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Jeff Zandi is a five 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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The Southwestern Paladin

Lincoln Logs Another PTQ Victory
Can I Break This Format With One Card? SURE I CAN!
by Jeff Zandi  - 4.1.05

The turnout in beautiful downtown Wichita on Saturday, April 2, was small, but the Champions of Kamigawa sealed deck format provided plenty of challenge for the forty-four players attempting to capture the tournament’s main prize, $500 and a seat at Pro Tour London. Along with Wichita’s best players, this event also attracted Magic talent from Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Nebraska. In the end, it would be four players from the Cornhusker State that would make the biggest impact on the tournament. Four players, three from Lincoln and one from Columbus, traveled together all the way from Nebraska to try their luck at Champions of Kamigawa/Betrayers of Kamigawa sealed deck, two of them would end sitting on opposite sides of the table in the finals. For this week’s article, as well as next week’s (and a bonus article sometime in the middle of next week) I will be focused on the sealed deck qualifying tournaments for Pro Tour London. At the bottom of each of these three tournament reports you will find decklists for the top decks.

After describing the tournament in Wichita, stay with me in THIS ARTICLE as I explain why I think Shuriken is the most broken artifact in the wide world of Kamigawa.


The tournament was located at the new downtown location of C & R Comics and Cards, an absolutely enchanting store owned and operated by young (like 21…) Ian Robles. Ian’s store is located directly across from Wichita High School, the only high school in the large city when it was originally built. Robles’ store is in a charming old-fashioned store front about forty feet wide but nearly four times as deep. Built some fifty years ago, C & R Comics’ new home is the kind of spacious store that draws you in and makes you want to look at every one of the thousands of toys and other items hung all over the fifteen foot high walls.

Ian Robles & his gal.

From a Magic tournament perspective, this is a better store than most, easily providing good table space for sixty or seventy players, and configurable for up to one hundred players without too much trouble.

Following the very popular Extended Pro Tour Qualifiers for Pro Tour Philadelphia, tournament organizers hoped the increased PTQ attendance from the PTQ-Philly season would spill over into the sealed deck London PTQ season. After one week, I would have to say that the jury is still out on that one. Three weeks ago, an Extended constructed format PTQ for PT-Philly was held in this same location.


The top eight was composed half of Kansas residents with two Nebraskans, one Oklahoman and one player from Missouri. Okay, here’s my Missouri joke… I think they should change the state nickname from “The Show Me State” to “Missouri Loves Company”. Here’s a little run-down of the top eight finishers of the tournament.

Skylin Thompson, 1st Place Finisher from Lincoln, Nebraska. Skylin plans on making the trip to Pro Tour London but knows there are quite a few hassles inherent in traveling abroad. Skylin seems like a pretty nice guy, probably the least INTENSE of the four that traveled to this tournament from Nebraska. Skylin’s sealed deck was green/black and featured Nezumi Graverobber, Dance of Shadows, Befoul, Budoka Pupil and a really average but decent group of black and green creatures. Skylin did a great job playing this average group of cards to the top eight.

Ben Vrba , 2nd Place Finisher from, Columbus, Nebraska won a very hotly semi-finals match against Shawn Houston. In game two, both players were playing off the top of their decks in the middle of the game, neither with any creatures in play. Ben, playing blue/green, rips River Kaijin, Shawn responds with apparently NOT drawing a creature. Ben’s next draw was Strength of Cedars and it was game over! Vrba’s sealed deck was black/white with three mountains supporting a four card red splash consisting of Blind with Anger, Glacial Ray, Godo Bandit Warlord and Ronin Houndmaster. The solid gold hits of Vrba’s deck consisted of Kabuto Moth, Kitsune Blademaster (and his faithful man-servant Konda’s Hatamoto), Devouring Greed, Rend Flesh, Waxmane Baku and TWO Horobi’s Whisper.

Shawn Houston (right), 3rd Place Finisher from Wichita, Kansas. Shawn is the highly successful human clone of Shane Houston, his twin brother and fellow tournament competitor. You can usually count on one or more of the Houston brothers managing to wriggle into the top eight. Today, it was Shawn who came oh-so-close to winning the whole tournament with a very decent draft deck. Shawn’s sealed deck was a true three color affair, almost equally red, black and blue. The top performers in Houston’s sealed deck included Honden of Seeing Winds, Soratami Mirror-Mage, Genju of the Spires, two Takenuma Bleeders and two Torrent of Stone.

Anthony Schaefer, 4th Place Finisher from Wichita, Kansas. Tony can be a little high-maintenance, a little hard to please. It’s hard to tell when Tony is happy, but pretty easy to tell when he’s not. Anthony drafted pretty well in the top eight and swept Terry Haywood in the quarterfinals before falling to eventual champion Skylin Thompson. Anthony’s sealed deck was another three color special, divided almost equally between green, white and blue, and featuring Cage of Hands, Kitsune Blademaster, Keiga the Tide Star, Soratami Mirror-Mage, Ninja of the Deep Hours and Shining Shoal. Though light on removal, Schaefer’s sealed deck proved that you can smash your way to the top with creatures, especially big flying creatures.

Josh Smith, 5th Place Finisher from Florissant, Missouri, is an obvious Magic veteran. Josh played a pretty tight green/red sealed deck with a single Plains for the splash of Cage of Hands and Waxmane Baku. Josh’s splash was particularly well-conceived since his broad green mana base of ten Forests helped propel him into his other colors thanks to a Kodama’s Reach, a Sakura-Tribe Elder and a Petalmane Baku. The big hits of Josh’s deck included TWO Genju of the Cedars, Isao Enlightened Bushi, two Frost Ogre, Torrent of Stone and Blind with Anger.

Terry Haywood, 6th Place Finisher from Wichita, Kansas, has been around FOREVER. It was good to see him keeping it real at ONE MORE PTQ. Terry’s top eight draft deck held some promise, but two bad draws in a row against Anthony Schaefer kept Terry from having much of a chance in the quarterfinals. Terry’s sealed deck was a tight black/green monster featuring Tatsumasa the Dragon’s Fang, two Gnarled Mass and Kyoki Sanity’s Eclipse.

James Fulgium, 7th Place Finisher from Enid, Oklahoma, is another long-time veteran of the pro tour qualifier scene. Lately, however, James has been kicking his game up a notch. Today was his second recent top eight finish.
(Fulgium would go on to win his next PTQ, one week later in Oklahoma City).
James’ sealed deck was black/white with Cage of Hands, Kabuto Moth, Nagao Bound by Honor, Reciprocate, Dance of Shadows, Rend Spirit, Genju of the Fens and Eradicate.

Kurt Stropes, 8th Place Finisher from Hutchinson, Kansas lost in the quarterfinals against Ben Vrba in a three game struggle. In his sealed deck, Kurt played black/red with Befoul, Rend Flesh, Glacial Ray and, best of all,
Kumano Master Yamabushi. Kurt’s deck was probably the most powerful among the top eight finishers.

Rogers, Vrba, Thompson & Wolfe


Let’s start with the LEAST of Shuriken’s
problems, the artwork. Yup, I know that by the strictest definition of the word, Shuriken is not strictly limited to throwing stars. However, I would have thought that the Kamigawa block was more about grabbing that classic Japanese historic and mythic flavor. To most people, shuriken means throwing stars. At the risk of having a throwing star embedded in my forehead from some angry Ninja, I have to say that Wizards dropped the ball by not putting throwing stars in the artwork for Shuriken.

Of course, artwork is the LEAST of Shuriken’s problems.

The problem with Shuriken, to be perfectly candid, is that the card simply does not work exactly the way Wizards of the Coast research and development must have planned. It is very likely that WOTC intended Shuriken to be a piece of equipment that gave players with Ninjas the ability to deal cheaply deal two points of damage to other creatures. When equipped on non-Ninja creatures, or, more to the point, when UN-equipped from non-Ninja creatures, Shuriken would change sides of the board, becoming a tool for the temporary use of your opponent. This was the intended balance, the intended yin and yang if you like, of this useful artifact.

In reality, a player with enough mana and big enough creatures can use Shuriken and maintain possession and control of Shuriken without any Ninjas.


You have two creatures in play, a 2/2 non-Ninja equipped with Shuriken and a 5/5 creature. You tap two mana and activate Shuriken’s ability to equip your 5/5 creature. IN RESPONSE to activating Shuriken, you tap your 2/2 non-Ninja, unequipping it to deal two damage to one of your opponent’s creatures. When the two damage caused by unequipping your creature resolves, control and possession of the Shuriken moves to your opponent. But wait, your activation of Shuriken to equip it to your 5/5 creature is still on the stack, waiting to resolve. When this ability resolves, the Shuriken moves back to your side of the table and equips your 5/5 non-Ninja. Pretty cool? Pretty broken. Note that your opponent still has control of the Shuriken at this point, even though it is now equipping your 5/5 creature. Your opponent has control of the Shuriken because you unattached the Shuriken from a non-Ninja when you activated the two point “pinging” ability that Shuriken gave your 2/2 creature when it was equipped to the 2/2. Confused yet? Your opponent now controls the Shuriken even though it is now attached to your 5/5. If you want to regain control of your Shuriken again, you can tap your
5/5 to unattach the Shuriken and deal two damage to ITSELF. By doing so, you move control of the Shuriken to the player who controls the creature that was damaged by the Shuriken, in this case, your own 5/5 creature. Now you control the Shuriken again.


If you had let the turn end with the Shuriken attached to your 5/5, your opponent, having control of the Shuriken even though its equipping your creature, could activate Shuriken to equip it to one of his own creatures.
When he attempts to do so, you could tap your 5/5 targeting itself (or any of your creatures). Doing so would cause possession AND control of the Shuriken to be yours, but only until your opponent’s activation of Shuriken resolved, at which point he would gain possession of the Shuriken (attached to one of his creatures) although you would now have control of the artifact.


The reason all this works in the first place is because of two important factors. The first factor has to do with the basic philosophy of the stack.

The second factor has to do with a bit of a loophole in the rules regarding equipment. First, the stack. When an activated ability is put onto the stack, that ability is GOING TO HAPPEN at some point (generally speaking) regardless of what action a player uses in response to the activated ability that has been placed on the stack. This is one of the most important rules in Magic, and it goes back to before there was “a stack”. Before 1999 and Magic’s “Classic” Sixth Edition, the comprehensive rules of Magic did not include a mechanic called the stack. However, there was a theoretical idea of stacking abilities. The basic idea, to use some OLD SCHOOL Magic cards common at the time, is this: If you tap your Prodigal Sorcerer to deal a point of damage to me, I can respond with a Lightning Bolt dealing three points to your Prodigal Sorcerer. The effects will be resolved, according to the squirmy rules of that time period, based on LIFO, or, Last In First Out order, meaning that the Lightning Bolt would resolve first, destroying the Prodigal Sorcerer. However, the Sorcerer’s activation has already been paid for, and it will resolve even though its source is no longer in play. This means that if I were at one life and you pinged me with Old Timmy (Prodigal Sorcerer), my responding with Lightning Bolt to destroy Tim would not prevent my imminent demise. The stack, as finally defined in 1999’s Sixth Edition rules, solidified this process in, if not concrete, really, really firm clay.

The second factor, and most important by far, in making the Shuriken “trick” work is a bit of a loophole in the general wording of all equipment cards.
Equipping, with a few exceptions, is performed at the speed of a sorcery, can only be performed during one of your main phases, and only onto a creature that you control. When the above trick is performed, you ARE in control of both the equipment and the creature you wish to equip when you activate the Shuriken to move it from creature A to creature B. (Online players…make sure you hold down the control key when you activate the Shuriken to move it from creature A to creature B when performing this trick, otherwise, you will pass an empty stack to your opponent when you unequip the Shuriken from creature A and your opponent will end up with possession AND control of your Shuriken) When you RESPOND to your own activation of the Shuriken by tapping and unequipping creature A, possession and control of the Shuriken temporarily move to your opponent. Then, the WEIRD thing happens. You see, equipment checks to see that the target for equipping is a creature that you control only once, at activation time. When you activated the Shuriken to move it from creature A to creature B, you did indeed control both the Shuriken and creature B. Now, when the ability resolves, you still control creature B, but you do not (at the moment) control the Shuriken. The Shuriken, however, does not check at resolution to see if it is still being attached to a creature controlled by the same player that currently controls the Shuriken. When the dust settles, your Shuriken moves right back from your opponent’s side of the table to your side, equipped so snugly to creature B.


According to many players and judges, there is nothing “wrong” with this operation of Shuriken at all. To them, this is simply the clever ability of players providing themselves with a great way to take advantage of a completely fair use of the Shuriken. I say that this use of Shuriken is a trick, a exploit of a rules loophole and nothing more. This non-intuitive use of equipment has nothing to do with skill or knowledge. Players who like it shrug their shoulders as though they fully realized the potential of the card the first time they saw it. Doubtful.

The other reason that the tricky use of this card is wrong is very subtle.
While running the Wichita PTQ, I was called over at least a dozen times by players who were confused by their opponent’s use of Shuriken. It is very important for judges NOT to be in the business of instructing players how to make the optimal use of their cards, so it was not my job to make each player aware of what they could or could not do about the “Shuriken situation” while their sanctioned tournament was underway. At the same time, you can BET that players taking advantage of the Shuriken exploit were not making their opponent’s completely aware of when their opponent did and did not have possession and/or control of the Shuriken. In other words, players taking advantage of the Shuriken exploit tended to explain the details regarding how they retained the control of the card, but not the parts of the mechanic that favored their opponent. This is pretty close to cheating, extremely close to unsportsmanlike conduct. Of course, once a judge is called over to the table, the Shuriken player naturally becomes a bit more forthcoming.


Tomorrow, I’ll be head judge at the London PTQ in Fort Worth, Texas. Players who are taking unfair advantage of their opponents will be under serious scrutiny. Let’s keep the great game of Magic fair for everyone.


Shawn Houston
Draft Position 6
Finishing Position 3
8 Forest
8 Mountain
1 Swamp
1 Honden of Night's Reach
1 Ember-Fist Zubera
2 Frostwielder
1 Hearth Kami
1 Honden of Infinite Rage
1 Initiate of Blood
1 Yamabushi's Flame
1 Kodama's Might
1 Matsu-Tribe Decoy
1 Moss Kami
1 Order of the Sacred Bell
1 Orochi Eggwatcher
1 Orochi Sustainer
1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
1 Cunning Bandit
1 First Volley
1 Frost Ogre
1 Ronin Cliffrider
1 Torrent of Stone
1 Child of Thorns
1 Loam Dweller
1 Petalmane Baku
1 Hundred-Talon Strike
1 Stream of Consciousness
1 Aura Barbs
1 Clash of Realities
1 Goblin Cohort
2 Ire of Kaminari
1 Uba Mask
1 Ethereal Haze
1 Quiet Purity
1 Terashi's Cry
1 Hisoka's Guard
1 Lifted by Clouds
1 Time Stop
1 Rend Spirit
1 Kami of Fire's Roar
1 Soul of Magma
1 Soulblast
1 Dripping-Tongue Zubera
1 Venerable Kumo
1 Vine Kami

Anthony Schaefer
Draft position 5
Finishing position 4
7 Forest
10 Swamp
1 Hankyu
1 Befoul
1 Bloodthirsty Ogre
1 Cursed Ronin
1 Distress
1 Gutwrencher Oni
2 Nezumi Ronin
1 Wicked Akuba
1 Burr Grafter
1 Feral Deceiver
2 Humble Budoka
2 Kashi-Tribe Warriors
1 Kodama's Might
1 Orochi Leafcaller
1 Ogre Marauder
1 Psychic Spear
1 Scourge of Numai
1 Takenuma Bleeder
1 Matsu-Tribe Sniper
1 Ornate Kanzashi
3 Uproot
1 Vital Surge
1 Skullmane Baku
1 Crack the Earth
1 First Volley
1 Overblaze
1 Ronin Cliffrider
1 Pinecrest Ridge
1 Imi Statue
1 Junkyo Bell
2 Kami of the Painted Road
1 Masako the Humorless
1 Terashi's Cry
2 Ragged Veins
1 Brutal Deceiver
1 Commune with Nature
1 Thousand-legged Kami

Josh Smith
5th Place Finisher
Draft position 2
Finishing Position 5
8 Island
9 Plains
1 Blessed Breath
1 Honden of Cleansing Fire
1 Indomitable Will
1 Innocence Kami
1 Kitsune Riftwalker
1 Lantern Kami
1 Meloku the Clouded Mirror
2 Soratami Cloudskater
2 Soratami Mirror-Mage
1 Soratami Rainshaper
1 Hundred-Talon Strike
2 Kami of False Hope
1 Moonlit Strider
1 Split-Tail Miko
1 Waxmane Baku
1 Floodbringer
2 Ninja of the Deep Hours
1 Shimmering Glasskite
1 Teardrop Kami
2 Mending Hands
1 Quillmane Baku
1 Blessing of Leeches
1 Harsh Deceiver
1 Hold the Line
1 Mothrider Samurai
2 Quiet Purity
1 Vigilance
1 Eye of Nowhere
1 Graceful Adept
1 Hisoka's Defiance
1 Kami of the Twisted Reflection
1 Peer Through Depths
1 Wandering Ones
1 Rag Dealer
1 Blind With Anger
2 Ronin Houndmaster
1 Unearthly Blizzard
1 Yamabushi's Storm

Kurt Stropes
Draft seat 8
Finishing Position 8
7 Forest
9 Mountain
1 Nine-Ringed Bo
1 Akki Avalanchers
2 Battle-Mad Ronin
1 Brothers Yamazaki
1 Brutal Deceiver
1 Kumano's Pupils
1 Stone Rain
1 Unearthly Blizzard
1 Yamabushi's Flame
1 Humble Budoka
1 Jukai Messenger
1 Kami of the Hunt
1 Kodama's Reach
1 Orochi Sustainer
1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
1 Akki Raider
1 Blademane Baku
1 First Volley
1 Goblin Cohort
1 Shinka Gatekeeper
1 Torrent of Stone
2 Scaled Hulk
1 Ward of Piety
2 Bile Urchin
1 Crawling Filth
1 Toshiro Umezawa
1 Flames of the Blood Hand
1 Kumano's Blessing
1 Devoted Retainer
1 Lifted by Clouds
2 Cruel Deceiver
1 Gibbering Kami
1 Nezumi Bone-Reader
1 Nezumi Graverobber
1 Desperate Ritual
2 Soul of Magma
1 Dripping-Tongue Zubera
1 Orochi Leafcaller

Ben Vrba
Draft Seat 4
Finishing Position 2
7 Forest
8 Island
2 Mountain
1 Jushi Apprentice
1 River Kaijin
1 Sosuke, Son of Seshiro
1 Venerable Kumo
1 Consuming Vortex
2 Hisoka's Defiance
1 Mystic Restraints
2 Reach Through Mists
1 Sift Through Sands
1 Devouring Rage
1 Glacial Ray
1 Kodama's Reach
1 Serpent Skin
1 Strength of Cedars
1 Mistblade Shinobi
1 Shimmering Glasskite
1 Child of Thorns
1 Gnarled Mass
1 Petalmane Baku
1 Sakura-Tribe Springcaller
1 Scaled Hulk
1 Slumbering Tora*
2 Takeno's Cavalry*
1 Floodbringer*
1 Minamo's Meddling*
1 Toils of Night and Day*
1 Ire of Kaminari*
1 Reito Lantern*
1 Horizon Seed*
1 Counsel of the Soratami*
1 Dampen Thought*
1 Sift Through Sands*
1 Nezumi Cutthroat*
1 Numai Outcast*
1 Shimatsu the Bloodcloaked*
1 Sokenzan Bruiser*
1 Uncontrollable Anger*
1 Joyous Respite*
1 Wear Away*

Skylin Thompson
Draft position 3
Finishing Position 1
10 Plains
8 Swamp
1 Cage of Hands
1 Call to Glory
1 Candle's Glow
1 Ghostly Prison
2 Hundred-Talon Kami
2 Kabuto Moth
1 Kami of Ancient Law
1 Kami of the Painted Road
1 Kitsune Diviner
1 Ashen-Skin Zubera
1 Pull Under
2 Rend Flesh
1 Scuttling Death
1 Wicked Akuba
2 Indebted Samurai
1 Patron of the Kitsune
1 Horobi's Whisper
1 Takenuma Bleeder
2 Heart of Light
1 kami of Tattered Shoji
1 Mending Hands
1 Silverstorm Samurai
1 Ward of Piety
1 Walker of Secret Ways
1 Call for Blood
1 Crack the Earth
1 Harbinger of Spring
1 Harsh Deceiver
1 Kitsune Healer
1 Aura of Dominion
1 Lifted by Clouds
1 Petals of Insight
2 Psychic Puppetry
1 Distress
1 Painwracker Oni
1 Akki Rockspeaker
1 Brutal Deceiver
1 Desperate Ritual
1 Strange Inversion

James Fulgium
Draft position 7
Finishing position 7
8 Island
6 Mountain
3 Plains
1 Mothrider Samurai
1 Callous Deceiver
1 Guardian of Solitude
1 Kami of Twisted Reflection
2 Soratami Rainshaper
1 Teller of Tales
1 Ember-Fist Zubera
1 No-Dachi
1 Tenza, Godo's Maul
2 Mystic Restraints
1 Hanabi Blast
1 Yamabushi's Flame
1 Terashi's Verdict
1 Floodbringer
2 Kaijin of the Vanishing Touch
1 Shimmering Glasskite
1 Veil of Secrecy
1 Blazing Shoal
1 Frostling
1 Shinka Gatekeeper
1 Phantom Wings*
1 Ribbons of the Reikai*
1 Crawling Filth*
1 Genju of the Fens*
1 Takenuma Bleeder*
1 Mark of Sakiko*
1 Hair-Strung Koto*
1 Moonring Mirror*
1 Silent-Chant Zubera*
1 Squelch*
1 Thoughtbind*
1 Befoul*
1 Gibbering Kami*
1 Oni Possession*
2 Soulless Revival*
1 Wicked Akuba*
1 Akki Rockspeaker*
1 Mana Seism*
1 Yamabushi's Storm*
1 Azusa, Lost but Seeking*
1 Orbweaver Kumo*

Terry Haywood
Draft position 1
Finishing position 6
8 Plains
9 Swamp
1 Eiganjo Castle
1 Journeyer's Kite
1 Long-Forgotten Gohei
1 Indomitable Will
1 Kabuto Moth
1 Kitsune Blademaster
1 Nagao, Bound by Honor
1 Samurai of the Pale Curtain
1 Distress
1 Gibbering Kami
1 Gutwrencher Oni
1 Kami of Lunacy
1 Kami of the Waning Moon
1 Nezumi Cutthroat
1 Soulless Revival
1 Waking Nightmare
1 Wicked Akuba
1 Hundred-Talon Strike
2 Moonlit Strider
1 Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens
1 Horobi's Whisper
1 Ogre Marauder
1 Psychic Spear
1 Three Tragedies
1 Kami of False Hope
1 Kami of Tattered Shoji
1 Floodbringer
2 Call for Blood
1 Sakura-Tribe Springcaller
1 Unchecked Growth
1 Uproot
1 Forest
1 Jade Idol
1 Kami of the Painted Road
1 Consuming Vortex
1 Field of Reality
1 Floating-Dream Zubera
1 Hisoka's Guard
1 Kami of the Hunt
1 Kodama's Reach
1 Moss Kami
1 Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro
1 Wear Away

Of course, I’m always interested in hearing what YOU think.

Jeff Zandi
Guilty Tax Mages
Level II DCI Judge
Zanman on Magic Online


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