Jedi facing off in Seattle

Wizards of the Coast has announced that the 2008 Star Wars Miniatures championship will be held at this year’s PAX. The tournament is open to all comers, but you have, well, today to preregister for PAX before that option closes (otherwise, you’re stuck paying at the door).
You can read the announcement here. It’s 150-point Constructed format…and I’m not a competitive player, so I have no idea what the latest tech and best builds are for Star Wars Minis these days. I recommend checking out the Star Wars Minis forums and for proper format research.

One more time, Bay Area (Pro Tour Qualifier for Berlin 2008)

The last Bay Area PTQ for Berlin is coming next month. Per the qualifier schedule page, it’s happening on August 16th, at the Santa Clara Convention Center.
Between the two typical Bay Area PTQ venues, I tend to prefer the Santa Clara Convention Center to the San Jose Convention Center. Both lack character, but Santa Clara is cleaner and has much better parking.
More on possible PTQ decklists later — we’ll have six post-Eventide PTQs before that PTQ weekend (one of them was two days ago in Springfield, a mere day after the Eventide release — that’s a seriously untested format!).

Post-Eventide Planeswalkers

Heading toward the post-Eventide PTQ Berlin season, we see a lot of options opening up for non-Faerie builds. Faeries, it seems, will stay basically the same (caveat: I may have missed something utterly gamebreaking in my review of the cards so far). Although I’ve toyed with a number of ideas, ranging from random Rock builds using the new B/G cards through a weird attempt at a block Goblin Bidding deck using Pyrrhic Revival (hint: this probably doesn’t work), my affections remain with Planeswalkers.
Fortunately for me, I’ve picked up a solid tool that this kind of deck really needs to work. A Wrath.
Check out the extended for a provisional decklist.

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It’s like Rai, but in Magic

I started Magic with Beta, then left just before Alliances, and finally really got back into it in the era of Time Spiral and Ravnica Standard. Since then, I’ve grown to really appreciate Kamigawa block. Watching and reading coverage of older events, it’s been fun to see the different eras of Standard over the past half decade or so. One thing that I’ve enjoyed looking out for is how the two adjacent blocks in Standard interact, especially since getting the blocks to play well together has been a design goal for a couple years now.
Looking back through archived events, I noticed a deficiency. Does it stand out to you, too?
Pro Tour Hollywood 2008 – Time Spiral – Lorwyn
Worlds 2007 – Time Spiral – Lorwyn
Worlds 2006 – Ravnica – Time Spiral
Pro Tour Honolulu 2006 – Kamigawa – Ravnica
Worlds 2005 – Kamigawa – Ravnica
Worlds 2004 – Onslaught – Mirrodin
So what happened to Mirrodin – Kamigawa?
This bothered me, and I spent time poking around through the extensive Magic events coverage archive looking for Standard events during the right timeframe, and not finding any.
Today, while randomly clicking, I found that I’d somehow overlooked US Nationals 2005, the Standard portion of which was Mirrodin – Kamigawa. Finally.
You can check out all the decks that made 12 points or better during the seven constructed rounds of Nationals by clicking here. At a glance, lots of Tooth and Nail, red aggro, and midrange green. Perhaps most fascinating is how completely gimped the mana bases are, especially compared to today’s environment where you can just roll out any old five-color monstrosity (and occasionally lose horribly to a Magus of the Moon).
I haven’t looked over the lists as much yet as I’d like, but I’m glad I finally found some Standard decks from the overlap of those two blocks.
And I would totally have played Kirk Dalton’s Rock deck. Four Eternal Witness, four STE, three Persecute, and three Cranial Extraction in the side? Pure joy.

PTQ Berlin 2008: Staid Ukrainians, inventive Belgians, and Greek Transformers

Giant leading edit: I apologize for my geography flub. Odessa is in the Ukraine. I just noticed that I gifted it to Russia. I’m definitely too much of a child of the cold war.
As we head into the middle span of the PTQ season for Berlin 2008, forums ring with complaints that the combined Lorwyn – Morningtide – Shadowmoor qualifier format is utterly stale. Of the 32 top-eight decks reported from the latest PTQ (as always, not including any Northern California PTQs as they consistently don’t make it into Wizards’ hands), just shy of half (15) were Faeries. More to the point, perhaps, three of the four blue envelopes went to Faeries.
As always, you can check these results yourself here.
Over on Star City Games, I noticed top eights from three recent European PTQs, held in Odessa, Antwerp, and Thessalonika. I took a quick look through the lists to see what jumped out at me.
The Ukrainian top eight was the most conventional, with the top four (and the eighth) places going to Faeries. Of the remaining three slots, two went to Kithkin, and one to Elementals. All the builds cleaved close to the known designs.
The Belgian top eight was oddly Hobbit-heavy, with three Kithkin decks making the cut and only two Faeries. The remaining slots went to a Doran deck with a guest appearance from Brion Stoutarm, the winning Merfolk deck, and “Swan Command.”
Say what?
Sung Kocks’ Swan Command build (click here to see it) is a basic five-color control frame with the addition of three Swans of Bryn Argoll, triple Tarfire, a full quartet of Firespouts and double Incendiary Command. Let’s take a moment here to remember how Swans was going to be an incredible and dominating combo card. Ah, well. In this build, I imagine the Swans are there to turn your Incendiaries and board-sweeping Firespouts into card-drawing opportunities — until someone Inversions them. The Swans version of five-color control was good enough to power Sung into seventh place, which isn’t bad in Antwerp.
The other deck of note from the Antwerp PTQ is the Faeries deck piloted by Mark Dictus (click here to see it). Following in the footsteps of fellow Belgian Marijn Lybaert, Mark ran a Faeries deck with eight Vivid Lands and four Firespouts. Main. With three Kithkin decks making it through to the top eight, that seems like a metagame call for the area, and perhaps one that paid off. Mark’s build loses strength against the mirror to pack in those Spouts, as it has neither Peppersmokes nor Thoughtseizes, but it is otherwise not particularly hampered — and maybe the Antwerp metagame took out many of the other Faeries decks.
The Greeks ran the farthest afield, although I almost missed one of their two weird decks. As listed on Star City, the Thessalonika top eight consisted of double Kithkin, double Faeries, double Elementals, Ten Commandments, and a deck labeled “Optimus Prime.”
We’ll take that one second.
First off, let’s take a closer look at Kostantinos Karafotis’s woefully mislabeled “Ten Commandments.” It’s a given that a stock Commandments (now just as likely to be thought of as block Quick ‘n’ Toast, or five-color control, or whatever) doesn’t run ten actual Commands. One might have chosen to rename this deck, however, when it fell to just four commands. Two Primal, two Austere. That’s it. Take a moment to click here and read the decklist.
This deck runs a host of chunky creatures, with triple Grim Poppet, a singleton Arbiter of Knollridge, quadruple Thresher, and quadruple Oversoul of Dusk. Man. That’s all accelerated out with Druids and Fertile Grounds, and backed up by triple Garruk and the ubiquitous playset of Firespouts. Its mana base is also shockingly clean for all that it’s trying to do, with twelve Basic Lands, six hybrid duals, four Reflecting Pools, and no Vivids.
Fascinating, and good enough for sixth place.
The cutely named “Optimus Prime,” run by Petros Apotsos, is a sort of “boot to the head with big stuff” build (click here to see it). Perhaps thinking of it as a way around the highly reactive Faeries decks, Petros runs a full set of Dramatic Entrance. The Entrance lets him play out all his creatures as Instants, and provides a one-mana discount of the Threshers and a whopping three-mana discount on the Woodfall Primus.
And see, now you know where the deck gets its name.
On top of this, he has triple Primal Command (also playing into the name), triple Incendiary, and quadruple Firespout. He has quadruple Garruk as well. Like Karafotis, Apotsos loves the Oversoul, although he keeps his in the sideboard. And again, the mana base is entirely clear of Vivids, although he does run comes-into-play-tapped lands in the form of four Mosswort Bridges.
And he wins. Petros and his wacky R/G build took first place. How cool is that?

DruidSpike – Project X in Block

As spoilers have leaked out, one combo in particular has had people talking:
In case it’s not jumping right out at you, Devoted Druid plus Quillspike equals arbitrarily large Quillspike. Tap the Druid for one green mana, then untap it, placing a -1/-1 counter on it. Use that green mana to power Quillspike’s ability, removing the -1/-1 counter. Rinse and repeat.
Now, what’s so great about an arbitrarily large Quillspike? Good question. For one (double-edged) use, check out my DruidSpike list in the extended.

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Um, judge?

In general, you shouldn’t be shy about calling a judge at a tournament. It’s not automatically a commentary on your opponent — you can always just say, “I’m just not sure about this situation, so I’d like to ask.”
In round one of today’s PTQ, in the game immediately next to me, everything ground to a complete halt when the guy seated beside me played a Wrath of God.
Pause. Silence.
“That’s not legal in this tournament.”
“It’s not?”
“Um, judge?”
When the deck was checked, the guy had twelve Tenth Edition cards in his deck, including four Wraths, four Llanowar Elves, and some other kind of removal. He’d thought that Tenth Edition was also legal in block.
Faced with the option of replacing twelve cards in his deck with basic lands, he chose to drop from the tournament.
That’s certainly the most interesting judge call I’ve ever been near.

PTQ Berlin 2008: Liliana kills Faeries

But sadly, not much else.
I brought the latest version of my black/green Planeswalker Control build to the PTQ this morning in San Jose. I dropped after my third loss (the second loss puts you cleanly out of qualifying range in a 188-person PTQ, and the third puts you out of prize range and, in my case, shows that your brain is no longer in the game).
Full report in the extended.

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