Saturday, June 30: 11:20 am - Living the Pipe Dream
by Josh Bennett
On Thursday night, Jacob van Lunen and Chris Lachmann played a practice draft against Jersey Heavyweights Eugene Harvey and John Fiorillo and handed them a bitter defeat. Harvey and Fiorillo succumbed to poison counters, courtesy of multiple copies of Virulent Sliver. They took the beating with no small amount of incredulity. "That deck's a pipe dream. No way does that ever happen."
Lachmann and van Lunen have Slivers on the brain.
Van Lunen and Lachmann politely disagree. With two packs of Future Sight to go through, it's not hard to get your hands on multiples of Virulent Sliver. Especially, says van Lunen, when no-one gives the card any respect.
"He's so good, and nobody wants him. You can table him so easy, and save your early picks for removal."
Van Lunen fanned one of his decks from Friday, showing off six copies of the mighty 1/1 and Evolution Charms to get them back.
"People are really undervaluing Slivers. That's actually how we qualified, even though the poison sliver didn't exist yet."
After they swept their first pod on the back of Virulent Sliver, Van Lunen and Lachmann stuck to the playbook for their second draft, and wound up sitting across from Harvey/Fiorillo in round three. If Harvey and Fiorillo thought the poison strategy a joke, they soon found themselves the unwitting punchline. Van Lunen told the story with a grin.
"I went turn-one Virulent Sliver, turn-two Virulent Sliver, Virulent Sliver. Chris had a removal spell and that was it. What can you do against that? The match was over in a minute fifty."
At the end of the day they had a perfect record, having poisoned both Finkel/Ravitz and Humpherys/Sadin, but that meant their secret was out. Now it seems like everyone wants to follow in their footsteps. In today's first draft, Craig Krempels was seen flashing a four-pack of Virulents and grinning about his "theme deck." Tsumura and Hirosawa are even more self-deprecating, having drafted what they call "joke decks." The really nice touch is the green-white deck playing two Swamps without search, not just to benefit from Sedge Sliver, but also to live the dream of Darkheart Sliver and Teneb, the Harvester.
Saturday, June 30: 2:00 pm - Rare Power
by Josh Bennett
Japan's Itaru Ishida and Osamu Fujita have been fixtures of Team Limited since the early days of the format. They crossed into Day 2 with an unexciting 4-2 record, but eager to bring the pain. The first draft of Saturday went very well for them. During deck construction they could be seen rubbing their hands together with glee at the bounty of bombs that had been sent by providence.
Their match against Gerard Fabiano and Eric Ziegler was a thorough examination of backbreaking. In broad strokes, this is how the match played out. After an early exchange of cards, Fujita put the brakes on with Aetherflame Wall and Magus of the Tabernacle. Gerard's creatures tied up his mana, but Ziegler had a free hand to bust up the party with Torchling. They managed to force the Magus off the table and were ready to get back on the offensive.
Ishida and Fujita had other plans. A Knight of Sursi came off suspend, and they both started playing spells. The sequence ended with a Magus of the Abyss (and poor Ziegler's Torchling had no friends to protect it) and a Volcanic Awakening for seven, leaving Fabiano landless.
At least he still had some men. He plucked a land and sent in an attack that left Ishida and Fujita with the Magus of the Abyss and the Knight, both doomed on upkeep. Ziegler threw down a couple monsters and it looked like things were turning around. The Japanese untapped, sent their men to the bin, and then showed a kicked-up Desolation Giant.
Fabiano tried to stave off Ziegler's gloom. "We can still win this."
He got another land and Edge of Autumn got him a third. Fujita played Flickering Spirit and Stormfront Riders, rescuing his Desolation Giant just in case things got out of hand. Then Ishida wiped out Ziegler's hand on upkeep with a Haunting Hymn.
"Alright, I don't think we can win."
A few attacks later, including a flipped up Liege of the Pit from Ishida, and the carnage was over.
Saturday, June 30: 4:15 pm - Artistry
by Josh Bennett
For his fourth draft of the tournament, Jon Finkel put together a deck that can only be described as extremely greedy. Words won't do it justice. Take a look.
Now, that deck is a thing of beauty, but for maximum Limited artistry you need to look to Pat Chapin and Mark Herberholz. Their combined Constructed genius came through in the first draft of the day. While flicking through their cards before pack 4, Chapin plucked out a Living End that had been relegated to the unplayables. The cogs had started turning in his head as soon as they got it as a fourteenth pick, and now the plan was coming together in his head.
By the end of the draft, they had a wealth of quality suspend and vanishing cards to justify the inclusion of Timecrafting, Fury Charm, and Viashino Sand-Mage. They also had Tolaria West to tutor up the End. During deckbuilding, their tablemates were incredulous, asking if Chapin had planned it from the beginning.
"Obviously you don't FORCE Living End. We got it thirteenth, but we got all the support we needed, and so why not?"
Chapin was in full glowing form as he held court with the story of his victory in Round 8.
Herberholz and Chapin assemble a fiendish contraption.
drew our opening hands, and had both Living End and Timecrafting. We just looked at each other: It was on. The whole game were setting it up: Bonded Fetching creatures into the yard, letting our opponents use up their tricks in combat to press their advantage. I thought for sure the jig was up, because Heezy had a Thrill of the Hunt in his 'yard that he wasn't using, but they never caught on. Finally they think they've got us, and I suspend the End. Heezy Timecrafts it, and after they read the card, they realize they need to counter it. I showed them the Logic Knot. Suddenly our boards are full and we've gained 17 life off our dead Essence Warden!"
As awesome as the decks are in action, it was not all smooth sailing in the draft. Chapin's blue-black came together perfectly (including the Logic Knot, which came late), but Herberholz's deck never materialized.
"Heezy's deck is not great. We started green-white, but then we got Torchling, and since the white had been thin we tried moving that way, but the red cards never really came either. Luckily, the way the decks work together, we just need him to put up a token resistance while we set up."
Saturday, June 30: 7:45 pm - Draft 6: Kenji Tsumura and Yuuta Hirosawa
by Josh Bennett
Watching Tsumura and Hirosawa draft is a real pleasure. Every pick they engage in a rapid-fire series of gestures and card evaluations. During review between packs they divide the labor, working on a couple colors each, then looking over and offering criticism. The visible give-and-take is really interesting. Also, they share some mannerisms and flourishes, occasionally acting in stereo.
Employing a fluid strategy, they prefer solid staples over cards that provide opportunities for synergy. After each of the first three packs they would pair and re-pair different colors, checking the revised strengths and weaknesses.
The decision on color pairs came in the middle of pack four. Their green and black cards hit a critical mass, providing the bases for the two decks and indicating green-red and black-blue. Neighbor Cunningham joked about their shifting signals.
"Kenji gave us the rope-a-dope again." -Jeff Cunningham
Hirosawa's deck came together really nicely, a svelte aggressive machine, and Future Sight's Nacatl War-Pride gave a deadly combo for his pair of Strength in Numbers.
Tsumura liked the power of his blue-black deck but admitted it has issues. Most significant is that the mana curve tends skyward at the five mana mark. He almost tried to cram in a Gibbering Descent, a card he rates very highly, but with only two madness outlets the last thing he need was another six-mana mulligan in his opening hand.
When asked of their chances, Tsumura was cautiously optimistic. The decks have everything they need for the two match wins. Backed by Kenji's feverish desire to Top 4, it will be hard to stop them.
Saturday, June 30: 7:45 pm - Day 2 Photolog
by Josh Bennett
BDM's childish whimsy turns Steve OMS into a carnival game.
England's Martin Dingler approves, as do his muttonchops, which captivate teammate Nick Lovett.
Ruud Warmenhoven and Pat Chapin: a study in contrast.
After a mediocre weekend, TBS abandons Magic to follow in the footsteps of Magritte.
The Ruel Brothers. Apparently, Antoine is having a very good time.
Two out of three ain't bad.
Hall of Fame hopeful Brian Kibler and Kate Stavola glamorize the game.