day Two with a victory here.
Hew Jun-Wei had already lost his third match with the deck after starting 3-0. "Where are all the Affinity decks?" cried Jun Wei. I pointed him in the direction of the top tables.
Nick and Ding got their second game underway and the former GP:KL champion shocked Nick with a turn two Slobad out of the board. The Slobad allowed Ding's Enforcer and Frogmite to survive a Wrath of God and one Shrapnel Blast later they were onto Game 3. Nick was stunned, "Slobad? Sooooo good. I never expected that."
Game 3 was not so fortunate for Ding as he scuffled for land the whole game and could not get any offense going thanks to a pair of Astral Slides and an aptly named Eternal Dragon on the other side of the table. Once Nick thinned all the Plains from his deck he finished off his friend with an Akroma's Vengeance--which was a one-sided Obliterate.
Albertus lost his match and that left only Nick as a lock for Day Two with the Singapore Slide.
Saturday, July 24: 4:51 pm - Retrieving Info
I approached Oiso for more information about his Salvaging Station/Ironworks deck. He was politely demonstrating the combo to his fifth round opponent. There were judges and spectators huddled around as he did so--the deck is the early leader in the buzz race for this tournament. It turns out that he did not design the deck. It was originally designed by Tomohiro Kaji who is currently third in the Rookie of the Tear Race.
Kaji is also playing the deck this weekend and was 3-1 coming into round five with the aid of two byes. I waited for him to finish off his round five opponent in Game 3 before asking him about the deck. He had all the pieces in place to go off but one--he needed a second Retriever. He Baubled, Salvaging Stationed a Bauble back, played and used another Bauble, 'cycled' a Pyrite Spellbomb, and Second Sunrised everything back to do it again. Finally he found his second Retriever and bounced them up and down in each hand to demonstrate the combo to his opponent. His opponent sadly mimicked the maneuver and scooped up his cards.
I asked him what was his inspiration for the deck and he shuffled through his deck until he found Roar of Reclamation. "When I saw this card…I knew I wanted to make a deck for it." His only loss on the day so far was to Ponza deck, "I was a little mana-screwed and could only say, 'go…go…go.'"
It is still early but the two Japanese Ironworks players seem to be doing well. Kaji is 4-1 and Oiso won his match to move up to 5-0. Could the deck be this year's Goblin Bidding? Remember, we are not going to post deck lists until after the action starts tomorrow morning so you will have to check back tomorrow for the list and whether or not it warrants your further attention.
Saturday, July 24: 2:43 pm - Snooping around Round Four
Round four is underway and that means the top players are done with their idle time and have to get down to the business of beating actual opponents. All of the Japanese are playing now, which hopefully will reveal some interesting tech.
A quick tour around the room revealed that Osamu Fujita was playing Goblins and Masahiko Morita was playing Affinity. Tsuyoshi Fujita was playing a Green-White Slide deck that looked suspiciously like the deck he won the Trial with last night. Nothing too surprising so far.
Fortunately, another former Rookie of the Year had something new up his sleeve. Masashi Oiso flashed a big grin and wiggled his eyebrows as he fanned his Krark-Clan Ironworks deck in front of me. It was running some unusual looking cards like Second Sunrise and Roar of Reclamation-hey was that a Salvaging Station that just flipped by? I decided to settle in and watch the deck in action. Masashi was up one game on his opponent--Albertus Law, no less--already.
Albertus was playing the same deck as the rest of his Singapore Squad. The group settled on a Green-White Slide deck that they have dubbed, "Not an Elf". Apparently they tested an Eternal Witness/Wirewood Symbiote deck for weeks before determining that the Witness was a Human Shaman. Nick Wong and company had to resort to my personal favorite method of Witness Protection--Astral Slide.
Game 2 saw Albertus Rampant Growth on turn two and on turn three he played a Scrabbling Claws. He put two Darksteel Citadels on top of Oiso's deck the next turn. Two turns later he Shamaned a Talisman and Creeping Molded an Ancient Den. One Reap and Sow and second Plow Under later they were onto Game 3. Oiso shrugged at his handful of Thoughtcasts and Fabricates with no blue mana to be found.
Game 3 Oiso got to show off his creation. He led off with two Citadels, Talisman and Conjurer's Bauble. Albertus led off with a pair of Tranquil Thickets and attempted to slow Oiso down by Oxidizing the Talisman of Unity.
Oiso Fabricated for Krark-Clan Ironworks on his next turn and drew a card with his Bauble. Law had more cycling lands and was all tapped out after playing a Secluded Steppe and Rampant Growthing for a Plains. Oiso tried to go off and played his Ironworks.
He sacrificed a land to play a Myr Retriever and got back the Talisman, which he played with his two mana from the sac'd Retriever. He ad another Retriever and was able to make two white by sacrificing the Talisman and getting it back again. With double white in his pool he sacrificed everything and cast Roar of Reclamation putting his whole yard back into play. He was still missing the pieces he needed to go off and dug for them with Thoughtcast, Scrabbling Claws, and a Retrievered Bauble. When he did not find what he was looking for he passed the turn to Law.
Law tapped five and attempted to Plow Under two Citadels but Oiso ate them both and burned for four. He dug with Thoughtcast on the next turn but could only mister and attack for one with his Retriever. Law cast Creeping Mold on the Ironworks and Oiso sacrificed his Retriever to fetch Scrabbling Claws. He used Second Sunrise EOT to return the Ironworks and Retriever to play. By this time a large crowd was gathering as word of Oiso's deck spread.
Oiso dug deep with Thoughtcast, Claws, and Bauble until he found the cards he wanted. He sacrificed everything to the Ironworks and cast another Roar of Reclamation. He Fabricated for a Salvaging Station and played it with his abundant floating mana. He began to go off with the Salvaging Station, two Myr Retrievers, and a Conjurer's Bauble until he found a Fabricate and searched for a Pyrite Spellbomb.
He sacrificed everything again and brought it all back with Second Sunrise. Now he was able to cycle a Chromatic Sphere and the Pyrite Spellbomb enough times to kill his opponent. Once he demonstrated the cycle--he had the mana to keep activating the Sphere from his floating mana--Albertus conceded.
The words "He built a new Replenish…" were heard wafting from the crowd.
Saturday, July 24: 12:12 pm - Beacon Station
While watching the Trial's last night there was one deck that I found myself pulling for in one of the later events. It was a mono-green deck that bore a passing resemblance to the Elf and Nail decks from US Regionals/Nationals. The deck had fallen out of favor without the card drawing of Skullclamp to power it up. Plus, with all the green decks running around since the debt of Eternal Witness, nobody really wanted to tap out for a Vernal Bloom that the opponent could take advantage of first.
Thailand's Pulperm Phungrachit came up with a new twist on the deck that utilizes a group of cards that seem as outlandish as the original listing of Elf and Nail. He retained the Symbiote/Wood Elf synergy and often has twice the land in play as his opponent by turn four or five. He presses that advantage with Beacon of Creation. The Beacon interacts with his Blasting Stations and Fecundity in ways that are downright sickening. In the third round of today's tournament I watched him kill an Arch-Slogger and draw five cards in the process with his combo. He finished his opponent off a turn later with Biorhythm.
He ended up losing his third round despite having the kill in hand. He could have played a second Blasting Station with his opponent at six. He was holding a pair of Symbiotes which would have put four Blasting Station triggers on the stack. When they resolved he could have sacrificed two more creatures to finish off his opponent. Pulperm did not see the kill and is in danger of falling out of contention for Day Two--he lost in the first round to a Salvaging Station deck.
The deck looks fairly complicated to play with complicated stacks and come into and leave play effects--Heralds, Witnesses, Stations, Fecundity, etc. Even if Pulperm fails to do well this weekend I hope his deck will at least warrant a closer look. We will not be posting decks until Day Two but I will follow up with a list regardless of the outcome.
Saturday, July 24: 10:41 am - Stuff
I left New York at 9pm on Tuesday and arrived at my hotel on Thursday somewhere between 2pm and 3pm. It was definitely the longest flight of my coverage career with a better than twenty-four span from departing airport to baggage claim in Malaysia. I read four books and watched one movie en route with intermittent sleep in between each.
Hidalgo should have been much better with the potential to be an Indiana Jones type roller coaster but it fell just short of the mark. If nothing else it needed to not have the horse doing Danny Thomas spit-takes every other scene.
With no other movies of interest to me on the menu, I read a Robert Heinlein novella that I missed as a teen, "Revolt in 2010", and it was a fine distraction as was Robert Crais' "Demolition Angel" that I grabbed from a remainder bin just before leaving the city. I had high hopes for "Twisted City" by Jason Starr. The lurid cover featured a quote from Joe R Lansdale--one of my favorite crime guys--comparing the author to James M Cain and Jim Thompson--two more of my favorite crime guys--and it seemed like to contain all the necessary evils for a juicy airplane read.
It was a bit of a letdown. Starr is clearly a fan of Thompson and that was a little too apparent for my tastes. Perhaps it was meant as an homage--I haven't read any of his other books so I don't know if this is his usual style or a departure--but it just left me hungry for "The Killer Inside Me", "The Grifters", "Pop. 1280", or anything else by Thompson.
The book that really nailed me was "Samaritan" by Richard Price. I have been a huge fan of Price's fro years going back to the "The Wanderers" and "Clockers". I hadn't read his previous book and I had been meaning to pick up his latest for months but kept putting it off. I grabbed a trade paperback of it at the airport and it kept me riveted from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur and even distracted me from my lunatic cab driver on the way to the hotel. I can't recommend it highly enough!
When I got to the hotel I made the mistake of letting my head hit the pillow at three in the afternoon and I woke up around 3am with only HBO to get me through to breakfast. Good grief, Rollerball is a bad film! I wandered over to the site after breakfast and was startled to find an ice skating rink on the middle of the mall. We are in the jungle just this side of the equator after all.
Things are a bit slow here right now (as you can probably tell by the book review) but once the lunch break--LUNCH BREAK?!?--is over things should kick into high gear. I'll spy on the Japanese decks, give you a metagame breakdown of all 260+ decks, talk to guest artist John Avon, and look at an interesting deck that just missed in yesterday's Trials.