Sunday, November 6: 7:07 p.m. - Quarterfinals: Sam Atkinson vs. Tim He
Tim He was the 2004 Australian National Champion and managed to catch another glimpse of the spotlight this weekend by piloting his Affinity deck to the top seed coming out of the swiss. Sitting across from him is amateur Sam Atkinson, who snagged the last Top 8 berth available, keeping both Terry Soh and Tomoharu Saito on the outside looking in. Atkinson's deck is a very funky Macey Rockesque creation that features a host of equipment plus cards like Loxodon Hierarch and Iwamori of the Open Fist plus various twos and three-ofs in combinations that only Adrian Sullivan could love.
Atkinson won the die roll and led off with Duress, snagging Shrapnel Blast out of He's hand. Arcbound Ravager and Ornithopter on turn 2 for He gave some decent offense, but Putrefy got rid of the electric bugaboo before he had too many resources to work with. Undaunted, He brought Somber Hoverguard into play and followed that on the next turn with another Ravager, while Atkinson gummed up the ground with daddy pachyderm Loxodon Hierarch. Unfortunately, the second Ravager, you know, ravaged and Atkinson couldn't find an answer, giving He the early 1-0 lead.
He 1 - Atkinson 0
Before the match, He looked at Atkinson's decklist and noted that Sam had 13 cards to bring in for this matchup, though Tim noted that he wasn't sure exactly what Sam might take out. Atkinson's brow furrowed as he pondered which cards he wanted to take out without losing too much of the aggression in his deck.
Atkinson began game 2 with a second-turn Dark Confidant - a ballsy play against a deck as good at creating fast damage as Affinity. He showed his respect for Bob's card advantage, Firing The Great One during his own mainphase. Nonplussed, Atkinson treated game 2 like a Doritos commercial, suggesting Sam could crunch all he wanted, he'd just make more. The real worry was what He was making, casually dropping Arcbound Ravager, Worker, and a Frogmite all on turn 3. Atkinson took a shock to the nug from Bob as TGO revealed Umezawa's Jitte during his upkeep and then picked up the pointy stick to swing with it during the combat phase. This was clearly a mistake, since all He did was block with his proletariat, stack damage, and then sacrifice the little Worker to Ravager, making sure the Jitte earned no counters and Bob waved goodbye.
He added further robot beaters on his turn, tossing down the burly Myr Enforcer and bashing Atkinson for five. Putrefy made sure the Ravager went away, and then Naturalize dissipated the Frogmite danger, leaving He with a 4/4 on the board to Atkinson's Birds plus a Jitte. He reloaded on his own turn, casting a Frogmite and then Thoughtcasting into another, clearly running the dirty cheats. Oh wait, that's just the Affinity mechanic. Where's Kataki when you need him? Tragically for Atkinson, not in his deck.
Power pachyderm brought Atkinson back up to ten life and the elephant picked up the poking stick, looking to deal some damage and smash some Frogs. Pithing Needle made that impossible, so the Hierarch traded with Myr Enforcer, adding two currently unusable counters to the Jitte. Putrefy removed the Needle, but Electrostatic Bolt zapped Atkinson's Birds with the Jitte equip on the stack. He was now down to a single Frogmite for offense, but Atkinson was sitting at a very precarious four. Atkinson dropped to three to cast Troll Ascetic with enough mana up to regenerate it and drop to two, hoping to stabilize if he could just get an untap step. Tim cast an Arcbound Worker on his own turn and then Pithing Needle, which Atkinson chose not to respond to by regenerating, so He named Troll. Tim then attacked with his Frogmite and Atkinson declared no blockers, opening the door for He to Bolt his Arcbound Worker before damage, making it a 3/3 and putting Tim into the semifinals.
He 2 - Atkinson 0
Sunday, November 6: 7:22 p.m. - Decklists: The Top 8 Decks
Ben Fleming - Psychatog
2005 GP Melbourne Top 8 Deck
Andrew Vance - Boros Deck Wins
2005 GP Melbourne Top 8 Deck
David Zhao - Goblins
2005 GP Melbourne Top 8 Deck
Tim He - Affinity
2005 GP Melbourne Top 8 Deck
Hugh Glanville - The Rock
2005 GP Melbourne Top 8 Deck
Paul Chalder - Boros Deck Wins
2005 GP Melbourne Top 8 Deck
Sam Atkinson - B/W/G Aggro
2005 GP Melbourne Top 8 Deck
James Zhang - Psychatog
2005 GP Melbourne Top 8 Deck
Sunday, November 6: 7:50 p.m. - Quarterfinals: David Zhao vs. Hugh Glanville
Hugh's success so far this tournament has largely come from equipping the hard-to deal-with Troll Ascetics and introducing them to his opponent via the Red Zone. His plan against David was similar, drop dudes, give them toys, turn the sideways and wreck David's board.
David has piloted his goblins near flawlessly, with only one loss from the tournament coming from Tim He's Affinity.
Hugh was playing first and mulliganed a hand so poor he couldn't remember it. His six cards were more appealing, and he then allowed the very soft-spoken David to mulligan.
Hugh's first turn Birds of Paradise was answered only with a Skirk Prospecter, allowing 'Bill', one of Hugh's Call of the Herd tokens, to make an appearance. David sacked a Wooded Foothills to place an untapped Sacred Foundry into play, and introduced Goblin Legionnaire, one of only 4 white cards in David's main deck.
On Hugh's turn, Bill went into the Red Zone and was met by David's team, which did damage-stacking shenanigans resulting in no men on either side. On David's turn he dropped a Battlefield Forge, and cast Goblin Matron, tutoring for the ubiquitous Goblin Warchief. Hugh responded by calling 'Ted', Bill's comrade-in-arms, from the herd.
David merely dropped his Warchief and passed. Hugh attempted to capitalize on David's mana situation by Putrefying the Warchief while swinging with Ted who was unopposed. David tried to gain some board control with his creature-removal-of-choice, Sparksmith. Hugh dropped a Hypnotic Specter which was dealt with when David's Sparksmith came online. David's Goblin Ringleader was quite advantageous, netting him a second Sparksmith, a Goblin Matron, and a mighty Siege-Gang Commander. Ted continued to swing on Hugh's behalf and was double-blocked by the Matron and Ringleader. David's Ring-led Matron found him another Warchief which was again Putrefied. David's second Ringleader was a total waste of time, merely milling three lands and a Lava Dart. Hugh was feeling confident, having 11 life to David's 3, and dropped his MVP of the weekend, Troll Ascetic. A Piledriver and a Goblin Legionnaire tilted the scales in David's favour, but Hugh still had hope in the form of a Sword of Fire-and-Ice which he asked his deck politely to give him. When he merely drew another land, he packed them up and headed for Game 2.
In: 3 Pithing Needle, 3 Disenchant, 2 Flametongue Kavu
Out: 2 Lava Dart, 2 Goblin Piledriver, Gempalm Incinerator, Seige-Gang Commander, Skirk Prospector.
In: 4 Ravenous Baloth
Out: 4 Withered Wretch
Game 2 was a fairly swift compared to Game 1. Hugh deliberated his one-land hand, but mulliganed into a very comfortable two lands, Birds of Paradise, 2 Dark Confidant and a Jitte. David kept his seven. Hugh's turn-two confidant was allowed to stay and play, netting Hugh a free land during his upkeep. David slowly built up his number of goblins to allow the Sparksmith to do be effective against first Bob, and then Bill who was summoned and equipped with Umezawa's Swiss Army Knife. Some before-damage sacking for mana prevented the Jitte from being its normally terribly effective self. David dropped more men, including a Piledriver, while Hugh did manage to find his Sword-Of Kill-The-Goblins, he couldn't keep any men on the board long to equip them. David's Goblin army swung in for a lethal 19 points of combat damage, with the option of more damage from various Legionnaire's and Lava Darts. Gracious in defeat, Hugh happily wandered off to watch Canberran team mate Andrew Vance lose to James Zhang's mighty Psychatog deck.
Sunday, November 6: 7:59 p.m. - Quarterfinals: Ben Fleming vs. Paul Chalder
This quarter-final match was a battle between two of the decks that define the current extended environment as Ben Fleming's Psychatog deck met Paul Chalder's red/white deck. Both players had altered their lists slightly from the Pro Tour: LA equivalents, with Fleming forsaking Force Spike in exchange for a full compliment of Opts and Smother from his otherwise faithful U/B "RuelTog" with a modified sideboard. Strangely, this was the first time Fleming has faced R/W in this tournament. Chalder's R/W contained elements from various decks seen at LA, with 3 Genju of the Spires and 6 land destruction spells in the main deck.
Fleming won the roll and played first. Chalder sent back his opening hand and drew 6 and started the proceedings with a turn 1 Isamaru. On his second turn, Chalder attacked, played a land and passed the turn. Fleming smothered the Isamaru and was hit by Lightning Helix in response. A turn 3 Pillage was Circular Logiced. Chalder played a Savannah Lions and said go, and a Gifts Ungiven netted Counterspell and Fact or Fiction over Smother and the critical Psychatog. Fleming then untapped and played Mental Note, obviously drawing into a Psychatog and playing it, shutting down the board. Chalder Molten Rained the only black source and played Grim Lavamancer.
With Fleming on 10 life and holding the Fact or Fiction from the earlier Gifts, Chalder was running out of time and options. A Genju of the Spires was countered and Chalder scooped to a second Psychatog.
Fleming sideboarded out some of his more expensive spells including Gifts Ungiven, Deep Analysis and Thirst for Knowledge as well as some Mental Notes for Ghastly Demises, Razormane Masticores and Nights of Soul's Betrayals.
Chalder sideboarded out Lava Darts and Katakis for Pithing Needles and Disenchants for Nights of Soul's Betrayal.
Chalder opened a nice hand of 3 land, Pillage, Pithing Needle, Lightning Helix and Goblin Legionnaire. Fleming opened 4 land, Psychatog, Wonder and Mana Leak, hoping that the Psychatog could shut down the board.
A turn 1 Pithing Needle put a dent in Fleming's plans, as now he no longer had a 1 card solution. Chalder came out with Goblin Legionnaire, a Lavamancer was Mana Leaked and a turn 4 Pillage hit Fleming's only black source and also prevented him from casting the Fact or Fiction in his hand. After a Molten Rain and an Isamaru, Fleming was becoming desperate, playing out a crippled Psychatog which was Lightning Helixed and casting Wonder. Fleming drew 3 from Cephalid Coliseum, played Opt and Smothered the hound, leaving him on 4. Fleming was just too far behind in the life and mana race and a 6th land and Firebolt ended the game.
Fleming kept a 4 land hand with Ghastly Demise, Mental Note and Opt. Chalder went to 6 again and drew into 1 land, Genju of the Spires, Lightning Helix, Goblin Legionnaire and 2 Isamaru.
A turn 1 Isamaru fell to Ghastly Demise, and was replaced on turn 2 along with a Genju of the Spires. Isamaru hit for 2, and Chalder passed the turn. Fleming Smothered the hound at end of turn and took 3 from Lightning Helix. Fleming played a Cephalid Coliseum which was popped in response to Molten Rain, drawing into and discarding 3 lands. Fleming played another land and passed his turn, holding 3 black removal spells. A Goblin Legionnaire was Smothered but took Fleming down to 9. Psychatog then hit the table, facing down lands and a Genju of the Spires. Chalder drew his card with a hopeful flick, looking for Pithing Needle. He only drew a Plains and activated Genju, which was Ghastly Demised and re-cast. Fleming could also only draw a land and hit for 1 with Psychatog, Chalder drew another land and cast a second Genju of the Spires, passing the turn with 3 land untapped.
The Psychatog attacked, and Chalder didn't block. With 15 cards in his graveyard, Fleming's Psychatog would be lethal with a Fact or Fiction, but his draw only saw another land and passed the turn with 4 lands untapped. Chalder had another shot at drawing Pithing Needle, but drew the very useful Grim Lavamancer and passed the turn. Fleming tried again to draw the lethal Fact or Fiction but drew into another land and Smothered the Lavamancer. Chalder drew another Grim Lavamancer and played it. Fleming could only draw a Mana Leak and attacked with Psychatog, presumably hoping to extract a block from the Grim Lavamancer. It was blocked by a 6/1 land and 10 cards were removed from the graveyard. Chalder drew Savannah Lions it was Mana Leaked, but still held a 2nd Genju and Lightning Helix in hand. Fleming drew into yet another land and Lavamancer took him to 7. With a Lavamancer and Genju in play and a Genju in Chalder's hand, Fleming was running short on outs. He tapped his deck hopefully and drew into Night of Soul's Betrayal! This both killed the Lavamancer (which dropped Fleming to 5) and nullified the Genjus, leaving his Psychatog in play alone. This time it was Chalder's turn to hope for an answer and drew Pithing Needle! Fleming then tapped his deck again only to draw Razormane Masticore! With Fleming on 5 and Chalder on 17, he needed a burn card to match the Lightning Helix he cast to bring Fleming to 2, or the Masticore and the Psychatog on the table with any card drawing would finish him. Chalder untapped and flipped Barbarian Ring, advancing to the Semi-Final to meet Tim He's Affinity deck.
Sunday, November 6: 8:11 p.m. - Quarterfinals: Andrew Vance vs. James Zhang
Andrew Vance is a player from the ACT sporting a Fujita-style Boros deck Wins deck vs James Zhang of Sydney and his Ruel inspired (old-school) Psychatog deck. Both players were given each others decklist's before the match and it was no secret to each others' board. Relevant cards in the board were James' Ghastly Demise's and Meloku's to Andrew's Pyrostatic Pillar's, which threatened to cause quite a pain for James should they resolve.
James won the die roll and elected to play first, he sent his initial seven back for a fresh set of six, they weren't satisfactory either and he went down to five. Not the optimal start in this matchup - especially on the play. When things were settled James led off with and Island and said go. Andrew started off with the 'bolt to the face' play of Wooded Foothills for Sacred Foundry, attempting a Savannah Lions, which was Force Spiked by James. James laid a Seat and passed the turn. Andrew played out a Bloodstained Mire and played another Lions. It resolved this time and he then cracked the Mire and Firebolted the face. James cast a Mental Note at end step then laid a Delta and passed the turn back. Lions got in for 2 and Andrew attempted a Pillage targeting an Island. The Island was boomeranged in response and James cracked his Delta to drop him to 15. James took 2 pain when he put Watery Grave into play untapped and passed the turn back. The Lions got in for 2 and Andrew had his Molten Rain countered. James went with the familiar 'Land, Go' play and Circular Logic' an attempted Pillage. Another Mental Note at end step helped stock the graveyard should Dr Teeth ever show up and get hungry. On his own turn James played another land and passed the turn. Lions came in again and a pair of Lightning Helix's were both Countered. The Lions came over a few times more and after a flashback of Firebolt and Lightning Helix - James succumbed to the beats.
The one Savannah Lions got in for a total of 12 damage over the course of Game 1.
It was Andrew's time to mulligan this game, but was happy with his next six. James led off with an Island and sent it over; Andrew attempted a Savannah Lions which quickly met a Force Spike. Andrew's next turn was a repeat as he missed a land drop and attempted another Lions. James countered again, untapped and laid another land. Andrew still couldn't find a land and tried yet another Savannah Lions which hit another Force Spike. James just simply kept playing out lands and sending the turn back. Andrew found some assistance in a Bloodstained Mire on the following turn which was cracked to get a Mountain for a Grim Lavamancer - It was smothered at end of turn. It was James' turn to miss a land drop but didn't pay for it as all Andrew had was a Lightning Helix to the dome - Things weren't looking good for the Red White Player. Things started to go downhill quickly when James cast a Thirst for Knowledge at end of turn (discarding a Vault of Whispers). All Andrew could muster was an Isamaru which was promptly smothered on James' turn. When James set up his hand with a main phase Thirst for Knowledge Andrew found some land and tried a Pyrostatic Pillar on his next turn - James thought for a while and decided to crack his freshly laid Cephalid Coliseum to search for an answer - It came in a Circular Logic. James could sense the worst was over and tapped out for Meloku, the Clouded Mirror. Andrew could only muster Pillage on a Watery Grave. On James' turn Meloku came in for two. Andrew sent a Firebolt to the dome and laid a Dwarven Blastminer. James cast Fact or Fiction at End of Turn (you lose) and picked up the 3 card pile of Mental Note, Wonder and Island vs the smaller Ghastly Demise and Mana Leak. Meloku served again and things were looking grim. After a Pyrostatic Pillar was countered and James' found a Darkblast - Andrew quickly scooped them up.
The deciding game had each player happy with their opening hands and Andrew led off with a Plains and a Savannah Lions. James played an Island and sent it back. Andrew sent in with the Lions, cracked a Wooded Foothills for a Mountain and cast Grim Lavamancer, careful to play around the threat of Force Spike. James laid a Vault of Whispers and sent it back. Andrew played an untapped Sacred Foundry going to 17 in the process to lay a Goblin Legionnaire, again playing around the Force Spike. The Lions and Grim Lavamancer charged in and James trumped with Darkblast on the Savannah Lions, earning a sigh from Andrew. Firebolt got in for two then James dredged back the Darkblast in his draw phase, played it on the Lavamancer and dropped an Island. Andrew came in for two with his Goblins and played plains. James saw his opportunity, laid an Island and cast Dr Teeth himself - Leaving 1 blue mana up. The turning point in the match came on the following match as Andrew, who had played around the Force Spike twice previously, walked his Flametongue Kavu into it, laying out a tapped Sacred Foundry after the fact. James then dredged back Darkblast, laid a Cephalid Colliseum and tapped out for Meloku. Andrew was ready though and cast another Flametongue Kavu taking the Clouded Mirror out of the skies, a Grim Lavamancer joined the team and the game position was both players on 5 land, with FTK, Grim Lavamancer and Goblin Legionnaires facing down a lone Psychatog, with the life totals 17-12 in Andrew's favour. James Darkblasted the Grim Lavamancer and offered nothing else. Andrew Molten Rain'd the Vault, which prompted a cracked Coliseum in response. Nothing came as James discarded two Duress and a Psychatog. On James' turn he main phased a Thirst for Knowledge, laid a Watery Grave and sent it back. Andrew Flashbacked a Firebolt to send James to 8 and passed the turn. James drew his card for the turn and offered nothing more as Psychatog grinned menacingly at the growing horde. Isamaru joined the party for Andrew. James dredged back his Darkblast again, it appeared an Alpha Strike was imminent. On Andrew's following turn he sent the guys in. Flametongue Kavu, Isamaru and Goblin Legionnaire came over. FTK was Ghastly Demised, and Psychatog stood in front of the Legendary Hound. James fell to 6. Andrew played out a second Goblin Legionnaire which threatened to end the game fast. On the final turn James cracked Coliseum, discarding Wonder, Smother and Force Spike. Sending Dr Tooth into the skies and when it all resolved, Tog was a 20/21 flying guy exactly the amount necessary to do the lethal 16 points of damage, getting around the double Legionnaire.
Sunday, November 6: 8:23 p.m. - Semifinals: Paul Chalder vs. Tim He
Rumors of Affinity's demise are about as believable and frequent as the headlines in the Weekly World News. Sure, it's possible that someone gave birth to a 40-pound lizard baby last week, but until I see its scaly, blubberous body for myself, you can count me among the unbelievers. Tim He's particular robotic concoction would seem to validate this philosophy, as his fourteen-land Affinity deck with a heavy burn plus Shivan Reef sideboard has torn up a metagame that still had a lot of hate for the deck. Sitting across from He is one of those decks, piloted by one of the Day 1 undefeateds, Paul Chalder. If there's one thing the Boros decks do well, it's smash Affinity, though with how well He is playing, a win for Chalder was far from a guarantee.
Chalder bolted himself with a Wooded Foothills into untapped Sacred Foundry just to cast Grim Lavamancer and they were off. He's plays were actually irrelevant, since Chalder tossed down a Barbarian Ring on turn 2 and cast Kataki, War's Wage, earning an immediate concession from He. Players everywhere can congratulate R&D for making this Extended season bearable. After six tries or so, they finally seem to have found an answer to the Affinity menace.
Chalder 1 - He 0
He led off game 2 with a cautious Blinkmoth Nexus and Chromatic Sphere. Chalder's play was to cast Pithing Needle naming Arcbound Ravager. He's second turn was reasonably explosive with Great Furnace, Welding Jar, and Frogmite all hitting the table in succession before He cast a Thoughtcast to keep his grip full, giving him ammo against the dreaded turn 2 legendary spirit. Chalder once again cast exactly that, wiping He's board presence away minus the lands. Chalder made a minor mistake on his own upkeep, forgetting to pay for Pithing Needle, before Pillaging a Blinkmoth Nexus, forcing the flaming side of Fire/Ice out of He to dispatch the Saviors rare. He then cautiously rebuilt, playing a Seat of the Synod and casting Cranial Plating plus another Sphere, while Chalder played draw, go for a bit, either glutted with land (doubtful) or stocked with removal that was merely waiting for a target (likely).
He went large on his next turn, casting Frogmite and Myr Enforcer, robotic animals immediately turned into a pile of flaming parts by Chalder's burn spells. The game then turned cat and mouse, with each player holding removal to deal with threats and He very careful not to overextend. Chalder did glut on land in the midgame, but was able to maintain board parity with another Pithing Needle (again on Ravager). He finally cast a his third Myr Enforcer with two Cranial Platings on the table plus a Welding Jar to back it up and Chalder's brow furrowed - could he find a way out of this one? Maybe, answered his deck, throwing out a rescue dog in Isamaru. More burn got He to use the Jar, but Fire cleared the puppy out of the way, and a single swing did in Chalder, evening the match at one each.
Chalder 1 - He 1
He tossed his hand back three times before game 3 and then earned a full boot to the face from Chalder when he cast Isamaru, Kataki, and then Pillage on He's only land. Tim just drew his next card and shook Chalder's hand, conceding there was no way he was coming back from that start, and avoiding the possibility that Affinity would catapult into another Grand Prix final.
Chalder 2 - He 1
Sunday, November 6: 9:07 p.m. - Finals: James Zhang vs. Paul Chalder
Paul Chalder is a 24-year-old amateur from Sydney who toils away in finance during the daytime. Hi bank account will be enriched considerably after this weekend, since Boros Deck Wins has been as good as its name for him, locking up top amateur status with his appearance in the finals and earning a chance at first prize to boot. To win it all, he'll need to defeat James Zhang and Dr. Teeth, a tough task under any circumstances, but one made more so by the fact that Chalder was nervously looking at his watch trying to figure out just how much time he had before he missed his flight.
Chalder won the die roll and immediately parised away his landless seven cards in search of terra firma. He found it with the six and immediately cast Isamaru, Hand of Konda. Zhang ended up stuck on two lands and then three for some time, but that meant hand was full of gas, and he managed to stave off the beatings and land destruction for a bit until Chalder decided to start activating the Genju of the Spires he cast way back on turn 2. Zhang had no answers to spirit rocks and died to a Lightning Helix when he tapped out looking for one. Game 1 was over in just longer than a blink of the eye, meaning if Chalder could repeat that for game 2, he could bag the title and still get home tonight.
Chalder 1 - Zhang 0
Zhang again got a bit unlucky with his opener, taking a mulligan in search of good stuff and then once again stalling on mana sources. Countermagic and Darkblast kept down the early threats, but Thirst for Knowledge yielded only an ironic Seat of the Synod as a mana source. Chalder made an interesting play after that, drawing a third land of his own and then casting Molten Rain on Stalking Stones instead of Zhang's newfound second blue mana source. Even Zhang seemed a little stunned by this, since he had to doublecheck the target of the spell before sending the Stones to the bin. Zhang ate four from Violent Eruption on Chalder's end step, figuring it an easy concession to be able to cast Fact or Fiction. Chalder started sneaking burn in whenever he could, rapidly dropping Zhang to eight while Zhang continued to draw cards, now in search of a clock. A second Fact gave him Dr. Teeth and a land to go along with five other cards in hand and suddenly any Psychatog that might hit the board looked rather lethal, minus the fact that there was a Pithing Needle sitting on Chalder's side of the board. Chalder flashed back a Firebolt at the 'Tog and Zhang had to let it die since he had no Boomerang in hand to allow him to protect it.
Chalder still lacked pressure when Zhang finally dug himself into Meloku, but the legend was immediately answered by Pithing Needle naming the same. Zhang created three illusion tokens and then was so far ahead on cards that the Needle didn't matter. He simply maintained board control just long enough for the Clouded Mirror of Victory to take it home.
Chalder 1 - Zhang 1
At that point, Chalder looked at his watch and packed it so that he could catch his flight, conceding the title to James Zhang and giving Psychatog the first two premiere event victories of the new Extended format.
James Zhang is the winner of Grand Prix: Melbourne 2005!