By Rob Wagner
ROUND 1; Andrew Pemberton vs Paul Wray
Andy comes from a local house of Magic players who throw excellent Cube Drafts and Paul Wray is a long-time playtest partner of Craig Stevenson's. Paul wins the roll and gets things started with a Blinding Mage off his Plains and Mountain. Andy has fetched up a Swamp and a subsequent Forest casts him a Child of the Night. 3rd land but no spell from Paul is suspcious but Andy can only match this with a Reassembling Skeleton. The Skeleton looks like a good limited card to me so we'll see how he gets on through the day. Paul draws a Palace Guard on defence but only has a Mountain untapped so no tapping for him. The Mage gets in for 1 but Andy Assassinates it before casting a Brittle Effigy, two good removal spells. Siege Mastodon comes down for Paul, acting as a massive road block. Not one that Andy is worried about though as he summons a Spined Wurm to begin the beats. Act of Treason steals the Wurm and the Skeleton jumps in the way. A Stormfront Pegasus joins the offensive and the Spined Wurm cracks back, making it 16-15 in Andy's favour. A second Assassinate kills the Siege Mastodon and things aren't looking so hot for Paul now. A second Blinding Mage looks to help out but the Skeleton reassembles end of turn. Doom Blade takes out the Wurm as it tries to attack and things are looking a lot more even again.
Barony Vampire becomes the biggest creature on the table, on Andy's side, but the Pegasus' evasion looks to be winning it at the moment. Stone Golem provides more beef for Andy but Paul's Mage is going to keep it tapped for now. Elite Vanguard and a swing for 2 with Paul's flier keep up the pressure but Andy still has the Effigy to blow any time he so chooses. Vampire and Vanguard trade but Andy has topdecked his Grave Titan and the crowd is going wild. 2 more from the Pegasus, Blinding Mage taps down the Grave Titan on attacks but now the Stone Golem is free to swing in with his 2 Zombie friends. One Zombie gets blocked by the Palace Guards but Paul takes 6, going to 9. The Goblin Tunneler he made the previous turn can allow a guy to get in unblocked but things are looking bad on the defence here. Pegasus again forces his way in, digging Andy down to a mere 6 life but at the end of the turn the Blinding Mage finds himself exiled by the Effigy. Palace Guard is a mass chump-blocker for the turn and after the Pegasus swings for 2 a drawn land allows Paul to make Hoarding Dragon and Fling it at Andy's face for exactly lethal damage, good game!
Paul 1 - 0 Andy
For Game 2 Paul mulligans a Swamp, Mountain, 5 White Spells hand after Andy has kept his 7. His 6 is a lot better though and he matches a turn 2 Child of the Night with his trusty Stormfront Pegasus. Andy assembles his Skeleton for the first time and gets in for 2 with Lifelink. Paul cancels out the life total then makes a threatening looking Warlord's Axe. Deathmark takes care of the Pegasus before Andy Signs his name in Blood to get ahead on cards. Just an Elite Vanguard for Paul which trades with the lifelinker. A 3/2 comes in for Andy who bemoans his lack of a 5th land. Paul summons a Siege Mastodon and Andy draws his Terramorphic Expanse and casts a Gargoyle Sentinel, your reporter's tip for a very solid limited card (and one which some people weren't putting in their decks). Vulshok Berserker comes into play and immediately enters the Red Zone with the Mastodon. The Skeleon takes one for the team and Andy takes his 3. Assassinate takes care of the Mastodon and the Gargoyle trades with the Berserker. Skeleton comes back tapped end of turn in time to swing with the Barony Vampire. A second Reassembling Skeleton makes its presence felt and Paul is unlikely to get through on the ground. Seeing this he makes a Cloud Crusader, possibly the top White draft common creature. Effigy takes care of it however and after an attack, Paul draws nothing and scoops them up.
Paul 1 - 1 Andy
The players wish one another luck for the decider and both keep their 7. Andy's turn 1 Llanowar Elves beats on turn 2 but a Palace Guard stops those shenanigans. Stone Golem faces Vulshok Berserker but a Fire Servant ("pretty good with Fling") threatens to break the deadlock. The Golem attacks into the Palace Guard and Vulshok Berserker, killing the Guard. Triskelion comes in and immediately kills the Fire Servant, leaving a not-so-threatening 1/1. The Berserker easily gets in for 3 and is joined by a Blinding Mage to help tap down those pesky blockers. Those blockers include Garruk's Packleader and Black Knight so the board has reached a small stalemate for the moment. Having seen these guys' decks I'm sure that will change. Andy's Greater Basilisk draws a card off the Packleader and the Packleader is tapped down, allowing Black Knight to get in for 2. Child of the Night also enters Andy's army but does not draw a card. Paul finds his Warlord's Axe, which usually allows you to trade your bad guys for their good guys. Paul only has his Berserker and Mage though so not much trading will be going on. Only the Basilisk is able to attack in now that the Berserker has picked up an Axe but Andy is still pushing Paul down, the life totals being 6 to 14. Paul has made a Goblin Tunneler but appears to have drawn his black spells before his black mana.
Oh wait, that's an Angelic Arbiter now. Pretty irrelevant, Paul says, but a 5/6 flier will still help get the defence on track. Sacred Wolf and Spined Wurm come in and draw cards for Andy. He can't attack but it likely won't matter at this point since he has an overwhelming army. Pegasus joins the defence but Paul can't attack for fear of a massive counterattack. Effigy exiles the Arbiter and then a Grave Titan comes in with 2/2's and a drawn card and it is surely over now. Andy swings with the team and Paul offers the hand.
Andy 2 - 1 Paul
ROUND 2; Andy Devine vs Nathan Edwards
Nathan is down from Scarborough and is an old-school player from 1995, playing with our very own John Ingham. Andy Devine is likely to win the Leeds Player of the Year Race but thinks he has a bad deck for today. Nathan wins the roll and sets things off with a turn 2 Augury Owl from his seemingly blue-black deck. Andy has a mountain and an island but no turn 2 play. Nathan's turn 3 Scroll Thief gets Lightning Bolted, can't let Ophidian get out of hand. Forest for Andy, or not as he picks it back up. No, it comes down again and casts Awakener Druid, making it a 4/5 creature. Nathan gets ahead on cards with a Foresee but just the Owl means he isn't high up on the attacking pecking order. Wall of Frost from Andy doesn't seem to do much at the moment but he gets in for the expected 5 damage. Nathan makes a Conundrum Sphinx, a very efficient beater who plays very well with the set's Scry mechanic. Andy sends only the 4/5 in, taking Nathan to 11. Andy then makes a second Forest and uses Sylvan Ranger to find a second Mountain. A second Augury Owl sets up Nathan's Sphinx to be very one-sided. Sure enough the Sphinx draws a Liliana's Specter and Andy's named Forest misses as he reveals Cultivate. The Specter comes in and forces Andy to discard his Diminish. Andy's Forest gets blocked and only the Ranger gets in but a post-combat Chandra's Outrage deals with the Sphinx in royal fasion.
Nathan's fliers continue to beat in, putting Andy at 10. He makes a Scroll Thief and a Crystal Ball, signalling an extremely card draw-centric deck. The Forest and Sylvan Ranger once more get in and Nathan pauses to consider Andy's tricks. Not falling for any of them he simply chumps the Forest with his 1/3 and now also faces a Garruk's Packmaster. Crystal Ball helps Nathan's draw step and he makes an Air Servant before serving for 2 with the Specter. Water Servant for Andy seems good and Ice Cage on the Air Servant serves as a very good answer, allowing Andy to swing in for a bunch. Nathan didn't draw anything of relevance and scooped them up.
Andy 1 - 0 Nathan
John Ingham and I were saying how we liked Water Servant as the players shuffled for game 2. He called it a "little Morphling" so I used the segue of "speaking of More Fling" to tell the story of how round 1 game 1 ended. Enough of my silliness for now, Nathan shuffles his 7 away, then his 6, but deems his 5 to be acceptable. The first play is a Cultivate by Andy but Nathan has the Flashfreeze at the ready. He makes an Augury Owl to try to draw into more gas but can't be happy to see Awakener Druid opposite him. He might be actually, as he has at Stabbing Pain ready to deal with the Druid, incidentally turning off the Treefolk. Foresee draws Nathan into even more gas and his Owl gets in for 1, not a bad mull to 5 at all. Andy discards a Berserker of Blood Ridge, clearly leaning on the Cultivate for his mana. Scroll Theif for Nathan look good but but Andy has found a Mountain and casts a Conundrum Sphinx of his own. Crystal Ball makes the Sphinx more one-sided for Nathan again and he draws a card where Andy misses, but Nathan still takes 4 from the attack. Juggernaut is yet more body for Andy so Nathan will need to do something with all these cards he's drawing. Royal Assasin clearly is something to do with those cards and he even has a Negate ready for Andy's Lightning Bolt, strong plays all round. Ice Cage really deals with the Assassin until Nathan can come up with a targetting ability. Sphinx draws Nathan an Augury Owl but deals him another 4. The Owl comes down alongside a Juggernaut on blocking duty but Sleep from Andy takes the game and the match.
Andy 2 - 0 Nathan
ROUND 3; Rob Catton vs Alex Gershaw
Alex is a relative newcomer to Leeds Magic but qualified for Nats after I made him play Time Sieve. Rob Catton is another high-runner in the Player of the Year race and is also qualified for Nats via his Blue White control deck. Alex makes 2 Islands and Rob matches it with one Island but breaks the trend with a Plains. Alex makes a turn 3 Cloud Elemental then a turn 4 Phantom Beast before attacking for 2. The Beast is thoroughly diminished by Rob and he returns fire with a very big Juggernaut. This immediately becomes Caged in Ice and Alex once more swings for 2. Augury Owl for Rob sets up his next draws, which include 2 Angels - very nice! Cloud Elemental #2 for Alex gives him some gas just before the first one runs into the Owl taking a Mighty Leap. Rob draws 3 with his Jace's Ingenuity, getting ahead in this blue mirror match. Alex decides against using the Mystifying Maze on the Augury Owl, electing to take 1 instead. His Cloud Elemental is winning that race anyway. Not any more, Angelic Arbiter is the first Angel for Rob, but Alex immediately Mind Controls it and attacks for 2.
Vengeful Archon is Angel number 2 for Rob, clearly hoping it stays on his side of the table. Aether Adept bounces the Vengeful Archon for a turn and allows Alex to swing in for some damage, which the Augury Owl takes the brunt of. Nothing from Alex might mean that Rob can start moving ahead but he chooses to make an Augury Owl rather than begin swinging (because of his own Arbiter). Alex plays his main deck Jace's Erasure as a way of punching through the deadlock but Rob's Air Servant looks like it will do the same job a lot better. Rob even draws an Excommunicate to free up his own Angelic Arbiter, which will get milled by the Erasure. He fails to attack though, probably thinking the effect still holds. It seems to be for naught though as he begins swinging the next turn. Maze takes some of the sting out of the Angel's tail but it's probably only a matter of time now. Howling Banshee for Alex brings both players' life totals down by 3, putting Rob on 5 and Alex on 10. Rob wins the flip on a previously-made Sorceror's Strongbox, bringing him 2 Islands and a Fireball. Alex chumps the Archon, neglecting to use his Maze (a bluff?) and dies to a post-combat Fireball.
Rob 1 - 0 Alex
Both keep their 7 for game 2 and Alex burns a Preordain, probably having kept a mildly speculative hand. The first real play is a Temple Bell for Alex on turn 3, clearly having played Time Sieve too much. The Temple Bell mills Rob twice as he is making lands but has little action. Turn 5 Stormfront Pegasus gives Rob some aggression but he is playing quite defensively. Captivating Vampire for Alex is unlikely to be stealing any creatures but one should always play one's rares in Sealed, even if they're Grey Ogres. Rob Excommunicates it regardless but Alex Bells it to hand at the end of the turn. Phantom Beast for Alex gets Mighty Leaped (i.e. killed) and Rob makes an Augury Owl, looking to set up his Bell draws. Rob had discarded his own Phantom Beast earlier, certainly a card I would sideboard out in the blue mirror. Nether Horror For Alex might bring him some offence as Rob has only made fliers so far, evading Alex's Wall of Frost. Rob gets ahead once more with a Jace's Ingenuity, drawing even more cards. He makes a Wall of Frost which actually does something and flies in for 3, reducing Alex to 13. Jace's Erasure looks to do a little bit more this game but Rob has very little respect for the Erasure and Cancels it. Alex has the Mana Leak, however, so it comes down. Rob gets in for another 3 and summons an Air Servant, which gets Doom Bladed. Alex Bells end of turn, turning up the mill. Alex has the Foresee, which Rob Mana Leaks to tap Alex's mana. He pays the 3, keeps all the cards on top and mills Rob for 2 more. Rob attacks in a little more but has the Fireball to Burn Alex to a crisp.
Rob 2 - 0 Alex
ROUND 4; Fu Sheng vs Mark Pinder
Fu is a native Malaysian at Leeds University and brother of a national team member. Mark comes from the Grimsby area and will be running his own Pre-release tomorrow. Fu said he wanted to draw but Mark definitely came to play. Whsipersilk Cloak from Mark was the first play and his turn 4 Giant Spider matched Fu's turn 3 Stormfront Pegasus very effectively. Fu's turn 4 Assault Griffin would normally be very good but he looks shut down at the moment. Greater Basilisk gives Mark something he can begin to swing with, Fu's Palace Guard not being enough to shut it down. The Griffin ate a Doom Blade from Mark and the Basilisk donned the Cloak, clocking Fu for 3. Stone Golem from Fu gives him some aggression, "oh joy" says Mark. Basilisk in once more and a second joins the team. Fu's Magma Phoenix is another guy on board but he still can't attack effectively. Acidic Slime destroys the Stone Golem post-combat but now Fu has a Serra Angel to take its place. Mark attacks with all 3 of his Deathtouch creatures, leaving Fu some difficult options. The Pegasus blocks the Slime, the Palace Guard puts itself in from of the uncloaked Basilisk and Fu takes 3, going to 8. Mark's Gravedigger gets back the Slime but he doesn't have the mana to replay it this turn. Angel vigilances in for Fu, before an Earth Servant (4/8) helps Fu's ground force. Just the Basilisks come in from Mark, the Earth Servant being backed up by a Lightning Bolt to finish off the Basilisk. An Elite Vanguard gives Mark yet another attacker, causing Fu to look for an answer. Not drawing Wall of Fire, Fu scoops up his cards and we move to game 2.
Mark 1 - 0 Fu
2 mulligans for Mark to start the match but his 5 seem alright for him. Fu kept 4 lands, 3 spells and is dismayed at having drawn 2 lands to begin with. His hand is responsive and has the Bolt to kill Mark's Garruk after it has made a Beast. Assault Griffin declares Fu's intention to race and with 2 more cards he is not in a bad position to do so. The Griffin flies in for 3 and then a Stone Golem comes in for Fu. The life totals are high but Mark will need to draw something relevant soon. The Golem is excommunicated (silly religious golems) and a Silvercoat Lion adds to Mark's beats. The Griffin once more gets in for 3 and the Golem gets replayed, only this time it is Pacifismed, seeing the error of its previously-religious ways. Fu brings an Excommunication of his own to deal with the Whitemane Lion and the Beast gets Pacifismed too. Fu explains that he is trying to stymie Mark's draws after Mark questions the play. Assault Griffin number 2 speeds it up for Fu but Mark has found his Incy-Wincy Spider and Fu can only wince himself. The Lion brings Fu to 5 and Mark makes a Yavimaya Wurm to beat Fu before his own life total of 8 is diminished. Fu finds his Sword of Vengeance off the top and equips one Griffin, attacking Mark to 3. Mark desperately sends in the team but Fu blocks the Lion with the 3/2 and the 6/4 with his 5/2 Akroma, taking 2 and going to 3. However it was a bluff and Mark has no defence to Fu's flier.
Mark 1 - 1 Fu
Mark mulligans again but Fu thinks long and hard. He elects to keep but doesn't look confident. Both players develope their mana and Mark makes the first move with turn 4 Garruk, this time untapping 2 lands for protection. Fu makes an Ember Hauler but Mark uses his extensive mana advantage to make a Yavimaya Wurm. Fu Pacifisms it and attacks Garruk to 3 counters but has no other plays. Mark makes a Greater Basilisk and the pain is really being brought to Fu now. The Basilisk gets Excommunicated and the Ember Hauler attacks then sacs to finish off Garruk. The Basilisk sees a second spawning and Fu matches with his Stone Golem, the life totals still very high. Giant Spider for Mark isn't as impressive as it has been and the ground is stalled. Both players continue to lay out lands and Mark uses his Excommunicate on his own Yavimaya Wurm and Fu Reverberates it to get rid of the Basilisk while he was at it. Mark makes a Cloak and doesn't block Fu's Stone Golem. Fu's Stormfront Pegasus is blanked by the Giant Spider but Mark lets the Stone Golem through, going to 12. Mark draws his Basilisk, attacks for 6 and makes the Basilisk, leaving up a single mana. Fu draws Shiv's Embrace and puts it on his Stone Golem. He attacks his Stone Golem and Pegasus into Mark's board, the Spider chump blocking the Golem and so taking Mark to 10. Mark's Wurm picks up the Cloak and he attacks Fu for 9 down to 5 life. Mark Plummets Fu's Golem, takes 2 from the Pegasus and Fu makes a post-combat Griffin. Mark's attack is Safe Passaged and when Fu doesn't draw a Lightning Bolt Mark takes the win.
Mark 2 - 1 Fu
ROUND 5; Craig Stevenson vs Andy Devine
Andy comes back from his round 2 showing with 2 more wins and facing him is former National Champion Craig Stevenson. An all-Hunslet final promises some violence here ;). Andy leads with a turn 2 Sylvan Ranger fixing his mana and passes turn 3 after playing a second Island. "Cancel mana up declares Craig" and right he is too. More lands from both players and the only action is the 1/1 beating down. Andy turn 5's a Cudgel Troll with regeneration mana up, a strong play against Craig's Red-Black deck. Craig Bolts it at the end of Andy's turn, allowing him to Deathmark it during his own. Craig makes a Sword of Vengeance with nothing to equip but when he gets something into play it will surely dominate. Andy makes an Awakener Druid, upgrading his tapped Forest so as to keep this "cancel mana up" and swings for 1 with the Ranger. During Andy's next turn Chandra's Outrage deals with the Druid and then the Forest by proxy, Craig taking 1 more from the Ranger, putting him at 15 to Andy's 18.
Craig summons a Stone Golem during his turn and at the end of that turn Andy casts Jace's Ingenuity to draw 3. It allowed him to draw is second Mountain to cast a Magma Phoenix and the Ranger stays at home for once. The Golem picks up Akroma's Sword and attacks Andy down to 12 (busted sword much) but Andy Ice Cages the Golem on his turn before attacking for 4. Cultivate for Andy draws him 2 more (and casts one for free), thinning his deck slightly. Brittle Effigy for Craig sneaks in and a re-equipped sword knocks off the Ice Cage, allowing another attack from the Golem. When Andy's Phoenix attempted an attack it became exiled due to the Effigy but a post-combat Water Serpent will do nicely too. Craig Vigilances in with the Golem and Andy chumps with the Sylvan Ranger. The Golem tramples over for 5 damage, putting Andy at 1 and asking a good draw step of him. 6 mana makes Inferno Titan for Craig but the sandbagged Cancel makes itself well-known. Andy draws a Juggernaut but cannot attack just yet. It's all for naught though as Craig Act of Treason's the Juggernaut to take the victory.
Craig 1 - 0 Andy
Both players take a mulligan to begin with and Andy goes down another one. Andy has Cancel mana up from turn 3 but neither player is doing anything too interactive with the battlefield for the moment beyond plagueing it with lands. Andy misses land #5 and Cancels Craig's Berserkers of Blood Ridge. Andy draws his 5th land and smacks down a Magma Phoenix. Doom Blade causes each player to take 3 damage and Craig follows it with a 3/2 ground pounder. Andy draws his Jace's Ingenunity and then another 3 cards, recovering from his mulligan. The next turn sees Conundrum Sphinx and Craig's "playing round a mana leak" Chandra's Outrage gets Flashfrozen. The 3/2 attacks into the Sphinx and a post-combat Ember Hauler finishes it off. Andy finally finds a Forest for foraging for a further one with his Sylvan Ranger. The rebought Phoenix comes in once more and Craig is on the back foot. Oh no he isn't, he's got Inferno Titan and kills the Ranger and a Garruk's Companion which Andy had made with his Green mana. Andy swings for 3 in the air then made an Acidic Slime (killing Swamp) and a Manic Vandal. Craig attacked, dealt 3 to the Phoenix which killed Andy's blockers and Craig pumped for the win.
Craig 2 - 0 Andy
Craig wins the Leeds Prerelease!