GP:Brisbane. Know Your Pros!

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Jack “Jackyboy” Walton is having a good time!

Greetings gentlefolk! As you may or may not be aware, the Magic: the Gathering Grand Prix circuit rolled into Brisvegas this past weekend and a jolly good time was had by all in attendance. A record crop of 466 players converged on the Convention & Exhibition Centre for some intensive Modern format competition. The high number of players was a welcome surprise given the extensive card pool of the format and the fact that most overseas pros decided to give Brisbane a miss on account of the tournament’s distant geographical and close temporal proximity to the upcoming $250 000 Pro Tour: Dublin tournament. Nevertheless, high profile players from across the land showed up with their sights set on GP:Brissie’s $3500 top prize. When the dust had settled, local ace, Justin Robb, had piloted his ultra-quick Affinity deck through a loaded top 8 to defend his home turf and do Queenslanders proud!

1 Robb, Justin $3,500
2 Unwin, Daniel G $2,300
3 Cheung, Justin $1,500
4 Tudman, Ben $1,500
5 Wong, Garry $1,000
6 Horig, Wilfy $1,000
7 Harris, Cameron P $1,000
8 Khor, Wee Yuen $1,000

I took the opportunity over the weekend to track down some of Australia’s best known and most successful Magic players to ask them some cheeky questions and hopefully, with this article, introduce them to a newer generation of local players. If you see one of these guys at your next event be sure to say “hello”. They are a friendly bunch!

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Robbie Jackway

Hometown: Townsville

PWP: 8666 (Sorcerer)

All-Time Aussie Rank: 104

Robbie and his brother, Jamie, have been stalwarts of the North Queensland MTG scene as far back as I can remember. He is a fiendishly consistent performer at big events and Brisbane was no different with a strong Day 2 performance as he finished in the money at 35th. Robbie’s most notable achievement was a Pro Tour appearance at Prague in 2006 and he hopes to return to the biggest stage sooner rather than later. He also happens to be one of the most well-liked Aussie players around with a fine sense of humour and a firm handshake!

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It has been two years since the World Cup Qualifiers and an extra Grand Prix replaced the Australian Nationals tournament. Do you think we are better off now?

It’s difficult to say since there are pros and cons to both systems. That said, I think I prefer the new system since the WMCQ’s are usually paired with a traditional PTQ to create a totally awesome Magic weekend with big events on Saturday and Sunday. It’s nice to have that to look forward to every year!

It has also been two years since the old ELO ratings were phased out in favour of the current Planeswalker Points system. Do you miss the ELO ratings?

I hated the ELO system. Going to an FNM and going 3-1 only to lose points was a drag, man!

Do any staple Modern decks need to be nerfed?

No. (It’s close though)

Which of these scenarios is more likely: Australia is governed by a competent, problem-solving, non-partisan administration, or an Australian wins a M:TG Pro Tour event?

Pro Tour winner for sure!

Player A’s Thassa blocks player B’s Erebos. Player A casts Quicken into Show and Tell. Player A puts Opalescence onto the battlefield and player B puts Humility onto the battlefield. What is the capital of Iceland?

Ummmmmmmm. What?

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John-Paul Kelly

Hometown: Canberra

PWP: 18157 (Battlemage)

All-Time Aussie Rank: 6

JP is an absolute wrecking ball of a player and always comes armed with a powerful deck and the determination to dominate his opponents. He achieved a sensational 10th place at Pro Tour: Austin in 2009, one of the best Pro Tour results ever by an Aussie, but he is also very proud of his Top 8 appearance at Nationals in 2005. As fearsome as he is on the battlefield, he is equally amicable and friendly off it and I had the pleasure of teaming up with him for last year’s World Cup in Indianapolis. JP is one of Australia’s best Magic exponents and we should all be glad he’s on our side!

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It has been two years since the World Cup Qualifiers and an extra Grand Prix replaced the Australian Nationals tournament. Do you think we are better off now?

Well I’m certainly not better off since Nats was held each year in Canberra. Now we get nothing! Overall I’d say the new system is relatively similar to Nats in selecting a competitive team for the World Cup/Worlds.

It has also been two years since the old ELO ratings were phased out in favour of the current Planeswalker Points system. Do you miss the ELO ratings?

I personally miss ELO since the points system suited the way I play Magic: solid but irregular in attendance.

Do any staple Modern decks need to be nerfed?

They’re fine. We could use some super sweet unbannings though!

Which of these scenarios is more likely: Australia is governed by a competent, problem-solving, non-partisan administration, or an Australian wins a M:TG Pro Tour event?

Pro Tour winner easily. We’ve got Juzza!

Player A’s Thassa blocks player B’s Erebos. Player A casts Quicken into Show and Tell. Player A puts Opalescence onto the battlefield and player B puts Humility onto the battlefield. What is the capital of Iceland?

Dang it! I should know this… Bugger.

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Jason Chung

Hometown: Auckland

PWP: 15120 (Battlemage)

All-Time NZ Rank: 6

Jason has a strong claim to the title: New Zealand’s best player. A crafty opponent and an ace with control decks, he led New Zealand’s World Cup team to a stellar Top 8 finish this year, and his best solo performance was a win at Grand Prix: Auckland in 2008 followed closely by a victory at NZ Nationals. Don’t let his mirthful demeanour fool you; he is a fierce competitor!

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It has been two years since the World Cup Qualifiers and an extra Grand Prix replaced the New Zealand Nationals tournament. Do you think we are better off now?

I preferred the Nationals tourney since it had multiple formats in one weekend. Only the best of the best could win that sort of event ;-).

It has also been two years since the old ELO ratings were phased out in favour of the current Planeswalker Points system. Do you miss the ELO ratings?

Not really. ELO works best for chess whereas Planeswalker Points offer more incentive to play lots of Magic.

Do any staple Modern decks need to be nerfed?

Not at all!

Which of these scenarios is more likely: Australia is governed by a competent, problem-solving, non-partisan administration, or an Australian wins a M:TG Pro Tour event?

Ehm. I’m a Kiwi, mate!

Player A’s Thassa blocks player B’s Erebos. Player A casts Quicken into Show and Tell. Player A puts Opalescence onto the battlefield and player B puts Humility onto the battlefield. What is the capital of Iceland?

Lul wot?

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Dave Crewe

Hometown: Brisbane

PWP: 15061 (Battlemage)

All-Time Aussie Rank: 17

Dave is quite possibly the best Magic player Brisbane has produced. He is also one of Australia’s very best limited players having won Grand Prix: Melbourne in 2012. Part time maths whizz/high school teacher and part time duelist, Dave is frequently found at the top tables working out strictly superior plays to anything you or I could come up with!

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It has been two years since the World Cup Qualifiers and an extra Grand Prix replaced the Australian Nationals tournament. Do you think we are better off now?

I think the current system is fine but Nationals was a far superior tournament compared to the WMCQs!

It has also been two years since the old ELO ratings were phased out in favour of the current Planeswalker Points system. Do you miss the ELO ratings?

Not so much. The ELO ratings did give you some prestige but it also certainly discouraged top players from playing in small events.

Do any staple Modern decks need to be nerfed?

No. This format seems quite well balanced to me with a very Rock/Paper/Scissors feel to the metagame.

Which of these scenarios is more likely: Australia is governed by a competent, problem-solving, non-partisan administration, or an Australian wins a M:TG Pro Tour event?

Pro Tour winner.

Player A’s Thassa blocks player B’s Erebos. Player A casts Quicken into Show and Tell. Player A puts Opalescence onto the battlefield and player B puts Humility onto the battlefield. What is the capital of Iceland?

Geography. So lame! ;P

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Wilfy Horig

Hometown: Melbourne

PWP: 12692 (Battlemage)

All-Time Aussie Rank: 35

Still only 18, Wilfy has been the wunderkind of the Aussie Magic scene for several years now. Some of his best results include Top 8 at Nationals and Top 32 at Grand Prix: Singapore in 2011. He also finished in the Top 8 this weekend in Brissie! Wilfy has a great chance at catapulting Australia into the limelight on the international stage and I’m sure we all wish him the best of luck in his burgeoning Magic career!

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It has been two years since the World Cup Qualifiers and an extra Grand Prix replaced the Australian Nationals tournament. Do you think we are better off now?

I certainly don’t feel better off. The extra GP is nice but unfortunately the scheduling is a little awkward since there is a season which does not feed into one of them. This makes getting byes really tricky!

It has also been two years since the old ELO ratings were phased out in favour of the current Planeswalker Points system. Do you miss the ELO ratings?

I do miss it. I don’t see why we can’t have both!

Do any staple Modern decks need to be nerfed?

Not really. Jund is a little bit suspect though. Maybe one the current tag-team of Deathrite Shaman, Dark Confidant, Tarmogoyf and Liliana of the Veil?

Which of these scenarios is more likely: Australia is governed by a competent, problem-solving, non-partisan administration, or an Australian wins a M:TG Pro Tour event?

I’ll put my money on a Pro Tour winner!

Player A’s Thassa blocks player B’s Erebos. Player A casts Quicken into Show and Tell. Player A puts Opalescence onto the battlefield and player B puts Humility onto the battlefield. What is the capital of Iceland?

Reya.. Kiya… Vickersomethingorother…  (I’ll give it to him)

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Justin (Juzza) Cheung

Hometown: Sydney

PWP: 26766 (Archmage)

All-Time Aussie Rank: 1

Juzza is Australia’s M:TG juggernaut! The nation celebrated as one when he surged to a second place finish at Worlds in 2008. He also came second at Grand Prix: Sydney this year to go with his Top 8 showing at Brissie this weekend. How’s that for consistency? He is an internationally renowned player and is often considered the face of Australian professional Magic. Don’t be overawed though. Juzza is one of the most approachable players on the local circuit and is more than happy to discuss all things Magic with anyone who’s willing to listen and learn.

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It has been two years since the World Cup Qualifiers and an extra Grand Prix replaced the Australian Nationals tournament. Do you think we are better off now?

The extra GP is awesome so no complaints from me!

It has also been two years since the old ELO ratings were phased out in favour of the current Planeswalker Points system. Do you miss the ELO ratings?

The awkwardness of top players losing points at small events was bad for the game. I don’t miss it.

Do any staple Modern decks need to be nerfed?

Unbannings! We need more unbannings!

Which of these scenarios is more likely: Australia is governed by a competent, problem-solving, non-partisan administration, or an Australian wins a M:TG Pro Tour event?

Pro Tour winner although I am an optimistic political observer.

Player A’s Thassa blocks player B’s Erebos. Player A casts Quicken into Show and Tell. Player A puts Opalescence onto the battlefield and player B puts Humility onto the battlefield. What is the capital of Iceland?

Reykjavík! (Winner!)

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466 players attended the GP!

 

Part 2: Quickie Tourney Report

I thought I might divulge the decklists I had been working on months in advance of GP: Brisbane. I’m a big fan of the Modern format and really wanted to try and crack it open for October. I ended up playing this list to an 11th place finish.

Naya Pod
Jonathan Winter
2013 Grand Prix Brisbane – 10/5
Modern

Main Deck:
4 Birds of Paradise
1 Cunning Sparkmage
4 Domri Rade
1 Fauna Shaman
1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
4 Kitchen Finks
1 Molten-Tail Masticore
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Restoration Angel
2 Scavenging Ooze
1 Spellskite
4 Voice of Resurgence
1 Zealous Conscripts

4 Birthing Pod
1 Chord of Calling

2 Arid Mesa
2 Copperline Gorge
1 Fire-Lit Thicket
2 Forest
2 Gavony Township
1 Horizon Canopy
3 Misty Rainforest
1 Plains
4 Razorverge Thicket
1 Sacred Foundry
3 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden

Sideboard:
2 Avalanche Riders
1 Aven Mindcensor
1 Chord of Calling
1 Devout Lightcaster
1 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Fulminator Mage
1 Harmonic Sliver
1 Kataki, War’s Wage
1 Kor Firewalker
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
1 Obstinate Baloth
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Sigarda, Host of Herons

I had originally planned on running a traditional 4 colour Kiki-Pod list, but I was struggling against copious amounts of removal for my mana dorks. Luckily, Tim Collings convinced me to simplify the mana base and play the mighty Domri in order to combat the Jund and UWR control hordes. The advice proved invaluable as Domri kicked some serious butt over the weekend. Molten-Tail Masticore and Devout Lightcaster were also stand out performers and the deck was an absolute blast to play (Except that one round when I lost on turn 2 to Griselbrand. Ugh).

The other deck I had been endlessly tinkering with was this custom Ad Nauseam deck dubbed “Thug Unlife” (If anyone asks).

Thug Unlife
Jack Walton

Modern

Main Deck:

4 Ad Nauseam
3 Angel’s Grace
1 Conflagrate
1 Consume the Meek
1 Esper Charm
2 Everflowing Chalice
4 Mox Opal
3 Mystical Teachings
2 Pact of Negation
4 Phyrexian Unlife
4 Serum Visions
3 Sleight of Hand
4 Talisman of Dominance
2 Talisman of Progress

3 Darkslick Shores
4 Darksteel Citadel
1 Gemstone Mine
1 Godless Shrine
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Island
2 Marsh Flats
2 Misty Rainforest
1 Plains
2 Seachrome Coast
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
3 Watery Grave

Sideboard:
1 Consume the Meek
1 Disenchant
3 Duress
2 Grave Titan
3 Leyline of Sanctity
1 Patrician’s Scorn
3 Phyrexian Arena
1 Slaughter Pact

Quick combo lesson: Angel’s Grace or Unlife lets you draw your entire deck with Ad Nauseam after which you can finish your opponent off with a giant Conflagrate. Jack Walton was kind enough (and skilful enough) to pilot this bad boy at the GP and managed to make day 2 with zero byes! Unfortunately he got beat up by the Jund menace on Sunday to finish a still respectable 70th. The deck is an evolution of the traditional Ad Nauseam combo deck that uses Lotus Blooms to ramp and Simian Spirit Guides to cast the win condition at the end. I quickly discovered that that deck was far too inconsistent for tournament play and, more importantly, I learned that ramping with Lotus Blooms was just as quick as simply casting Talismans on turn 2 and 3 since the critical mass of mana is 6 in order to cast both Ad Nauseam and Angel’s Grace in one turn. I also decided that Mox Opal (with the new legend rule) was superior to Spirit Guide since it allowed me to cast Mystical Teachings more reliably. Teachings is an amazing tutor for this deck since the flashback ability allows you to search for both halves of the combo if required (Not to mention an occasionally backbreaking Consume the Meek)! Finally, I realised that Phyrexian Unlife is simply the best card in the deck. Firstly it combos with Ad Nauseam just as well as Angel’s Grace and, if you play it before turn 4, it counts as a ramp spell since it means you only need 5 mana to ‘go off’. More importantly, it effectively gives you an extra 10 life to play with which is a nightmarish scenario for aggro decks to face. Since it buys you as much as two turns against most decks, it acts like a combo piece that draws you cards! The deck is amazing to play with but, unfortunately, Jund just has too many weapons against 2 card combos at the moment. But, if you’re in the mood for some sick combo action, feel free to give this sweet brew a go.

Thanks to TimmyC, Jackyboy, Carter, Godders and DaddyC for contributing to the playtesting group and thanks to Carter, Sedgehammer and Matty F for loaning me the Domris. You guys rock! Also thanks to the organisers and attendees of a superb Grand Prix. See you at the next one.

Jonathan

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One Comment
  1. Ben
    October 11, 2013 | Reply

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