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Coverage of Grand Prix Las Vegas Day 2

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  • Sunday, 11:00 a.m. – Drawn to Scale

    by Nate Price




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  • Sunday, 12:00 p.m. – Reading the Signs

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • The letter M!odern Masters is unlike any other draft format we've ever seen. There are virtually no unplayable cards, the power level of the set as a whole is quite high, and, if you ask Limited guru Ben Stark, it's simply one of the best formats of all time.

    But that's exactly why it's tricky.

    When every card is playable, when nearly all of the archetypes are both viable and good, when most decks end up with upwards of 30 cards that could make their deck, signaling and reading signals becomes a completely different animal.

    "It's hard to get signals from early picks," said reigning Player of the Year Josh Utter-Leyton. "When you start wheeling cards, that's when you know what people are in."

    Ben Stark and Josh Utter-Leyton say signaling is a different experience with Modern Masters.

    Stark wholeheartedly agrees, in between launching superlatives about how much he enjoys this format.

    The format, Stark explained, is so proactive that it's more about drafting synergies, and playing favorites can be dangerous. Stark was very clear that you shouldn't prioritize one archetype over another.

    Utter-Leyton concurred.

    "You're just taking the best card," he said. "And you can easily move out."

    That was a point both players emphasized. Because the card pool is so deep, it was pretty easy to move into an archetype once you start seeing what tables, even late in pack one. In most formats, that's difficult to do. Utter-Leyton said he would be willing to switch halfway through pack one. Stark said the tail end of the pack was still viable. Both said they've done it many times and ended up with good decks.

    For example, I pointed out that Sam Black took a third pick Esperzoa in his first draft and immediately moved into Artifacts. I said that it made it look like Artifacts was open. Both immediately disagreed.

    "Nothing really means anything is open early on," Stark said. "It's what you see late, especially 8th or 9th."

    Of course, the rewards of staying with an archetype from start to finish can potentially be high. Stark told the story of a Storm deck he drafted from pick one that felt like playing a banned constructed deck while everyone else was playing limited, easily taking the draft without losing a game. With so much of the set's inspiration drawn from past constructed formats, that's not an unusual occurrence.

    That said, Stark cautioned against, as he said "going for a 10 when it might be a 5 half the time." The Storm deck, for example, can be very powerful when it comes together, but with so many of the enablers at uncommon, sometimes it just falls flat.

    Instead, Stark championed consistency, reading the draft, and picking the best available archetype. For his money, he thought Rebels was the easiest to put together, in large part because most of the deck's best cards are commons.

    Stark and Utter-Leyton also emphasized the often overlooked strategy of drafting sideboard cards relatively highly. Because you get so many playables, they said you need to prioritize strong sideboard cards over mediocre main deck cards.

    "If there's a Kataki, War's Wage and a mediocre card for my main deck, I'm slamming the Kataki," Stark said.

    In that way, drafting Modern Masters is very much drafting a deck full of synergies reminiscent of constructed. It's one of the things that, in Stark's opinion, makes Modern Masters so good.

    "It's the best draft format in the last six years," Stark said.




     

  • Saturday, 12:30 p.m. – Quick Questions: What’s the best archetype in Modern Masters draft?

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • Shahar Shenhar: "Five-color Green. The fixing is very easy to get, and there are cards that reward you for being five colors. There are a lot of value two-for-ones."
    Andrew Cuneo: "Five color green. You get to play a lot of the good cards, and the format is slow."
    Dusty Ochoa: "Get a Meloku. It's how I've won most of my games."
    Luis Scott-Vargas: "The Five-color green deck is really good. Rebels is really good too."
    Willy Edel: "Affinity. I think it's really under drafted and is very fast when the rest of the format is slow."
    Reid Duke: "Five-color green. You get to play all of the most powerful bombs and all of the removal. But even if you just played Mono Green, the cards are so powerful in this format that the acceleration is the best thing you can do. The fact that the ramp cards get multiple colors just makes it better."



     

  • Sunday, 12:45 p.m. – Drafting Affinity Storm with Sam Black

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • The letter A!fter rattling off a 9-0 Day 1 performance, there was simply no way we weren't following Sam Black's draft. One of the consensus best deck builders in the world, Sam's skills were especially applicable in a draft format that often leaves players with decks that resemble constructed powerhouses of the past.

    In Sam's case, however, he's put together a powerful Artifacts concoction that looks unlike pretty much anything you've ever seen.

    Unless you're used to seeing Empty the Warrens alongside Etherium Sculptor.

    Combo?

    To see how Sam got there (and, no, it wasn't a mistake. He's very happy with his deck), we followed his draft from pick 1 to pick 45 and visited with him after to try to jump inside the head of one of the best minds for the game on the planet.

    Sam's draft really started on pick three of the first pack, when he was passed an Esperzoa in a pack with Thirst for Knowledge and Æthersnipe. He quickly snapped up the 4/3 flier and set in to draft the Affinity/Artifacts from that point on.

    "If you know that I think Esperzoa is the best card in the Affinity deck, then you pretty much know what I'm drafting from that point on," Black said after the draft, eyeing the whopping three Esperzoas he eventually ended up with.


    Sam Black's pick for the best card in the Artifacts archetype. He "only" managed to pick up three copies of the uncommon.

    And he certainly stayed the line after picking up the first of the bomby fliers. He took a Thirst for Knowledge immediately after and was rewarded with his second Esperzoa immediately thereafter.

    From there, his picks bent blue, but, despite the Esperzoas clearly demonstrating Artifacts being open, the last half of the pack was pretty empty. The payoff, however, was in packs two and three where Sam eventually ended up with three Etherium Sculptors, two Sanctum Gargoyles, and a bunch of Spellbombs to go with his earlier artifacts.

    The twist was when Sam started picking up a few late Storm cards in Empty the Warrens and Grapeshot. Thanks to Esperzoa picking up artifacts, Etherium Sculptor making artifacts cheaper, and a plethora of cheap spells, Sam was actually able to play both Storm spells to great effect. In fact, his first game win was largely on the back of an Empty the Warrens for eight goblins.

    Noticeably absent from Sam's deck was Faerie Mechanist, a card he very much likes, but simply never saw any of. Between the two of us we figured there must have simply been none of the common opened at the table.

    As weird as Sam's deck was, he was very happy with it.

    "I love it," he said. "This is more actual Affinity than I normally am."

    Typically, he said, he actually likes slower, grindier Affinity decks.


    Can anything stop Sam Black this weekend? His powerful deck certainly won't be getting in the way of his march to the Top 8.

    "I normally like my Affinity decks to be more controlling with Sanctum Gargoyle, Faerie Mechanist, and Esperzoa, but Esperzoa and Empy is unreal."

    Sam's embarrassment of Etherium Sculptor riches let him do two things. One, it made Arcbound Wanderer—a card many players consider one of the worst in the set—very playable. Awkwardly enough, it actually made his Etched Oracle worse, but he was willing to live with that.

    The other thing it let him do was cut lands. For part of his build period he was considering playing just 15 lands, something he often does with the archetype. He eventually opted to play 16, but the fact that he could even consider 15 was something to note.

    And the fact that he could call the deck Affinity Storm? Even better.




     

  • Round 11 Feature Match – Melissa DeTora vs. Jonathan Woodward

    by Nate Price

  • The letter T!romp the Domains and Divinity of Pride are obvious bombs, but it was the lowly Amrou Scout that made the biggest impact in Melissa DeTora's 2-1 victory over Jonathan Woodward.

    "It won me the game," DeTora said of her lone Amrou Scout after winning the final game of the match. While her deck and Woodwards each contained a fair number of bombs, it was the ability to find the perfect threats that pushed DeTora to victory. BW Rebels is the most successful deck in Modern Masters, according to our Magic Online data, and it's because of this exact fact. The deck never runs out of threats, and it is incredibly versatile.


    Jonathan Woodward

    The first game of this series was all about the incomparable racing ability of Divinity of Pride. Woodward hadn't gotten off to the fastest start, only adding an Executioner's Capsule and a Kitchen Finks to the table, before DeTora hit her fifth land for the game.

    "And now you play a huge black creature that I can't destroy with my capsule," Woodward prophesized at the thought of DeTora's lack of play to this point.

    "That's the plan," DeTora responded with a wry smile as she dropped Divinity onto the table.

    "That's what I was worried about," Woodward responded. "Did you get them both?"

    "What do you mean both," DeTora asked?

    "There were two Divinities," Woodward explained. "I was really sad that I couldn't take either of them, but my base is green, so I couldn't support the cost."

    deTora only had the one, but she was well-equipped to ensure that it set the tone for the game. Between the Test of Faith and Death Denied in her hand, she was more than ready to ensure that her ticket to victory stayed around.


    Woodward continued to build his army of three-powered creatures, but his Thrashing Mossdogs and Masked Admirers weren't able to crack through for enough damage to take the lead in the race. The true death knell came when DeTora opted to use Otherworldly Journey to blink out her Divinity. This forced Woodward to completely hold back his attack for a turn, a hiccup that DeTora used to take the lead in the race. The counter was completely relevant as well, as it turned the Divinity into a three-turn clock. She held Test of Faith mana available just in case Woodward had chosen to attack, a move that would have proven absolutely lethal for him. In the end, the ten-point life swing proved too much, and the Divinity did what he was supposed to do: won the race.

    Game 2 was about another powerhouse bomb in the format: Tromp the Domains. This time, Woodward was the one on the defensive from the get go. DeTora shot out early with a Tidehollow Sculler, stripping a Knight of the Reliquary from a hand containing a Life from the Loam, Penumbra Spider, Death Rattle, and two lands. DeTora continued to play creatures, getting in with a Deepcavern Imp and Marsh Flitter over the next couple of turns. Woodward was able to hide behind his Spider soon thereafter, but a Veteran Armorer enabled DeTora to resume her assault. The final piece of Woodward's defense came with a Stinkweed Imp on the following turn, forcing DeTora to stop her assault.

    At this point, the complexion of the game changed. DeTora was searching for a way to break through the stalemate, while Woodward began the grinding process of pecking away with a Blightspeaker. With DeTora whittled down to sixteen, he had his opportunity to Tromp. The powerful sorcery gave all of his creatures +3/+3 and an incredibly important trample, and he declared his attacks. DeTora lined up her blockers, but Woodward had the ability to use the Death Rattle DeTora had seen in his hand earlier to force through the remaining trample damage through the void.

    The final game of the match was about the intersection of these two powerful cards. After getting a powerful start and putting Woodward on the defensive, DeTora once again resolved the powerful Divinity of Pride. This time, however, Woodward was prepared. Rathi Trapper provided a consistent answer to the big lifelinking flier, and he began to use it to slow DeTora's assault. DeTora's next play proved backbreaking, as her Tidehollow Sculler hit gold, or silver as it were, stripping Woodward of his trump Tromp.

    "Not a bad hand," Woodward said as he scooped his cards back into his hand. DeTora agreed.


    Melissa DeTora

    With that endgame plan out of reach for the time, Woodward's situation worsened. Facing two flying creatures with only one answer, Woodward watched as his life fell in two-point chunks, DeTora's Avian Changeling dropping him first to 8, then to 6. His offense was very potent, but he was incredibly far behind. A pair of Knights of the Reliquary grew to 5/5s, but any attack that he made that didn't kill DeTora would prove lethal for himself. He was stuck.

    Other than the Sculler, DeTora's clear MVP of the final game was Amrou Scout, her lone Rebel searcher. After dropping the scout on the third turn, DeTora used it to successively search out the Avian Changeling that finished the game and the Bound in Silence that locked down Woodward's Penumbra Spider.

    "I'm not sure he would have had enough to Tromp me out in those last turns, but it would've been close," DeTora admitted. "The Scout was the card that allowed me to win, though. It got me the cards that let me win the game, and I even had the ability to search out Deepcavern Imp if he had a removal spell for my flier. It won me the game."




     

  • Sunday, 1:25 p.m. – Drafting BW Rebels with Melissa DeTora

    by Nate Price

  • "I'm happy with my deck. It's not the best one I've seen, but I'm pleased."

    Coming into this first Modern Masters Booster Draft of Day 2, Melissa DeTora was riding high. As one of only fourteen undefeated players in the tournament, she had placed herself in the best possible position to make a run at her second Grand Prix Top 8. There are still two drafts, to go, however, and even a single loss would put her in a position to miss out on the elimination rounds.

    While she wisely likes to keep her options open while drafting a format with as many linear options as Modern Masters has, she still has her preferences.


    "I really like BW Rebels," she told me while laying out her card pool for registration. When I asked her what she liked so much about it, she paused for a second, looked at me and flashed me a smile as she said, "I don't know."

    "It's just so aggressive, I guess," she said after a bit more thought. "You get to draft cards like Blinding Beam and Stir the Pride. I didn't get any Stir the Prides in this draft, but that's the plan."

    I found this preference interesting, especially given the variety of ridiculously broken things you can do in this card pool. You get to storm people out. You make a billion Worm tokens. Vedalken Shackles is a card. How can aggression be good in this format?

    "With Rebels, you never run out of threats," she explained. "With a single Rebel searcher, you are always adding to your board. You get to pull Avian Changelings out of your deck and just have a flier. If you have a Bonesplitter, you've just searched up a four-powered flier. The deck can be incredibly fast."

    DeTora opened her first pack and was greeted by a suite of options. Esperzoa and Æthersnipe represented solid blue options, though they angle for different decks. She also had a choice between two cards she loves in her deck of choice: Flickerwisp and Reveillark.

    "If the Reveillark wasn't in that pack, I would have happily picked the Flickerwisp," she told me. "It's a cheap three-powered flier, very good in this aggressive archetype, but Reveillark is just a more powerful card."

    Her second pack contained very little in white for her to consider, and she opted to go for a Vedalken Dismisser. The Dismisser is a deceptively powerful card, offering an incredible tempo advantage and is a potent target for Reveillark. The only other card of real note for her in the pack was a Rift Bolt.

    "UW with no theme is actually a pretty powerful archetype in this format as well," she told me. "I wanted to keep that as an option when I took the Dismisser second."

    The remainder of the pack continued, and DeTora chose to switch into black for a Rathi Trapper in pack four. It was the clear pick in the pack, and it also allowed her a chance at her favorite archetype. From there, it was all about filling out her black and white cards, looking for whatever Rebels she could find. Unfortunately, there simply didn't seem to be that many Rebel-searchers coming her way. She eventually got a crack at one in the third pack, snagging an Amrou Scout, but it was at the cost of passing a Bonsplitter.

    "The Rebel-searchers are the most important cards in the archetype, for obvious reasons," she told me. "You want to have two or three, preferably. I would have loved to grab a second one in the draft."

    Other than the lone Scout, she did have a fair amount of utility Rebels in her pool. A Bound in Silence provided a searchable removal spell, Avian Changeling provided a flier, and Deepcavern Imp, a sneaky Rebel Imp, is a great hasty creature with evasion to search up in a pinch. She also picked up a pair of Saltfield Recluses to round out her curve.

    "If I didn't have a searcher, I wouldn't be playing these," she told me during her build. "They're fine cards. They shrink large creatures, saving you life and letting you continue to be aggressive without being afraid of losing creatures in combat."

    Still, DeTora's statement about needing a searcher to play them holds weight. The Recluse isn't the best card to randomly draw, but it gets very reasonable when you can search it up in the right situation. Great utility.

    DeTora's second open brought an interesting decision point for her. Kira, Great Glass Spinner, is a nearly unbeatable card in this Limited environment. There are archetypes that it completely shuts down, and cards it turns to blank cardboard. She hadn't dipped into too much black, only taking a Rathi Trapper and an Executioner's Capsule in the first pack, so the Kira could have joined her Dismisser as she ventured back into blue. Instead, she chose to stay the BW course, taking a Flickerwisp out of the pack.

    "Kira is just impossible to deal with," she said. "I picked the Flickerwisp because I expected a chance to get more Rebels and searchers over the course of the pack. I hadn't passed any in the first pack, and I was seeing some good white cards late. It seemed like a good call."

    It ended up not working out exactly as DeTora had planned, but she still managed to get some good cards to fill out her deck. The one other thing of note from her second pack is the number of Blinding Beams she sent past her.

    "Blinding Beam is really important to this deck, but I felt that I needed more creatures," she said in her defense. "I could have had two or three more, but I was taking cards like Flickerwisp and Avian Changeling over them. I did end up getting one, though."

    Her final pack had a disappointing low, but it was followed by an incredible high. After first-picking a Tidehollow Sculler out of a weak pack for Rebels, she was gifted with Solomon's choice of Bonesplitter or her first Amrou Scout.

    "I had to take the Scout," she said. "I needed a Rebel-searcher. It hurt to pass the Bonesplitter, but I had to have the Scout."

    As saddening as that pick had to be, she was rewarded for sticking to her guns with a seventh-pick Divinity of Pride.

    "That was great to see," she smiled. "I'm pretty sure I'm the only player at the table that can cast it."

    Now armed with a dominating bomb to carry her through otherwise tough situations, DeTora's deck was coming together. As she laid it out on the table afterwards, there were a clear 22 cards that she wanted to include in her deck. The only thing she hadn't decided on was the final card. She was tossing Death Denied, Faerie Macabre, and Sandsower around before settling on the Death Denied.

    "I think this is the card I'm going with for my 23rd card. I've got a lot of very good creatures that I'd be happy to return, so getting to reuse them or not be afraid of losing them seems very good."

    With her deck complete, DeTora told me that she was happy with it, but she admitted it wasn't the best example of a BW Rebels deck.


    Melissa DeTora

    "What you are really looking for is about three Rebel-searchers, then you look to pick up Avian Changeling and Bound in Silence; they're the next most important cards. After that, pick up the Blinding Beams, Stir the Prides, and Bonesplitters you see. That's the core of the deck. Other than that, you can just fill it with good cards from black and white and be fine. Just remember that you're an aggressive deck, so cards like Flickerwisp, one that can attack for a lot, are very good."

    The one thing DeTora was worried about from her pod was the large number of high-quality green cards that she saw going around, especially late. There were a number of Sporoloth Ancients going around, and the Thallid deck looked like it might be quite strong.

    "The green deck worries me a little," she admitted. "I may be too fast for them, though."

    Filled to the brim with two- and three-drops, DeTora's deck was capable of putting a ton of pressure on early, and using Bound in Silence and Flickerwisp to force through the remaining bunch of damage if necessary.

    Here's what she ended up with:




     

  • Round 12 Feature Match – Sam Black vs. Melissa DeTora

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • The letter W!hat looked like an elimination round for Sam Black and Melissa DeTora ended with the pair of pros both very much alive for the Top 8—and very much needing to win three straight to do so.

    At 10-1 coming into the 12th round, DeTora and Black both couldn't afford a loss and still have a realistic shot at making the Top 8. One or two players at X-2 will likely make the final draft table, but not many. As such, this was a virtual elimination round for both of them.

    Unless, of course, they unintentionally drew.

    That was precisely what happened as the two played two of the most complicated back and forth games, splitting the first two before failing—just barely—to finish the third game in time. Black did have a sizeable advantage in the third game as the last turn was taken, but couldn't quite finish the task in time.

    The root of the unintentional draw was in the complicated, intricate back and forth generated from both deck's inherent ability to generate card advantage and regrow resources.

    You can check out Melissa's deck here and Sam's here.

    Essentially, DeTora's Black White deck had a lot of flying creatures and a lot of power—Reveillark and Divinity of the Pride sitting at the top of that curve—while Black's Artifacts deck had synergy for yards and yards.

    DeTora took the first game on the back of her powerful spells slowly wearing Black down, primarily through the air. Her early fliers were able to peck away for damage through Black's Sanctum Gargoyle thanks in large part to Veteran Armorer. Eventually, Divinity of Pride, Reveillark, and Marsh Flitter gave Black more than he could handle.


    Melissa DeTora's powerful cards and recursion let her take a long Game One...

    Part of DeTora's advantage in the first game was regrowing Executioner's Capsule with Sanctum Gargoyle, letting her, interestingly enough, keep Black off balance with a pair of Artifacts.

    "You drafted Sanctum Gargoyle!" Sam said, after the nearly 30-minute first match

    "I did. I did not need it at the time," she said.

    "I did."

    Afterwards, Black called the first game "interesting," and said he now realized why his first pick Amrou Scout didn't work out (Melissa was drafting two seats to his right).


    ...but Sam Black's Game Two win eventually led to a draw.

    Black showed just how key Sanctum Gargoyle was to his deck in the second game, where he paired it with Esperzoa and two of his Etherium Sculptors to generate an advantage every turn. That included a turn where enough free artifacts let Black get four copies of Grapeshot, killing two of DeTora's creatures.

    However, as much advantage as Black's deck was generating, DeTora slowed him enough that, while he was very much in control, Black was still a ways from killing DeTora with under 10 minutes on the clock. In an attempt to get the full match finished, she scooped while still a few turns from dying.

    That led to the final game where, despite a fast, flying start for DeTora, Black eventually wrestled control back and fell just three points short of winning in his final turn.

    That put both players needed a 3-0 to make the Top 8. Any less wouldn't be good enough.




     

  • Sunday, 3:30 p.m. – Photo Gallery

    by Nate Price and Craig Gibson

  • The letter W!elcome to Las Vegas, where you can hit up a five-dollar seafood buffet, get married by Elvis, and then head over to the Cashman Center to play in the largest card tournament ever held, Grand Prix Las Vegas!


    Here are the 160 men and women responsible for making sure that this even is even happening this weekend.




    They're also the ones responsible for stuff like alphabetizing and organizing the 4500 decklists from Day 1...




    Including the one that had this!




    Hey bro, I heard you like sweet things, so I got you this sweet straw to drink your sweet drink with.




    27 rows of pages stacked 4 pages high, each with 40 names per page. That's 3645 names...also known as only four-fifths of the entire field...




    This is what a birds-eye view of 4500 players looks like.




    Notice how the four quarters of the judge station in the middle of the hall correspond to the four colors of tablecloths spread out across the room...




    It's the most efficient way to coordinate what would be four average-sized Grand Prix combined into one.




    This is the man behind those amazing overhead shots, our photographer Craig Gibson, a man much braver than I.




    Now that you know where you're sitting, it's time to find your seat.




    Consummate professionals, Rich Hagon and Brian David-Marshall actually covered each other's feature matches while playing this round.




    Between rounds, you can wander the walls and check out some of the finest pieces of art Modern Masters has to offer!




    Including these sweet tokens that the talented rk Post was commissioned to do!




    Or you could stick with the tokens we brought with us. I think we've got you covered.




    We've even got enough water for... well... this is probably enough for about half a round...




    You may get your picture taken with a cosplayer...




    Including Hall-of-Famer Alan Comer, cosplaying as himself!




    If you do well enough, you may even make it to Day 2, where you get to draft! (Take the Electrolyze, Rich...)




    Though I don't know if you want to be in this pod. Sam Black and Melissa DeTora are some tough customers.




    With all due respect, Godfather.




    You may have your draft covered by the only men handsome enough to cover a Brian Kibler/Joel Larsson match.




    All of this and more is possible this weekend. So who's ready to make some history?!



     

  • Round 13 Feature Match – Steve Cahill vs. Kelvin Young

    by Blake Rasmussen

  • The letter S!teve Cahill dominated a virtual mirror match on his way to being the last man standing undefeated at Grand Prix Las Vegas.

    How does it feel to be the last man standing in the Swiss of the largest tournament ever?

    "Pretty freakin' sweet."

    Cahill took two games to down Kelvin Young in a battle of 12-0 players running Robots in the final, key draft. The card advantage the Colorado native gained from his Faerie Mechanists and a very clutch Auriok Salvagers carried him past Young's nearly mono-White version of the deck.

    "I think his deck was stronger than mine, but Spellbomb Salvagers showed up right on time," Cahill said.


    Steve Cahill is officially the last undefeated player standing at Grand Prix Las Vegas. Is the Top 8 next?

    Cahill was referencing the first slugfest of a game where Young managed to level Figure of Destiny all the way up, only to watch his advantage deteriorate when Cahill combined Æther Spellbomb and Auriok Salvagers. From there, Cahill picked his way to a long, drawn out win.

    The second game was all about Cahill's card advantage showing up. His draw was just stronger and he pretty quickly ran over Young's mediocre draw.


    Down but not out, Kelvin Young still holds his Top 8 destiny in his own hands.

    But given Cahill's knowledge of the Artifacts deck, it's no surprise he was able to come out on top of the mirror match of mechanical monsters. Cahill came into the event planning to force Artifacts. He said he firmly believes it's the best archetype in the format and thinks even a bad Artifacts deck can still be an ok Blue White deck.

    "Even if things go bad, I'm still taking Bound in Silence and Errant Ephemeron," he said. "It's the best deck, 100 percent."

    For a bit, however things did go poorly for Cahill. Sitting down before the match, Cahill lamented getting cut off when he thought the archetype was initially wide open. Little did he know, Young was the one doing the cutting, even jokingly chastising Young as soon as he saw what was going on.

    "You jerk! You're the one that took all my cards!"

    Chatty and affable, Cahill is part of the Colorado crew that made a vacation out of the week. He said he owes much of his success to the work that group did doing about 50 drafts and 10 sealed events in the week leading up to the event. It was, he said, pretty much all they did.

    Through that testing, Cahill learned that he preferred the "balls to the wall" approach to Artifacts, trying to keep his curve low and draft beaters like Court Homunculus. This stands in stark contrast to the more controlling approach Sam Black leans on.

    "I want to be making Myr Enforcers on turn three."

    And it looks like he'll get another opportunity to do just that in the Top 8 assuming he doesn't lose two straight, and even then he could sneak in. And when I pointed out this fact to him, he seemed ready to play, play, play, no matter the consequences. Well, almost no matter what.

    "0-6 or 6-0. I plan to crush," he said before pausing and realizing what was at stake. "Don't hold me to that though."




     

  • Round 14 Feature Match – Daniel Samson vs. Neal Oliver

    by Nate Price

  • The letter P!ower has a number of meanings in Magic, and both of them were important in Neal Oliver's 2-1 victory over Daniel Samson.

    Both players came into this round with one loss, putting them one more away from a hope and a prayer becoming their only path to the Top 8. Both Samson's RW Giants deck and Oliver's UB Faeries deck had ways to increase the printed power of the creatures held within, but it was ultimately the most powerful card between the two decks, Meloku the Clouded Mirror, that proved that some power doesn't need enhancing.

    Game 1 was all about Bonesplitter. If there is ever any doubt about why this simple-looking equipment is one of the best of all time, this game settled that. Samson's early draw wasn't the quickest, but it didn't matter once Bonesplitter hit the table. His weaker than average creatures, such as Saltfield Recluse and Stingscourger could now contend with the much larger blockers that Oliver eventually played. The cheap equip cost even allowed Samson to continue to develop his board and pay echo without having to worry about the Bonesplitter being on the wrong creature. He even managed this with only four lands for all but the last turn of the game.


    Daniel Samson

    The real game-changer was the War-Spike Changeling. Combined with the Bonesplitter, the Changeling's first strike activation made it a true terror in combat. Oliver had both Æthersnipe and Errant Ephemeron in play over the course of the game, but neither could survive combat with the Changeling, and neither could kill the Changeling as long as Samson kept a red mana up. Even though Samson ended the game by playing a Cloudgoat Ranger, it was this combination that put Oliver in a corner and was the real reason that Samson won the game.

    For the second game, all of the power-enhancement was on Oliver's side of the table. Getting a draw every bit as aggressive as Samson's from the first game, Oliver leapt out to an early lead. Spellstutter Sprite and Scion of Oona began taking Faerie-sized chunks out of Samson's life total. He even had a Rathi Trapper and an Æthersnipe to enhance his offense.

    Still, despite the early hole he was in, Samson's naturally larger creatures began to overtake Oliver. Thundering Giant and a Stingscourger allowed Samson to hit hard, dropping Oliver to 6. The Giant was even able to Crush Underfoot the Ætherling that bounced it a turn later. It was a massive swing for Samson, but his Giant became locked down under the Rathi Trapper's nets.


    Neal Oliver

    Oliver struck gold when he found a Latchkey Faerie to prowl into play. Combined with his other Faeries, the Latchkey Faerie represented lethal damage. Samson had to send his Murderous Redcap on an Otherworldly Journey to kill the Scion of Oona, shrinking the attack back down to a survivable level. While he had survived the attack, the reprieve was only temporary. Oliver's next attack was lethal.

    While the first two games were about power, the physical characteristic of the cards, Game 3 was about power, sheer, unadulterated," that's Mister The Clouded Mirror to You" power. Samson's early draw was a little on the slower side, simply involving a suspended Ivory Giant and Murderous Redcap. Without an early, aggressive start, Samson was simply in no position to deal with Oliver's Meloku the Clouded Mirror as it hit play on the sixth turn. A few turns and a few meaningless creatures later, and raw power had won the day.




     

  • Sunday, 6:05 p.m. – Simply Elegant

    by Nate Price

  • The letter I! was watching some Magic earlier, as ya do, when I came across this gem of a play. Allow me to set the stage...

    Floridian Chris Fennell, noted Limited master, was in a pinch. His Draft deck was one of the most bonkers piles of cards I've ever seen. I'm talking a monoblue monstrosity with five Esperzoas, three Etherium Sculptors, double Myr Enforcer, double Frogmite, Faerie Mechanist, Vedalken Shackles... Basically sleeved-up vomit.


    Chris Fennell

    Despite all of this power, he was on the ropes. His opponent, Jake Dietrich, was rocking a sweet red/white deck with a trio of Pyrite Spellbombs, and a boatload of ways to get them back. Having whittled Fennell down to a relatively low life total through a combination of Spellbombs, Sanctum Gargoyle hits, and love taps from a Myr Retriever, Dietrich looked to be in a commanding spot. Then Fennell hit his stride, dropping a couple of Esperzoas into play and beginning to stabilize while at a mere 5 life.

    With a Spellbomb in his hand and another in his graveyard, Dietrich's Myr Retriever looked very menacing, but Fennell couldn't let it hit one more time and drop him to 4. From that point out, he'd have to let it hit him or he would just die to the Spellbombs. Instead, he killed it and let Dietrich return his Spellbomb.

    This is where things took an incredible turn south for Fennell. Fennell had begun to deal some damage with a Myr Enforcer, but he was a few turns away from it being lethal. At the end of the turn, Dietrich landcycled a Fiery Fall to get a surprise Island. Now this means one of two things to me: either Keiga, the Tide Star, or Meloku the Clouded Mirror. The former Fennell might be able to deal with. The latter would kill him incredibly quickly. As you can guess, it was the latter. Untapping, Dietrich tapped all but one land and dropped the Legend into play.


    Oh hi, Mr. The Clouded Mirror.

    "I could really use a Shackles right now," Fennell said with a shake of his head. While he didn't draw his perfect answer, he did draw a Faerie Mechanist, allowing him to begin searching for it every turn thanks to the Esperzoa. He just needed a few turns, and Meloku isn't known for giving too many of those away.

    He began to dig, finding himself an Etherium Sculptor, very helpful with his growing Esperzoa army. Even with all of the fliers he had, he couldn't attack with them, as a single unblocked flier from Dietrich would be enough for the double Spellbomb to kill him. On his turn, Dietrich played the second Spellbomb from his hand and an Arcbound Worker, leaving himself four mana available. A second search for Fennell again yielded nothing.

    This is where Fennell simply outmaneuvered Dietrich. Dietrich had been careful not to block and kill the Myr Retriever for the last few turns, fearing the Æther Spellbomb in Fennell's graveyard. After whiffing on his Mechanist, Fennell equipped his Runed Stalactite to the Myr Retriever and attacked with it and the Myr Enforcer right next to it. It was essentially the same attack he had made the past three turns, but this time the Retriever was a 2/2. Taking advantage of the fact that he could now block it and not kill it, Dietrich blocked it with a 1/1 Saproling token. After combat, Fennell simply tapped two mana, moved the Stalactite to another creature, and let his Retriever die due to the one damage that its newly 1/1 body had taken. It was awesome.

    I know this seems like an elementary play, and it's easy to think that seeing it in text as I'm laying things out for you, but Fennell played it so smoothly that he was able to effectively manipulate Dietrich into the exact play that he wanted. I watch people play this game for a living, and even I missed it because of how Fennell played it. It was a masterful move that allowed him to return the Spellbomb, bounce Meloku after Dietrich made enough tokens, and win the game in extra turns. It was simple, not obvious at the time, yet I felt simultaneously incensed that I had missed that he could kill the Retriever and in awe of the fact that Fennell had basically lined this play up. Top level Magic at its finest: simple, elegant, and awesome.




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