Saturday, November 12: 12:07 p.m. - Turn One Kill Update
Joseph Giancarlo scored a turn one kill!
Jamie Parke was the victim of the tournament's first turn one kill scant seconds into round two. Parke was on the play and led off against Joseph Giancarlo with Cabal Therapy only to whiff. I'm not sure Jamie realized he was dead as looked at the interesting assortment of cards in Joseph's claw-sporting hand.
Joseph led off with a Lotus Petal. He took out a die and starting keeping track of the spells cast - a sure sign that Jamie was in trouble. Two Dark Rituals followed and the die turned to three. Cruel Bargain yielded four new cards. Land Grant was spell number five. Elvish Spirit Guide powered out Tinder Wall. Lion's Eye Diamond and Lotus Petal were spells seven and eight. Burning Wish for Tendrils - sac'ing the Diamond in response - were the ninth and lethal tenth spells for the turn.
Jamie did have the last laugh as he came back to win the next two with his Flame Vault combo deck.
Saturday, November 12: 12:22 p.m. - Round Three Walkabout
Ken Krouner goes berserker!
There are multiple flavors of brokenness going on already. Chris Pikula opted for the original combo this weekend with Dark Ritual into Hypnotic Specter. His opponent led off with Goblin Lackey. All Chris had on his own turn was Cursed Scroll - a card Chris had to explain the mechanics of to his opponent - and hope for the best. Opponent parlayed his Lackey into Siege-Gang Commander. Chris made the boo-boo face.
Things looked up for Chris in Game 2 when he led off with the aforementioned combo that goes back to Alpha. In Game 3 Darkblast and Engineered Plague was more than enough to annihilate the entire race of goblins across the table.
Ken Krouner experienced similar ups and downs in his round three match-up against White Weenie. Ken was playing Affinity with Beserks and Dark Confidants. He took the first game when he Berserked a Cranial Plating equipped Ornithopter for the win.
"In playtesting I never - EVER - got to Beserk a plated creature. I was so convinced of the combo that I left it in."
Ken did not have similar luck in the second and third games as Silver Knights held back his team in the following games. At least he seemed to have fun in Game 1.
No one can be having more fun than Mike Pustilnik though. Mikey P is gaming with everyman's favorite deck - Secret Force. He only had two byes for this event and had to fight against green-white weenie in round three. Mike's only game loss came to rust in the form of a deck registration error. In the other two games bracketing the loss - that Mike called the judge's attention to - Verdant Force dominated the board while happy onlookers crowded around to watch.
Saturday, November 12: 1:18 p.m. - Round Four Fight!
Chris Pikula really DID make a booboo face!
I was hoping for a rematch between Pro Tour Los Angeles semifinal competitors Billy Moreno and Chris "Star Wars Kid" McDaniel but fate did not put a Hollywood spin on the first round of action with byes in the rearview mirror. Instead I went for the cheap titter from the crowd and had the two of them play their round four matches at the feature tables.
Moreno was playing Mike Flores' RDW with Kird Apes and black for Darkblast. Billy has already become a fixture on the NY Magic scene taking part in the regular draft action at Neutral Ground. He also took part in the Legacy Mock Tournament there earlier in the week. His opponent Vincent Cheng was also playing in that tournament with Gro-a-Tog - the same deck he was playing at the Grand Prix. Vincent had zero byes for the tournament and was off to a 3-0 start.
Billy smiled as he settled into the cordoned off area. ""Alright, this is my seventh straight feature match."
Vincent won the coin toss and made a Quirion Dryad on turn two after Billy's Jackal Pup. He made another Dryad on the following turn - requiring a topdecked fetch land to find the green after Billy Wastelanded a Tropical - and started doing the Gro-a-Tog thing.
Billy's efforts to slay the pesky green critters were foiled by a sequence of free counters including Daze and Force of Will. They quickly grew out of range of Billy's burn and went all the way.
"How many cards are left in your deck?" asked Chris McDaniel. The question was addressed to Eugene Levin who was playing the DeRosa designed Landstill deck which was tweaked to crush agro decks Game 1. McDaniel was playing High Tide. Game 1 went to McDaniel shortly thereafter.
Billy made the classic opening of Taiga into Kird Ape with a little new school Wooded Foothills flavor. He added a pair of Pups on the following turn. Vincent Swords to Plowshared the Kird Ape and Blly gained back the two life he lost to his sac lands. Vincent frustrated Billy with a third turn Psychatog - he was holding two sideboarded Plagues and not Red Elemental Blasts that he had left sitting on the sidelines.
Billy was undeterred and sent his Pups into the red zone. Vincent blocked one and pitched a Dryad to save it. Billy added a Cursed Scroll to his suddenly sparse board and passed the turn. Vincent had no attack and sent it back with Intuition for three AKs waiting in his hand.
Vince had to wait another turn to do anything and heard the dreaded words: "Cursed Scroll you naming Fireblast." With two cards in Billy's hand he took two from the Scroll - which made Vince a little nervous.
Billy Moreno, left, and Vincent Cheng
Vince could not AK at the end of Billy's turn because he had to counter Engineered Plague. With no fourth land he chose to wait again and countered another Plague on the following turn. He finally had a chance to AK and Billy tried to Fireblast him but the last card he was holding was Counterspell.
Meddling Mage naming Fireblast came down for Vincent. Billy was able to get Vince tantalizingly close to dead but Pernicious Deed off the top cleared the board -- Vincent fell to three. He didn't have enough to make the Tog go lethal and got in for four. Billy was at 12.
From there it just a matter of chump blocking before Vince could finish him off. Even if he had drawn a Lightning Bolt or Fireblast on the final turn it would have been countered.
"I can't beat Psychatog," sighed Billy after the match.
"Heh, the one Tog in my deck," beamed Vincent who was not 4-0 the hard way. "The randomness."
Eugene and Chris were both shaking their heads as I came over for the comclusion of their match. Both players had fat hands and Eugene explained, "You missed it… I Fact or Fictioned and he Twincast it. We both revealed five spells."
Chris leered over his grip of instants, "And they were all blue"
Chris McDaniel and Eugene Levin
I did arrive just in time for the fight over Rule of Law from Levin. Three Force of Wills, one Counterspell, and an unsatisfying Brainstorm later the enchantment resolved. Eugene's board now featured Crucible of Worlds, Seal of Cleansing and Rule of Law. He was replaying Flooded Strand each turn from his bin.
Mike Flores was watching the match and was aghast over the agnostic card advantage, "That is just filthy Eugene. Simply filthy."
Chris looked hurt and teased, "I am getting him pretty low."
At this point Billy looked over from where he had been playing his match. "Where are your Heartbeats?"
McDaniel smiled at the High Tides he was holding and played up for the crowd, "Oh there's heartbeats. They just can't be naturalized"
Eugene was thinking about how the rest of the game was going to play out and finally asked, "If I don't play a spell for the rest of the game…can you win?"
Chris shrugged and continued to play. Eugene triumphantly pulled a Mishra's factory off the top of his deck which now gave him a way to win. Chris realized he had to make a play and cast Chain of Vapor targeting Rule of Law. "If that resolves I will be very surprised."
Eugene had the Counterspell and seemed very confident, "I figured out how not to lose that game."
"Yeah, you didn't want to cast any spells - EVER," agreed Chris. "I think I messed up that game. I should have tried to kill you during the Fact or Fiction."
"Maybe although I don't know how you would do it," Levin agreed cautiously. "I mean I don't even know what my deck does that well."
A happy Antonino DeRosa wandered over after winning his round four match playing an indentical deck to Eugene's. He warned his teammate that perfection was in jeopardy. "Eugene, our deck has not lost yet so don't lose."
Time was running out in the round and the two players were just going into turn two. "I don't think I can win in eight minutes. I think I can not lose." But that was before Levin played a turn two Standstill with Mishra's Factory in play.
McDaniel slumped, "I think you can kill me." Chris broke the Standstill with Flash of Insight EOT and Levin allowed it resolve pitching three cards of his ten cards. At the end of McDaniel's next turn, when Levin broke a fetch land, Chris tried to go for the win. He cast High Tide in response and then Impulsed. Brainstorm didn't offer much excitement so he cracked his own fetchland and shuffled.
Chris's first Brainfreeze was for twelve cards. He cast another for fourteen. Just as time was called he tried a third copy of the storm spell. Eugene Counterspelled one copy and Force of Willed another. He was left with four cards remaining in his deck.
All eyes on Star Wars Kid
"Your fetchland resolves," grumbled McDaniel.
Eugene played Crucible of Worlds and a Volcanic Island out of his graveyard and passed the turn resigned to the draw.
McDaniel tried to find a last burst of gas with Brainstorm but he didn't find what he needed and the match ended stalemated.
DeRosa shook his head as they filled out the match result slip for the table judge. "This is where I would have conceded if I was Eugene. He is playing a deck that is designed to beat Goblins and he is not going to find any goblins waiting in the draw bracket."
Saturday, November 12: 1:51 p.m. - Paul Lyons
Paul Lyons demonstrates how he got to the tourney.
"Does someone have a camera? Cause this is never going to happen for me again."
A happy Paul Lyons found himself in the feature match area during round five. His opponent was Level Two Judge Jason Gaudard, who works with Head Judge John Shannon. Both players were with goblins but Jason mulliganed both games. Paul quickly found himself at 5-0 with the help of three byes earned at a Rhode Island GP Trial.
A few more wins and Paul might have to get used to having his picture taken.
Saturday, November 12: 2:48 p.m. - Goblin Name Game
"This is not a good tournament to be playing Goblins," claimed Gerry Thompson - one of the few Pros in the room with actual Legacy tournament experience. "I saw one player with maindeck Absolute Law and four Engineered Plagues as well.
Steven "Glasses" Cohen was playing one the more unlikely cards in the room specifically to combat the powerful turn one Goblin Lackey. Steve's deck was Mono-White Control which runs a light mana base and but compensates with cycling and cantrips. Four maindeck Rune of Protection: Red are a nice part of that package for Steven but the card that has been really exciting it Bandage. Bandage cantrips on turn one for a card but more importantly prevents that nasty point of turn one Lackey damage.
Goblins is actually his ideal match-up, or so he says, but when he faced off against the deck in round four as interpreted by Chris Connelly, he came away empty-handed.
"I played the one goblin deck in the room that can actually destroy all my lands," moaned Glasses. "He also had maindeck disenchants for my Runes."
There has been much debate over whether to call Connelly's deck Goblegeddon or Arm-a-Goblin but either way you choose you get a Goblin deck packing Armageddon. At last check the deck was off to a 4-0-1 start without the assistance of any byes.
Saturday, November 12: 3:20 p.m. - Round Six Feature Matches
Chicks love Chris Pikula.
Chris Pikula was off to a 5-0 start with his black-white homebrew. He sat down to a round six feature match with Ray Tautic - fresh from his Top 64 in Los Angeles - wearing a "Chicks Love Nerds" T-shirt. Chicks may love him but the Invitational winner got no love from the judges as the table official came over with the players' name placards and asked, "Which one of you is Chris and which one of you is Ray?"
"Man that was rough. Times are tough all over," winced Pikula, once one of the most popular and funny players on the Tour.
"Some guy asked me to sign his Meddling Mages," laughed Chris. "Pairings went up and then I had to play him. And beat him."
At least he is still popular.
Chris led things off with Ritual for Nantuko Shade and announced "Pump it" for his third mana. Ray looked at his hand and slowed things down.
Chris hadn't considered Force of Will. "Am I going to burn for one?" It resolved and started to beat down on the next turn. Ray showed Force on turn three when Chris pointed Vindicate at his Volcanic Island. Ray used the land to Brainstorm but it resolved. Ray went to twelve on his next turn after sacrificing two fetch lands and casting Time Vault. Chris aimed Sinkhole at another Volcanic and swung for four with his Shade.
Ray banged on his deck. Wooded Foothills took him to seven. He dropped Stasis and untapped Time Vault to give Chris a pair of turns. He let the Stasis go and took the turn back. He played another Stasis. He used Chain of Vapor on his Stasis end of turn and finished the job with a fourth land and Flame Fusillade.
Chris, who had been working on a Tome Vault deck with Brian Manalokos and Jamie Parke, was impressed, "I never thought to put Stasis in that deck."
There was little chance of Ray not playing Stasis although he did not have this decklist until 2AM before the tournament when it was handed to him by deck designer Rich Shay. It is one of Ray's all-time favorite cards - although it has rarely been used like this before. Ray agreed, "In a format where I can actually play Stasis? Obviously I am going to play it."
Chris's Duress revealed a hand with FoW, two Intuition, Burning Wish, Brainstorm, Chrome Mox and only one land. Chris stared intently at the selection unable to decide which one to take. After prodding from the judge urging him to play faster Chris took the Mox.
Chris attempted Dark Ritual on the next turn but it was Force of Willed. He had no second land. Brainstorm found Ray his second land as well as another Brainstorm that protected him from Hymn to Tourach on the next turn.
Time Vault hit play a turn later. Chris used Sinkhole to keep Ray off of Red mana. Flooded Strand replaced the Volcanic but he was still a whole turn off. Ray Burning Wished for the sorcery but was still a land away from going off. Chris shut that off with Pithing Needle naming Time Vault.
Hypnotic Specter followed by Dark Confidants on each of the following turns was enough for Ray to pack it in.
"I thought I had you when I Forced the Ritual and you said 'go'."
Chris beamed, "And then I peeled like a Freshman. I can't believe the judge wanted me to make that decision any faster than I did. I still don't know what card to take."
Chris was a little taken aback when his Dark Ritual was Force of Willed on turn one but he wasn't complaining. Chris had Hymn to Tourach on the next turn and laughed since he was getting two cards on each turn. "Its the old first turn Hymn, second turn Hymn."
Ray cracked his fetch land in response and Brainstormed. In the end he decided to Force of Will it. "You got your two cards out of it," shrugged Ray.
Chris had Dark Confidant ready to restock his hand and Duressed away Burning Wish. Ray had no play and almost no chance after Chris played Pithing Needle the turn after.
Mikey P likes to bring the beats!
Chris offered up Phyrexian Negator while Ray was scuffling for cards. Hymn set him back again and a second Dark Confidant put the icing on the cake.
Chris Pikula was now 6-0 and almost assuredly locked into Day Two.
One table over Mikey P was pitting his verdant Force against John Fiorillo's Goblins. Things looked bad for the former PT Champion but a timely Masticore and Gaea's Cradle helped him make short work of army that one turn earlier had allowed John to take down one Verdant Force with Goblin Incinerator.
It's always the second Verdant Force that kills you. Mikey P also advanced to 6-0 and a likely berth on Day Two.
Saturday, November 12: 3:59 p.m. - Advantage Cuneo
Mark Ioli don't play with Elephant Grass!
"I don't know what that frickin card does," exclaimed Long Island's Mark Ioli, last seen in the Top 8 of GP SLC, as he read Andrew Cuneo's Elephant Grass. "I have never even seen it before he played it."
Andrew Cuneo is a hidden gem among the many great players who have emerged from the CMU Magic factory. The last time he popped up on the Magic scene was when he won the first online qualifier for World Championships a couple of years back. Cuneo was 5-1 in the tournament when he ran up against Mark Ioli's goblin deck. Despite a fast start from the red player, complete with Goblin Lackey and friends, Cuneo quickly seized control of the game with Argothian Enchantress providing obscene card advantage. Words of Wind allowed him to pick up and replay the Elephant Grass - effectively giving it an upkeep of 1.
One of these sides is not like the other...
Pretty soon Andrew had something close to thirty permanents in play and Ioli had ZERO. Andrew showed him the Living Wish for Ambassador Laquatas and they went on to Game 2. The second game was pretty much the same except that Andrew played his Enchantress on turn one. First turn Lackey from Ioli got in for a point of damage - freerolling Goblin Matron - but that was all the damage he would muster as Elephant Grass came out on the second turn.
Cuneo went to 6-1 going into the final round. His only loss came from a Threshold deck with Meddling Mages.
Speaking of Meddling Mages…
Chris Pikula defeated Antonino DeRosa to rattle off a 7-0 start to his weekend. It was not all sunshine for Chris though.
"You know what the problem with Magic tournaments is? You just can't walk around asking people to loan you some Chapstick. I really need some."
Saturday, November 12: 5:27 p.m. - It was the Best of Times…
Gerard Fabiano is on full-blown tilt!
Surrounded by Goblin player all over the top tables sat Gerard Fabiano and Chris Pikula with homebrew decks at 7-0. Pikula's almost mono-black control deck had been tuned for weeks and even 3-0'd a gauntlet of decks at a recent Neutral Ground practice tournament. Gerard, on the other hand, --"on full-blown tilt" according to Gabe Walls - frantically built his deck from scratch late last night. He was apparently pawing through people's binders and throwing cards together until he found something he liked.
It seemed to have worked out well for him though as he rattled off four wins after three byes allowed him to catch up on some much needed sleep after his late-night deckbuilding.
Chris and Gerard split the first two games. Gerard won the first one when Chris's Hymn to Tourach allowed him to madness a Violent Eruption just as it looked like the Meddling Mage might stabilize. In Game 2 a torrent of Wastelands, Hymns, Sinkholes, and Vindicates kept Gerard nearly permanentless throughout the game. He had gotten some early damage in and hoped that Chris's Dark Confidant would turn on its controller. Apparently the Invitational winners had arrived at some unholy pact because Chris never seemed to hit anything but land after land. He did use Gerard's Verdict on himself to discard two of those lands and gain six points worth of breathing room.
Gerard was eventually overwhelmed and they went onto Game 3. Chris StP'd Gerard's Wild Mongrel and Sinkholed Taiga. He Vindicated another Mongrel and played out Cursed Scroll and Dark Confidant. With a second Scroll he managed to get get Gerard to one with six mana in play. He had two cards in hand - Engineered Plague and Sinkhole. For two turns he rolled the dice - literally - and tried to finish Gerard off during upkeep and kept missing. Meanwhile Gerard found Sword of Fire and Ice and a Kird Ape to hoist it.
Chris Pikula clearly doesn't know the rules.
There was one point where Chris could dredge up Darkblast, use it, Sinkhole a land and have three mana left for a 100% accurate Scroll but Gerard used Wasteland during Chris's upkeep. He could still do the same thing but didn't actually realize he could float the mana through to his draw step. Instead he responded to the Wasteland by rolling the dice one more time - and whiffing twice.
Gerard was able to get him to two but was out of gas. Pikula tried the Scroll one more time and was finally successful. When the match was over spectators and coverage reporters explained to Chris what he could have done.
"I clearly just don't know the rules," laughed a happy Pikula. He was one of three players to emerge from Day One at 8-0.
Saturday, November 12: 6:16 p.m. - It Was the Worst of Times…
Gabriel Nassif couldn't make the bubble.
On the other side of the table Gabriel Nassif was fighting for his Day Two life against Mark Ioli. Nassif was playing a counter-Sliver/sexy Rector hybrid that could lock out Goblins with Crystalline Sliver and Worship.
Despite having his deck fire on all cylinders in Game 2 - Night of Soul's Betrayal, Worship, and a timely Hydroblast for the Pyroblast on his Sliver - his deck fell before the mana disruption in Mark's deck in the games on either side of that one. Dust Bowl did him in during Game 1 and, after keeping a mana-light hand in Game 3, a well-placed Wasteland knocked him from Day Two.