Sunday, June 4: 12:17 p.m. - Drafting With Adam Chambers
Draft One: Pod One
Adam Chambers best finish came during last season when he LCQ'd into Pro Tour Atlanta with Don Smith and Andrew Pacifico as We Add. The team would make the most of their last minute invite by reaching the semifinals before getting knocked out by the French team with the long name in a funny language.
He has earned a reputation as an unorthodox drafter with card valuations out of synch with public perception. He has also earned a well-deserved reputation as a super tight player with an unflappable demeanor. He was sitting in between Jon Sonne to his right and Ben Lundquist. Coming into the draft Adam was adamant that he did not want to go green-white or red-white because "those color combinations never win" but he opened up a first pack with Tolsmir Wolfsblood and was unwilling to pass it up in favor of the ever popular Peel From Reality.
His second pack had Cleansing Beam and an unexciting array of green mid-range picks and he opted for Vedalken Dismisser. No doubt thinking about the lack of removal in green-white-blue, Adam set himself up to be able to play black cards with a third pick Elves. As much as he wanted to resist the siren call of Selesnya, a fourth pick Evangel made it impossible. The Ravnica pack rounded out with him picking up another Elves of Deep Shadow and a Golgari Signet. He looked like he was going to be green-white-blue with plenty of fixing should he steer toward black for removal.
Guildpact offered him Pillory of the Sleepless and Angel of Despair. Despite the strain it would put on his mana Adam can never turn down the more expensive card and he took the rare. Douse in Gloom over Teysa was his second pick - the Pillory and the Teysa went straight into Jon's picks at the next seat. With the third pick Adam had a choice between Ghor-Clan Savage, Ghost Warden, Gristleback, and Harrier Griffin. The easy rule of thumb with Adam is to look for the highest casting cost and that will be his pick - he took the Griffin. His subsequent picks were Shrieking Grotesque, Orzhov Basilica, and Ghor-Clan Savage - all of which he seemed quite pleased to see.
In Dissension Adam first picked Rakdos Carnarium over Plaxcaster Frogling and Protean Hulk. He almost second picked Azorius Chancery but instead opted for the flexibility and power of Supply//Demand. I was gape-jawed as Stormscale Anarch wandered pitifully around the table looking for a home. The card is a certifiable bomb rare and it looked like it was going to end up a sixth or seventh pick. I was reminded of the 10th pick Ghost Council from Grand Prix Richmond. Adam was equally astounded as he found himself the beneficiary of a fifth pick Sky Hussar. Even more stunning to him were a pair of extremely late pick karoos - including the Chancery he considered as a second pick.
"Wow. Just wow," muttered Adam as he came to the Feature Match area to construct his deck. "This is the best deck I have ever drafted in this format. I have bounce lands, not too much removal but some spells, and I have some great creatures. I am four colors but I have bounce lands in all my colors and some fixing. I don't have to play any bad cards - which is new for me."
After pack two Adam looked like he was in danger of falling into the green-black-white trap where you don't have any good guild options but his plan was always to play four colors.
"I was trying to just splash the Tolsmir but a fourth pick Evangel with nothing else in the pack? I just had to take it. Tolsmir is just a bomb rare. He makes a game so easy. You just play him and you win. I had the Dismisser and I was always planning on playing it. Going into the third pack blue-green cards were what I was hoping for but I ended up getting Supply//Demand and Sky Hussar," he shrugged happily. He was especially surprised and pleased with the late mana fixing he picked up - something that had not happened for him in his practice drafts.
"I got the Chancery 10th and a Growth Chamber 6th - I first picked a double land that I am not even going to have to play. I don't even like playing this format without double lands - it's just no fun. When I was practicing at Ken's I would never ever see them - ever!"
Sunday, June 4: 12:38 p.m. - Day One Undefeated Sealed Decks
Ben Lundquist 8-0
John Fiorillo 8-0
Sunday, June 4: 1:01 p.m. - Round 9 Feature Match: John Fiorillo vs. Ben Lundquist
Day 2 starts with an undefeated showdown
One of these two players was going to take their first loss of the tournament this round, and Ben was confident that it would be him. "I only have 11 creatures and they're all bad," he remarked. John, on the other hand, had a pretty solid Blue-Green deck which splashed Black and Red, mostly for removal.
John made the first play, a turn two Coiling Oracle revealing Dimir Aqueduct. Ben answered with a Drift of Phantasms, which met its end courtesy of the Coiling Oracle and Orzhov Euthanist. Train of Thoughts for two cards allowed Ben to recharge. Fiorillo bashed for three, and added an Assault Zeppelid to the team.
A Crystal Seer by Ben looked to stop some of the bleeding and move some of his removal to the top of his deck. Ben's Pillory of the Sleepless locked down the Assault Zeppelid, and he followed that up with Daggerclaw Imp. The Imp was quickly outmatched by a Protean Hulk on the other side of the table. Lundquist's deck gave him a Seal of Doom and a Dimir Doppelganger, which made it seem like he might be able to turn the tables on John if he could untap.
The Hulk did get hit with the Seal and Fiorillo transformed it into a Sporeback Troll and Dimir Infiltrator (Grafting a counter on to it). Then he played a Helium Squirter. With a board full of effectively unblockable regenerators on Fiorillo's side, Lundquist would need answers quickly. When his Flow of Ideas for three turned up nothing relevant, we moved on to Game 2.
John Fiorillo 1 - Ben Lundquist 0
Fiorillo not only won Game 1, but he also took first place in BDM's Smile for the Camera Contest. Ben gave it a shot, but I think knowing the contents of his deck made the smile tough to pull off.
Both players spent the first few turns playing Signets. Ben hoped to draw first blood in this game with his … Enigma Eidolon. "I'm embarrassed," he chuckled, pointing at the Spirit. John answered with Helium Squirter, which was saddled with Pillory of the Sleepless a turn later. Sporeback Troll joined John's team, borrowing a counter from the Squirter in the process, but Lundquist had the Plumes of Peace. Unfortunately for Ben, his removal did't really handle the Graft creatures very well, which became readily apparent when Fiorillo played a 4/4 Torch Drake, taking a counter from both the Troll and the Helium Squirter.
Ben managed to hold off the Drake for a few turns with bounce, first Trial (of Trial/Error fame), then Peel from Reality. John was running out of counters to Graft, and was actually losing the race to Enigma Eidolon and Crystal Seer. A turn after his Poisonbelly Ogre was hit with Galvanic Arc, Ben looked through his graveyard and said, "I haven't played half these cards before." He added Guardian of the Guildpact and Roofstalker Wight to the board.
The following turn, John played the last card in his hand, a Train of Thought Replicated once. While that was on the stack, he played a Twin Strike targeting the Guardian and the Wight. The Verdant Eidolon in John's graveyard complicated things, since there was some confusion as to when the Eidolon would return to hand. After a brief consultation with the Table Judge, the Head Judge ruled that Fiorillo's intention was to get his Eidolon back, so he would have it in his hand when the no-longer-Hellbent Twinstrike resolved. In the end, Lundquist still lost his Wight, but his Guardian of the Guildpact stayed alive.
It didn't really matter, though. John had way too many threats for Ben to handle. Torch Drake and Dimir Infiltrator were joined by a Gristleback and the Assault Zeppelid John drew off the Train of Thought. A turn later, it was over.
John Fiorillo 2 - Ben Lundquist 0
Sunday, June 4: 1:45 p.m. - Round 11 Feature Match: Adam Chambers vs. Billy Moreno
The Grand Prix has turned into an abattoir with bodies piling up all over the place. Adam Chambers' draft did not play out as well as he had thought. Two losses later he was facing off with Billy Moreno and trying to salvage a money finish. Billy had split his first two Day Two rounds and did not have any more losses to give if he was going to put up his first GP Top 8.
Billy's draw unfolded slowly while Adam 'beat down' with a Mourning Thrull and Elvish Skysweeper. Moreno's first non-land permanent was Dowsing Shaman which could not stop the flier or the bloodthirsty Ghor-Clan Savage that followed.
Billy had Assault Zeppelid in hand but was stymied by the Skysweeper. He had to wait a turn and play a Fangtail first but Adam's deck was unrelenting in its pursuit of its first match win of the day. Helium Squirter allowed him to fly over with Ghor-Clan and Thrull.
Former U.S. National Champ - and one of Billy's teammates for the upcoming PT - Craig Krempels shook his head sadly. "Now it is just time to clean up the scraps."
Billy tried to make a game of it and shot the Skysweeper to secure a tether for his Zeppelid. Adam kept coming and flew in with everyone. Billy blocked the Ghor-Clan but Adam cast Might of Nephelim on the Mourning Thrull.
"That puts me to one?" asked Billy.
"It kills you."
"Kills me? Oh well."
"The only games I have won have involved Mourning Thrull and Savage. The only games," Adam smiled at his MVPs.
Billy had to pitch his opening hand and kept the second. It contained Forest, Utopia Sprawl, Rakdos Carnarium, Silkwing Scout, and Assault Zeppelid. He led off with the Forest and Sprawl and immediately realized his mistake.
"I would like that in the coverage - the swear words and the expletives," requested Krempels.
Billy failed to draw a second basic land and could not play the Carnarium without losing the Sprawl - his only source of blue in sight. Meanwhile Adam had parlayed Elves of Deep Shadow into a third turn Eidolon.
An Island showed up for Billy and he summoned the Silkwing Scout but Adam groin kicked him with Absolver Thrull for the Sprawl. Before Billy had shaken off the effects of the first kick, Adam kept wailing away by drawing extra cards with his Sky Hussar.
Billy was eventually able to get his Zeppelid into play - several turns to late but got mauled by Seeds of Strength in combat. He was never able to recover from his first turn mistake and Adam overran him.
I asked him what he was thinking after the match and he shook his head was he a tad greedy and assumed he would draw a land?
"A ton greedy - not even a little greedy. I thought I needed to draw a land…which was just stupid. I lost the game right there."
Had he played the match out with the Sprawl securely tucked away in his hand he would have been actually been able to play a turn three Silkwing and turn four Zeppelid. The way his draw played out he would have likely had a bloodthirsted Skaargan Skybreaker in play on turn six. Instead he was at least a turn out of step the whole match.
Sometimes an entire match - and possibly a strong tournament finish can hinge entirely on one play. That was likely the case in this scenario.
Sunday, June 4: 3:24 p.m. - Round 12 Feature Match: Antonino DeRosa vs. Kyle Garnelis
Craig Krempels settled into his heckler's chair by the side of the feature match table and began his non-stop stream of banter. Perhaps in an effort to rattle Ant's less experienced opponent he asked loudly how many GP Top 8's the Prague quarterfinalist had racked up.
"Eight," DeRosa admitted.
"I thought it was only six?"
"Nah…that is just what it says on the back of my Player Card. I had better get a new one this year," laughed the reigning US National Champion as they talked about his card stats. "They need to show how much money you can win in one year."
Kyle Garnelis was not nearly as talkative as either of the two U.S. Champions. And by 'not talkative' I mean he shrugged a lot.
"Can you just refer to him as Chatterbox in the coverage?" asked Krempels.
While not possessing a resume like Antonino's - few players do - Kyle has experienced some recent success. Just two weeks ago he qualified for U.S. Nationals in Connecticut with a blue-red Tron deck.
Antonino had a lot of action on his first two turns as he dumped a Utopia Sprawl and Coiling Oracle into play. "I'm going off!"
Beacon Hawk came down for Kyle but it was dwarfed by DeRosa's third turn Rumbling Slum. It prompted actual words to escape Kyle's lips. "That got to you?"
"I was only two seats away buddy!"
Freewind Equenaut joined Kyle's team and he braced for six damage on the next turn. DeRosa added a Mossdog to the board. Kyle was game and attacked for three and utapped his Equenanut. "Second main phase?"
DeRosa looked insulted, "You don't have to announce that man."
The Rumbling Slum was marked for eviction (no doubt to build a sports coliseum with public funds but that kind of ranting is best suited for elsewhere). Ant took brief advantage of the enchantment with Infiltrator's Magemark and smashed across for ten points of unblockable.
The Slum was bounced on Kyle's upkeep and he kept pecking away in the air and untapping the Freewind. "Go"
"I know the card you have in your hand," said a wary DeRosa. He replayed the Rumbling Slum in his first main phase and was Overruled for four precious points of life. "I didn't know although you might have the other card also."
He still had the Magemarked Mossdog and that was enough to finish off Kyle over two (uneccessary) turns. DeRosa shook his head and revealed which card he was concerned with.
"I thought you had the sacrifice two attacking creatures card. You got game kid. I like it. I like it. I remember when I had that type of fire.
Kyle just shrugged.
Kyle mulled, shrugged, and kept his next set of cards. Utopia Sprawl from Ant followed by Lurking Informant. Kyle just played lands while Ant hit with a Coiling Oracle and proceeded to get greedy… He tapped mana for his Followed Footsteps while announcing: "I don't even know if this is a good play…"
Craig just shook his head from the sidelines as Kyle smoked the Oracle with Pyromatics in response. Ant defended his play to his friend, "It was too tempting man…too tempting."
Tidewater Minion and Benevolent Ancestor joined the Kyle squad while Mossdog looked for some kind of opening from Ant's end of the red zone. Ant had to content himself with stripping Kyle's hand with Strands of Undeath.
Kyle realized suddenly that this was not a game that could be won by damage and began to double Lurking Informant DeRosa every turn.
"Man! You are on plan B aren't you? I can appreciate Plan B."
Despite having better creatures DeRosa was not able to mount much offense and was in serious danger of being decked. After Coiling Oracle yielded an Eelctrolyze, DeRosa put his plan into action. He used the burn spell EOT on the Informant and Kyle saved it with his Ancestor. DeRosa untapped and Magemarked the Oracle and attacked with it and Mossdog. When Kyle blocked the Oracle with Tidewater Minion DeRosa looked shocked, "That has defender?"
At the end of Ant's turn when Kyle used the Minion to untap the Lurking Informant, DeRosa pounced. Twinstrike killed the Informant and the Minion. Krempels cracked up.
"Playing the fool, Ant. Playing the fool."
Kyle was playing off the top now and while he bought some turns with a doubly-replicated Vacumelt he could not muster any offense and DeRosa eventually ran him over with an array of mid-range green creatures and a well placed Savage Twister.
Krempels was still laughing after the match doing his best impersonation of his friend.
"Oh it has Defender? I am so dumb. Oh yeah, Twinstrike your team away. Rope-a-dope…don't look at my feet. I'm Antonino DeRosa.
Sunday, June 4: 3:47 p.m. - Drafting with Ant
Antonino was in Seat 2, Pod 1, with Robb Davis to his right and Jay Z. Jiang to his left. Going into the draft, Antonino was looking to draft "lots of double lands, lots of big creatures." In preparation for Pro Tour Prague, Antonino and other San Diego-based players developed a preference for U/G/R, Izzet-Gruul-Simic Graft-based decks. Ant said he likes four-colour-Green and the only colour he wasn't too excited about was White. In this format, many people like to pick the most powerful card out of each pack, but Ant felt that you should build your deck with an archetype in mind, that deck synergy would overcome pure card power.
In the first pack, Ant stuck to his plan and took a Bramble Elemental after briefly considering Lightning Helix. The next picks were easy, a Civic Wayfinder and Compulsive Research. He added a Strands of Undeath and a fifth-pick Followed Footsteps to go with his Elemental. He felt that the Compulsive Research and the Followed Footsteps went later than expected, so he felt that Davis wouldn't be in Blue. Unfortunately for Antonino, the only notable Blue or Green cards that came his way were a Greater Mossdog and a Lurking Informant, so he snapped them up along with an Auratouched Mage, Mortipede, and a trio of Sewerdregs to come out of the sideboard and put the hurt on any Black mages.
Guildpact served him up a Savage Twister, so he added the Uncommon Wrath to his pile. He took an Electrolyze second, over Ogre Savant and Ghor-Clan Savage. A third-pick Rumbling Slum signaled to him that Red was available, and he took a Ghor-Clan Savage, Burning-Tree Bloodscale, and Gruul Nodorog in the next few picks (along with a Gruul Signet to help his mana). An Infiltrator's Magemark added to his Bramble Elemental and Auratouched Mage enhancers, but it works just as well with any of the other large monsters in his deck.
Antonino first-picked Govern the Guildless out of his Dissension pack. The only other notable cards being Seal of Fire and Minister of Impediments. Thirty-one picks later, he finally saw his first Karoo, a Rakdos Carnarium. He would've had to take it over Twinstrike, so he understandably declined. The next choice Antonino had to make was between Coiling Oracle and Silkwing Scout. He went with the Snake, but in retrospect, he felt it might have been a mistake since he had no three-drops. As it turned out, that pack was also his second (and last) chance to take a Karoo, this time an Azorius Chancery. His next pick was a Transguild Courier over Hit/Run. Ant said he liked the split card, but that his deck just wasn't aggressive enough to really make good use of Run, and he wouldn't reliably have the mana to cast Hit, either. The best cards at the end of the pack were Utopia Sprawl, Cytospawn Shambler, and Sporeback Troll.
He built his deck pretty quickly. It was U/G/R, with a small Black splash for Twinstrike and Strands of Undeath. Auratouched Mage was left on the sidelines despite the absurd amount of Auras that Antonino picked up late in the second and third pack. He said he would've played it, but didn't want to stretch his mana further than he was already. He needed to go 2-1 if he wanted to make top eight, and he felt his deck could get him there.
Sunday, June 4: 5:15 p.m. - Round Fourteen Fights
Antonino De Rosa, left, ad John Fiorillo
As round thirteen drew to a close the standings looked like this:
1 John Fiorillo 36 points
2 Antonino DeRosa 34 points
3 Brad Taulbee 33 points
4-11 31 points
12-16 30 points
The only players who could easily draw were the top two but everyone else was forced to play - even Taulbee who was squaring off with Gerard Fabiano (31 points) in the feature match area. There were relevant matches everywhere you looked from Jon Sonne (31) and Kyle Garnelis (31) to Jelger Wiegersma (30) and John Moore (30). The threat of the 30 point players leapfrogging any 32 pointers meant that it was likely one 33 point player would make it into the Top 8.
Jon Sonne made short work of the quiet Kyle Garnelis in Game 1 of their match. Siege Wurm with Wurmweaver Coil is nothing to shrug at but that is just what Kyle did before moving onto Game 2. Mark Swoyer was watching Jon's opponent's hand nervously.
"I saw Kyle's Game 2 hand and thought there was no way Jon could win. Then I remembered that Jon is a master and I figured maybe he could win."
One replicated Siege of Towers later and Jon was heading to his second straight Ravnica limited Top 8.
"That is why he is a master," admired Mark.
Ben Lundquist (30) started the tournament on an 8-0 tear but the wheels come for him in the final laps. He still had a shot if he could manage a win over Robb Davis (28) but he dropped one game to a well aimed Vedalken Plotter and the other to a Ledgewalker that enabled a series of bloodthirsty dudes while he scuffled for mana. With the win Davis was unlikely to even Top 16 making the loss sting just a little more for Lundquist.
Billy Moreno protégé Kyle Sanchez (31) exceeded his teacher's performance with a final round win over Phillip Dettelis (31). Kyle mulliganed a hand that made his supporters wince but in the end he emerged victorious and with a Top 8 spot.
Mark Lovin (31) had to battle through two rounds of Pro Tour studs - Rogier Maaten and Billy Moreno - before he could square off with Josh Breau (30) in the final round of the Swiss. Mark laughed about his road to the Top 8, "I was hoping I could play Julien in the last round but he lost."
Mark has never really had the opportunity to face this level of competition and was relishing every minute of it. "I have never made Day Two before. I don't know what happened."
Jelger Wiegersma (30) was lurking near the top tables all weekend long but never drew any attention with a couple of early losses. Like a true champion, the Pro Tour Seattle winner finished strong and took down up-and-coming John Moore (30) in two brutally efficient games.
As time expired there was still a huge crowd watching the battle between Fabiano and Taulbee. A draw would get Taulbee where he wanted to go but Gerard needed the win…
Sunday, June 4: 5:42 p.m. - Round 14 Feature Match: Gerard Fabiano vs. Brad Taulbee
Gerard Fabiano was among a cluster of eight players at 31 points, with five more at 30 points, which meant that they'd all have to play to make it to the top eight. Brad Taulbee, meanwhile, could still get in with a draw, sitting at 33 points.
"Make me proud, eh? I want you in the top eight." Antonino De Rosa told Fabiano as the competitors shuffled up.
Gerard led things off with Mourning Thrull, and Brad one-upped him with an Azorius Herald off an Azorius Chancery, followed by an Ostiary Thrull. An Orzhov Guildmage hit Gerard's side of the board, and on Taulbee's turn, he traded it with the Thrull. Revenant Patriarch took Gerard's next attack phase away, so used the turn to Convoke out a Conclave Equenaut. Taulbee added a Dimir House Guard to his side, furthering the "no-blocking" theme of the match so far.
Gerard went ahead when he played a Riot Spikes on the Azorius Herald and a Pillory of the Sleepless on the Patriarch. Brad answered with some Enchantments of his own, courtesy of Three Dreams. He fetched Pillory of the Sleepless, Plumes of Peace, and Clinging Darkness and played them all the following turn, neutralizing Fabiano's team, including a freshly played Helium Squirter.
A Graft-enhance 3/3 Blind Hunter from Gerard evened things up, until another Ostiary Thrull showed up for Brad. The Thrull kept things close, but the counters from Helium Squirter, combined with some Infiltrator's Magemarks, eventually made too many of Gerard's guys too hard for Brad to handle. A 4/4 Orzhov Euthanist and a Shielding Plaxed Blind Hunter get in for damage, and Taulbee prevents three of it with the Aurora Eidolon he'd played a turn earlier, which left him at one. On his turn, he realized he couldn't do enough damage to kill Gerard, so they shuffled up for Game 2.
Gerard Fabiano 1 - Brad Taulbee 0
This game was even more fast paced, as Fabiano was very conscious of the time remaining and played accordingly.
Orzhov Guildmage was the play made by Gerard, but it was killed the next turn by Brad's first play, Thunderheads. Gerard's Blind Hunter, Beacon Hawk, Mourning Thrull were matched by Brad's Ostiary Thrull and Guardian of the Guildpact.
Gerard sent his team, and followed his attack up with a Convoked Conclave Equenaut. Taulbee answered with a Plumes of Peace on the Beacon Hawk and a Pillory of the Sleepless on the Equenaut. Blind Hunter was enchanted with Shielding Plax by Gerard, and after drawing his card, he played a Veteran Armorer. Taulbee traded one Ostiary Thrull for the Armorer before making a second one. Clinging Darkness took out Fabiano's Mourning Thrull.
Helium Squirter hit play for Gerard, while a Dimir House Guard was added to Brad's side. Gerard is ahead in the race, until Brad played Azorius Herald and tied the life totals. Once again, Gerard had the Riot Spikes. Still, he was starting to fall behind as House Guard and a Pillory of the Sleepless on his Helium Squirter ate away at his life total. With Fabiano on the ropes at a precarious four life, Taulbee attacked with his House Guard and a Vesper Ghoul, dropping Fabiano to one. At the end of the turn, Gerard played a very clutch Clutch of the Undercity on Pillory, which knocked Taulbee down to six and freed up Fabiano's Conclave Equenaut. Gerard suited up his Helium Squirter with Infiltrator's Magemark, and it got tapped by Ostiary Thrull. Still facing lethal damage, Taulbee played a Douse in Gloom just for the lifegain, leaving him at one life. He replayed the Pillory of the Sleepless and won on Gerard's upkeep, evening the match at one game apiece.
Gerard Fabiano 1 - Brad Taulbee 1
The third game started with less than ten minutes left on the clock. Gerard opted to play first, and after they wished each other luck, Brad kicked things off with a turn three Vesper Ghoul. Gerard played a Demon's Jester on turn four, but it was Doused in Gloom. Brad once again played the Azorius Herald, and the lifegain was really making it tough for Gerard to race effectively. Ostiary Thrull made things even tougher for Gerard's Orzhov Euthanist and Orzhov Guildmage. An Infiltrator's Magemark pumped up the Euthanist, and Fabiano sent both of his creatures. Taulbee blocked with his Ostiary Thrull and Carom turned the trade into a rout, saving Orzhov Guildmage and killing Azorius Herald.
Netherborn Phalanx slowed Gerard down, and a Revenant Patriarch and Ribbons of Night on Orzhov Guildmage slowed him down even further. Gerard played a Helium Squirter, but Brad matched it with an Ostiary Thrull. Soon after that, Taulbee attacked with everyone, and saved his Thrull by sacrificing his Aurora Eidolon. Taulbee enchanted the Helium Squiter with Plumes of Peace, returned his Eidolon, and replayed it. The next turn, when Taulbee used his Thrull to tap Fabiano's one remaining blocker and attacked, Gerard extended the hand.
Brad Taulbee 2 - Gerard Fabiano 1