Saturday, August 2: 10:56 a.m. - Vintage Championship, or Lorwyn/Shadowmoor Block PTQ?
by Bill Stark
It’s time for a little game called “Were these cards seen being played in the Vintage Championship or the Lorwyn/Shadowmoor Block Constructed PTQ?”
Click here to find out!
Saturday, August 2: 12:02 p.m. - "...And Then the Wheels Fell Off"
by Marc Calderaro
I've always loved that expression. For some reason I get a distinct mental image of a vehicle, normally a bus, in perfect condition, driving along the road at a very legal 55 mph, and then, WHAM! The axles give out, and the wheels just fall to the ground as the bus just grinds to a halt.
Tim Aten's draft in Pod 3 was going well for a bit...and then the wheels fell off. WHAM!
His early, non-descript picks of Safehold Sentry and Puncture Bolt (over Corrupt, Beseech, and Gloomlance) aimed for a decent white-x or red-x deck and tried to put his neighbors solidly in black. Even though the first pack contained about six playables for him, Aten was confident his signaling would pull through and would be rewarded in pack 2.
Tim Aten, left, makes his pick.
When the second pack was opened, and the cards passed a few times, Aten's jaw dropped in disgust when he saw a Midnight Banshee staring back at him. I knew what he didn't: no one took the black. After pack 2 ended and Aten had about 14 main-deckable cards, it was clear he needed some good removal and some bigger beef to complement his decent two-drops and halfway decent three-drops.
To be fair, he had a Intimidator Initiate, Ballynock Cohort, and a Lurebound Scarecrow, but he was really hoping for something from Eventide (it is the enemy-color set) to jack up his vehicle and fix his axles. Recumbent Blisses for picks one and two and a Flame Jab got the party started, and the Bloodied Ghost followed by two Nightsky Mimics seemed hopeful, but without any more black-white, the Nightsky Mimics descended from 4/4 flying beatsticks into more unremarkable two-drops.
Don't get me wrong, Aten is a great drafter and deck builder, and he's doing the best with what he was given. With two one-drops, six two-drops and five three-drops, he'll certainly come out of the gates blazing. I only pray that before he comes out of those gates, he checks his tires.
Quote of the draft: [Why maindeck Wild Swing over Last Breath]: "My plan is to not have them gain any life. I think that's the right plan."
Saturday, August 2: 2:46 p.m. - Life Gain for Fun and Profit
by Blake Rasmussen
Shadowmoor/Shadowmoor/Eventide has been looked at as a pretty tempo-based format where two-drops rule, monored is one of the best decks, and Mimics can end games by turn five (at least if you're Sam Stein). But Matt Hansen and Daniel Neeley must not have been paying attention at SSE 101 during round 10.
Neeley started off quickly, dropping Thistledown Duo, Silkbind Faerie, Steel of the Godhead (on the Duo), and Armored Ascension on a Rune-Cervin Rider out of his tempo-based blue-white deck.
Meanwhile, Hansen was building a board full of white creatures, including two Cenn's Enlistments. Then, on turn five, he dropped his defensive monster: Resplendent Mentor. Still, with Neeley hitting quick and hard, the life gain was barely keeping Hansen in the game, as he floated below five life, dropping as precariously low as one.
But each turn he kept dropping more and more white creatures, now including Ballynock Trapper (which conveniently untapped with every Cenn's Enlistment). Meanwhile, Neeley was no slouch in the life gain department either, as the Steeled Duo kept poking away four and five life at a time.
About this time, Neeley's life total was in the 50s, while Hansen continued to make incremental gains each turn.
Eventually, those incremental gains became absolute ones and, with only 20 minutes left in the round, Neeley was in triple digits while Hansen floated around 90 life.
Finally, with about 16 minutes left, Neeley counted his mana, counted his now three-card library and scooped up his many, many cards.
Final life total? 106 – 72 in favor of Neeley.
Game 2 featured a slight change of pace, as Neeley only managed to take Hansen down to 7 before his life total skyrocketed. There was no Cenn's Enlistment, but there was a Safehold Sentry pacing his life three mana at a time. Neeley eventually conceded Game 2 with 30 seconds left in the round. Final life totals? 66-20 for Hansen.
Saturday, August 2: 3:15 p.m. - Getting to Know David Sharfman
Attention all kithkin: the Enlistment Office called, you're needed in Chicago.
by Brian David-Marshall
With only four rounds to go in U.S. Nationals 2008, David Sharfman has to feel petty good about his chances of making the Top 8. Anyone would but perhaps we can forgive David a little overconfidence as to his chances of picking up another win or two in the remaining four Standard rounds this weekend. Over the past several years of Nationals, his record in Standard is apparently something like 35 wins against a handful of losses. He had also ground in to three Nationals playing standard, contributing 15 wins to his record. He even went 7-0 two years ago only to finish ninth when he went 3-4 in Limited. After a 7-0 record with 40 card decks this year it appears that David Sharfman has got the whole package neatly wrapped up.
BDM: Tell us a little about yourself.
David Sharfman, living large at U.S. Nationals.
David: I am from Orlando, Florida. I go to college at Valencia and I have been playing Magic since Mirrodin.
BDM: How have you racked up so many wins in Standard?
David: I came in ninth two years ago. I went 7-0 in Constructed the year [Paul] Cheon won only to come in ninth. I went 3-4 in Limited. I grinded in the last three years so this was the first year I was prequalified and got to do a little Limited testing. Type 2 (Standard) is my favorite format so I am really excited if I make Top 8.
BDM: What are you playing in Standard?
David: 5-Color Reveillark with four Cryptic Command, four Firespout, and four Kitchen Finks. It is a little bit different than most decks. I cut Careful Consideration and Pact of Negation for the Cryptic Commands. Round one I played against Merfolk, round two was against Faeries, and round three was against Monored. All three went to three games which was a little scary but I pulled it out and got to the Limited portion which I have been preparing for.
BDM: What were you thinking as you headed into your first round of Limited on Friday?
David: I just wanted to be open with the colors I choose. I don't force any particular colors. I prefer green and black – but not together. I pick creatures higher than removal which is definitely different than most people. Also, pack three has the most removal spells. In the first draft I was blue-white with two Steel of the Godhead and two Watchwing Scarecrow and plenty of white-blue creatures as well as Light from Within.
That deck was pretty aggressive. For the second draft I had a black-red deck with plenty of removal and two Ashenmoor Gougers, Puncture Blasts and Siphon Life. I beat Sam Stein by burning him out for eleven.
BDM: Where do you normally play Magic when you are not at Nationals?
David: I play a lot online and at Cool Stuff, Inc, a store about five minutes from my house. A lot of good players play there like Billy Postlethwait who was Top 4 of Nationals a few years ago. He is good to playtest with.
BDM: You did a lot of drafting?
David: That is what we mostly practiced. I drafted a lot online. I don't even have a Type 2 deck online right now other than like the Swath deck.
BDM: How much practice have you gotten?
David: For SSE I have close to 10 drafts of practice but in SSS I have done somewhere between 50 and 100.
BDM: At this time last year how much Limited experience did you have?
David: I had done maybe three or four right before the event. I wasn't even planning on playing at Nationals last year. I came with my friends and grinded in. I knew what cards were good but not signals and all that.
BDM: Can you explain what the skill set is when it comes to signals?
David: Reading signals and knowing what cards are going to lead to what color combinations. For example I took a Puncture Bolt and I knew that red-black was a really good combination because of all the burn in the set.
BDM: So year in and year out you have been able to identify the best Standard decks? How do you do that?
David: The first year I played a foiled out Tooth and Nail deck. It was monogreen and I had just played with it a lot online. So that was a very simple deck to play. I grinded in with it and played it for Nationals and that worked out well. The next year I played White Weenie with Damping Matrix. That was an innovation that people found out about here and I put that together and 7-0'd that year. The next year I played white-black with Confidant and Jitte – I knew that I wanted to play Jitte. This year I am playing the five-color Reveillark deck that two of my friends ground in with.
As this was getting ready to go to "print" David won his first Standard match of Day 2 virtually locking up a berth in the Top 8 where he hoped to avoid a match-up with Faeries so he could advance to the National team.
Saturday, August 2: 4:45 p.m. - Magic's Newest Power Couple
by Blake Rasmussen
Donald Morway sat across from the lone undefeated U.S. Nationals player left in the room, David Sharfman, with a deck Rich Hagon had called "unbeatable," a shiny 8-1 record, and a very real shot at a Top 8 berth in his first major tournament.
Just behind the ropes, his wife, Jamie, watched her husband sling spells. But the twist in this story is that Jamie's no mere spectator here at Magic Weekend. Quite the impressive player herself, Jamie was fresh off taking down seven rounds of a Grand Prix Trial with her innovative Kithkin list.
The pair met over two years ago through an online dating service and clicked almost immediately. They shared a number of the same interests and sensibilities, but Magic was not initially among them. Donald, who had been playing off and on since Revised Edition, never really thought she'd be interested.
I wasn't sure if she was trying to kiss up to me," said Donald, "but she really wanted to learn."
Donald and Jamie Morway are both tearing up the tables.
Jamie was hooked almost instantly. Far from trying to kiss up, Jamie was a fast study.
"She caught on very quickly," said Donald, considering his wife next to him and holding hands. "I think I'm a pretty good teacher," he added, with honest approval from his wife of just over a year.
Donald qualified through City Champs, winning the Hartford-Boston City Championships on the back of Faeries. One of his obstacles along the way was, naturally, his wife.
"We played in Round 1 of the store finals, but she just conceded to me," said Donald. "She wasn't that interested in qualifying."
Since then, he's been playing mostly with Red-green Snow. He and Jamie played, "at our peak, quite a bit a day," according to Donald. He tested his Mana Ramp heavily while Jamie concentrated on Charles Gindy's Elves list from Hollywood. Each week, the pair made the hour-long drive to Burlington, Vermont to the closest store around, Quarterstaff Games. They say, despite the drive and the price of gas, they never miss a week.
But on the morning of Nationals, with the specter of Swans Combo and Reveillark looming in the format, Donald called an audible and swapped his pet Ramp deck for his wife's modified Elves list. The good karma paid off, as he went 3-0 to kick off his weekend, proving once and for all, you should always listen to your wife.
Meanwhile, Jamie was off dominating a Grand Prix Trial with a Kithkin list that swayed from the ordinary. While most of the pieces were the same, Jamie moved cards around until she fit in four Unmake, two Ajani Goldmane, three of the forgotten Surge of Thoughtweft, and ran only 24 lands (down from the stock 26). Conspicuously missing from her list was Mutavault.
"I was going to play two Mutavaults, but they were in a different deck, and I didn't have time to find them, so I just played two Plains instead," she said.
She also added that she hardly missed them. Seven rounds and three Grand Prix byes later (she finished 6-1, losing only to a Faeries list with main-deck Firespouts), it seems she really didn't.
When this matrimonial duo (+1/+1 when you play a white spell, tax breaks when you play a black spell? And yes, I'm assuming marriage would be black-white; I'm not sure why) aren't tearing up other planeswalkers, they keep busy with a number of projects. Donald is an aspiring novelist, with two works already being shopped around. He's also in the process of creating a Magic strategy guide, mostly just for his friends, but also for wider consumption if it works out. Jamie is a buyer and seller of antiques, and still finds time to raise cats and dogs and star in independent movies.
At 9-2 after 11 rounds, Donald finds himself ready to top even his wife's impressive accomplishment for the weekend, in striking distance of a Top 8 finish. After that, win or lose, the couple's next stop will be a Grand Prix to use Jamie's byes. Which Grand Prix, they haven't figured out.
But, one way or another, it's a safe bet you'll see Magic's newest successful couple slinging spells side-by-side for some time to come.
Saturday, August 2: 5:15 p.m. / 11 p.m.- A Tempestuous Experience
by David Strutz
My name is David Strutz, and I'm an addict. I've been playing Magic nonstop since 1997, around the release of a little expansion called Weatherlight. Well, almost nonstop—I took a brief break around Mercadian Masques. But despite being a Magic player throughout the Tempest block, I didn't become a card-carrying member of the DCI until the Urza's Saga prerelease. Since then I've taken part in almost every set's prerelease as well as countless other tournaments, but I feel there's a gap in my storied, if casual, career.
Therefore, in celebration of Magic's 15th anniversary, I'm taking part in what I'm calling my Tempest block prerelease. At 7:00 p.m. I'll sit down and crack open three boosters of Tempest plus a booster each of Stronghold and Exodus. What goodies will await me?
Friday night, like any eager prerelease attendee, I browsed the set spoilers. Ooh, Shadow seems neat. Cool, I hope I open a bunch of these Slivers—they even have their own queen, who's 7/7 no less! Wow, what are these gold and silver expansion symbols ... and are those collector numbers on the Exodus cards? That'll make it much easier to collect the set! The whole block looks great, and I'm now absolutely bursting to open some Tempest block cards.
Time passes...card pools are examined...decks are built....)
The Tempest block sealed deck began with a stunning announcement: our booster of Stronghold would be in German! Well, there’s nothing we deckbuilders can do about that except rely upon our collective fuzzy knowledge of the set and artwork to guide us through. Luckily, the judge staff provided us with copies of the Oracle entries for all the Stronghold cards. Now if only we can remember the card names…
Due to the language difficulties we were given an extended time (“about an hour”) to build our decks. Here’s the pool I had to work with (100 percent in English, for your convenience!):
Tempest Block Sealed Pool
Where to begin? Whenever I build a sealed deck, I look to eliminate a color first and identify any colors that might be best as just splashes. I chose to get rid of red in this pool because it’s somewhat lacking in quality creatures, though that Lightning Blast sure screams “splash!” Likewise, none of the blue cards jumped out at me. Despite having some decent cards in both colors, neither color was deep enough to play as a main backbone to the deck.
With the pool simplified somewhat, I then turned my attention to base colors. I looked over my cards for bombs, removal, and quality creatures. Green has five or six creatures I’d be very happy to play, but its spells are few and unimpressive. Meanwhile, black is awash with removal spells, including the bomb Dregs of Sorrow. White adds some removal in the form of Shackles and Master Decoy. Both colors also offer shadow and flying creatures. I decided to go with a deck featuring removal and a low curve:
Tempest Bock Sealed Deck
My hope was that my removal could keep big threats from killing me while my cheap evasive guys could get in for the full 20 damage. How successful was I? Read on for the full report.
(Time passess....games are played....and now to the recap!)
Round 1 vs. Brian Heal
Deck in hand, I was all set to face my first-round opponent, Brian Heal. We exchanged pleasantries while shuffling, and Brian won the die roll. After some indecision, he elected to play first.
We drew our opening hands and to our mutual delight we discovered that no mulligans were needed. Brian started off fast with a Mogg Raider, while my first play was Soltari Lancer. My opponent added a Fireslinger to the board as he built up his land base of Mountains, Forests, and Islands. The Slinger was bad news for my deck's multitude of one-toughness guys.
I was able to get in with my Lancer for several turns while he pecked away with his Raider. We each played out a couple more guys and the pace slowed a bit until he was able to play Killer Whale, followed shortly by Wayward Soul. I drew Dark Banishing for the Soul (while he was tapped out of Islands) and Master Decoy to stop the Whale. But unfortunately for me he got a Seeker of Skybreak to allow his Fireslinger to kill the Decoy and the Lancer, and my late Staunch Defenders wasn't enough to keep me alive for long.
David 0, Brian 1
I took the play and once again everyone was happy with their starting hands. My turn-two Rabid Rats started eating away his life total, while Brian played a Legacy's Allure on his second turn. Electing to steal neither my Rats nor my turn three Venerable Monk, the Allure kept piling on counters. Before long he played a Mawcor, which I put Shackles on to prevent from going out of control. Unattended, the flying Tim would shortly take out either my life total or negate most of the creatures in my deck.
We built up forces, him adding Giant Crab and Mirri, Cat Warrior while I played Souldrinker. Once I played a late Soltari Lancer, the issue was forced and Brian had to use the Legacy's Allure to take something. He chose Souldrinker, and I was left with little defense. Brian was able to attack me with Mirri, Giant Crab, and my own Souldrinker faster than I could chip away with the Lancer.
David loses 0-2
0-1 matches, 0-2 games
Despite being down a match, I was having a ton of fun slinging these old spells. But if I wanted to win some prize packs I'd have to start picking up wins.
Round 2 vs. Jason Webster
Jason was an amicable guy, despite his problem. As we were sitting down to play, he told me, "The chances of me getting my food are slim." It turned out he had ordered Chinese, but the food hadn't arrived yet and it was unclear whether the delivery guy would find us in the massive gaming hall within the even more massive McCormick Place. Hmm, could I take advantage of a hungry opponent to steal a win?
Jason won the die roll and played first after no mulligans. His black-white deck was in many ways just like mine. Though he had no play on his first or second turn, on my second turn I was able to power out Soltari Lancer via Lotus Petal. Unfortunately, Jason held Diabolic Edict and my shadower had to die. Not to fear, however, as I played a turn-three Venerable Monk. The monk he played, however, was better—Soltari Monk has shadow.
My monk got in only once before he played Staunch Defenders to gain 4 life and stop my 2/2. Though I played a Master Decoy, he had Enfeeblement waiting. The game ended very shortly once he played Phyrexian Splicer and was able to steal the shadow from my freshly cast Dauthi Marauder and give it to his own three-power Staunch men. I found no removal and dropped my third game in a row.
David 0, Jason 1
Just as we were shuffling up Jason's phone rang. Ahha! The delivery guy was outside, but he was unwilling to come into the building and search for his customer. But Jason was in the middle of the match...quite the dilemma. But hey, for me it's a prerelease, so I just called a judge and we let Jason use his "sideboard time" to retrieve his food. While I sided out my Minion of the Wastes in favor of a second Anoint, Jason made an even better play by siding out his Hunger in favor of the much preferable wontons.
What a doozy this game was! On the play with a six-card hand, I led off with Skyshroud Falcon, while Jason's first creature was Dauthi Mindripper. After some quick Oracle work we confirmed that these days you cannot stack damage before sacrificing the Mindripper for his saboteur effect, which is quite a relief. The shadow monster is good enough as it is!
We exchanged blows for a while as we built up our troops. I played Soltari Lancer, Souldrinker, and Venerable Monk, while he played Transmogrifying Licid (who, like all Licids, benefits greatly from the Sixth Edition rules), Staunch Defenders, and Phyrexian Splicer. He also played not one, but two Master Decoys, one of which I put in Shackles.
But despite having more creatures than him, the Splicer meant that I couldn't effectively attack anymore. Whatever evasion ability I had could be taken away and granted to whatever creature suited him. However, we exchanged attacks as he would come in with Dauthi Mindripper and I would send my Lancer and Falcon while Master Decoy feinted the Souldrinker.
Things got tricky, however, once Jason played Wall of Nets, Dauthi Slayer, and Conviction. I was attacked down to 3 life by shadow creatures (including the Staunch Defenders, courtesy of Phyrexian Splicer and my Soltari Lancer). I was out of options...but I drew Dregs of Sorrow! I took back my Shackles and put it on the Slayer, then the following turn I had enough mana to Dregs both of his tappers and the Wall. After an attack he was at 6, and a Diabolic Edict from me forced him to sacrifice his Staunch Defenders, leaving him only Transmogrifying Licid and Dauthi Slayer with his bounced Conviction in hand.
Now all I had to do was play my own Staunch Defenders to go up to 7 life and I would take down my first win of the tournament. However, instead I elected to Shackles his tapped Slayer and play a Soltari Trooper, thinking I'd have a blocker. Besides, he only had 2 power on the board, so I was safe, right? Wrong, because all he had to do was replay his Conviction on the Licid and use the Splicer to give him shadow to swing for the final 3 points of damage.
David loses, 0-2
0-2 matches, 0-4 games
Well, it was unfortunate misplay, but mistakes happen. The match ended with five minutes to go in the round, so had I won that game the match likely would have been a draw. But on a brighter note, that match of Magic was probably the most interactive and overall fun sanctioned match I've played in years.
But wait, there are four more rounds to go!
Round 3 vs. Colin Baskeen
Both Colin and I were 0-2, so we were essentially playing just for fun at this point. I was hoping to pick up a game win, at least. My deck hadn't done what I intended it to do all night—come out aggressive and remove blockers to keep the game short. Perhaps this would be the time.
Colin was my third opponent in a row to win the die roll and choose to play first. Unfortunately, play was suspended for a while as I had to mulligan twice. My opening five-card hand wasn't good either, and in hindsight I should probably have gone to four. It was Lotus Petal, Dark Ritual, Souldrinker, Diabolic Edict, and Dark Banishing.
I felt like I could draw one land to Ritual out the Souldrinker, then one more land would make my Edict castable. That was the plan, anyway, and I even got the first land. If I could play out Souldrinker early enough and keep pumping it big enough, it could attack right through any blockers.
However, Colin's turn-two Bayou Dragonfly and turn three Rootwalla (the original!) had something to say about that plan. I was able to play the life-thirsty creature, but I didn't find a second land (let alone a third) to slow the beatings and I quickly succumbed to the insect and the lizard.
David 0, Colin 1
The second game was something of a complete turnaround. Though Colin didn't mulligan, neither did I, and I started with turn-three Soltari Lancer and turn four Souldrinker. He had Wall of Diffusion, and Fireslinger, but I added a Venerable Monk and attacked aggressively. I showed no fear in pumping my Souldrinker as needed to push through Colin's various green and red creatures. Colin's deck produced only 1/1 chump blockers, and my 5/5 Souldrinker led my 2/2s all the way to my first game win.
David 1, Colin 1
The deciding game saw Colin on the play. Neither of us mulliganed, and we both came charging out of the gates. He played Canyon Wildcat and I answered with Foul Imp. He played Furnace Spirit and I added Soltari Lancer. We attacked each other ferociously, and I was behind due to my Imp and his hasty Spirit. However, all he could muster was Mogg Fanatic, while I used Dark Banishing on his Furnace Spirit before attacking him to put life totals at 10-8 in his favor. I finished my fifth turn by playing Master Decoy.
His next turn he played nothing, while on my next turn I used Diabolic Edict. Bodies flew toward graveyards as he responded with Fling, sacrificing his Wildcat to kill my Decoy and using his Fanatic to hit me to 7. However, when I flashed Anoint with buyback to save my Decoy, he scooped them up. I had taken the match!
David wins 2-1
1-2 matches, 2-5 games
Despite there being three full rounds of action yet to be played in the tournament, I packed it in after round 3. It was getting late, and I had a friend waiting patiently for our three-hour drive home. While I would have loved to say I had come out unscathed and victorious, after three matches I was satisfied to say I had survived the Tempest well enough to scratch out a single win. It was immense fun, and I'm glad to say that my "Tempest block prerelease" was a great success.
Saturday, August 2: 6:45 p.m. - Grinding Toward the Top 8
by David Strutz
In previous years, Grinders had been run as large 256-person flights with the Top 4 getting an invitation to Nationals. This year, the Grinders were run as 32-person single elimination flights. This new format yielded 18 Standard format winners. While every one of them was out to prove that their grinder win wasn't a fluke, two are performing admirably deep into Day 2.
Carl Dillahay grinded in with a teched-up mono-red deck.
After a round 12 win, Carl Dillahay is perched nicely with 27 points. The Syracuse, New York, player is sporting a red aggro build that splashes green for Tarmogoyf and Kavu Predator. In the grinders, he said, he was expecting lots of mono-red, so he chose to run "essentially the same deck, but better." A little piece of his tech: "I have Dragon's Claw in the sideboard." He told me that while the Tenth Edition artifact is narrow, it fit the bill for the metagame he expected. Sure enough, he defeated three mono-red decks on his way to Nationals.
Carl likes his chances of making the top 8. "It all comes down to the matchups," he said regarding the final rounds, explaining that while his deck is good against Faeries and mono-red, Mana Ramp and Elves are tough matchups. If he can dodge those, perhaps Carl will make the first Sunday appearance of his career.
Someone else in contention for the final cut is Brian Heine, also at 27 points after round 12. He's playing a Faeries list that he's modified slightly for the metagame. "For the grinders I added a Loxodon Warhammer," he said, citing a need to beat the aforementioned red decks. But Brian informed me that he barely beat a Doran deck in the final of the grinder, prompting him to make some more changes. "I cut the Hammer and another card for two Snakeforms," he said. Sure enough, the Eventide common is pretty good against both Doran and Chameleon Colossus.
Brian Heine's weapon of choice was Faeries.
Now in Round 13, I have learned the fates of both players. Heading into the final round, Carl Dillahay was in 8th place with 30 points while Brian Heine unfortunately lost his Round 12 match, leaving him at 27 points. But in 17th place he's still well in contention for the money. Clearly both these grinder competitors have proven that they are very good at Magic with their follow-up performances in the main event, so keep an eye out for them at high-level events in the future.
Saturday, August 2: 7:25 p.m. - League Play at U.S. Nationals
by Bill Stark
For the gamer who never wants to stop, you can catch pick-up games in the Magic League in between rounds. I took some time out of the busy coverage schedule to embed myself in the league and experience what numerous Magic Weekend fans already have.
The premise is simple. For $5 you're awarded a nametag with 20 spots on it. Win a match against any opponent also playing in the league and you'll fill up two spots; lose and you'll fill up one. Each time you fill five spots you earn yourself a foil land from Urza's Saga. Fill 20 spots and you earn a special premium card like promo Duresses, Counterspells, Enlightened Tutors, and more. Plus, once you're in the league the cards are cumulative so if you manage to fill out two cards you'll get two special premium cards and so on. Legal formats? Anything you want provided you play a full match. You could even play multiplayer formats!
I borrowed a red-green Shamans deck from none other than gunslinger and R&D member Matt Place and happily signed up to match wits with my peers. First up was Tobias, who hailed from Bartlett, Illinois, a half-hour drive from the venue.
Our match went back and forth before I was able to pull out a narrow victory (we both took mulligans), and Tobias informed me he had started playing Magic as young as age 8. He was also on his third Magic League card of the day, having already paid for the activities by selling one of his special foils to a dealer in the dealer's room.
My second opponent was a Midwest PTQ stalwart by the name of Victor. The last time we met, it was in the Top 8 of a Pro Tour Qualifier for Prague and I had managed to leave victorious (before beating Mike Hron in the finals to earn my plane ticket to the Czech Republic).
Victor's been busy since then leaving the U.S. to teach English in Korea and Top 8ing Regionals there on a U.S. military base. He brought a Grapeshot combo deck to battle, and I managed a narrow victory in three games.
Before I was called back to duty covering other events, I squared off against one more opponent, Lauren. She hails from North Carolina and had been playing Magic since Tenth Edition.
Her deck of choice was a black-white Rebels build with plenty of removal in the form of Oblivion Ring, Bound in Silence, and Condemn, all of which could hit my Sapling of Colfenors and Chameleon Colossuses. Unfortunately for Lauren (a fellow English major, as it happens), she had to mulligan to five in the first game and just never managed to get back into things after that.
And as quickly as that, I had notched six squares on my nametag, earning me the right to pick up a nifty foil Urza's Saga basic land. Not a bad payoff for an hour's worth of playing Magic in between rounds! The Magic League will be going all weekend, just one of many reasons why Magic Weekend is such a great experience. If you're in the greater Chicago area, you're not far away from the action. Of course if you're not, you can keep your browsers tuned to magicthegathering.com all weekend long for reporting from the floor.
Saturday, August 2: 7:55 p.m. – Stories from the Shooting Gallery
by Nate Price
Here are a few fun stories from the Gunslinging area here at Magic Weekend.
Magic developer Erik Lauer.
"So someone comes to play Standard, and Kenji has left his decks here, so I just grab one without looking through it. It turns out it's a Seismic Assault / Swans of Bryn Argoll combo deck. I've never seen this deck play before. I'm playing against Faeries, and I figure that I've got to get him to waste his countermagic, and get to the point where he has to use his Spellstutter Sprites as blockers. So I do all this and somehow manage to get both my Swans and Seismic Assault into play. I even get two lands by using Vendilion Clique on myself. I discard the first land to try to go off. He Terrors in response, and I discard the second land to go off in response to the Terror. I draw my two cards, one of which is a land. At this point, I realize that the land I discarded a few turns back was a Dakmor Salvage. So I start to realize that I have to start dredging it back so I can keep trying to go off. Eventually, I put all the pieces together and manage to go off, having never seen the combo before."
I kind of laughed at this point, and joked that he was learning how to go off with Swans while he was going off with Swans.
"Are you kidding? I didn't even know what Swans is!"
Pro Tour Hall of Famer Alan Comer.
"Oh, I guess the guy that took four Warp Worlds to kill me was pretty funny."
This was delivered with such a serious tone that it made what he said even funnier.
"The first Warp World let me Wrath of God him. He had this giant pile of cards to put into play, and I managed to get a Blowfly Infestation and a Soul Snuffers which killed everything on his side of the board except his token generators. And then, instead of hitting me with the Murderous Redcap he got, he decided to kill my Dusk Urchins, which got me a card and a counter to start the Blowfly Infestation all over again. It took three more Warp Worlds before he could get to a point where he could beat me."
Chris Millar told me a story about a game he watched Saturday involving Matt Place.
“I saw Matt Place lose to Helix Pinnacle. Technically, the guy could have killed him anyway he wanted. He had infinite mana and had drawn his whole deck with Mind Spring. He could have made an absurdly large Chameleon Colossus.”
I thought it was kind of cool to kill Place with the most recent alternate win condition printed in Magic. Call it a sort of poetic justice. I also thought it was cool that Chris got to witness it since he jut posted a decklist build to abuse the Pinnacle in a recent article. I just wish that it could have been Ken Nagle who had lost the game. Ken was the designer that submitted the original Helix Pinnacle. I just think it would have to be kind of cool to lose to a card that you created.
Another good story from the gunslinging area isn’t really a second-hand one, but instead was just a situation I saw while waiting to get a chance to talk to Nagle. He was playing what I could only assume was Legacy, and his opponent was playing a Turboland deck featuring Horn of Greed and Exploration. Ken was playing. . .well, I’m not sure what he was playing. But he did have the following cool little interactions going on. At the heart of it all was Vedalken Mastermind. Helping him is Puca’s Mischief, which, thanks to the Mastermind, let Ken trade, well, nothing for anything on his opponent’s board.
He also had Oblivion Ring, which could be bounced in response to removing a permanent so that its target would never come back. He also had Selkie Hedge-Mage to gain life and Wistful Selkie to draw cards. A single one of his turns would have timed a player out on Magic Online with all the effects on the stack. It was my kind of deck. It did a whole lot, but didn’t every actually need to kill the opponent to win the game. Sounds like fun!
Saturday, August 2: 8:26 p.m. – Slinging Guns with Kenji
by Brian David-Marshall
Kenji Tsumura is currently regarded as one of the top Magic players on the planet and his name has been mentioned among the legends of the game like Kai, Jon, Bob, and Gab. It is no surprise here at U.S. Nationals that players were lining up in the gunslinging area for a chance to go toe-to-toe with Kenji in a variety of Constructed formats. What was surprising was that he was here at all with a Grand Prix happening in Kobe at the very same time.
BDM: What are you doing here? Why aren't you in Kobe?
Kenji: They asked me to gunsling when there was no GP scheduled for this weekend. I was, "Yes! Yes!" Then the next weekend they scheduled Kobe.
BDM: You only have 11 Pro Points this season. Aren't you worried about not maintaining your Players Club level?
Kenji: I don't need to PT next year. I need to go to school. I am going to university. I need an ability besides Magic. I can still PTQ.
BDM: You would still play Magic and try to qualify?
Kenji: I would love to PTQ. PTQs are hot. Everyone has passion. Some Pro Tour players don't practice but PTQ players have so much passion.
Kenji spends some quality time with the Goblin King.
BDM: How would you feel if you could not play Magic?
Kenji: I would be kind of sick. I am going to be with Magic until the end of my life.
BDM: You said earlier that you are going to school to study English. What would you like to do with that?
Kenji: I would really like to be involved with tournaments for Wizards. I would like to do something like what Ron Foster, Scott Larabee, or Helene [Bergeot] do.
BDM: You are guaranteed four more Pro Points this season if you go to Berlin and Worlds. Do you think you can pick up the extra points? Maybe you can get some at Nationals?
Kenji: No, no. Not Nationals. Japanese Nationals is too hard. Japanese players are all so good at Standard.
BDM: How much Magic Online do you play?
Kenji: Every day I play 10 hours of Magic Online. I should quit so I can study more but I just want to play Magic Online when I study.
BDM: Does Magic Online help you to improve your game?
Kenji: Yes, Magic Online makes me better. If I play and make a mistake online I don't make that mistake again in real life. It is also really good for getting ideas about Constructed decks.
BDM: Okay some quick questions. What is your favorite city you have been to?
Kenji: Someplace European. Prague was the best with so many old buildings.
BDM: What was the worst?
Kenji: Some place in the USA... Charleston?
BDM: Did you like New York?
Kenji: Yes. I got to draft at Jon Finkel's house.
BDM: If you had to win one more round to make the Top 8 of a Pro Tour, who would you least like to face in that round?
Kenji: Antoine Ruel because he beat me in L.A., Olivier, Paul Cheon, Luis Scott-Vargas, and Shuhei Nakamura.
BDM: What is your favorite Magic color?
Kenji: Blue! I like to draw cards. Draw, draw, draw.
BDM: What is your favorite card?
Kenji: Gifts Ungiven. Amazing. Number one!
BDM: Favorite creature?
Kenji: (Wrinkles nose) Creature? Psychatog.
BDM: Favorite deck?
Kenji: My Dredge-atog deck from Pro Tour–Los Angeles. It was built by Itaru Ishida and had so many surprises in it. Now that Itaru Ishida and Katsuhiro Mori don't play anymore I have to build decks myself. Now I understand how hard it was to build that deck.
BDM: Your favorite events?
Kenji: Pro Tour–Atlanta because I won with my friends. And Pro Tour–Kobe 2006 because it was the first time I made Day Two of a Limited Pro Tour—and first time for Day Three too. I was so happy.
BDM: How hard is it to make the Top 8 of a Pro Tour?
Kenji: Pro Tour–Geneva was easy for me. I went 3-0, 3-0, 2-1, 3-0 and then won with two intentional draws. All my other Top 8s have been very hard. I had to go X-0 into Sunday three times; Kobe, Philadelphia, and Atlanta.
BDM: Your first Pro Tour was in Chicago. How did you do and what do you remember most about it?
Kenji: I went 3-4. I watched Kai win. The Top 8 was Rochester Draft and I watched him get a sixth-pick Quicksilver Dragon. Everyone was so scared of Kai.