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By: Pyrosin, Matt Rossi
Mar 19 2008 11:06pm
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Grand Prix Philadelphia

Independence Hall, birthplace of the Declaration of 
Independence & the US Constiution

Welcome Magic fans to The Highlight Reel, and welcome to my hometown of Philadelphia, where the Pros have come for another Extended tournament.

This weekend, there was a second Extended GP taking place in Vienna.  I'll cover the results of that tournament next week, as there are no other events this upcoming weekend.

Last time at GP Vancouver, we saw the dominance of two  decks: UG Tron by Ben Lundquist and Previous Level Blue by Paul Cheon.  With the control decks on everyone's radar, how would the metagame respond?  Thankfully, Brian David-Marshall, Mike Flores, and a host of others were there to cover this tournament, so that unlike last week, the coverage was written in the English language.

A total of 970 players showed up in Philly, meaning there'd be 9 rounds of Swiss on Saturday, a cut to 128 players, 6 more rounds of Swiss, and then the Top 8.  Let's see how it all went down.

I came, I saw, I ... went drinking.

I strolled over to the Convention Center about 3 PM, and got there just in time to see the start of the Round 4 feature match between Ben Lundquist, still running his  Tron, and Craig Krempels with Domain Zoo.  Ben's list looked almost identical to the one he ran in Vancouver.  The only exception I saw was maindeck Ghost Quarter, which was more like a Wasteland against Craig's list because he was only running a single basic land.  Ben lost that match 1-2 to the shear speed of Craig's deck.  And it looks like on this day, Ben ran into too much aggro, as he finished 6-3 in 153rd place, missing Day 2.  Krempels was able to advance to Day 2, finishing in 33rd.

Round 4: Ben Lundquist vs. Craig Krempels, and I was there to see it.

For Round 5, those of us in the feature match area were greeted with a match between Jacob Van Lunen playing Doran and Jon Pelcak playing another Domain Zoo deck.  When Pelcak destroyed Van Lunen in about 5 minutes, I got bored with that match and walked over to the top tables to see if GP Vancouver champion Paul Cheon had made any changes to his Previous Level Blue deck.  Paul was facing Michael Bernat, someone playing   Tron.  I was amazed to see that other than , Paul was also playing cards with  and  in the cost.  And on top of that, Paul was spinning his Sensei's Divining Top to utilize Counterbalance.  I would argue that the reason Paul won GP Vancouver was precisely because he stayed away from the Counterbalance, which allowed him access to enough hard counters to fight   Tron head on.  But against this   Tron, Paul just didn't have the answers.  I don't know if he didn't have the cards, or didn't have enough practice with his new deck, but he couldn't fight his opponent's Spell Snares and Condescends.  Paul lost that match, finished the day in 145th place, and missed Day 2.

While that match was going on, I was also checking out Patrick Chapin, playing what looked to be the same deck as Paul Cheon, versus one Michael Farrell, playing  burn.  Pat had a Circle of Protection: Red, which made life pretty easy for him in that round.  Chapin actually piloted this deck to a perfect 9-0 start on Day One.  Here's his list for the next incarnation of  Control decks:

Split Level Blue
Patrick Chapin GP Philadelphia
4 Dark Confidant
2 Gaddock Teeg
3 Sower of Temptation
4 Tarmogoyf
2 Vendilion Clique

Other Spells
4 Chrome Mox
3 Counterbalance
4 Counterspell
4 Sensei's Divining Top
3 Spell Snare
2 Threads of Disloyalty
4 Vindicate
1 Breeding Pool
2 Flooded Strand
1 Forest
1 Godless Shrine
1 Hallowed Fountain
4 Island
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Plains
4 Polluted Delta
1 Swamp
1 Watery Grave
3 Windswept Heath

2 Circle of Protection: Red
1 Counterbalance
3 Extirpate
1 Gaddock Teeg
2 Krosan Grip
4 Loxodon Hierarch
2 Threads of Disloyalty
Vendilion Clique

If you'd like to watch Pat describe his Split Level Blue deck, then I suggest you check out the deck tech video here.  I'm surprised that the deck relies on Dark Confidant for card drawing instead of the Ancestral Vision of other "Level Blue" decks.  But it seems that between the Onslaught Fetchlands and Ravnica Duals, there's just too much temptation to play as many colors as possible.  Unfortunately for Pat, he stumbled out of the gate on Day Two and ended up finishing in 18th place.

For Round 6, the feature match had Dan O'Mahoney-Schwartz playing ANOTHER Domain Zoo vs. Ben Strickland playing a mid-range  deck.  Again, the Zoo deck was just too much to handle and OMS finished his opponent off quickly.  At that point, it was 6 PM and time to go bar hopping with my non-Magic-inclined female friends for St. Patrick's Day.  If you want to see the inner workings of Domain Zoo, then watch this deck tech with Tom LaPille who finished the tourney in 12th.

Quick Sidenote: Having been spoiled by Magic Online, I just want to say I forgot how much time it takes to shuffle, and with everybody playing fetchlands, it felt like half the games I saw were spent shuffling decks.  Magic Online also smells a lot better than live Magic.  Anyway, it was a lot of fun to watch these Pros in person and I was happy I got to see a few rounds live.

Where's the Meta?

So, everyone wants to know what the metagame looked like at GP Philly, right?  Well from what I can tell, it's all over the place.  Unfortunately, we were not rewarded with an archetype breakdown of all the decks that made Day 2.  They only gave us decklists for those decks that went at least 8-1 on Day 1, and those that made Top 8.  Not surprisingly, a lot of decks in the latter group where also in the former.  So we have 28 decks in total, or about a fifth of the Day 2 decks. You can check out referred below by looking here and here.


Colors Deck Name Inside the Numbers Percentage


Level Blue 25%

Domain Zoo 14%


Tron 10%


Burn 10%

Rock 7%

Doran 7%


Death Cloud 3%

Tallowsip 3%

Balancing Act 3%

Goblins 3%

Ideal 3%

-Winner -Top 8

You can see how diverse the results were from this past weekend.  The success the past few weeks has made the multiple versions of Level Blue the most prominent control deck.  And as would be expected from the feature matches I saw, Domain Zoo is the best aggro deck.  But the Top 8 included 8 different archtypes.  Besides the archetypes just mentioned, there was another control deck in   Tron, a combo deck with TEPS, and a couple mid-range  decks like Rock, Doran, Death Cloud, and a Tallowisp deck who's main search target was Armadillo Cloak.  I don't know, it worked.  It appears that the lesson here was play what you like, and you probably want to play  for Tarmogoyf.  6 of the Top 8 were sporting the Goyf.

The Top 8

With so many players showing up for this GP (remember they started with 970), its not surprising to see some unfamiliar names at the top of the leader board at the conclusion of the 15th round.  Our GP Philly Top 8 roster included Tyler Mantey of Ohio, Matt Hansen of Iowa, Ben Wienberg of Ohio, and Paul Mathews of Pennsylvania.  Some names you might recognize include Gerard Fabiano, who made Top 8 at PT Boston in 02 and multiple GP Top 8s, former US National Champ Luis Scott-Vargas, Jon Sonne, who's made 5 GP and 1 PT Top 8, and finally Adam Yurchick, with 1 former GP Top 8 and 2007 Ohio State Champion.

Quarterfinals: Gerard Fabiano (Rock) versus Matt Hansen ( Tallowisp ).  In both games of this match, the difference was the life gain element of Gerard Fabiano.  Take a look at the deck here:

Gerard has 4 Loxodon Hierarch and 2 Ravenous Baloth, which allows him to recoup a lot of life lost from those fetchlands, shocklands, and early beats from his opponents.  This match saw a lot of attacking back and forth, but the combination of Eternal Witness and Vindicate was too much for Hansen.  Fabiano advances 2-0.

Ben Weinburg (Domain Zoo) versus Luis Scott-Vargas (Next Level Blue).  Game 1, Luis got a turn 1 Counterbalance off a Chrome Mox, which allowed him to counter enough burn spells to stabilize and steal away Ben's creatures FTW.  In Game 2, Ben had enough creatures to run over Luis, who kept trying to steal Ben's creatures, but was repeatedly thwarted by Vindicate.  The critical play of Game 3 came with Luis on 2 life when he topdecked a Trinket Mage allowing him to search out an Engineered Explosives and equal the number of creatures on the board.  Nothing helpful on the top of Ben's deck allowed Luis' Tarmogoyf to finish the job in a couple of turns.  Scott-Vargas advances 2-1.

Tyler Mantey (Doran) versus Paul Mathews (TEPS).  Turn 1 Lotus Bloom from Paul in Game 1 meant Turn 4 combo kill.  In the second game, Tyler had a Turn 2 Doran, the Siege Tower to Paul's Lotus Bloom.  Amazingly, the top of Paul's deck did not cooperate with him, and he could not complete the combo when his Lotus Bloom came in, knotch one for the Doran deck.  In Game 3, Tyler had a Duress and 2 Cabal Therapy to rip the snot out of Paul's hand.  It's hard to combo off of only 1 card, which allowed Tyler to coast to the 2-1 match victory.

Jon Sonne ( Death Cloud ) versus Adam Yurchick (  Tron).  Game 1, Yurchick used a ton of countermagic in the early game to keep Jon's big threats off the board.  A Decree of Justice cycled for 12 by Adam left too many token soldiers on the board for Jon to deal with.  In Game 2, Adam started slow, but an Oblivion Ring on a Indrik Stomphowler gave Adam enough time to complete his UrzaTron and setup the Academy Ruins/Mindslaver lock.  Yurchick advances 2-0. 

Semifinals: Luis Scott-Vargas versus Adam Yurchick.  This control match was very similar to the final at GP Vancouver, with Level Blue versus Tron.  But the big difference was that this Level Blue deck was running Counterbalance, and the Tron deck swapped  for  to put Tarmogoyf on the sideline, to instead have access to Wrath of God, Oblivion Ring, and a finisher in Decree of Justice.

That fact that Scott-Vargas was depending on Counterbalance for his counters, decisively gave the advantage to Yurchick going into the match because all the "win" spells in his deck cost way more than 3 mana.  Adam had the silliest of starts in Game 1 by completing the Tron on Turn 3 and playing a Sundering Titan with Luis tapped out.  Um... gg.  Game 2 revolved around Luis trying to keep Gaddock Teeg on the board while Adam kept removing them with Oblivion Ring and cycled Decree of Justice to provide oppurtune blockers.  When Adam ringed the second Teeg, he dropped Sundering Titan and that was that.  Yurchick advances 2-0.

Gerard Fabiano versus Tyler Mantey.  In Game 1, Gerard used his discard to take all of Tyler's plays away.  He got 2 Loxodon Hierarch on board with a Pernicious Deed that could clear Tyler's board of Tarmogoyf and Doran, the Siege Tower.  On to Game 2, where Tyler was able to Cabal Therapy away 3 Loxodon Hierarch that were stuck in Gerard's hand while he was short on mana.  A Hierarch of his own and a Goyf allowed Tyler to even the match at 1 game a piece.  

Congratulations to Gerard Fabiano, GP Philadelphia 2008 Winner

Following some Hierarch, Goyf, and Treetop Village battles, Game 3 found both players looking for answers via Top Deck mode.  Gerard found a Sensei's Divining Top to increase his card quality to find a Treetop that got the last bits of damage through.  Fabiano advance 2-1.

Finals: Gerard Fabiano versus Adam Yurchick.  Gerard jumped on top of Adam early in Game 1 with Sakura-Tribe Elder and Loxodon Hierarch beats.  Adam wrathed after a Ravenous Baloth from Gerard.  In the entire game, Adam's only creatures were some solider tokens from a cycled Decree, which could not block all the creatures Gerard kept making and then returning with multiple Eternal Witnesses. Fabiano had no action in Game 2, while Yurchick was attacking with a face-down Exalted Angel and some soldier tokens.  Gerard conceded when Adam found the mana to morph his Angel, meaning we'd have one final game to decide the Champ.   Game 3 was a quick one.  Repeated beats from a Treetop Village brought Adam down to 7 while he was trying to build his UrzaTron.  A Thoughtseize for Gerard let him see that Adam had nothing to threaten Gerard's plan.  Loxodon Hierarch came in and finished the job with the Treetop for one last swing.  Fabiano wins 2-0.

To watch the finals yourself, click here.

Top 20 in the 2008 Player of the Year Standings 
Following GP Philly & GP Vienna

Ranking Player Points
1 Jon Finkel* 25
2 Mario Pascoli 20
3 Joel Calafell 17
4 Marcio Carvalho 16
4 Ming Xu 16
6 Shuuhei Nakamura* 15
6 Paul Cheon* 15
6 Guillaume Wafo-Tapa 15
9 Olivier Ruel 14
10 Yuuta Takahashi* 13
11 Mike Hron 12
11 Nicolai Herzog 12
13 Robert van Medevoort 11
14 Brandon Scheel 10
14 Steven Sadin 10
14 Tomoharu Saitou 10
17 Martin Juza 9
17 Shuu Komuro 9
17 Kazuya Mitamura 9
17 Raphael Levy 9

* 2008 Event Winner

Player of the Year Race

Seeing how five of the Top 8 finishers were earning their first pro points of the season at Philadelphia, this tournament had little effect on the Player of the Year race.  Jon Finkel did not make the hour and a half drive down I-95, meaning we probably won't see him again until PT Hollywood.

The win didn't even get Fabiano into the Top 20, and the only American to make up any ground this weekend was Steve Sadin, who finished in the Top 32, earning himself 2 Pro Points, and moving up into a tie for 14th.

Join me next week, when we review the results from GP Vienna, another Extended event that was held concurrently with GP Philly, to see a completely different kind of Top 8. 




by Pyrosin at Fri, 03/21/2008 - 06:57
Pyrosin's picture

Dude, I haven't bought a paper Magic booster since Fifth Dawn.  I only play online now.

Check out the Vienna Results by Rich (Unregistered) (not verified) at Thu, 03/20/2008 - 14:22
Rich (Unregistered)'s picture

Four dredge decks made top 8 at GP Vienna.  I saw some dredge in Philly but it wasn't very well represented and it is a tough deck to play properly.

Nice article.

by Erik (Unregistered) (not verified) at Thu, 03/20/2008 - 15:06
Erik (Unregistered)'s picture

Nice article, I enjoyed the smattering of information as well as the links to the deck techs (I didn't know Mr. Orange did coverage at the GP!). Awesome job.

by urzishra (Unregistered) (not verified) at Thu, 03/20/2008 - 19:18
urzishra (Unregistered)'s picture

wait.. there was a major tournament event in your hometown and YOU DIDN"T PLAY? GP are open events correct?

 boo hiss on being a spectator when you could have done massive damage.

Where's the Dredge? by Arnnaria at Thu, 03/20/2008 - 09:58
Arnnaria's picture

Not one dredge deck made 8-1?  I find that more than surprising.