March 15th, 2:30 p.m. – Dredge: Eight or Zero?
By Tom Fowler
Extended is a format containing many viable decks, some of which have emerged just this season. None of those decks, however, win as quickly as Dredge
. With its ability to fill up the graveyard and kill the opponent as early as the second turn, Dredge
is a very important deck to be able to beat. The prevailing wisdom is that Dredge
will win at least 80% of its first games, but can struggle mightily after sideboarding, depending on the hate brought in against it.
Throughout the PTQ season, many players brought in up to eight sideboard cards to shut down Dredge. Tormod's Crypt, Leyline of the Void, Extirpate, and Gaddock Teeg all saw heavy play in games two and three. With 970 players in the Grand Prix, and a wide-open field, just how many sideboard cards could be devoted to the Dredge matchup?
A few players I talked to were playing no sideboards cards at all for the matchup. One even acknowledged that this meant he was "punting the matchup," but his reason made sense. He told me he expected Dredge to be "a small percentage of the field," and he expected many Dredge players to have lost enough to other decks that he wouldn't have to face them. Virginia-area PTQ regular Kenny Mayer told me he went with zero because, "four is nearly useless, and I'll lose the first game every time."
At the other end of the spectrum, the full monty of eight sideboard cards was also infrequently seen. Surprisingly, players weren't concerned that they would be devoting over half their sideboard cards to one particular matchup. As Gerard Fabiano pointed out, many of the sideboard cards that are good against Dredge are also good against other strategies—Aggro Loam to name a specific deck, along with any of the many decks playing Tarmogoyf.
That overlap against other decks was undoubtedly why many players opted for six or seven cards against Dredge. The typical package among these players was Gaddock Teeg plus either Tormod's Crypt or Extirpate. Running both allows a player to attack each of Dredge's ways to win. Tormod's Crypt and Extirpate both handle the Bridge From Below plan, while Extirpate does double duty to help Gaddock Teeg against the Dread Return on Akroma, Angel of Wrath plan.
The majority of the players I talked to had some number between zero and six cards in the sideboards for Dredge. Even in numbers fewer than six, the Tormod's Crypt and Gaddock Teeg combo was popular. Players going with just four cards were all opting for Tormod's Crypt. Canadian Pro Tour player and judge Duncan McGregor told me he played just two Crypts in the sideboard of his burn deck because it's "a hope and pray defense." Like most players opting for the Burn deck, Duncan has Mogg Fanatics, Spark Elementals, and Keldon Marauders, all of which find their own ways to the graveyard very easily and make things hard for a Dredge player trying to win with Zombie tokens.
Despite many players expecting Dredge to be present only in small numbers, most of them were still prepared for it with sideboard cards. The fact that all of those sideboard cards are versatile enough to help in other matchups made the decision to include them easier.
March 15th, 2:45 p.m. – Quick Take with Luis Scott-Vargas
By Brian David-Marshall
"In the wake of Grand Prix Vancouver what has changed in the Extended metagame?"
Luis: "People are a lot more aware of Tron and TEPS. I expect people to be playing cards like Destructive Flow
was a great sideboard card against three of the eight decks that made the Top 8 of GP Vancouver and was even good enough against two more – the blue-green Tron decks – if you had didn't have anything better to side in."
"Only two Dredge decks made Day Two. If we play it this weekend we are going to lose to it. This season is in its twilight right now and the battle lines are drawn. In testing I made a list of every deck I considered to be playable – something you could win a deck with. There were fifteen decks. It is very hard to play a deck that can beat everything. For example the amount of work it takes to beat Goblins...It's not an amount of work we were prepared to do."
March 15th, 2:50 p.m. – Quick Take with Jacob Van Lunen
By Brian David-Marshall
"In the wake of Grand Prix Vancouver what has changed in the Extended metagame?"
Jacob Van Lunen
Jacob: "TEPS is a major issue. It is an absurdly powerful combo deck that fell off the radar because of all the attention focused on Dredge
. It has Slaughter Pact
for Teeg and Pact of Negation
for everything else. Those are the two big cards that push it over the top."
"The three decks that have gained the most value are TEPS, Goblins – Engineered Plague might be really good – and the stupid burn deck. Who would have thought that in this Extended format, where everything is so powerful, that Lava Spike would be good – or Spark Elemental for that matter?"
"Jason Imperiale playing Dredge might just win this GP. He can play the deck better than anyone else and because Goblins won some grinders last night people had to make room for Engineered Plagues. Although the one thing that might keep Dredge in check is all the Goblin decks. With all the sac outlets and Earwig Squad the match-up is only 50/50 for Dredge in Game 1 and when Dredge can only get to 50/50 in Game 1..."
Round 4 Feature Match - Ben Lundquist vs. Craig Krempels
By Brian David-Marshall
The first Feature Match of the weekend was between two members of past U.S. National teams. Craig Krempels was the U.S. National Champion a few years back while Ben Lundquist fell one match short of that honor in 2005 – against the same opponent who stymied him in the finals of Grand Prix Vancouver just two weeks ago.
"I hate this," sighed Ben while shuffling up his now-trademark blue-green Tron list and waiting for Craig to come to the Feature Match area. "Everyone knows what I am playing and I have no idea what they are playing."
Surprisingly Ben not have any deep attachment to list even going so far as to say: "I think it is really bad right now but people told me I could not play anything else."
Craig Krempels eventually found his way to the table and looked at me in disbelief about the decision to feature him: "There has to be a better match-up than this. C'mon."
Craig was playing a Zoo list which included maindeck Gaddock Teeg. "It's just so good against so many decks right now. I played a guy last round and missed my second land drop for three turns but when I eventually played Teeg he had no answer."
Craig mulliganed to start things off keeping a hand with Isamaru. Ben Ghost Quartered Craig's Temple Garden on turn two and Craig picked up the card to read it and then looked forlornly at the basic land he had just played. "Good thing I drew my one Mountain, huh?"
He had played a Fanatic and went to work with his two one-drops while Ben put Russian Urza pieces into play. The Vancouver finalist quickly found himself down to nine with a Seal of Fire and two Fanatics looming. Thirst for Knowledge dug him three cards deeper and he pitched a pair of lands. He untapped to complete the Tron and play both Signet and Platinum Angel. Craig could easily kill the artifact creature but that would come at the cost of sending that damage to Ben's dome.
Tribal Flames took out the Angel and Craig attacked for four. Craig could bring Ben down to one but not get all the way there. When Ben played and activated Mindslaver Craig did just that. He drew Mogg Fanatic on Craig's hijacked turn and threw it back in Craig's face.
"I'm sure I could have played that turn better," joked Craig.
Ben had another Mindslaver the following turn and drew a Vindicate that Craig could not cast -- he still had the Isamaru to deal with. He bought a couple of turns with Moment's Peace but that Hound was looking to put the finishing touch on Lundquist. Ben cast Life from the Loam and Remanded his own spell to look at one more card but he could not find anything that would let him survive Craig's next attack step.
Ben liked his opening cards but once again Craig sent his first seven back for something else. The next six suited him just fine and he led off with a full-sized Kird Ape. Ben was ready with Repeal to go a card deeper during Craig's attack step. Gaddock Teeg came down for Craig post attack. Ben's Ghost Quarter took out a Temple Garden but this game Craig still had his lone Mountain in his deck to fetch. Tarmogoyf promised to hold the fort for the Tron player while Craig followed up his Teeg with a pair of Kird Apes but he chose not to run them into the 'Goyf, which was joined by another a turn later.
Craig played Seal of Fire and tried to calculate what that was going to do to the combat math if he used it. Finally he decided to send in one Kird Ape and Ben agreed to a trade for the Ape and Seal of Fire. Craig had fallen to fourteen from his mana and Ben decided it was time to turn the 'Goyf sideways. Triskelion came down post attack but Krempels was ready with Ancient Grudge. Artifact creature shot down the Teeg and did a point to Craig on its way to the bin.
One attack later Craig was at three but he had Vindicate for the Tarmogoyf. Now Craig was able to go on the offensive and dropped the tron player to 11. Thirst for Knowledge yielded Threads for Ben and he took the tapped Kird Ape. Craig bashed in for two more and Lightning Helixed the Ape to go to six. Another Threads from Ben took Isamaru. Craig aimed a full value Tribal Flames at Ben to bring him down to four. The Venser in Ben's hand meant that they were going to play Game 3 when he bounced Tarmogoyf at the end of an otherwise empty-handed Craig's turn.
Craig kicked off Game 3 with a full allotment of seven cards. He went right to seventeen with the standard Kird Ape opening. Ben imprinted Negate on Chrome Mox and played Simic Signet on turn one. Craig adjusted his life total to fourteen and deployed another Kird Ape and Isamuru on the second turn. When Craig attacked.Ben bounced one of the Kird Apes with Venser and hoped to trade it for Isamuru but Craig ticked his life total back up to seventeen with a Lightning Helix for the pesky wizard.
Ben's Tarmogoyf was a 3/4 and went briefly to 4/5 when a full power Tribal Flames cleared it out of the way. Ben fell to 9 from the attack and the previously bounced Kird Ape joined the team.
Final result: Craig Krempels – 2 Ben Lundquist - 1
Round 5 Feature Match - Gaea's
Might Will Get There
Jacob Van Lunen vs. Jon Pelcak
By Tom Fowler
Both players sat down at 4-0 for this feature match. Jacob Van Lunen was piloting Doran, while Jon Pelcak shuffled up Domain Zoo. The players talked briefly about their respective hometowns, coming to a consensus on the coldness of Minnesota, before beginning the first game.
Both players kept their opening hands. Pelcak did the popular turn one play of Lightning Bolting himself, turning a Wooded Foothills into a Sacred Foundry and playing Mogg Fanatic. Van Lunen played a Bloodstained Mire and passed the turn. Pelcak swung with his Fanatic, went to 15 for an untapped Breeding Pool, and dropped Gaddock Teeg. Van Lunen's Bloodstained Mire turned into a (tapped) Godless Shrine, which was then joined by a Forest and Dark Confidant. Another self-Bolt from Pelcak followed, as he went to 12 to play a second Mogg Fanatic to take out Van Lunen's Dark Confidant. Jacob fell to 13 after Pelcak attacked with Teeg and the first Fanatic. Pelcak then played a Tarmogoyf, which Van Lunen tried to answer with Doran. Pelcak pushed all of his men into the red zone, and even Doran could not hold back the Might of Gaea.
Pelcak 1, Van Lunen 0
Both players pondered their sideboarding decisions quietly before Van Lunen commented on Pelcak's draw. "That was a pretty good draw," he said matter-of-factly.
"Not bad," Pelcak said, displaying his own knack for understatement. "A turn four kill . . . that's all right."
Van Lunen mulliganed to 6, but Pelcak kept his initial 7. Jacob eschewed Bolting himself on the play, turning his Windswept Heath into a Forest and playing Birds of Paradise. Pelcak took 2 for an untapped Blood Crypt and quickly sent the Birds packing with a Mogg Fanatic. On his second turn, Van Lunen couldn't resist taking 3, trading in his second Windswept Heath for Godless Shrine and Dark Confidant. Pelcak, effectively up two cards after his opponent mulliganed, was content to kill another of Van Lunen's creatures, using Tribal Flames to take care of the Confidant. Undeterred, Van Lunen played a second Dark Confidant, which met a swift Demise to Pelcak's Vindicate.
An Overgrown Tomb took Van Lunen to 14, but Loxodon Hierarch pulled him right back up to 18. Pelcak looked like he wanted another removal spell, but settled for Grim Lavamancer and a Dark Confidant of his own. Van Lunen accessorized his Hierarch with an Armadillo Cloak, and the ensuing attack left the life totals at 24-7 in his favor. After using a fetchland and revealing a Gaea's Might from Dark Confidant, Pelcak knocked Van Lunen to 22 with an attack from the Wizard. Unsatisfied with just a Cloak for his elephant, Van Lunen played and equipped Umezawa's Jitte. Before the Hierarch could puts its new weapon to good use, though, Pelcak killed it in a flurry of burn. Lightning Helix, Grim Lavamancer, and Mogg Fanatic combined for the 6 damage necessary to destroy the Hierarch. Left with a creatureless board, Van Lunen passed the turn.
Pelcak's Dark Confidant turned over a Tribal Flames, taking him to 6. He swung with the Confidant, knocking Van Lunen to 20, and played Tarmogoyf. Van Lunen quickly Vindicated the 'Goyf, but had no other play. Pelcak dinged him with Grim Lavamancer at end of turn, reducing Van Lunen's life total to 18. Pelcak fell to 4 when Dark Confidant revealed Terminate, then used his Wooded Foothills to get an untapped Overgrown Tomb, going all the way down to 1. Van Lunen's 18 life seemed robust by comparison. It wouldn't be for long, though, as Pelcak attacked with both of his creatures, then finished Van Lunen off with a pair of Gaea's Mights and a Tribal Flames.
Final result: Jon Pelcak - 2 Jacob Van Lunen – 0
Round 6 Feature Match - Ben Strickland vs. Dan O'Mahoney-Schwartz
By Brian David-Marshall
Dan O'Mahoney-Schwartz is a name familiar to anyone who has followed the Pro Tour for some time. His experience with the game goes way back past the advent of the Pro Tour. Most of Dan's Magic playing these days takes place within the hallowed walls of Jon Finkel's Mana-hattan apartment but he can still pick his spots. He posted a Top 8 finish in Boston a couple of years ago and recently played at Worlds in New York. He was off to a 5-0 start with Domain Zoo all of which explains his presence in the Feature Match area.
'So what's the story with Ben Strickland?' you might be wondering. If you are not familiar with the Virginia player's resume that is because aside from a couple of PTQ Top 8s he has not fully fleshed it out yet. He did make a splash at this tournament when in Round Five he knocked Chris Lachman out of the undefeated bracket with a Hail Storm. His deck was a monogreen creation he dubbed Trinity Evolution and featured a combination of mana accelerants, planeswalkers, mid-range critters, and Plow Under.
Dan took three to lead off with a maxed out Kird Ape. Ben imprinted Wall of Roots on Chrome Mox to power out a turn one Wall of Roots to stymie the gorilla. Dan attacked with his Ape and Ben blocked. Dan took another three from a fetch land and shock land to finish off the wall with Tribal Flames for three. Ben had another to replace it and even used a mana from the fresh wall to send Matuvault in for two damage. Dan added Tarmogoyf to his board.
Ben untapped and played Ravenous Baloth and used Ghost Quarter on Dan's Stomping Ground. Dan found a Mountain but was now without a Forest to pump up his Kird Ape. Dan added Grim Lavamancer and Mogg Fanatic but could not find an attack in that he liked. Ben swung in with his Baloth and now Dan had to see if there were any blocks that he liked. He chose to take four and went to eight. Ben played Garruck after his attack step and made a 3/3 beast that could be conveniently sacrificed to the Baloth for four life.
With the Garruck down to two loyalty counters Dan considered using his Lavamancer on the Planeswalker. Instead he attacked with his 'Goyf and when Ben heard that the attack was headed toward the Garruck he happily put it in his bin with no blocks.
Ben cracked back with his two beasts and Dan had to make some blocks. He put the Kird Ape and a Fanatic in front of the token and another Fanatic in front of the Baloth. Dan was able to kill the Baloth with a little assist from the Lavamancer. The token emerged relatively unscathed. Ben fortified with Ohran Viper. Dan went to five to get the mana necessary to Vindicate the Viper and used his Lavamancer on Ben's upkeep smoke the Wall of Roots. Ben played Troll Ascetic on the next two turns while Dan added another 'Goyf.
The momentum had swung in Dan's direction and he sent in his pair of Future Sight rares. Ben – no doubt fearing the Zoo's deck ability to deal an extra 10 out of nowhere with Gaea's Might and Tribal Flames put his token in the path of one and dropped to 13. Dan was still at 5 and Ben was able to swing back with his two Trolls and Mutavault. Dan had no blocks. H e Helixed Ben and then killed the Mutavault with his Grim Lavamancer. Dan ended the turn on two and was able to swing for the win the following turn with a Vindicate clearing a freshly cast Llanowar Elves out of the way.
Dan started Game 2 out with only five cards to work with. Ben imprinted Plow Under on a Mox and made a turn one Viridian Zealot and a turn two Troll Ascetic around Dan's Kird Ape. Dan made a minium sized Tarmogoyf that could do little but watch as Ben's creatures rushed by. Ben's next play was Ohran Viper and there were seven creatures on the board by turn three once Dan added a Fanatic and Lavamancer. That number was reduced significantly a turn later when Ben sent his Troll and Viper into combat, Dan added another 'Goyf and Ben played Ravenous Baloth. His Ghost Quarter was a Strip Mine with Dan's Mountain already in play.
There was another violent clash in the red zone with Dan losing a Lavamancer and 'Goyf to take down Ravenous Baloth but he scooped in the face of Phantom Centaur.
Dan kept his starting seven but it seemed like Ben wanted to throw his back before deciding to keep his hand. Dan had Isamaru for turn one while Ben had only a Mutavault. Dan followed up with Mogg Fanatic. Ben had no turn two play – although Dan had taken four from his lands – and he fell to 15 on Dan's attack. Dan followed up by Vindicating Forest. Ben played another and put out Llanowar Elves. Dan played a fresh Fanatic to kill it and dropped Ben to 12. Ben's next land was Treetop Village but he was back on his heels.
Ben played a Ravenous Baloth only to have it Terminated. His Viper was Helixed and his Mutavault was Vindicated over the next few turns and Dan smashed his way to victory.
Final result: Dan O'Mahoney-Schwartz – 2 Ben Strickland - 1
March 15th, 5:10 p.m. – A Closer Look at the Trials
By Tom Fowler
Thirteen Trials for today's Grand Prix were held last night, each offering the winner three byes for the big event. Decklists from the first 12 were available. This is the breakdown of the winning decks:
Aggro Loam: 1
G/B/w Rock: 1
Next/Previous Level Blue: 2
Conspicuously absent from the above list is a Doran deck, the breakout star early in the season. Players brought it to the Trials, but the powerful Treefolk Shaman was unable to secure any byes for those who sleeved him up. Also of note, both of the winning Affinity decks were playing Shrapnel Blast. The Fatal Frenzy plus Atog version has gained popularity in recent weeks, but it didn't help anyone last night.
One of the winners with Shrapnel Blast Affinity was Mike Lapine. When I asked him why he opted for Shrapnel Blast over the Atog + Fatal Frenzy version, he said that Shrapnel Blast "helps a lot more." Lapine said it was much better against cards like Sower of Temptation and Vedalken Shackles. He also said that Atog makes Myr Enforcer worse, since it's not an artifact to help with the affinity count. Furthermore, Lapine said the Atog version's "all-in plan is easy to stop," and is often "overkill." Lapine said the field in his Trial was "a lot of Goblins," TEPS, U/G Tron, Dredge, U/R Gargadon, and "an interesting Treefolk deck."
Jim Davis took down the 11th Trial with Goblins. He played against Affinity three times, a "weird Counterbalance deck" once, and a Doran deck. I asked Davis if he thought Goblins was the best deck against the expected field and he said, "there is no best deck. This format is unsolvable." Davis did defeat one Doran deck en route to earning his three byes, and those are three more than all the Doran decks in the Trials earned. When asked about that, he said that the Doran deck "isn't as good as it was" earlier in the season. "Players and decks got more focused," Davis said. Sean McKeown also won a Trial with Goblins.
An old favorite returned, as in the sixth Trial Friday Night, Iain Bartolomei played CAL to earn his three byes. While strong last season, the combination of Solitary Confinement, Seismic Assault, and Life From the Loam hasn't been seen nearly as much this year. When asked why he played CAL, Iain said the deck had done well at a PTQ the previous weekend (7th place in Chicago), and that "it beats Goblins, aggro, and the Red decks." Bartolomei said CAL was a good deck for the Trial, but not necessarily the GP, since its weaker matchups ("TEPS and the Blue decks") would have better pilots in the main event. Iain took his own advice, leaving CAL in his deckbox and shuffling up a Blue deck himself.
The G/B/w Rock deck had many components in common with the Doran decks, but opted for a more traditional Rock build. Vindicate, Smother, Pernicious Deed, Putrefy, and a lone Profane Command made sure that opposing creatures didn't stay in play long. That gave the deck's creatures—highlighted by Loxodon Hierarch and the omnipresent Tarmogoyf—and Living Wish time to take down the opponent.
We know at least one Trial winner went with a different deck than the one that earned him his byes. How many more would make the same decision?
March 15th, 6:20 p.m. – Walking the Top Tables
By Brian David-Marshall
With two-thirds of Day One behind us I decided to walk the top tables and see what decks were doing well. After just looking at the first four seats of undefeated players I can tell you that Luis Scott Vargas' assessment that there were as many as fifteen different decks capable of winning a tournament seems at least half right. There were eight different decks sitting at tables 1 – 4 with 6-0 records – granted many of the players sitting there only had to play half those rounds.
Table one saw Steve Sadin playing a Split Level Blue variant. (I have grown weary of keeping track of all the different iterations of blue decks with Tarmogoyf so I am just generalizing them all into the Split Level category.) He was facing down Dan O'Mahoney-Schwartz who was with Domain Zoo. Watching their match-up was Chris Pikula who was perplexed as to how he could have not won a game with the same deck that was sitting at Table 1 undefeated.
The second table was a pair of players not doing fair things. Guillaume Cardin – last seen winning Grand Prix New Jersey and Canadian Nationals – was playing TEPS while his opponent Michael Hetherinton was busting out of the gate with Affinity. Table three saw Rashad Miller playing a Tallowisp deck against Zach Hall with blue-white Tron – a deck that at least one player last night told me would win this tournament. Finally Gerry Thompson was matching his AggroLoam deck against Kyle Boggemes Doran/Rock build.
You had to go as far as table five to find repeating archetypes where there was another Zoo deck and another Tallowisp deck. Going a little further along the line there was another copy of the blue-white Tron list with a perfect record as well as a handful of Split Level Blue variants. Expect some follow-up tomorrow as we take in depth looks at blue-white Tron and Tallowisp.
March 15th, 6:45 p.m. – What Do You Like Most About Playing Extended?
By Evan Erwin
Round 7 Feature Match - Alex Kim vs. Jordan Berkowitz
By Tom Fowler
These two undefeated players brought very different decks to the feature match table. Jordan Berkowitz played everyone's favorite tribe from Onslaught Block (and every season after that)—Goblins. Alex Kim, on the other hand, sleeved up perennial Extended favorite Scepter-Chant, known for its ability to lock the opponent out of the game. Could Berkowitz overwhelm him with a Goblin army before being put on ice?
Both players keep their hands. Jordan played a Bloodstained Mire, fetched a Mountain with it, and had no other first-turn play. Alex played a Sacred Foundry untapped for a Sensei's Divining Top. Jordan dropped a Goblin Piledriver on his turn. He spent some time each turn pondering what his opponent was playing, which caused Alex to urge him along. On his next turn, Jordan summoned a Goblin Warchief and attacked for 5, dropping Alex to 13. Alex went to 12 off a Windswept Heath, played Chrome Mox (imprinting Destructive Flow, giving him three colors to choose from when using the Mox), played another fetchland, and passed. Jordan played Goblin Matron (getting a Goblin Ringleader) and animated his fresh Mutavault, but Alex had Orim's Chant with kicker to stop the Goblin offensive before it could begin.
The Goblins soon went scurrying into the graveyard, as Alex played Wrath of God. Jordan played the Ringleader he searched for the previous turn, revealing a Mogg Fanatic, Goblin Piledriver, and two lands. The Ringleader attacked Alex to 9, and Jordan added the Fanatic to his team. Alex played Isochron Scepter, imprinting Orim's Chant. He had only two untapped lands, however, meaning he couldn't pay the Chant's kicker to keep Jordan from attacking. That would prove to be his undoing, as Jordan played a Goblin Warchief, Goblin Piledriver, and Skirk Prospector, which earned the scoop from Alex.
Berkowitz 1, Kim 0.
During sideboarding, Alex again prodded Jordan to hurry. The time spent sideboarding was approaching three minutes, and keeping it fast gave the slower Scepter-Chant deck more time to execute its plan.
After both players kept their lands, Alex led off with a tapped Sacred Foundry, while Jordan fetched a Mountain and played Skirk Prospector. Alex's second-turn play was another land; on his second turn, Jordan attacked for 1, dropped Mutavault, and played the fearsome Goblin Piledriver. Meanwhile, Alex's only play was to add another land to his uncluttered board. Jordan swung for 4, then played Mogg War Marshal, sacrificing it immediately for the mana necessary to play Mogg Fanatic. Alex cycled Decree of Justice at the end of Jordan's turn, just looking for the extra card. He then played an Isochron Scepter, imprinting Orim's Chant, leaving two mana open again. Jordan activated Mutavault and swung with his team. Unable to stop the attack with Orim's Chant, Alex still had a good play as he removed the Piledriver with Lightning Helix, ending up at 12 after combat. The Scepter-Chant lock then started in earnest, with Jordan playing lands and passing the turn, and Alex using his Top to dig for a threat. He found a Tarmogoyf, which eventually ran into Mutavault, Mogg Fanatic, and two Goblin tokens. That didn't matter, as Alex had a second Isochron Scepter, this time imprinting Lightning Helix. With the Chant lock in place, Jordan's death to the Scepter was academic.
Berkowitz 1, Kim 1
Both players opened the game with mulligans to six. Jordan managed only a Mutavault on his first turn; Alex's consisted of a tapped Sacred Foundry. Needing mana, Jordan played a pair of Chrome Moxen, imprinting Mogg War Marshal and Shattering Spree. He used that mana to play a Goblin Warchief, which immediately dropped Alex to 18. Alex fetched a Forest and played the damage-denying Sakura-Tribe Elder. Jordan found a Ringleader and played it, adding Goblin Warchief, Goblin Matron, and Goblin Pyromancer to his hand. Alex had no plays other than land, while Jordan added to his squad with Goblin Matron, fetching a Piledriver. He then played the Piledriver and a Mogg Fanatic, but his attack was foiled by Alex's kicked Orim's Chant.
Looking for an answer, Alex played Harmonize for three more cards. He played a Windswept Heath, going to 14 to get a Plains, which was his sole untapped land against an army of Goblins. Jordan pondered his play for a minute, wondering out loud if there was a spell that cost W that would kill his Pyromancer. He didn't consider Holy Day, but Alex didn't have it. He did have a ton of damage coming at him, though, with the Pyromancer giving all of Jordan's men +3/+0. That was more than enough to get the concession.
Final Result: Jordan Berkowitz locks up a spot tomorrow, moving to 7-0 after defeating Alex Kim, 2-1.
Round 8 Feature Match - Rashad Miller vs. Matt "Cheeks" Hansen
By Brian David-Marshall
Okay so remember those two Tallowisp decks I mentioned in the previous entry? Both decks won their round seven matches and were now squaring off in the Feature Match area looking to advance one player to 8-0. Matt "Cheeks" Hansen is an up-and-coming Iowa player last seen cavorting with monkeys in the video lifestyle feature from Pro Tour Kuala Lumpur.
On the other side of the table was Rashad Miller, a man who knows his way around a GP Feature Match area quite well. Rashad is a Level 3 judge from the Chicago area who rarely gets a chance to play in these events and was making the most of his opportunity. These two players apparently had identical 75 card lists at some point as recently as the night before the tournament but as they continued to test their lists diverged slightly.
Both players opened on Treetop Village with a Kami of Acient Law for Rashad. There was no play for Matt on turn two and he took five as Rashad rumbled his Kami in alongside the Village. Matt played Eladamri's Call for Intrepid Hero and Rashad protested: "How is that even fair?"
We had found one point of divergence in the two lists...
Rashad was able to get in for another five but Phantom Centaur from Cheeks meant no more attacking for the time being. Tarmogoyf and the underwhelming Gaddock Teeg – while an all-star in some other match-ups this guy was a legendary vanilla creature in this one. Rashad could only shake his head as Hansen played a second Phantom Centaur – he had multiple copies of the card waiting in vain for the Intrepid Hero to somehow die.
Both players mounted their green-white armies but it was Matt's Phantom Centaurs that did the trick taking down waves of chump blockers along the way. With the win in sight, Matt finally committed other creatures to the red zone besides the Centaurs and Rashad flashed a little bit of fancy in Otherworldly Journey on a Treetop Village but it was not enough.
"He cheated and put in Interpid Hero," groaned the Level 3 judge as he reached for his sideboard.
"It has been so terrible in every other match," laughed Matt. "I told somewhen that when I am 7-0 and play the mirror match it will be awesome."
Why the late audible to include the Intrepid Hero in his deck? Matt pointed to his deck: "I thought this deck would be popular...but its not."
Rashad led off with Treetop while Matt thought about his first turn for a while before playing Sungrass Prarie and imprinting Tarmogoyf on a Chrome Mox.
"That's worth almost as much as a Mox Emerald right now," laughed one spectator.
Matt grinned and said go. Rashad sighed, knowing a second turn Intrepid Hero was in his future. "You needed to think about that? I ended Game 1 with a bunch of 5/3s stuck in my hand."
Both players managed to get their Tallowisp engines going but without a way to deal with the Intrepid Hero Rashad had to hope to get Troll Ascetic with Cloak and Griffin Guide – something he was never able to do.
Final result: Matt Hansen – 2 Rashad Miller – 0
March 15th, 8:30 p.m. – Questing for Perfection - Round Nine Round-up
By Brian David-Marshall
After eight rounds of play there were only six players left with unblemished records; after one final Day One skirmish the number would dwindle to three. Patrick Chapin headlined the undefeated match-ups and lugged his Split Level Blue deck over to the Feature Match tables to square off against Matt "Cheeks" Hansen and the Tallowisp deck.
At table two Stephen Nagy, packing Domain Zoo, was playing against Paul Matthews with TEPS. Paul mulliganed in Game 1 and kept a one-land six card hand. He did not want to go to five cards with his combo deck. He was under early pressure from the Zoo player and did not find any other lands to power up his hand. He tried to muster something off the one land with a series of Rituals but when his Peer through Depths whiffed they moved onto Game 2 where his deck performed up to expectations. In the third game Nagy found himself at ten from his manabase and Paul was able to kill him off of a turn of Lotus Bloom, Cabal Ritual, Cabal Ritual, Cabal Ritual, Tendrils of Agony.
"I have been pretty lucky today," said Paul after the match.
It was hard to tell what was giving Dan O'Mahoney-Schwartz more joy; him continuing to win with his Zoo deck or the frustration of Chris Pikula who played an identical list and could barley scrape together a game win. Dan's opponent in the final round was GP NJ Champion Guillaume Cardin who was playing a Balancing Act deck – possibly identified incorrectly as TEPS earlier. Dan took a quick one game lead but looked to be in for a rubber game as Guillaume had plenty of Invasion sac lands and a Lotus Bloom coming into play but Guillaume seemingly drew nothing but a Moment's Peace to prolong Chris Pikula's agony just a little longer.
"I don't understand it! I can't beat anything with this deck and he beats a combo deck that has nineteen mana available," cried Chris.
"Does that mean my brother went 9-0?" asked Steve OMS who walked over in the middle of Pikula's diatribe. Steve went 7-2 on the day and would be joining his brother on Day Two.
Round 9 Feature Match - Sowing the Seeds of Temptation
Patrick Chapin vs, Matt Hansen
By Tom Fowler
Two 8-0 records were on the line in this one. Patrick Chapin, known for his love of the levels of Blue, brought a different level of Blue into the match, adding some more aggressive elements to the Counterbalance/Tarmogoyf package. Matt Hansen rescued Tallowisp from the remains of Ghost Dad and was hoping to live the dream of an undefeated first day.
Matt was on the play Game 1 and shipped his opening seven back for six cards he liked better. He led off with a Treetop Village, while Patrick played a Godless Shrine and Chrome Mox (imprinting Counterspell) to drop Dark Confidant on the first turn. Matt played Gaddock Teeg, which was quickly stolen by Patrick's Threads of Disloyalty. Another land from Matt meant Treetop Village would be a potent blocker, so Patrick passed his next turn without attacking. That gave Matt a window to play Chameleon Colossus, but that was soon pilfered by Sower of Temptation. Matt was allowed to keep his Phantom Centaur, however. On Matt's next draw, Patrick played a timely Vendilion Clique, sending Kami of Ancient Law to the bottom of the deck. Matt played Armadillo Cloak on his Phantom Centaur and passed the turn. While the Centaur itself is quite immune to Vindicate, its Cloak was not. Patrick sent his team into the red zone, and that got the scoop.
Chapin 1, Hansen 0.
Between games, both players went into their sideboards multiple times, swapping out a card or two here and there, often in response to what their opponent had done. The fifteen-card cat-and-mouse ended after a couple minutes, and it was on to the second game.
Matt had to mulligan his opening hand again, and again led off with a Treetop Village. Patrick, who had kept his initial seven, played a Chrome Mox (imprinting Spell Snare) and a Sensei's Divining Top, then passed the turn with no land drop. Matt dropped a 0/1 Tarmogoyf, and Patrick dug for land by using Top during his upkeep. He found a Forest and passed. Matt played another Treetop Village and another Tarmogoyf, but both were 0/1, marking perhaps the longest time in an Extended game that a Tarmogoyf did not have a positive power value. Patrick played a puny Tarmogoyf of his own, but his Windswept Heath meant the Goyfs would not be 0/1 forever.
Mindful of Patrick's creature-stealing tactics in the first game, Matt played the shrouded Troll Ascetic. Patrick followed with a Counterbalance, then had to spin his Top to dig for an answer to Matt's Choke. None was forthcoming, however. While Choke only kept one land from untapping at that point, Patrick's precarious mana situation made that very important. Matt started pressing his advantage by animating a Treetop Village to join in the attacks. A second round of that earned the concession from Patrick.
Chapin 1, Hansen 1.
Both players made a few sideboard adjustments. Patrick was surprised that Choke was legal in Extended—it is, by virtue of its reprinting in Eighth Edition.
There were no mulligans this time. Both players led off with fetchlands, and Patrick played a Dark Confidant on the second turn. Matt played a Tallowisp, but the pesky Spirit was quickly Vindicated. Dark Confidant kept getting into the red zone, even in the face of a fresh Troll Ascetic when Matt lacked the mana to regenerate. Patrick added a Tarmogoyf to his side. Matt's second Troll was met with a Counterspell from Patrick. Still lacking regeneration mana, Matt chose not to block when Patrick attacked with his Confidant and Tarmogoyf, falling to 8. Patrick had another Counterspell when Matt tried putting Armadillo Cloak on his Troll. The Troll blocked Dark Confidant when Patrick swung again, knocking Matt to 3. Patrick added a Loxodon Hierarch to his team, going up to 16, and played Counterbalance. Needing destroy Patrick's two creatures or play two of his own, Matt tested the Counterbalance waters by playing Gaddock Teeg. Patrick windmilled his top card onto the table, revealing Polluted Delta. Matt got his second creature he needed to block in the form of Kami of Ancient Law.
Patrick had the trump, though, playing Sower of Temptation. With only one blocker for the 4/4 and 5/6 ready to swing in on him, Matt extended the hand.
Final result: Patrick Chapin defeated Matt Hansen, 2-1.