At each event there are tons of little tidbits and great stories that don't warrant a full separate feature. They usually dominate the back room conversation but end up on the metaphoric cutting room floor. This time, magicthegathering.com columnist Brian David-Marshall is roaming the event snapping pictures, keeping his eyes and ears peeled, and sharing it all in our first ever Magic Weekend Coverage Blog.
Friday, June 18: 7:16 pm
"I guess someone has to be ahead on tiebreakers," mused Randy Buehler when informed that the last 6-0 player had fallen by the wayside. When Dave Humpherys went all-in on his Vedalken Engineer with Vulshok Gauntlets and Grafted Wargear only to have it ambushed by Billy Postlethwait's Tangle Spider he contributed to a fourteen--FOURTEEN--player pile-up at the top of the standings.
Kyle Felter had fallen to Phimus Pan and Bill Stead had beaten Brian Kibler. All three of the undefeated players had been paired down due to playing four rounds within their pods. Three undefeated tables to start the draft portion meant that three 6-0 players would be paired down in the final round.
Stead was apologetic about his win. "Kibler was green-white and I had Pristine Angel. He kept pestering me, 'What did you take over Razor Golem? What did you take?' I showed him."
Brian got the last laugh-despite losing the round since he was still in first place on tiebreakers after all was said and done. He also led the standings at last year's US Nationals after day one. He might be good at this game.
Friday, June 18: 7:09 pm
Apparently Gabe Walls went 4-0 in matches and 8-0 in games in the draft portion on the way to his 6-1 record. His intention was to draft a Sunburst deck and he got what he wanted--and then some. After taking an early Bringer of the Blue Dawn he also got a Skyreach Manta to swoop all the way around the table into his waiting arms--he ended up with three Mantas overall.
Friday, June 18: 7:00 pm
Much of Zvi's draft strategy was gleaned from talking with Seth Burn who is part of my regular Tuesday night draft crowd along with Mike Clair and Steve Sadin. The four of them combined for an impressive 12-4 record using similar strategies and card valuations. Way to go guys!
Friday, June 18: 6:55 pm
Zvi lost his final round to a Razormane Masticore. Staring down the barrel of it with nothing on the table that could stand in its way Zvi drew one of his Leonin Bolas but it was not enough to get back in the game. One of the spectators pointed out with a leer that if the Bola had been Fireball he could have killed the 5/5 monster.
Friday, June 18: 4:27 pm
Quick Bola update…
When I mentioned earlier that Zvi was willing to pick Bola over Fireball I didn't realize he had actually put his money where his mouth is; his first Bola came at the expense of a Fireball in his first Darksteel pack. At the time the only color he had committed to was blue and he could easily have taken the X spell. His second Bola came at the expense of a Barbed Lightning. Said Zvi, "I think this limited format is coming down to who can open up Bolas." No word on what the guy to his left took over Zvi's second Bola.
Friday, June 18: 4:13 pm
A quick peek at the standings after five rounds…
Two relatively obscure names sit atop the standings--Michael Aitchison and Kyle Felter. Randy Buehler has said multiple times this weekend, "Someone always wins Nationals." His point being that even if the players who win are obscure they do not remain so for long. Nationals has always been a launching pad for some of the game's most glorious careers. Will Michael and Kyle--as well as fellow 5-0's Ben Zoz and Corwin Marsh--launch careers to match those of Justin Gary, Bob Maher, Jon Finkel, and Zvi Mowshowitz? It's too soon to tell but keep it where it is and we'll keep you updated.
Mitchell Tamblyn continues his impressive run and is facing off this round against Dave Humpherys with both players at 5-0. Dave had an impressive turn during the round previous to preserve his X-0 status. He was a turn away from getting Fireballed out of Game 2 when he played a Sundering Titan to kill his opponent's only Mountain--and two other lands to boot. With so many players running Sunburst cards and the attendant spread of basic lands will Sundering Titan's stock be on the rise?
Kibler was also 5-0 and facing off against the aforementioned Ben Zoz. Kibler has vowed that he will not play any basic lands this weekend other than Forests and Plains.
In the 4-1 bracket Alex Shvartsman, Zvi Mowshowitz, Bill Stead, Craig Krempels, Gabe Walls, and Gerard Fabiano get top billing on the tournament marquee. Zvi's one loss came in the Constructed portion and his Draft deck is living up to the billing he gave it earlier. With two Bolas and two Trinket Mages--otherwise known as four Bolas. He has been dominating every game with the potent equipment and may be affecting its value in tomorrow's draft with his dominating performance so far.
Sameer Merchant's trepidation about the Limited portion appears to have been warranted as he lost his first two matches after the draft.
Friday, June 18: 4:04 pm
Does this picture look like someone whose opponent missed his third land drop?
Friday, June 18: 3:11 pm
Brian Kibler on Fifth Dawn…
Brian was 4-0 after winning the first match in his pod. He was very happy with his draft deck, "Please don't ask me about anything that involves basic lands other than Forests or Plains. That is all I am playing all day today-even in Constructed. It is like last year when all I played were Swamps in Limited and Constructed.
"I think Scry is one of the best mechanics for Limited in a real long time. I think it helps good players more than bad players because of all the decisions you need to make. The more decisions you make the more the better player will be rewarded.
"Sunburst on the other hand can be randomly amazing--which can be very frustrating. It feels a little like Invasion block when your opponent would luck into the Domain and cast Ordered Migration for five. At the same time it makes for very interesting decisions during deck building."
Kibler felt he had a draft deck that could go undefeated today. There was one thing he would like to be able to go back and change, "My one mispick is that I took a Banshee's Blade over a Lifespark Spellbomb--and regretted it immediately. I ended up with two Auriok Salvagers and currently they are just 2/4's that can get back my Bola if it dies."
Friday, June 18: 3:00 pm
Bill Stead (with a dash of Zvi) on Fifth Dawn…
"I think every scrying card is good. I am even playing Stand Firm--the least powerful of the Scrying cards. Of course, I do have Pristine Angel so I kind of had to. I took it thirteenth pick over a Sawtooth Thresher. If you are sunburst you get cards so late it is ridiculous."
Zvi who was still standing nearby chimed in agreement, "I slammed down a first pick Skyreach Manta and then got another one fifth pick. I was also able to long range an Etched Oracle."
Although there has been a lot of talk about the Sunburst deck being a five-color green concoction both Stead and Mowshowitz consider it a blue deck because of Engineer and Trinket Mage. Zvi got all worked up talking about the Mage, "He searches out the best card in the format--Leonin Bola. I am at the point where I take Bola over Fireball."
Stead pulled back the reins at that, "I like Bola quite a bit but not as much as an X spell."
Friday, June 18: 2:43 pm
Zvi Mowshowitz on Fifth Dawn…
"I love scrying as a Limited mechanic but the problem with it is in Constructed. I love it as an idea but in a combolicious environment Serum Visions is dangerous, 'You're not an Ironworks…got to the bottom of my deck.' Card selection is very dangerous in a combo field.
"I love a lot of the cards in Fifth Dawn except for the other cards in Fifth Dawn," shrugged Zvi. "Sunburst is sooo good. I am playing all five basic lands in my draft deck."
Friday, June 18: 2:35 pm
In the middle of Game 2 Gabe Walls was chuckling at his opponent. "My opponent flipped up a card while we were shuffling--Predator's Strike. I was able to win Game 1 by bluffing that I had it."
"You did have it."
"I drew it on the last turn."
His opponent was still concerned about the card for Game 2 and tried to puzzle out what was in Gabe's grip. Walls flashed me his cards--Stasis Cocoon and Pulse of the Field--and waggled his eyebrows, "Suited!"
Friday, June 18: 2:24 pm
Paul Sottosanti on the decision to not emergency ban Skullclamp for US Nationals…
"Since the card becomes illegal on Sunday I thought we should let players use the card on Friday and Saturday. If you had the card in your deck on Sunday you would be dropped from the tournament and finish in the lowest position in the Top 8. I thought it would be an interesting gambit… You could play with Skullclamp to make Top 8 but not win or you could try to run without it to have a chance to win the whole tournament."
Paul was, of course, not serious but it was a funny idea. Of course under that scenario what would happen if all eight players in the Top 8 had Skullclamp?
Friday, June 18: 1:01 pm
As the pods went up for the first draft the tables shaped up interestingly with the top names sprinkled throughout the first four tables. The most well known player at table one was Sameer Merchant. Table two was a little more formidable with Alex Shvartsman, Dave Humpherys, and Mitchell Tamblyn. The third table had Kibler and Bill Stead among the notables. Once you got to the fourth table with the 2-1 records it featured Mike Long, Osyp Lebedowicz, and Zvi Mowshowitz.
Friday, June 18: 12:53 pm
Brian Kibler was yet another 3-0 player lingering around the feature match area after the third round. He was playing a version of the green-white deck designed by Mike Flores and featured in my column a couple of weeks ago. Brian chose to play the deck because he claimed it was excellent against the less tournament experienced field you find at Nationals--the experience of the players is less than what you would typically find on a Pro Tour. "I refused to play Goblins or Affinity. I hate to be the guy with the target on my forehead."
Brian and Paul Rietzl laughed about what a good card Pulse of the Field is and how people still don't play against it properly. "The correct play against turn one plains is to burn for one. Seriously it is the absolute correct play."
Rietzl agreed, "I have Shrapnel Blasted myself so many times in play testing it is not even funny!"
The conversation turned to Joshua Wagener--The Champ. Kibler poked fun at last year's winner and the poor year he has had competitively since Worlds. "I have already said that if the Champ wins this tournament he will undo all the work that Kai has done to prove that Magic is a skill game!"
Friday, June 18: 12:46 pm
Noah Barnett announced shortly after his loss to Sameer that he would definitely be playing in the JSS tomorrow despite his 2-1 record. "I was only going to stay in if I had a 7-0 record. I don't want to be the next Mike McGee."
Friday, June 18: 12:41 pm
While he claimed to not be avoiding the question about his draft strategy he could not say the same about some pointed questions from Tom Guevin at the nearby table. Sameer was explaining that he had just finished playing against his first affinity deck of the day--his best match-up. After winning the Elf and Nail mirror in round one he got past Green-White control in the second round. Tom Guevin's ears perked up. He was also playing Elf and Nail and tried to pump Sameer for information, "Wow, that's a hard match-up. What do you do? Mindslaver them or just rely on Colossus?"
"I am trying not to talk about my sideboard at this time." Guevin was visibly frustrated and mentioned that he would have to look online. He will have to wait until tomorrow to see it though--the deck lists will go up after the last round of Swiss.
Friday, June 18: 12:35 pm
Sameer Merchant update…
Sameer also emerged from the constructed portion of Day One with a 3-0 record. Unlike Mitch he was rather concerned about the prospect of drafting. He is much more comfortable with Constructed. When asked about his strategy for the draft he was not very specific, "I am going to try and listen to signals. I'm not forcing anything. I am not trying to avoid the question I just want to be a cooperative drafter."
Friday, June 18: 12:23 pm
While Mitch was waiting to sit down at the draft table his father was putting the finishing touches on his sealed deck build in the parent's tournament that was taking place just around the bend from Nationals. Kenneth Tamblyn laughed and explained, "I am just here to embarrass Mitch!" Kenneth explained that his son had some other concerns coming into the event besides constructed. Mitch was qualified for this year's Worlds based on his rating prior to the start of play this morning. "You shouldn't lose out on a World's invite because you played in Nationals," chided the elder Tamblyn.
Consider your son properly embarrassed Mr. Tamblyn.
Friday, June 18: 12:11 pm
Mitch Tamblyn was elated to escape the constructed portion of Day One with a pristine 3-0 record. Mitch has made a Grand Prix Top 8 in limited this season and feels much more confident in his limited skills. "I am done with Constructed. It is time to draft."
Friday, June 18: 11:41 am
Despite playing "Necro" Paul Rietzl found himself in an 0-2 hole after the close of the second round.
Friday, June 18: 11:33 am
Speaking of R.E. …
While not as visible to the public as many of the other key figures in Magic, Dalrymple is the Senior Operations Manager for Organized Play. He does not normally attend premiere events but likes to get to a couple each year to see the face of Magic after being immersed in its data all year long.
R.E. noticed that the face of Magic is getting younger as the game has swelled over the last year to record numbers. "We wanted to be able to do a press release for this event but we fell six thousand sanctioned matches short of one million for the first quarter of 2004. The numbers keep climbing though and I am sure we will get there in Q2."
When asked about what he saw at the event R.E. came up with, "If you need any confirmation that Magic is reaching a younger audience how about this little tidbit? We ran out of medium competitor shirts--we ran out! It is definitely fun to see. I can't wait to see what this new breed of player--and they are coming in in droves--does to the landscape of competitive Magic."
Friday, June 18: 11:15 am
Gerard occupied himself by playing a match against Mike Turian. Mike is in the early days of his Magic retirement and not playing in the event. Instead he was deck doctoring and gun slinging alongside one the game's founding fathers Skaff Elias.
Turian was helping players to tune their decks and occasionally gunslinging with his mono-black deck with Chittering Rats and Rotlung Reanimators--he beat Gerard with it.
Skaff was slinging with a mono-red Goblin deck. Skaff is not involved with Magic on a day to day basis any longer and thought, "This Skullclamp card seems like a problem." He was happy to learn that it was being banned in Standard as of Saturday. Skaff is filling in for Richard Garfield this weekend and will be hosting the live action Magic game on Saturday evening. Undoubtedly, he will also be getting in a game or two of basketball over the weekend. He was overheard chiding R.E. Dalrymple for not bringing sneakers to the event. .
Friday, June 18: 11:07 am
Gerard Fabiano won a quick match when his opponent had a 56 card deck on his registration sheet. He failed to list his Skullclamps. Omission or political statement? You be the judge.
Friday, June 18: 10:45 am
Each round one of the feature matches under the spotlights has been one of the Regional Champions from around the country. Round two saw Ohio Valley Regional Champion Gary Meinl face off against John Ryan Golden. John--who prefers to be called Ryan G--qualified at Florida Regionals. Gary was playing Green-red Goblins while Ryan G was playing Affinity.
At the other feature match table Adam Prosak looked over when he heard the two players talking and asked, "You're the guy who won Ohio Valley? The one with the 1612 rating?"
Gary smiled, "It was actually lower than that. I lost at FNM the night before but it hadn't gone in yet. I am still looking for a FNM win actually--I went 1-3 the other day."
The always abrasive Ryan G smirked, "I could tell by the way you played."
Meinl shrugged, "I should have played Bidding. It covers up my mistakes."
Friday, June 18: 10:31 am
Paul Rietzl likened not playing Affinity this weekend to not playing Necro during Necro Summer. Neither Neil Reeves nor Gabe Walls chose to play with the popular deck and were seated side-by-side for the start of round two in the loser's bracket. They commiserated over their deck choice, "Are you playing Necro Neil?"
Neil sighed, "I never played Necro even back then. I was actually in the army during Necro Summer defending YOUR freedom!"
Friday, June 18: 10:28 am
Overheard near the feature match area…
""You have to be a careful these days, since they banned PTR. Like, the DCI just isn't tolerating unsportsmanlike conduct anymore. For example: I was gonna bring these stickers that said 'Loser' on them, and each time I won a game, I was going to reach out and slap it on my opponent's forehead. I figured it would be a nice visual aid for the fans, to help keep track of games scores and such. Now that PTR's gone though, you just can't do that kind of stuff anymore."
Friday, June 18: 9:41 am
All three members of last year's US National team were seated in the feature area for round one. The Champ himself--Joshua Wagener--was defending his title against Robert Peacock. Robert ground in last night with the Japanese Goblin deck. After taking Game 1 Josh found himself stuck on two lands in the second game--one of which was a Temple of the False God.
Things were not looking good for the other members of the team either as Gabe Walls shouted over from his match, "Champ, we have a man down!" Apparently Justin Gary fell in two short games to Chris McMahon. Gabe was down a game as well to Adam Chambers and Game 2 was looking bad. Gabe had a modest goblin army on the table but Chambers was ripping through his affinity deck with Skullclamp in search of a red mana source for his Pyroclasm. Gabe looked scared when Adam had to discard at the end of his turn and put Arcbound Ravager and Shrapnel Blast in the bin. "Things aren't looking good for me here."
Adam dumped his hand onto the table next turn after Pyroclasming Gabe's team away. He played three Frogmites and an Arcbound Worker. Gabe laughed at the absurdity of the situation and showed his opponent Rorix Bladewing in hand. His opponent was befuddled, "Why do you have that?"
"I have no idea," shrugged Walls as he waited for the inevitable.
Justin Gary looked on and turned to Randy Buehler, "Who do we have to blame for not banning Skullclamp sooner?"
Walls laughed even harder, "I love that we are all too stubborn to play with it." To be fair, Walls actually had four Skullclamps but they were in his sideboard.
Gabe fell to Chambers and the duty of defending the honor of the US National team fell to its captain Joshua. "Champ you gotta carry us!"
Justin joined in the cheers, "Just like old times, Champ. You can do it."
But he couldn't draw any land in the final game and the US National team from last year fell 0-3 in the first round. Walls shrugged, We tried team, we tried. See you all in the Top 8!"
Friday, June 18: 9:25 am
While they have not necessarily been distributed to all the members yet Your Move Games front man Rob Dougherty was sporting a snazzy new team shirt. They redid the logo to make the silhouette of the dragon crisper and larger. It also dispenses with the old logo with the hand-drawn "M" that echoed the Magic logo opting for clean typography. Rob was playing Affinity by the way.
Friday, June 18: 9:10 am
Gerard Fabiano called me over to explain the mysterious absence of Eugene Harvey from this year's Nationals. Apparently Eugene and Adam Horvath's flight was cancelled at the last minute and they were not able to find a flight that would get them here in time. To make matters worse, since they booked the flight through a bargain travel site they were unable to be reimbursed for the tickets. Although it was a sad state of affairs all the way around Gerard had to laugh at his approach to finding a solution, "I made a wish in a fountain that they would be able to get here somehow but it didn't come true."
Friday, June 18: 9:01 am
Round one of the actual tournament saw an interesting--or at least ironic--match-up when Sameer Merchant faced off against Jeff Schadt at Table 73. For those of you living in a brown paper bag for the past few months Sameer is the Northwest Regional Champion. He played a completely unexpected deck that has come to be known as Elf and Nail. Sameer and Jeff shared a laugh as the match-up became evident. Sameer led off with a Bird of Paradise and Jeff led off with…you guessed it--Wirewood Symbiote.
Normally Triskelion and Kamahl work together in the deck but Sameer had to use his Triskelion to take out Jeff's turn six legend. In the end Sameer won the match-up 2-0 thanks to Symbiote/Wood Elves advantage. He was also helped by some key changes he made to the sideboard, four cards in particular. More details on those cards as they develop. (Deck lists will not be posted until tomorrow after the last round of Swiss begins.)
Thursday, June 17: 11:59 pm
The tournament kicked off yesterday at midnight with the first constructed grinder. I knew I had my first blog item when the following interaction occurred between two players facing off in the first round--one somewhat well known and the other a local player trying his luck. The PTQ and GP veteran led of with a classic Ravager Affinity opening of Darksteel Citadel, Welding Jar, and Arcbound Worker and passed the turn. Before drawing a card for his turn his opponent glowered at him through narrowed eyes. He looked like he was trying to bore a hole through the Affinity player and finally he drew his card and dripped acidly, "Somebody here has internet access."