Sunday, Nov 12: 12:18 p.m. - Decklists: Day 1 Undefeated Decks
by Noah Weil
GP New Jersey 06: 9-0
GP New Jersey 06: 9-0
GP New Jersey 06: 9-0
GP New Jersey 06: 9-0
Sunday, Nov 12: 12:29 p.m. - Drafting with Rich Hoaen and Matt Vienneau
by Noah Weil
Matt Vienneau ponders his deck
After nine rounds of swiss, these two found themselves at table #1 for the first draft entering day two of Grand Prix New Jersey. Both hailing from Canada, these friends have worked together repeatedly in anticipation of this event. This time, not only do these two find themselves at the same table, but in this case are sitting right next to each other. Will their practice pay off?
Matt, on Rich's right, opened Sudden Spoiling, Dark Withering, Crookclaw Transmuter, and Snapback as his reasonable first picks. Making a big commitment but taking the strongest card out of the pack, Vienneau went with Sudden Spoiling as the opener. Rich's first pick was a simple one as Pardic Dragon was of far greater value than any other card in the booster. His next choice had the Dark Withering, Transmuter, and Snapback; essentially giving Rich the choice of pairing his Red with Black or Blue. Rich went with conventional wisdom and attempted to craft one of the strongest color combinations in Time Spiral by taking Crookclaw Transmuter. Dark Withering would have been reasonable here, but generally R/U is stronger than R/B. This decision fit well with his neighbor's first pick of course. Matt's second pick was a welcome Serra Avenger, followed by Castle Raptors. The snag for Hoaen came in his third pick when, with a pack bereft of Red and Blue cards, he took a Temporal Isolation. Luckily for Rich, Matt was gobbling up enough of the White that that color never really became a factor again. On the other hand, Matt's deck was lacking a second color as his Black was getting cut hard. Matt began to dabble with Green with a late Penumbra Spider and a very late Thrill of the Hunt. Apparently most of the drafters at this table were doing their best to avoid Green. Green/White isn't the most powerful combination, but when you're the only one drafting those colors it can get pretty vicious. Hoaen never edged above the "solid" category for the rest of pack 1, but a Foriysian Totem, Basalt Gargoyle, and a late Empty the Warrens were certainly welcome. At the end of the first rotation, both players were solidly entrenched in their combinations.
For the second booster, passing towards Matt Vienneau, Rich Hoaen opened a very juicy assortment. Among other things, it contained Rift Bolt, Magus of the Disk, Griffin Guide, Snapback, Riftwing Cloudskate, and Dragon Whelp. Rich could have been tempted to a White splash if there wasn't such a high concentration of R/U cards. As it was, the Dragon Whelp edged out the Riftwing Cloudskate for first pick status. His next picks severely dropped in quality, so much so that Rich was literally shaking his head as he was forced to grab a Goblin Skycutter, Assassinate, and Calciform Pools as his next three. A later Solkanar and Brine Elemental piqued his interest, but all in all, the second pack was fairly terribly for Hoaen.
Vienneau, on the other hand, was raking in the quality. After happily taking a second pick Magus of the Disk, he added double Amrou Seekers, another Thrill of the Hunt and another Penumbra Spider to his deck. A pair of Flickering Spirits, Knight of the Holy Nimbus, and a Search for Tomorrow further diversified the threats. Going into the last booster, Vienneau's deck was looking very focused and strong.
The final pack was very reasonable for both of the Canadian pros. Vienneau started off with the excellent Duskrider Peregrine, and got a nice reach spell in his second pick with Squall Line. A third pick Soltari Priest gave him extra evasion. With a welcome 6th pick Amrou Scout and a third Thrill of the Hunt, Vienneau's deck ended up a highly efficient G/W machine. Interestingly, he almost bent over backward to stay out of his neighbors' colors' way. Partially it was due to Vienneau's high prevalence of pickables, and certainly part of it was due to Matt trying to help out his friend and countrymen. Either way, it gave Rich's deck a boost it sorely needed.
Another day at the office for Rich Hoaen
Rich was happy to see a Riftwing Cloudskate for his first pick, although he did give a chuckle over the Dragonstorm. After all, Rich already had two dragons to find. Looter il-Kor over Wipe Away was his next pick. The third saw a very close decision between Fire Whip and Rift Bolt, but remembering Empty the Warrens, Rich went with the suspend card. The rest of the boosters went fairly well for Rich, as he added Grapeshot, Conflagrate, Think Twice, Crookclaw Transmuter, and a great gift in a 9th pick Coal Stoker. While his deck still wasn't tier 1, the cards this round helped solidify Rich's deck into a very reasonable concoction.
In the end, these table 1 players did an excellent job of reading signals and staying out of each other's way. Both ended up with much stronger decks because of it. When speaking to them after the draft, both thought they did the best they could with what they received, but weren't ecstatic with the final builds. Interestingly, they independently placed their chances at "1-2, or 2-1" at the table. We'll see if their predictions come true.
Sunday, Nov 12: 1:17 p.m. - Round 10: Gerry Thompson vs. Antonino Da Rosa
by Noah Weil
The always smiling Antonino 'Ant' Da Rosa
These jovial players were having a nice tournament so far, both entering the round at 9-1. These two clearly liked and respected each other, but as always, at the sound of the bell they were focused on the duel. Being this close to top 8 territory made this match even more important. Every player wanted a record allowing them to draw into the top 8. Winning here would bring the option that much closer.
Game 1: Both players had solid early game plays in the first game. Gerry's R/G/U deck led with a Chromatic Star and sacrificed it at the end of the second turn for an Ashcoat Bear. The Bear avoided attacking into or blocking Antonino's Pit Keeper, which also came down early and started swinging. The reason for saving that bear became evident as Gerry flashed a Strength in Numbers, but used it to kill Ant's Skulking Knight. Deciding to up the stakes, Antonino summoned Jaya Ballard, Task Mage to start incinerating Gerry's army. Gerry Thompson's next creature, a Phantom Wurm, put a kink in that plan. The second Phantom Wurm made Ant's situation even more precarious. Facing the two Wurms put Da Rosa's back against the wall, but he rallied with a Kjeldon Halberdier. The Halberdier, Jaya, and Pit Keeper stayed back for a turn, along with six full mana. What crazy Jaya combination did Antonino have in store for the Minnesotan?
Invincible Craw Wurms are tough to handle
Who knows, Gerry drew and cast Sudden Shock on Jaya Ballard. Split second, aka protection from bluffers, completely derailed Da Rosa's scheme. A rapidly morphed and un-morphed Coral Trickster took out a remaining blocker and Antonino gave up the first game.
Da Rosa: 0
Da Rosa: "Dude I thought we were buddies!"
Thompson: "We are. I sent a giant 5/5 Black creature to you in pack two"
Da Rosa: Dude let's make a pact. Whoever wins the match beats the two French players at the table."
Thompson: "I'll agree to that pact."
Game 2: Gerry deliberated his opener of Mountain, Island, Chromatic Star and some green cards but decided to keep. His third turn fixed things beautifully, as he sacrificed the Star for green mana and used it to cast Search for Tomorrow, getting an untapped Forest he used to suspend Durkwood Baloth. Next turn, in response to his opponent's Vampiric Sliver, Gerry played his Timeshift special: Giant Oyster.
Da Rosa: "I've read this card a hundred times and I still don't know what it does."
The Italian-American learned quickly enough as his Kjeldon Halberdier died a draw step death after attacking. The creatures did manage to deal 7 points along the way however. Afterwards Antonino added a second Vampiric Sliver to his side of the board. The Oyster died to Soot and things began to look a lot closer. Baloth traded with a flashed Bogardan Rager…
Da Rosa: "The Rager sneaked up on you. Rawrr!"
Thompson: "So tricksy Ant"
Gerry Thompson amused with the match
…and Viscered Deepwalker traded with one of the slivers. Gerry was nearly out of gas at this point, but a topdecked Brine Elemental stopped the remaining sliver from dealing more. The Elemental in turn was stopped by a topdecked Halberdier, until Gerry showed a Sudden Shock. The Brine Elemental's attack brought Antonino down to a mere two life. Ant's return hit brought Gerry to four, where his third Kjeldon Halberdier again attempted to stave off Briney.
Gerry drew a blank at this point and had to pass it back. Unfortunately for Da Rosa, he made his big mistake here. The Halberdier attacked this turn, but alone; Vampiric Sliver was left on defense. Gerry chumped with the Elemental, than drew a Grapeshot to kill the 4/1. The unopposed sliver brought Gerry down to 1 life, but it wasn't game over. That extra turn gave Gerry one more draw step, where he found his second Sudden Shock and aimed it directly at his opponent's two points of life. Game, set, match.
Afterwards Da Rosa was kicking himself for the missed attack. He explained he left the sliver back to defend against a haste or flash creature, while forgetting the Strangling Soot still in his graveyard. It was one mistake in a well-played match, but at this level of play, one is all it takes.
Da Rosa: 0
Sunday, Nov 12: 2:45 p.m. - Drafting with Shouta Yasooka and Guillaume Wafo-Tapa
by Noah Weil
France's Guillaume Wafo-Tapa
Shouta Yasooka came to this Grand Prix as the Player of the Year points leader. At this point, the final draft of the swiss, Shouta has entered at 13th place in the tournament. That ranking puts him within spitting distance of the top 8, and gives Yasooka a strong chance to add distance with his current PotY standing. If Shouta can work alongside his neighbor, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, then they both have an excellent opportunity to add PT points and a GP top 8 to their résumés. Does anyone hear a train?
Shouta opened up a very difficult booster for his first pick. Fathom Seer, Ivory Giant, Grapehsot, or if he wanted to go with a high-quality card, Squall Line, Jolrael Empress of Beasts, and Scryb Ranger. Shouta, upset about the poor signal but not willing to let that quality get through him, took a first pick Jolrael. His next few picks put him on the Blue path, as he grabbed a Lesser Mawcor over Nantuko Shaman, and a Spiketail Drakeling over Mistform Ultimus. Crookclaw Transmuter and Cancel also made the deck, but the weak packs forced Shouta into Black and White directions. Where was the Green?
Guillaume, his neighbor on the right, started with a Jaya Ballard then took Stonewood Invocation. Double Empty the Warrns played nice with suspend, in this case a Search for Tomorrow. Guillaume too had dry Green, indicating someone upstream wanting to play with Forests. A little more Red landed in Guillaume's pile, but with a ninth pick Shadow Guildmage he had threads of Black going as well. Uh oh.
Shouta started off in some varied directions, as his first three picks were Looter il-Kor, Sporesower Thallid, and a surprising third pick Soul Collector. Staying with the theme of ignoring colored mana symbols, Shouta's fourth pick was Merieke Ri Berit in an otherwise weak pack. The trouble came when Guillaume started off Green as well, assuming he had passed so little it would be flowing in the second pack. A first pick Nantuko Shaman led to a second pick Scryb Ranger. There was no red or green picks at #3, so Guillaume went to his fourth color with Griffin Guide. A Thrill of the Hunt played well with ///(?) storm, and of course he had to get a Terramorphic Expanse ASAP. It looked like Black was going to be tossed aside, until his eighth pick was the incredible Sedge Sliver. The Skittering Monstrosity ninth pick further solidified the black plan.
Shouta had passed the Sedge for some White cards, but after seeing the depth of black coming back decided to dip his toe as well. A pair of Feebleness made his deck, along with a late Dread Return. At the end of the second pack, all I could say about each players decks is that Shouta was playing "not red" and Guillaume was playing "not blue".
Player of the Year frontrunner Shouta Yasooka
The third pack saw one of the most unusual sequence of picks I've ever witnessed at a major event. Each player started by opening power Black. Guillaume saw a Phthisis in his first 15, while Shouta had to choose between Stronghold Overseer or his own copy of Phthisis. Guillaume took his Phthisis while Shouta took the rare, which if you're wondering puts worth of cards taken in the first pick of pack three. Guillaume's next pack was extra saucy, with Tendrils of Corruption, Sudden Death, Magus of the Scroll, and a Rift Bolt. After debating down to the wire, Guillaume stayed with the theme of "creatures that creatures" by taking the Magus. The third pick gave Guillaume a Sudden Death, while also giving Shouta…a Sudden Death. Things eased off after that, as Guillaume took Black and Red cards and Shouta took Black and Blue cards. At the end both players had fairly strong decks, but of course ended very inconsistently. If they each draw their colors to go along with the strong spells, they could take a 2-1 or better. At this point, that might be enough to squeeze into the rarefield top 8 territory.
Sunday, Nov 12: 4:01 p.m. - Judging the Game with Head Judge John Carter
by Noah Weil
I caught up with head judge John Carter near the end of the day. He shared his thoughts on the event, and some tips on becoming a better judge.
Level 4 head judge John Carter next to judge Ingrid Lind-Jahn
How do you feel the Grand Prix went this weekend?
There were a few mishaps early on. Anytime you have an event significantly larger than you expected there are going to be some burps. Once we were past round 4 everything was very smooth.
What was going on before round 4?
It was after round 4 that players stopped coming in with byes, which is disruptive. Also after that point, the staff settled into the routine of the event. I would say from round 5 on, the team starting functioning as a unit.
Anything you wish you had done differently with the organization or running of the GP?
There are always things I wish I could do better, but I believe the staff reacted quickly to events. Mainly the estimated count was off by 200 players, so I wish we had brought more tables and chairs.
What were the major mistakes the players made in regards to the rules and tournament structure for day's 1 and 2?
Day 1: A big mistake in the first day was players not showing up for their match on time. At a Grand Prix once the clock starts, if you're not in your seat that's a game loss. In the games, players would forget about suspends and echo, which sometimes got awkward. Occasionally a player would get so nervous, he'd say or do something he didn't mean to. It would be a big error and they'd call a judge essentially asking for a take-back. Unfortunately at this level, that can't be done.
On day two, wo players didn't show up for the draft. One did show up but it was after the draft had started. We couldn't back up for him of course. He had the choice of dropping or taking three match losses. As he was walking out he was heard to comment "This is the only tournament I've been to that's started on time!"
What was an interesting rules question you heard this weekend involving Time Spiral?
Merieke Ri Berit was being hit by a Strangling Soot. In response, the Ri Berit guy stole his opponent's Mogg War Marshall, thinking he would get a token. It doesn't work that way. As soon as the legend died the control effect ended, which was after the triggered ability that killed the War Marshall. So when the Mogg did go the graveyard, it was its owner that put a token into play.
Any advice for the aspiring judges out there?
You should definitely get involved with the Rules Advisor Program, which is a new program we started last week. Volunteer to work with an established judge at an FNM or PTQ or pre-release. When you do work with someone, be sure to ask lots and lots of questions.
Any advice for judges wanting to level up and start working the big events?
If you want to level up, you must study. Start working with judges new to you, and work the events they do. Working alongside people from different cities and different countries is a great way to see how other people work. Then you can start really honing your skills. The rules parts are really 1/3 to 1/2 of judge issues. A major part of judging is learning how to work with people.
Thanks for your time Mr. Carter!
Sunday, Nov 12: 8:45 p.m. - Round 15: Tim Aten vs. Tim McKenna
by Noah Weil
After two days of grueling competition, it came down to this final round of the swiss. While both of these players were guaranteed money, only the winner got to move on to play for the championship. The tension was thick as these two players were cordial but subdued as they focused on the task at hand.
A few "go Tim!" or "boo Tim!" came from the audience, but it just served to confuse the players.
Game 1: Aten, playing G/R/W with a heavy sliver component, kept his opener on the play. Short on white mana, it did contain Forests, Mountains, Durkwood Baloth, and Disintegrate. Tim McKenna, hailing from New York, was pleased with the draw his B/U deck had provided. McKenna's reason for his satisfaction became evident when he suspended Phthisis right behind the Baloth, then played a morph. The Coral Trickster traded with Aten's Spinneret Sliver, and Aten's Bonesplitter Sliver took a Tendrils of Corruption. That Disintegrate looked pretty bad with an opponent at 23 life. Still stuck with White cards and no Plains, the Baloth resolved for five points and a Pit Keeper chump block. Then, Aten lost 10 life and his best creature. With that blow and still color screwed, McKenna's Phyrexian Totem and Ghost Ship were free to run wild. An accidentally(?) flashed Wipe Away was enough to cause Aten to concede.
Tim McKenna: "It's been so long since I played real-life Magic; since I played in a big event. Also, Phthisis is good against big green creatures."
Game 2: Aten again started with his first-turn suspended Baloth. He panicked when his opponenent tapped an Island and a Swamp, but breathed a sigh of relief when he saw it was merely a Looer il-Kor. A third turn Firewake Sliver from Aten definitely confused McKenna
"Is this a real creature? I guess I'm at 19"
The Firewake looked a little more imposing as a 3/1 as it and Bonesplitter Sliver attacked for seven. The Bonesplitter took a Wipe Away, but Aten was still up in the damage race, especially with a Baloth continuing to unsuspend.
Bonesplitter made everything look better for a bit, but it took a Wipe Away, saving McKenna 6 points. A Vampiric Sliver immediately attacked, prompting a little pump of the fist from McKenna. Aten was in a racing mood and replayed Bonesplitter to hit back for 7 points. Put off by Aten's blatant disregard for his own life total, McKenna held off attacking the next turn with his 5/3 Vampiric. The Looter continued its dance though, stinging Aten down by points and improving McKenna's hand. The Bonesplitter got hit by Tendrils of Corruption while the Vampiric took a Rift Bolt. Aten made his big move after McKenna cast Trespasser il-Vec. A Conflagrate spread to kill both of McKenna's one-toughness creatures, and suddenly Aten was back in it. Each turn took a bit of time to deduce as each player was running out of threats. A Nantuko Shaman from Aten gave some back, but his turns were tough to juggle mana in play and cards in hand for the flashback Conflagrate.
Tim Aten's slivers ran wild over Tim McKenna
With a Fledgling Mawcor in play and no cards in hand, McKenna flashed back a previously discarded Think Twice, drew his card for the turn and studied the board. McKenna cast Psychotic Episode to release Aten's in hand Yavimaya Dryad, then ran his Mawcor ran into Aten's Spinneret Sliver. That dead Mawcor gave McKenna four creatures, enough to activate Pit Keeper. A nice double draw. Aten lost some card advantage by flashing back the Conflagrate and killing everything. Still, McKenna was low in life at this point. His Phyrexian Totem was being held off by Spitting Slug, but Aten couldn't punch through that Totem to deal the last points to McKenna. McKenna drew and cast Phthisis off the top to bring Aten down to 2 life, but Aten showed his own talents with a topdecked Thrill of the Hunt, randomly dealing four points and coming back for the game win.
Game 3: Aten kept a sketchy draw with two lands, some creatures, Cannonade, and Rift Bolt. Things looked worse for him as he missed drawing lands and McKenna went a second turn suspended Errant Ephemeron and a third turn morph. Aten could only suspend a Durkwood Baloth, which of course was the turn before McKenna suspended Phthisis. Yet Aten wasn't out of it. Assuming the Baloth death was good for 10 points of life loss, all Aten had to do was stay at 11 or higher. Lands started coming for Aten, as he killed the morph and started trading creatures for McKenna. The Ephemeron resolved, bringing Aten to exactly 11 life. Aten needed to draw a fifth land on his next turn to Disintegrate the Errant, and that's exactly what he did. The Baloth scored for five points, and as expected Aten went to 1 life from Phthisis. Still, he held on. Looter and McKenna each took a point off Conflagrate, bringing McKenna to ten life. On Aten's final turn, a suspended Search for Tomorrow resolved, giving Aten his Plains. His Bonesplitter Sliver took a Griffin Guide and attacked for 6 points. After combat, Aten discarded his entire hand to Conflagrate for exactly 4 damage, stealing the game and the match. A gigantic "whoop!" came from the crowd as the public favorite secured himself a top 8 berth. McKenna could only reveal his hand of all lands and wish Aten good luck in the quarters.
Tim McKenna: 1
Tim Aten: 2