In true dramatic fashion, we drove across the bridge out of Philadelphia less than an hour before it was closed due to winds from Hurricane Sandy.
This is the Story of the Hurricane
The aforementioned windstorm has the Eastern coast of the United States in its sights and appears capable of dealing some damage even to lands and non-fliers. Unfortunately for all in attendance, Philadelphia is also on the Eastern coast of the United States and Sandy showed up a day early. Monday flights cleverly changed to Sunday flights weren't safe from her wrath and high winds shut down automobile traffic.
On Sunday afternoon it appeared we faced a clear choice; get out of dodge or spend up to a week in the city of brotherly love. For us this decision would be determined by the only player in our group, who was a lock for day two unless he lost both of the next two rounds. "Challenge accepted!" he shouted, charging into battle with a sealed deck that contained Sphinx of the Chimes, Armada Wurm and Angel of Serenity. Naturally, he lost both of his win-and-in rounds, bubbled out and just like that we could leave whenever we wanted.
Sunday afternoon at around 3:00 we loaded the car and bid adieu to the city where they shot that one movie with Tom Hanks. You know, the one where he's the Philadelphia lawyer and the law firm fires him so he searches all over Philadelphia for an ambulance chaser who will represent him and then he dies... Johnathan Demme won a best director Oscar... it will come to me.
The twitterverse was excited by how stacked the Top 8 ended up.
If it looks nuts, it's only because it is. So much Platinum! However, not to diminish the accomplishments of these fine gentlemen, the storm was a factor. Many players who were locks for Day 2 opted to bail on the event citing concern with flights or driving arrangements in anticipation of Sandy. After all, if you have to be at work on Monday, you might not want to be trapped in Philadelphia, the home alike of the Liberty Bell and the developed world's most urine-stenched subway system (seriously, what is up with their subway cars? I actually hope Sandy floods those tunnels just to give those roving urinals a flush).
Do you know who doesn't care about all that so much? That's right, a Magic pro. They were likely already planning to stay on a few days or fly off somewhere to prepare for the next event, so the prospect of being trapped in Philly with all of their Magic pro friends wasn't the scariest. It's possible that a few of the pros who top-eighted beat out someone else with better tiebreakers at their respective records and 9-to-5 jobs out of Sandy's disaster radius.
Of course any one of those players could have easily top-eighted on any given Sunday. But there may have been some mitigating factors involved in all of them hitting on the same weekend, something to note before we all take to the internet raving about the "most stacked Top 8 in the history of ever."
The Two Possibilities for Pack Rat
Either Pack Rat has to be playable in Standard or this is the biggest differential between a card's Limited and Standard playability in the history of the game. I kid not, some joker opened a pool with three copies of Pack Rat and his instinct was to add two Stab Wound, thirty-five swamps and jimmy jam a deck with more Pack Rat than the original cast of Ocean's 11. Rumor has it that he went 10-0 day one.
Pack Rat has always looked nuts and super playable with a ton of casual appeal. Brainstorm Brewery called this a pickup recently (to the best I can recollect without re-listening to an hour-long podcast I participated in), and I have fond memories of attacking for 64 in a game of 2HG in which I went "turn 2 Pack Rat" and then turned the rest of my hand into beatings.
One thing that may affect the ability to port these voracious vermin directly to constructed formats is the sheer volume of removal that can deal with them easily. In Limited, an opponent may get a Detention Sphere, Supreme Verdict or Cyclonic Rift if they are lucky. In Constructed, they could potentially run four of each. Rat is much more of a beating when 90% of the removal is unreliable and 1-for-1.
Some have had success with a build that runs Rat alongside Parallel Lives, which I find hilarious. An object lesson in exponents, this deck can easily overwhelm an underprepared opponent much quicker than they'd imagined. It's also fun to play and isn't stupid #$%^ing Jund, which really appeals to me.
When a card is oppressive enough in Limited to be serviceable alongside 39 swamps, my instinct says it can't be totally unplayable in Constructed and its low price tag makes it a decent spec opportunity. Would you trust me more or less if I told you how many copies I picked up this week? Well, tough, I'm not gonna. I can't predict where this card will go pricewise. All I know is that this was by far the defining card of GP Philly and you can draw your own conclusions. I'm not a finance writer anyway; what the hell do I know?
Nothing is funnier to me than the fact that the Magic Players who opted not to go to Philadelphia and instead went to New Orleans were the ones who managed to escape the flooding this weekend.
Blame Kibler, I say. The word "midrange" gets tossed around here like the word "epic" on the internet. These days everything is "midrange," defined as "a deck with Thragtusk and no planeswalkers." Three Jund decks cracked the Top 8, although they finished worse than the one Bant Control deck. But with such a small sample size, I'd be silly to draw any immediate conclusions.
Alex Park jammed Thundermaw Hellkite in his U/W/R deck which opts to play creatures over fickle miracles. While I dismissed the original U/W/R deck of the season as a flash-in-the-pan metagame deck for a metagame that doesn't exist anymore (ctrl+F for "zombies" if you don't believe me), the shell was solid and players are beginning to adjust the numbers for the right mix. I was happy to get real money for Gravecrawler and Lotleth Troll this weekened. I kept enough of them to play in Legacy and Modern and outed the rest, operating under the pretense that I'll play constructed some day (I'm not even sure this facade is fooling me anymore). I don't know if they'll tank, but I know they're not likely to go up. I bought low, so it's time to sell high.
You know what else is low? Mayor of Avabruck. The Mayor is getting no love lately, but that may change after Brad LeBoeuf and his G/W Humans deck stomped the competition in Nouvelle Orleans. I like the Nevermore in his board as that card is a house in a format where the control decks don't run counterspells. I recommend naming "Detention Sphere" if they have them lest you lose a lot of Nevermores in one fell swoop.
Chris Harris' Mono Red was clearly the most interesting deck of the event and his list merits scrutiny. Mostly comprised of creatures, none of which are Vexing Devil, this list looks hilarious to play. Archwing Dragon seems great in this format, and with a low number of burn spells, you'll likely not miss the mana you spend re-upping every turn.
Great job, Top 16.
Would it seem odd if I skipped the top three decks and talked about Zombardment right away? Deathrite Shaman was made for this deck, and it's so good here that you can rationalize the green splash by running an Abrupt Decay. I love how this deck continues to evolve. Nothing is dirtier to me than turn one Faithless Looting dumping two Bloodghasts and/or Gravecrawlers to set up a very nice turn two. This may replace Nic Fit as the best Cabal Therapy deck in Legacy. Great job, Scott Tompkins.
Chi Hoi Yim laughs at your pathetic Abrupt Decay and wins the event with Counterbalance anyway. Apparently this is still a deck. Adding Detention Sphere seems like a good update to the deck. Rest in Peace also seems fine.
Tyler Arceneaux keeps the dream alive with another Top 8 from Angel Stompy, which I like. This list is very similar to the last one to Top 8, but that's fine with me. This deck will continue to evolve a bit and I love watching a new archetype emerge.
The most interesting deck besides that is Dustin Buckingham's decision to solve the question of "When should U/R Delver board in the StifleNought package?" by maindecking it. Stifle is a good enough utility card not to feel like a narrow combo piece, and you're liable to steal games from opponents who didn't expect a [card Phyrexian Dreadnought]12/12[/card] out of Delver.
Two RUG Delver decks and two U/W Control decks made up half of a Top 8 with six unique archetypes. Legacy continues to evolve new decks, including one I'm working on myself. Here's a hint -- it beats Zombardment because it maindecks a card Counterbalance ran in the board.
Stay Dry Out There
That does it for me, gang. Tune in next week!