Jeff Zandi is a four time pro tour veteran who has been playing Magic since 1994. Jeff is a level two DCI judge and has been judging everything from small local tournaments to pro tour events.

Jeff is from Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, where his upstairs game room has been the "Guildhall", the home of the Texas Guildmages, since the team formed in 1996. One of the original founders of the team, Jeff Zandi is the team's administrator, and is proud to continue the team's tradition of having players in every pro tour from the first event in 1996 to the present.


 

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Gunfight At The O.K. Corral
The Southwest's Top Players Square Off in PTQ-Nagoya


by Jeff Zandi

Texas' top players, including several of the best limited players in the
world, faced each other down last Saturday in McKinney, a rapidly-growing
town "a little" north of Dallas. Brent Kaskel, currently the best player in
Texas, cruised easily through six Swiss rounds of sealed deck play and two
rounds of Rochester draft play before playing kingmaker, delivering the seat
for Pro Tour Nagoya to hard-working Mark Hendrickson. Along the way, there
were plenty of good players outplaying their very average card pools, 
dozens of rules questions (Champions of Kamigawa has some confusing and
counter-intuitive card text) and hardly any color cooperation in the top
eight Rochester draft AT ALL.

Madness Games in McKinney, (sister store to Space Madness in Plano) provided
a wonderfully comfortable site for one of the last pro tour qualifiers for
Pro Tour Nagoya in the area. The tournament was run and head judged by yours
truly on behalf of Aussiefox Events. Edward Fox, tournament organizer and
Magic raconteur supreme, was not in McKinney for this event, although the
two of us will be working together one week from tomorrow in the Nagoya PTQ
in Wichita, Kansas. For some reason, the big crowds have simply not appeared
in this season of Champions of Kamigawa sealed deck qualifiers down here in
the Texas-Oklahoma-Louisiana-Kansas area. I understand that Nagoya, Japan,
is VERY far away. Economically, Japan is the hardest Pro Tour destination to
justify. Still, even if you weren't trying to qualify for Pro Tour Nagoya,
this season should have been all about getting a chance to play in serious
sealed deck tournaments with a brand new set with the chance to win a five
hundred dollar first prize. A month ago, I was one of fifty-six players in a
Nagoya PTQ in Oklahoma City. I think that attendance was the largest in our
area for the entire season.

The field for the tournament consisted of a very slender group of
forty-seven players. The relatively small turn-out, however, does not
adequately describe the quality of the event's competitive pool. Brent
Kaskel has been burning up a lot of tournaments in the past year, naturally,
including a second-in-a-row very nice performance at the U.S. Nationals.
None other than David Williams, top Magic pro and recent second place
finisher at the World Series of Poker, was in the house, trying to hop back
onto the Magic gravy train. Actually, David claimed that this PTQ appearance
was "just for fun" but I think its obvious that Dave would love to be on top
of the Magic world the way he was just a few years ago. Other great area
players included Mark Hendrickson (who has been winning a lot of tournaments
in the past two years), Ronnie Jones (coming off a great day two performance
at Pro Tour Columbus), Jeffrey Meyerson, Billy Moreno (a great player who,
like three other players, traveled all the way from San Antonio for this
tournament, about five hours away), Jonathan Pechon, Adam Bernstein and Eric
Knipp. Poor Mister Knipp. Eric played great in the Swiss rounds only to find
himself in eighth place with one round left to go. He was tied on points
with eight other players, with twelve points. Brent Kaskel sat above this
group all alone in first place with fifteen points and an undefeated record.
Kaskel would concede to his opponent in round six, and he would bow in the
finals to Mark Hendrickson, but in reality, nobody managed to actually
defeat Brent Kaskel on this day. Eric has, to say the least, had some bad
luck with taking intentional draws in the final Swiss round of PTQs. There
was a real danger that if Eric accepted an intentional draw with his sixth
round opponent, Brandon Svochak in seventh place, Eric could finish in ninth
or tenth place with thirteen points. This time, however, it looks like Eric
and Brandon would have been safe with their draw. As it turned out, though,
Eric Knipp and Brandon Svochak played out their sixth round match up,
resulting in a Svochak win that launched Svochak high into the top eight 
and sinking Eric Knipp way down to eleventh place. As fortune would have it,
Eric Knipp ended up qualifying for nine booster packs in amateur prize
winnings. Eric was not around to collect his love offering from Wizards of
the Coast, however, as he had quickly stomped out the door after losing to
Svochak in round six.

Brent Kaskel Was All Smiles and All Business

They say that "the cream always rises to the top" and this axiom was
certainly true regarding this tournament. Simply put, the tournament was in
Brent Kaskel's hands from the beginning all the way to the end. You know how
there's always that ONE guy that shows up super late and disrupts the
tournament? Well, this week, that infamous honor belonged to Jonathan
Pechon, who showed up minutes before pairing went up for round one.
Incredibly, it took Jonathan only FIVE MINUTES to construct and register his
deck. Jonathan would play well but come up just one match win short of his
goal today. David Williams was the first player to finish his first round
match. True to his professionalism, Dave wasn't bragging about the easy win.
Kaskel turned in his round one match reporting slip indicating a win for
Kaskel. Kaskel's thin-lipped smile told me he was happy with his deck.
Kaskel is ALWAYS happy with his sealed deck. Let's take a look at it. I find
it to be quite a nice deck, but certainly not broken and certainly not an
AUTO WIN kind of deck.

Brent Kaskel
1st place sealed deck
Forest x2
Plains x6
Swamp x8
Tranquil Garden
Cage of Hands
Devoted Retainer x2
Honden of Cleansing Fire
Indomitable Will
Innocence Kami
Kami of Ancient Law
Kitsune Riftwalker
Mothrider Samurai
Otherworldly Journey
Reciprocate
Befoul
Cursed Ronin
Gibbering Kami
Kiku, Night's Flower
Nezumi Cutthroat
Nezumi Graverobber
Pull Under
Villainous Ogre
Wicked Akuba
Kodama's Reach
Moss Kami
Strength of Cedars

In round two, Brent Kaskel defeated David Williams in a match that might
have been closer if David had been able to draw some lands a little earlier
in at least one of the games. Brent said later that he wished he had
intentionally drawn with David.

After the six rounds of Swiss were complete, the top eight sealed deck
finishers were assembled and seated randomly for the Rochester draft that
would ultimately decide the champion of this event. The decision regarding
which player will open a booster pack first and begin the circuitous route
of the Rochester draft falls to the top finisher of the Swiss rounds. In
this tournament, that meant Brent Kaskel. The seating of the top eight
Rochester draft was, clockwise from Kaskel, Mark Hendrickson, Scott
Barrentine, Adam Bernstein, James Parker, Chris Connelly, Brandon Svochak
and finally Jeremy Jackson. Brent chose to open his first pack fifth, making
Dallas-local James Parker the first player to open a pack. David Williams
helped facilitate the Rochester draft, opening each pack, spreading them out
on the table face up and calling the draft so that each player had the
proper amount of time to make each card selection. Williams, without a
doubt, was the man in the room with the most experience with the Rochester
draft format, having sat at Pro Tour Rochester drafts all over the world.
When Parker saw the first pack opened, he was pleased to first pick Cage of
Hands. At some points later in the draft, it seemed as though James would
get away from white, but he never did.

Here are Brent Kaskel's Rochester draft picks, in the order selected. The
cards that made it into Kaskel's starting lineup are in all caps. The blank
lines inserted in the card list show where the Rochester draft changed
directions from clockwise to counterclockwise after pack number eight and
back to clockwise after pack number sixteen. A total of twenty-four packs
are drafted, three packs each for the eight players in the draft.

KONDA'S HATAMOTO
Sift Through Sands
KITSUNE BLADEMASTER
Pious Kitsune
KAMI OF ANCIENT LAW
Akki Avalanchers
INDOMITABLE WILL
KITSUNE DIVINER (this was a first pick)
Eerie Procession
Yamabushi's Storm
DEVOTED RETAINER
FLOATING-DREAM ZUBERA
KITSUNE RIFTWALKER
Harsh Deceiver

KITSUNE RIFTWALKER
HISOKA'S DEFIANCE
KABUTO MOTH
Cleanfall
SORATAMI MIRROR-MAGE
Joyous Respite
CAGE OF HANDS (this was a first pick)
RIVER KAIJIN
Harsh Deceiver
Hisoka's Defiance
Kami of the Painted Road
INNOCENCE KAMI (this card has a SPECIAL INNOCENCE..just like Kaskel)
Quiet Purity
KAMI OF ANCIENT LAW
RIVER KAIJIN

INDOMITABLE WILL
Hankyu
SAMURAI OF THE PALE CURTAIN
BLESSED BREATH
GHOSTLY PRISON
Lantern Kami
MYOJIN OF CLEANSING FIRE
Field of Reality
SORATAMI RAINSHAPER
Kami of Old Stone
Brutal Deceiver
Eye of Nowhere
Lava Spike
Lantern Kami
Kami of the Waning Moon

QUARTER-FINALS

Brent Kaskel put together a surprisingly aggressive white/blue deck full of
easy to cast creatures. Against James Parker in the quarter-finals,
everything went Kaskel's way. In game one, Parker played first, but didn't
do much. Kaskel won game one on turn nine primarily by playing a creature
EVERY TURN from turn one to turn eight. In order, Kaskel churned out a
Devoted Retainer, a Kami of Ancient Law, then Soratami Rainshaper, then
River Kaijin, then ANOTHER River Kaijin, then a second Kami of Ancient Law
followed by a Kitsune Riftwalker and a Soratami Mirror-Mage. In game two,
Parker played first with his green/white deck, but did nothing on turns one,
two and three except play land. On turn four, Parker fielded a fourth land
and a Mothrider Samurai. Kaskel won game two on turn eight with another
aggressive display of relatively weak creatures. In other quarterfinal
action, Scott Barrentine just managed to get past Brandon Svochak 2-1, just
as Adam Bernstein required three games to defeat Jeremy Jackson from San
Antonio while Mark Hendrickson made fairly easy work of Chris Connelly 2-0.

SEMI-FINALS

Hendrickson's best tricks came through for him in a quick semi-finals win
over Dave Williams' gaming protégée Adam Bernstein, freeing Mark up to watch
most of Kaskel's semi-final match against Scott Barrentine. Both Scott and
Brent were running blue/white decks, but Barrentine's was more clunky and
controllish while Kaskel's was aggressive. Curiously, both players had
essentially drafted slightly better versions of the decks they played with
in the sealed deck portion of the tournament. Game one was over before
either player actually took a turn. Kaskel played first keeping a hand of
two Plains, Blessed Breath, Kami of the Ancient Law, River Kaijin, Devoted
Retainer and Kitsune Riftwalker. Scott threw back his first hand. After
reshuffling, and a little nervous from all the attention his match was
getting, Barrentine accidentally looked at the top two cards of his library
after dealing himself the top six cards. This error required Scott to
mulligan to five cards. After reshuffling and looking at five cards,
Barrentine decided to mulligan to four cards. The four card hand that Scott
Barrentine chose to keep included three Island and one Plains. Kaskel won
the first game on turn six without losing any of his own life points. In
game two, Barrentine played first keeping a hand of Sensei's Diving Top
(this was Scott's favorite card in his sealed deck today, as well), two
Island, Ryusei, the Falling Star, Kitsune Healer, Teller of Tales and
Consuming Vortex. Kaskel kept a hand consisting of one Island, two Plains,
Samurai of the Pale Curtain, Soratami Mirror-Mage, Innocence Kami and
Soratami Rainshaper. Scott proceeded to play a land for each of his first
seven turns, playing with his Diving Top and managing to play a single
creature, Kitsune Healer, by turn four. Kaskel got Samurai of the Pale
Curtain out on turn two, then added the Rainshaper and the Mirror-Mage on
turns three and four. Barrentine eventually got Ryusei into play, but the
enormous Dragon-Spirit was simply returned to Scott's hand by Kaskel's
Mirror-Mage, who, along with Innocence Kami, gave Kaskel the board control
he needed to win the match on turn ten.

What are the best colors for Champions of Kamigawa sealed deck?

Here are the color breakdowns of the top eight finishing sealed decks as
well as the color breakdowns of the rest of the forty-seven man field. This
list does not consider the difference between a truly three color deck and a
two color deck that splashes a single red or black card, for example. In
other words, if a player's deck contained a lot of red and black cards but
only one or two blue cards, their deck would have been added to the red,
black and blue color totals. That having been said, red was the most popular
color in the top eight finishing sealed decks, appearing in six of them.
White, black and green each appear in five of the top eight sealed decks,
while blue appears in only one of these decks. In the total field of
forty-seven decks, white was the most popular color, appearing in
thirty-three of the sealed decks in the tournament. Black was almost as
popular, appearing in thirty-one of the decks, followed closely by red,
appearing in thirty of the decks. Green and blue were not very popular, on
the whole, with green appearing in only twenty-one and blue appearing in
only seventeen of the decks in the tournament. While this tournament
included many fine players, it can also be said that two sealed decks
included at least one card from all five colors.

Top Eight Rochester Draft Decks

Mark Hendrickson
1st place finisher
Forest x9
Mountain x7
Pinecrest Ridge
Orochi Hatchery
Earthshaker
Frostwielder x2
Glacial Ray
Kami of Fire's Roar
Pain Kami
Ronin Houndmaster x2
Sideswipe
Sokenzan Bruiser
Budoka Gardener
Burr Grafter
Feral Deceiver
Hana Kami
Kodama of the South Tree
Kodama's Reach
Moss Kami x2
Order of the Sacred Bell
Orochi Ranger
Orochi Sustainer
Sakura-Tribe Elder
SIDEBOARD:
Eiganjo Castle
Waterveil Cavern
Reito Lantern
Vigilance
Field of Reality
Petals of Insight
Cursed Ronin
Deathcurse Ogre
Nezumi Cutthroat
Ben-Ben, Akki Hermit
Lava Spike
Commune with Nature x3
Iname, Life Aspect
Jukai Messenger
Orbweaver Kumo
Orochi Leafcaller x2
Soilshaper
Vine Kami

Brent Kaskel
2nd Place Finisher
Island x7
Plains x10
Blessed Breath
Cage of Hands
Devoted Retainer
Ghostly Prison
Indomitable Will x2
Innocence Kami
Kabuto Moth
Kami of Ancient Law x2
Kitsune Blademaster
Kitsune Diviner
Kitsune Riftwalker x2
Konda's Hatamoto
Myojin of Cleansing Fire
Samurai of the Pail Curtain
Floating Dream Zubera
Hisoka's Defiance
River Kaijin x2
Soratami Mirror-Mage
Soratami Rainshaper
SIDEBOARD:
Cleanfall
Harsh Deceiver x2
Kami of Old Stone
Kami of the Painted Road
Kitsune Riftwalker
Lantern Kami x2
Pious Kitsune
Quiet Purity
Cut the Tethers
Eerie Procession
Eye of Nowhere
Field of Reality
Hisoka's Defiance
Sift Through Sands
Kami of the Waning Moon
Akki Avalanchers
Brutal Deceiver
Lava Spike
Yamabushi's Storm
Joyous Respite

Adam Bernstein
3rd-4th place finisher
Island x6
Swamp x10
Kusari-Gama
Counsel of the Soratami
Honden of the Seeing Winds
Mystic Restraints
Soratami CLoudskater
Soratami Rainshaper
Soratami Seer
Ashen-Skin Zubera
Befoul
Cruel Deceiver x3
Cursed Ronin
Dance of Shadows
Devouring Greed
Gibbering Kami
Kami of Lunacy
Rend Flesh
Scuttling Death
Souless Revival
Swallowing Plague
Villainous Ogre x2
Wicked Akuba
SIDEBOARD:
Quiet Purity
Silent-CHant Zubera
Terashi's Cry x2
Eye of Nowhere
Graceful Adept
Peer Through Depths
Reach Through Mists
Wandering Ones
Ashen-Skin Zubera x2
Distress
Midnight Covenant
Akki Rockspeaker x2
Desperate Ritual
Unearthly Blizzard
Dripping-Tongue Zubera
Feast of Worms
Serpent Skin
Venerable Kumo

Scott Barrentine
3rd-4th place finisher
Island x8
Mountain x3
Plains x5
Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep
Sensei's Divining Top
Harsh Deceiver
Kami of the Palace Fields
Kitsune Healer
Mothrider Samurai
Nago, Bound by Honor
Callous Deceiver
Consuming Vortex x2
Counsel of the Soratami
Floating-Dream Zubera
Hinder
Kami of the Twisted Reflection
Mystic Restraints
Reach Through Mists
Soratami Cloudskater
Soratami Mirror-Guard x2
Teller of Tales x2
Honden of Infinite Rage
Ryusei, the Falling Star
Yamabushi's Storm
SIDEBOARD:
Konda's Banner
Call to Glory
Aura of Dominion
Eye of Nowhere
Gifts Ungiven
Hisoka's Guard
Kami of the Twisted Reflection
Peer Through Depths
Sift Through Sands x3
Akki Avalanchers
Battle-Mad Ronin
Desperate Ritual
Hanabi Blast
Uncontrollable Anger
Unearthly Blizzard
Joyous Respite
Kashi-Tribe Warriors
Serpent Skin
Vine Kami

Brandon Svochak
5th to 8th place finisher
Plains x8
Swamp x8
General's Kabuto
Blessed Breath
Devoted Retainer x2
Ethereal Haze
Hundred-Talon Kami
Indomitable Will
Kami of the Painted Road
Kitsune Healer
Mothrider Samurai
Otherworldly Journey
Quiet Purity
Silent-Chant Zubera
Befoul
Cursed Ronin
Gibbering Kami
Kami of Lunacy
Kami of the Waning Moon
Nezumi Cutthroat x2
Nezumi Graverobber
Nezumi Ronin
Oni Possession
Thief of Hope
SIDEBOARD:
Lantern Kami
Terashi's Cry
Vigilance
Aura of Dominion
Lifted by Clouds
Deathcurse Ogre
Numai Outcast
Ragged Veins x2
Akki Avalanchers
Crushing Pain
Devouring Rage
Ember-Fist Zubera
Honden of Infinite Rage
Kumano's Pupils
Unnatural Speed
Yamabushi's Storm x2
Orochi Ranger
Time of Need

James Parker
5th to 8th place finisher
Forest x9
Plains x8
Bushi Tenderfoot
Cage of Hands x2
Call to Glory x2
Hundred-Talon Kami
Kitsune Blademaster
Kitsune Diviner
Kitsune Healer
Kitsune Riftwalker
Mothrider Samurai
Reciprocate
Burr Grafter
Kashi-Tribe Warriors
Kodama's Might x2
Matsu-Tribe Decoy
Orochi Eggwatcher
Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Strength of Cedars
Vine Kami
Wear Away
SIDEBOARD:
Horizon Seed
Reverse the Sands
Vassal's Duty
Dampen Thought
Eye of Nowhere
Hisoka's Guard
Peer Through Deptsh
Psychic Puppetry
Soratami Rainshaper
Soratami Savant
Deathcurse Ogre
Hideous Laughter
Kuro, Pitlord
Night of Souls' Betrayal
Pull Under
Rag Dealer
Akki Underminer
Battle-Mad Ronin
Crushing Pain
Mana Seism
Sokenzan Bruiser
Soul of Magma

Jeremy Jackson
5th to 8th place finisher
Forest x9
Swamp x8
Befoul
Blood Speaker
Bloodthirsty Ogre
Devouring Greed
Nezumi Cutthroat
Pull Under
Rend Spirit
Scuttling Death
Burr Grafter
Dripping-Tongue Zubera
Feral Deceiver
Gale Force
Honden of Life's Web
Kami of the Hunt x2
Kashi-Tribe Reaver
Kodama's Might
Matsu-Tribe Decoy
Order of the Sacred Bell
Rootrunner
Sakura-Tribe Elder x2
Vine Kami
SIDEBOARD:
Cloudcrest Lake
Untaidake, the Cloud Keeper
Ethereal Haze
Guardian of Solitude
Lifted by Clouds
Reweave
Student of Elementals
Cranial Extraction
Midnight Covenant
Rag Dealer
Struggle for Sanity x2
Walking Nightmare
Stone Rain
Unnatural Speed
Yamabushi's Storm
Joyous Respite
Kashi-Tribe Warriors
Orochi Leafcaller
Thousand-legged Kami
Venerable Kami x2

Chris Connelly
5th to 8th place finisher
Island x2
Mountain x8
Swamp x7
Keiga, the Tide Star
Ashen-Skin Zubera x2
Cruel Deceiver x2
Devouring Greed
Gibbering Kami
Nezumi Shortfang
Scuttling Death
Soulless Revival
Waking Nightmare
Battle-Mad Ronin
Brothers Yamazaki
Brutal Deceiver
Frostwielder
Hearth Kami
Kami of Fire's Roar
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Uncontrollable Anger x2
Yamabushi's Flame x2
SIDEBOARD:
Nine-Ringed Bo
Pious Kitsune
Counsel of the Soratami
Hinder
Kami of Twisted Reflection
Psychic Puppetry
Sift Through Sands
Thoughtbind x2
Distress
Ragged Reins
Akki Rockspeaker
Crushing Pain
Devouring Rage
Godo, Bandit Warlord
Lava Spike
Ore Gorger
Stone Rain x2
Strange Inversion
Yamabushi's Storm
Jukai Messenger

Not particularly excited about figuring out a way to travel to Nagoya,
eighteen-year-old Brent was more than happy to work out an amiable
gentlemen's agreement with Mark Hendrickson, an experienced player old
enough to be Brent's father. At the end of this modern day Old West
shoot-out, Brent Kaskel simply could not miss. Brent will lose his share of
matches. It just wasn't going to happen today.

As usual, I'm always interested to know what YOU think.

Jeff Zandi
Texas Guildmages
Level II DCI Judge
jeffzandi@thoughtcastle.com
Zanman on Magic Online

 

 

 

 

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