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By: Pyrosin, Matt Rossi
Jul 31 2008 9:50am
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Australia Nationals

The Austrailian House of Parliament in the capitol city of  Canberra

Hi there Magic Fans and welcome to this week's edition of The Highlight Reel where we get our first National Championship of the Year in Australia.  For this event we get to look at six rounds of triple draft sandwiched by six rounds of Standard, and then a Standard Top 8.  Find out which 4 of the 112 Aussies were able to punch their tickets to this year's Worlds.

 Aussie, Aussie, Aussie

As the first Nationals event of the year, let's first take a look at the prizes that are on the line.  The Pro Point distribution in the Top 8 looks a lot like the reward for making Top 8 at a Summer Series Grand Prix.  There's a big fall off in prize money after the Top 4, with no one getting paid outside of the Top 8.  The real bonus goes to those who finish in the Top 4, and thereby qualify for this year's Worlds.

  Australia National Championships
Place Prize Money Pro Points
1 $3,000 10
2 $2,500 8
3-4 $1,750 6
5-8 $750 4
9-12 Product 2
13-16 Product 1

 So Day One started with 3 rounds of Standard, and if we take a look at the meta breakdown, we see something that looks very similar to the breakdown from the past few events.

Colors Deck Name Number Percentage







Red Deck Wins


Gassy Knoll




Quick'n Toast


Swan Assault




Big Mana







 - Made Top 8

Unsurprisingly, Faeries is still Numero Uno, followed closely by Reveillark and Elves.  The Red Storm decks made a big of a comeback this week, due in large part to the second place finish by Felipe Alves Pellegrini  at GP Buenos Aires.  The other major decks, like Merfolk, Doran, Quick'n Toast, and  Big Mana, all made appearances, but we also had a new comer.

 It's the deck everyone's been talking about this week, and it focuses around one of the most hyped cards leading up to the release of  , namely Swans of Bryn Argoll.  Check out the combo deck played by Aaron Nicastri.

Swan Assault
Aaron Nicastri Australia Nationals Top 8
4 Swans of Bryn Argoll
3 Vendilion Clique
7 cards

Other Spells
4 Beseech the Queen
2 Gaea's Blessing
4 Lotus Bloom
4 Ponder
4 Seismic Assault
4 Telling Time
4 Thoughtseize
26 cards
4 Dakmor Salvage
4 Gemstone Mine
4 Graven Cairns
4 Reflecting Pool
4 Shivan Reef
4 Vivid Creek
3 Vivid Marsh
27 cards

Swans of Bryn Argoll

The deck is pretty straight forward.  Get the Swans into play with Seismic Assault and start pitching all your lands at said Swans to draw two cards.  If you have a Dakmor Salvage in hand, then you can draw your entire deck by repeatedly dredging off the Future Sight uncommon.  Then once you find a second Salvage you can burn your opponent out.  There's even a couple Gaea's Blessings to make sure you don't deck yourself.

Aaron Nicastri, who finished 35th in his first ever Pro Tour event at Hollywood this year, piloted this deck to a quick 3-0 start in the first Standard portion of the tourament.  In his first draft, Nicastri put together your run-of-the-mill  deck with Steel of the Godhead, Silkbind Faerie, Last Breath, and Biting Tether.  He 3-0ed that draft, including a Round 6 victory against 2007 Australian Champion Steven Alpin.  For his second draft, Nicastri drafted a mostly  deck, passing some killer  cards, to end up with another Steel of the Godhead, another Silkbind Faerie, Wilt-Leaf Liege, and Prison Term.  He 3-0ed that draft too, and after 9 rounds sat on a perfect record, an entire 6 points in front of the field and already qualified for the Top 8. 

The last Standard segment of the tournament saw a number of Faeries deck rise to the top, giving us a Top 8 featuring 4 Faerie, 1 Reveillark, 1 Gassy Knoll, 1  Tokens, and Nicastri's Swan Assault deck.

Oi, Oi, Oi


Jeremy Neeman ( Reveillark ) vs Justin Cheung ( Faeries )

Neeman got stuck on 3 lands in Game 1 and was overrun by an army of Bitterblossom tokens.  Neeman had land in the next game and won the Bitterblossom battle by resolving Crovax, Ascendant Hero to take down a bunch of Faerie tokens and win Game 2.  In Game 3, Venser, Shaper Savant and Riftwing Cloudskate stalled the Bitterblossom beats long enough to drive Cheung down to 1 life, but Cheung was able to champion the Bitterblossom with a Mistbind Clique and attack for the win, taking a 2-1 lead.  Since this is a Nationals event, the Top 8 matches are best 3 out of 5, so its on to Game 4.  In the next game, it was Cheung who now got stuck on 3 lands, while Neeman built board position with Venser and Mulldrifter.  That was enough to even up the match.  In the decider, Neeman got stuck on 4 lands for a long time, while Scion of Oona-enhanced Mutavaults did the deed for Cheung.  Cheung advances 3-2.

Aaron Nicastri ( Swan Assault ) vs Merlyn Evans ( Faeries )

Evans had an early Ancestral Vision, giving him enough countermagic to keep Nicastri's combo pieces off the board and his Faeries took Game 1.  For both Games 2 and 3, Nicastri built a hand containing 2 Pact of Negations, allowing him to force through his threats and combo out.  In Game 4, Nicastri used his sideboard tech of Imp's Mischief to redirect Evan's Ancestral Vision.  With his new found card advantage, Nicastri used a Thoughtseize to ensure the coast was clear and go for the combo again.  Nicastri advances 3-1.

Marcus Rokman ( Faeries) vs Glenn Shanley ( Gassy Knoll )

Rokman had an early Bitterblossom, forcing Shanley to use his burn spells on the Faeries instead of building up for a lethal Storm count.  Rokman takes Game 1.  Shanley, playing Dragonstorm as his alternative win condition, was able to bait Rokman into countering a Rift Bolt, giving him the opportunity to cast Dragonstorm and even up the match.  In Game 3, Rokman had double Mistbind Clique to tap down Shanley and retake the lead.  Game 4 was also decided by consecutive Mistbind Cliques by Rokman, giving him the turns to attack for the win and advance 3-1.

Brandon Lau (  Tokens ) vs Shawn Rayson ( Faeries )

Lau had an early Magus of the Moon which Rayson could not deal with, Lau takes the early lead.  In Game 2, Rayson had the answers in the form of Slaughter Pact for the Magus, Damnation for the tokens, and Terror for a Greater Gargadon.  His Faeries fly in to even the match.  Lau had Magus of the Moon on consecutive turns.  Only one Slaughter Pact from Rayson, meant Lau went up 2-1.  In the final game of the match, Rayson had to mulligan to five and was stuck on 1 land for far too long.  Lau advances 3-1.


Aaron Nicastri vs Justin Cheung

Cheung applied the early beats with Bitterblossom tokens, while Nicastri used a Vendilion Clique to make sure he could get a Seismic Assault into play.  Mistbind Clique looked to tap Nicastri down and finish the game, but an unsuspending Lotus Bloom plus one land on his turn gave Nicastri the mana to play Swans of Bryn Argoll and combo out for Game 1.  In Game 2, Cheung had enough counters to stop the combo pieces and tie up the match at 1 game apiece.  For Game 3, Nicastri was able to get the Swans into play facing only a Scion of Oona from Cheung.  Nicastri also had a Pact of Negation to back up his Seismic Assault and take a 2-1 lead.  Turn 1 Ancestral Vision, Turn 2 Bitterblossom gave Cheung the perfect start to Game 4.  Nicastri dug for his combo pieces with triple Ponder, but he lacked the mana to cast them.  On to the decider.  Cheung had to double mulligan to start Game 5, leaving him stuck on 1 land.  He hoped Ancestral Visions would find him some mana, but Nicastri had Imp's Mischief to steal the Vision and take the game.  Nicastri advances 3-2.

Marcus Rokman vs. Brandon Lau

Both players had early Bitterblossoms, but Lau also had a Shadow Guildmage to fight his opponent's Faerie tokens.  After several turns, Rokman found a Scion of Oona forcing Lau to chump block with most of his tokens.  With Nantuko Husk and Greater Gargadon on the board, it looked like Lau would win Game 1, but Rokman topdecked another Scion to force through enough damage and take the first game.  Again in Game 2 we had early Bitterblossoms from each player, but Rokman quickly fell behind when Lau had the Turn 3 Magus of the Moon.  Rokman was eventually able to Slaughter Pact it, but it was already too late and the match was tied at 1.  Game 3 was also dominated by Magus of the Moon which made Rokman's Mutavaults useless.  The Magus combined with Shadow Guildmage was enough to give Lau the lead.  Lau was on the back foot for the entirety of Game 4 as he had to deal with Scion after Scion after Scion from Rokman.  Lau ran out of Sudden Deaths and the third Scion won the game, tying the match again.  In the decider, Rokman got stuck on 2 lands, while Lau played out the Magus.  With no answers, Rokman quickly fell to Lau's army of token creatures.  Lau advances 3-2.


Aaron Nicastri vs Brandon Lau

In order to win the match, Lau knew he'd have to use his disruption to prevent Nicastri from assembling his combo long enough to overwhelm his opponent with a horde of tokens.  In Game 1, Lau used a Thoughtseize to get rid of a Beseech the Queen from Nicastri.  Lau looked to force through a large Nantuko Husk, which was blocked by a Swans of Bryn Argoll giving Lau 6 extra cards, and the gas he needed to overrun Nicastri.  Lau had to double mulligan to begin Game 2, while Nicastri had Turn 3 Seismic Assault and soon there after found a Swan to 

Congratulations to Aaron Nicastri (second from left) for winning the Australia National Championship, & congratulations to (remaining from left to right) Brandon Leu, Marcus Rokman, and Justin Cheung
who will join Aaron on the Australian National Team at Worlds 2008!

complete the combo.  Nicastri was mana flooded for Game 3, and scooped when Lau unsuspended a Greater Gargadon.  In Game 4, Lau sat behind Bitterblossom tokens while holding Sudden Death mana up for any Swans that tried to join an already cast Seismic Assault.  At EOT, a Vendilion Clique came in to remove the Sudden Death from Lau's hand; Nicastri untapped, played the Swan, and comboed out to tie the match.  While Lau played out a couple creatures to start Game 5, Nicastri played a -enhanced Firespout to clear the board of all but a Nantuko Husk.  Then Nicastri played a Seismic Assault and killed the Husk.  Next turn he played the Swan and went for the combo with Dakmor Salvage, but Lau had the Extirpate to remove the dredge land.  With his combo gone, Nicastri played a second Swan and attacked in the air for the win.  Aaron Nicastri wins the Australia National Championship, 3-2.

So the first National team of the year is set.  The big story, of course, was the emergence of Nicastri's deck, which has already caused the price of the Swans to double, and we've seen the deck has begun to appear at the top of PE's.  We'll have to wait and see what kind of staying power it has.

Top 20 in the 2008 Player of the Year Standings 
Following Australia Nationals

Ranking Player Points
1 Shuuhei Nakamura* 36
2 Jon Finkel* 28
2 Mario Pascoli 28
4 Jan Ruess 27
5 Guillaume Wafo-Tapa 26
6 Charles Gindy* 25
6 Olivier Ruel 25
8 Raphael Levy 24
9 Brandon Scheel 22
10 Martin Juza 21
11 Manuel Bucher 20
11 Marcio Carvalho 20
11 Marijn Lybaert 20
11 Nico Bohny 20
11 Jelger Wiegersma* 20
16 Joel Calafell 19
16 Paulo Vitor da Rosa 19
18 Paul Cheon* 18
18 Yuuta Takahashi* 18
18 Mateusz Kopec* 18

* 2008 Event Winner


Player of the Year Race


Um... no change.  With the win, Aaron Nicastri has 15 Pro Points on the year, but that's not enough to crack the Top 20.

Tune in next week when we get our first look at a limited event with  at GP Madrid. 


by hamtastic at Thu, 07/31/2008 - 12:37
hamtastic's picture

Some neat decks this time around.  I like the B/R Tokens and the Swans combo showing its teeth.  Look for more increases in the prices of that deck this week as well!  :)

Great coverage, as usual!