PT HoF Ring

Hall of Fame 2017 Rules Changes

Posted by Paul Jordan | Magic

Wizards of the Coast announced a change in the voting threshold for Hall of Fame inclusion which moves the required percentage of ballots with your name from 40% to 60%. This is a very large leap. Before we dig into this, let’s take a quick review of how Hall of Fame voting has worked historically

  • 2005 – A 69 person selection committee each voted for 5 people. The top 4 players on ballots were inducted. The remaining players were voted on by a players committee, with the top vote-getter there getting elected
  • 2006-2007 – Both committees received the same ballots and voted. Selection committee votes were weighted as 2/3 of the vote vs 1/3 for players’ committee. Top 5 weighted vote-getters were elected
  • 2007-2013 – The same committees existed, but instead of the top 5 getting elected, you needed a 40% weighted threshold.
  • 2014-2016 – There was now only 1 committee, consisting of the 2 former committees merged. You still needed 40%

Now we have the same, singular committee but instead of appearing on 40% of the ballots, you need to appear on 60%. They’re culling the list of available players by increasing eligibility requirements as well as making it harder to stay on the ballot. The stated intent is that votes would be more concentrated. I have my doubts about this logic, but I’ll leave those to Twitter fights. For now, I want to focus on the what-if. What if these rules had been in place all along? What would our Hall of Fame look like now?

First, there are 43 people currently in the Hall of Fame. Of those, the average voting percentage (weighted or not, depending on the year) is 59.19%. So, the average Hall of Famer would fall juuuuuust short of getting into the Hall of Fame under the new system. Of the 43 players, 23 would not be in the Hall of Fame. Or, at least, not from the same class.

So, of those 23, how many have continued to put up results? Just because they didn’t get in one year, doesn’t mean they couldn’t get in the next year, right? By getting enough under the old rules to be inducted, they surely have enough under the new rules to stay on the ballot.

7 of those 23 have continued to cast spells and come up with another PT top 8. 2 of them even got 2 more top 8s!

  • Raphael Levy (elected in 2006, top 8 Yokohama 2007)
  • Tsuyoshi Fujita (elected in 2007, top 8 Nagoya 2011)
  • Nicolai Herzog (elected in 2007, top 8 Kuala Lumpur 2008)
  • Jelger Wiegersma (2) (elected in 2008, top 8 Fate Reforged 2015 and Dark Ascension 2012)
  • Brian Kibler (2) (elected in 2010, top 8 Dark Ascension 2012 and Amsterdam 2010)
  • Patrick Chapin (elected in 2012, top 8 Journey into Nyx 2014)
  • William Jensen (elected in 2013, top 8 Magic 2015 in 2014)

These players very possibly would have been elected in future years even under the new rules. Of course, they got these additional accopmlishments with the added benefit of being qualified for every PT as a result of their HOF status, but they frequently had other qualifying methods and even still made the most of it. I’m comfortable here.

The other players, however, very likely would still not be in the Hall of Fame. Maybe coming so close and missing out would have pushed them. Maybe they would have quit all together. I don’t know. But based on their existing results after inclusion, I don’t think they would have made the jump to 60%

  • Tommi Hovi – 52.17% in 2005
  • Alan Comer – 46.38% in 2005
  • Olle Rade – 29.20% in 2005
  • David Humphries – 56.78% in 2006
  • Gary Wise – 39.03% in 2006
  • Robert Dougherty – 38.20% 2006
  • Randy Buehler – 35.58% in 2006
  • Dirk Baberowski – 52.36% in 2008
  • Michael Turian – 50.13% in 2008
  • Oliver Ruel – 46.01% in 2008
  • Ben Rubin – 45.62% in 2008
  • Frank Karsten – 44.79% in 2009
  • Tomoharu Saito* – 47.74% in 2010
  • Bram Snepvangers – 40.03% in 2010
  • Steve O’Mahoney-Schwartz – 50.57% in 2011
  • Ben Stark – 58.96% in 2013
  • Willy Edel – 47.60% in 2015

*reminder – Saito was subsequently banned and did not get included in the Hall of Fame

All of this is, of course, revisionist history. Perhaps if the new rules had been in place from the beginning, voting patterns would have been significantly different. After all, the voting body is made up primarily of folks who game. If there’s 1 truth I’ve learned in my decades playing Magic, it’s that gamers gonna game. You give them a system and they will game it to their advantage.

Glimmer of Genius

Brian Adds Glimmer of Genius

Posted by Fetchland Editor | Magic, Top 8 Magic

The Stink Bomb Podcast

ManaDeprived published a new episode of Top 8 Magic yesterday! Yay!

You would probably already know this if you were subscribed to the Top 8 Magic podcast. If you are not yet subscribed to the Top 8 Magic podcast, stop reading this blog post and fix that situation for yourself here.



Mike and Brian spend the first fifty or so minutes of this podcast on a new-ish deck that they are planning to play at this weekend’s Grand Prix New Jersey. It is a straightforward B/G Aetherworks Marvel deck.

BDM laments the non-flavorful state of present day deck lists. To Brian, “Mardu Vehicles” and “Mardu Ballista” may be descriptive… But they are boring deck names. He names the deck “Stink Bomb” because it is kind of descriptive, but certainly not boring.

Noxious Gearhulk is noxious… Ergo the “stink”; Aetherworks Marvel is the bomb! You know, “bomb”. Put together, they , Stink Bomb.

Glimmer of Genius in Stink Bomb

Stink Bomb is the classic michaelj metagame deck. It is meant to beat particular opponents, and aimed directly at them. Mike maintains that B/G Marvel as a concept is heavily favored against the conventional B/G decks as well as Mardu Vehicles.

The problem? The format isn’t that simple any more.

Brian has been playing the heck out of competitive leagues getting ready for Grand Prix New Jersey, and claims that Temur Tower is the rising It Girl of Standard. Stink Bomb as Mike originally conceived it is not prepared for a format where Temur Tower is potentially The Deck to Beat. It is trivial for Temur Tower to Negate all of our Aetherworks Marvels, while Ulamog rots in our hands; this would result in defeat for our heroes 🙁

Something shocking happens!

Over the course of the first hour, Brian chips away at Mike’s stubbornness. BDM convinces Mike to add blue to fight Temur Tower in sideboarded games. Once Mike is on board with adding blue, Brian adds Glimmer of Genius to the previously two-color shell.

Glimmer of Genius is a clear upgrade to Live Fast in terms of card power. It is an instant, and it can help you push unwanted copies of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger to the bottom of your deck (so that you don’t, you know, draw it).

The Glimmer of Genius Price

Adding blue for Glimmer of Genius costs you something, as blue is a whole additional color!

Mike pays the price of the third color with a single Botanical Sanctum, plus one Island. You can access the one island with any of twelve different cards, so consequently there are eighteen sources of blue.

Check it out:

This is what happened! Find out how BDM wore down Mike on this week's podcast

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Listen to the full podcast at ManaDeprived.

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Exquisite Archangel

Exquisite Archangel
Sure it costs seven mana, but can Exquisite Archangel serve as a solution to infectious aggression?

It has a hefty casting cost (to go along with that extra set of arms)… but it also packs a powerful (defensive) punch. With an Angel’s Grace-esque reference to [not] losing the game, many players have wondered about a particular Exquisite Archangel ruling…

As usual, the man Magician with the smoothest voice in all of Canada, Chris Lansdell, is ready to let us know what’s what:

Transcript: Exquisite Archangel & Infect

Billy wants to know how Exquisite Archangel interacts with poison counters.

Well Billy… Not so great.

Sure it’ll exile itself and gain you twenty life, but then the game checks again to see if anyone should die. And oh look! You have ten poison counters!

Sorry about that whammy bro 🙁

I’ve been Chris for Fetchland, and as always, I’ll be the Judge!

Check out all of Chris's "I'll Be the Judge!" (and more) at

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Aetherworks Marvel

In case you missed it, on the Top 8 Magic podcast returned… With a windy conversation about Standard, including me trying to convince BDM about a new and different G/W Aetherworks Marvel deck.

BDM: I’ll try your G/W Marvel deck; I’m pessimistic until proven otherwise.

YT: It’s very good against G/B. It’s very good against Mardu Vehicles. You cannot win a game against Rai combo.

BDM: I’ll take my chances.

The presumption being that the Standard format is locked down by only two or three archetypes (in particular the various black-green Winding Constrictor decks and the various Mardu Vehicles decks). Is there a potential solution to breaking out of a three-deck metagame?

In this podcast, I argue that Aetherworks Marvel is a possible solution.

MichaelJ’s G/W Aetherworks Marvel Deck:

G/W Marvel

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This is an update on a deck that Roman Fusco nearly won a PPTQ with, right before Aether Revolt rotated in. The deck’s original thesis was that Descend Upon the Sinful could be a good solution to a format where Emrakul, the Promised End was the most powerful top end card. Even if the opponent takes your turn, he can’t easily prevent you from Descending Upon his Emrakul. At the same time, you get a 4/4 to try to win the game with.

Descend Upon the Sinful is a potential “hit” for the Aetherworks Marvel tap, because you get a pretty big creature out of it. An instant-speed Wrath (coming off the Marvel) allows you to fight against vehicles… Plus the exile clause on the card gives you extra oomph against Scrapheap Scrounger and other graveyard-hungry threats.

Aetherworks Marvel Combo… Out Combo’d?

Even if you accept that a deck like this will be able to operate successfully (and speedily enough) against Golgari and Vehicles… There is the small matter of Saheeli Rai and other U/R-based decks.

If you don’t land your Marvel before they hit either their combo or their own Marvel (depending on which sub-archetype they are) you’re probably in trouble. You’re behind enough against Torrential Gearhulk that it is probably worth the downsides on Stasis Snare [against aggressive opponents] that you would choose it over one of the 1W instant versions.

BDM and I talk about the more main-line Magic stuff as well, plus the transformative influence of Kyle Korver on my Cleveland Cavaliers! This podcast is from about a week ago, but if you missed it, we really hope you check it out on, or here I guess:

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While you’re at it, subscribe to Top 8 Magic on iTunes so you won’t miss it next time 😉


Blistering Firecat

A social media firestorm erupted recently when, at Pro Tour Aether Revolt, there was some confusion around how the word “combat” was ruled as a tournament shortcut. Regardless of where you fall on how it “should” be ruled, Chris felt it important to inform the community how it is ruled. At least currently.

Chris Lansdell returns with an “I’ll Be the Judge!” starring none other than sixteen-time Top 8 competitor/Pro Tour winner/World Champion/all around great guy Jon Finkel.

Transcript: Jon asks about “combat”:

Hi Chris,

Can you explain exactly what the word “combat” means in terms of tournament shortcuts?

There was some controversy around this at Pro Tour Aether Revolt and I think the community at large (and my good friend Kai) could benefit from hearing an explanation


Transcript: What exactly does “combat” mean?

Sure thing, Jon.


“declare attackers”,
or “move to combat”

effectively means you are passing priority until the beginning of the declare attackers step.

The very first thing you do in the declare attackers step is declare your attackers.

By that point it is too late to animate creature lands, crew any vehicles, or do anything but, well, declare attackers.

If you want to do something at the beginning of combat step, you need to explicitly state what you want to do and when you want to do it.

I hope that’s helpful to you and to Kai.

For Fetchland this has been Chris and I’ll be the Judge!

And so…

So, there you have it: This is how the word is currently ruled. Make sure to crew, et al, appropriately.

Jon Finkel asks Chris about "combat" in this week's "I'll Be the Judge!"

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Rishkar's Expertise

Fetchland is overjoyed to bring you Level 2 Judge Chris Lansdell and a new feature, I’ll Be the Judge!

Chris will be answering your burning Magic: The Gathering rules questions in a whole new format… Instagram video!

This first episode clarifies something that we’re sure lots of you have been thinking about, since the first time you saw this card:

Rishkar's Expertise
Rishkar’s Expertise

It also has a little bit to do with this card…

Verdurous Gearhulk
Verdurous Gearhulk

(but not really)

Transcript for I’ll Be the Judge #1 – Rishkar’s Expertise

Mike wants to know what happens if we have an 8/8 V G and we cast RE as the only card in our hand

when we’ve drawn our eight cards can we play one of them for free?

Well yes Mike, you can! You follow the instructions on the card in the order they are written. So first you would draw your eight cards, then the spell asks you to play one of them with mana cost five or less, for free.

So not only does that work, it works really well!

Like this? You'll love!

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Thanks Chris!

We’re still fleshing out this new feature, but if you would like to ask a question, you can start by following Fetchland and / or Top 8 Magic on Facebook and Instagram; or Chris, on Twitter.

Twitter discussion about drafting sent me to the keyboard to write about some Limited options I would love to see on Magic Online.

Flashback Drafts are starting to feel a little like getting the gift of socks. I am happy to get socks over the holidays. I need socks. I like comfortable socks and warm feet. Who am I to complain about getting socks? Yet… socks would not be the top of my list to grown-up Santa. The same is true for Flashback drafts. I want something…else.

It all started with a tweet from Lee Sharp. He was musing about what would happen to the Time Spiral draft block if you simply removed a problem card from the format. Sprout Swarm was one of those Mythic Commons that completely dominates a game in a way that commons just should not be able to do. It is on a list of Limited public enemies that includes Empryial Armor, Sparksmith, and (the original) Rolling Thunder.

Responses ranged from very cautious support to #HanShotFirst hashtags. My suggestion was to just bump it to uncommon. Playing with Sprout Swarm is essential to the nostalgia for that block but maybe playing against it a little less frequently would be a good thing. This led to former Limited Resources co-host Brian Wong wondering about what other minor tweaks could be made to fix draft formats.

After a little back and forth on this topic Eric Klug chimed in. Instead of the Flashback drafts on Magic Online he would like to see resources committed to something I have advocated for in the past — Wacky Drafts.

Wacky Drafts

Sometimes known as Chaos Drafts, players in a Wacky Draft have no idea what packs they are going to be drafting when they sit down at the table. There is a lot of excitement about what packs you might get to open — there are usually some Modern Masters packs sprinkled into the assortment. Once you get your packs, your mind races to think about what fiendish creations you can assemble across your three first picks.

There can be as many as 24 different sets opened up at the table with each player getting a completely different random assortment of 3 packs. They are a public event favorite at Grand Prix and conventions and I know I would play them all the time if they were a play option on Magic Online.

The discussion got me to thinking about what other Limited formats I would like to see on Magic Online for the holidays.

Frankenstein Flashbacks

Instead of just drafting previous blocks, cobble together three sets with a thematic, mechanical, or tribal connection and draft them. I suggested as an example — with not much thought — an artifact themed draft format.

It would be fun to find new interactions between cards and to tie tribal synergies across three different sets. You could have a Sliver format. Richie Scott suggested the Rebel Yell draft format on FB with Time Spriral, Mercadian Masques, and Planar Chaos. Kenyon Colloran suggested a format with M13, Innistrad, and Shadows over Innistrad for a spells REAAAALLY matter format.

Frankenstein Flashback is a Magic format that could be crowdsourced and debated before it goes live. In an ideal world, with unlimited resources, this would be something you could hand pick and host for yourself and 7 other people that you engage to play with you.

What three sets would you most want to draft? Something I had not considered when I posted the original tweet was that you don’t need it to be three different sets. It could just as easily be AAA-AAA-BBB as AAA-BBB-CCC.


In the old days of Magic Minimaster was a winner-take-all format. The tournament needed to be 16, 32 or 64 players (although you could continue upward to 128, 256 etc). Each player would get one booster pack, two of each basic land. From there you would shuffle up and play. The winner would take the loser’s cards and add them to their card pool to rebuild for the next round. In a 5 round minimaster you would end up with the contents of 16 packs to build your deck for the finals.

In the kinder, gentler era of modern Magic you get to keep all your cards when you play Minimaster. You start with one pack and then each time you win you get to add another pack to your card pool. Another very popular option from the side event area at Grand Prix; it is not uncommon for the format to be played by hundreds of people at once as a special event on Friday before a Grand Prix. It would be a quick, fun way to play Magic Online — without any need for deckbuilding for the first round. Assuming there were enough people playing it would be perfect for League play too. You would just need to be paired against someone with the same size card pool as you and rebuild after each win.

Armchair Quarterback Drafts

For the better part of the past decade you have been able to sit yourself down and look over the shoulders of Pro Tour competitors and see what they took when faced with drafting at the highest level of competition. The Draft Viewer features a stacked draft table at the start of each day of Pro Tour competition and shows you every pick of every pack.

How cool would it be to sit down in the same seat as a Hall of Famer, Draft Master, or Pro Tour Champion and see what you would do in their place?

For almost as long as we have had the Draft Viewer I have wanted to have the opportunity to sit down and actually draft those same packs. Ben Stark loves to tease Conley Woods and Luis Scott-Vargas about their drafts at Pro Tour Philadelphia. I know I would enjoy a stream with Stark sitting in one of their seats and putting his money where his mouth is.

Wouldn’t you like to see the Butterfly Effect across multiple drafts? Drafts happen and they go away with little examination of what could have happened differently. I want to see what the distribution of color pairs looks like based on different first picks that players make across multiple iterations of those same packs.

Yuuya Watanabe has taken a lot of guff for his Deadbridge Shaman pick at the 2015 World Championship. Wouldn’t you love to see what the decks look like if those first picks in his seat start out differently? What happens in that World Championship draft if Yuuya Watanabe take Cruel Revival over Deadbridge Shaman? What if Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa took Whirler Rogue over Outland Colossus?

I want to see the results of those same packs being drafted many times over. Is there a consensus best deck that wins from a specific seat more often than others? Are there decks that consistently form around certain cards regardless of which seat they end up in? We never get to see drafts get iterated and I would love to find this feature under my non-denominational holiday plant next Winter solstice.

Naya Burn

Two weeks ago I was able to land a Modern PPTQ with a Naya Burn deck, hopefully to set myself up for Pro Tour Dublin. Hopefully this short writeup will help you do the same 🙂

I. Your Cards Largely Cost One

Well, one and two. But almost all your guys cost one, and even your lone three mana spell (Rift Bolt) also costs one. This is extremely important as Modern is a wickedly compressed format… Almost every deck puts its opponent on the back foot (if not the grave) by turn four, so just having cheap one and two mana cards is a legitimate deck feature; and 2)

Imagine you’re a deck that plays three and four mana cards, don’t know what you’re up against, and start off on one (or even two) lands that enter the battlefield tapped… You might play all one spell before the game effectively ends. Naya Burn’s cards are less powerful, less card advantageous, maybe… But it will play four to six of them in the same window (which often will be lethal right there).

II. The Philosophy of Fire is on Overdrive in Modern

Remember the original Philosophy if Fire: Your average card does two damage; your opponent starts on twenty life; you start with seven cards… Ten spells wins the game.

In Modern your average opponent will start on fourteen and your average card does between three and four — not two — damage. Do the math! You will be able to win on as few as four spells and your opening hand, unopposed, will be lethal most of the time!

Combined with the first point — the super affordable costs on your spells [versus the gigantic or profligate costs of many other Modern options] Naya Burn is the most operationally attractive deck in the format.

III. Atarka’s Command Deals Three to Them… But Three to You?!?

Atarka’s Command is a cute, medium-powerful, redundant spell that can also play main-deck spoiler to Kitchen Finks or even a Hail Mary Siege Rhino. Sometimes you counter their Lightning Helix; sometimes you have two Swiftspears down and are living the dream.

However most of the time Atarka’s Command is three damage for two mana (in the running for the least efficient wannabe ‘Bolt in Naya Burn)… While also being the only green card in the deck. The corollary is: If you can ever get Atarka’s Command out of your deck between games, you probably should. The ability to start on sixteen (instead of fourteen, on account of being obligated to find Stomping Ground rather than basic Mounting with the same fetch) is often as valuable for you as it would be for an opponent staring down your hot hand.

Don’t get me wrong, Atarka’s Command is awesome when it’s awesome; but if it’s just Incinerate that can’t hit creatures, any number of your sideboard cards will be more effective, without requiring you to ever search for green (example, siding in Searing Blood and Lightning Helix or Path to Exile and Lightning Helix for the only four green cards in the starting deck).

Second corollary: This is the same reason Wild Nacatl is a suboptimal card choice in this deck; not only is it not particularly synergistic, it forces you to pay additional life a disproportionate amount of the time.

IV. Eidolon of the Great Revel Does Even Damage

Most of the creatures in Naya Burn can deal even or odd damage; Grim Lavamancer attacks for odd but shoots for even; Taylor Swiftspear starts on odd but buffs to even or odd. Eidolon of the Great Revel has both even power and even damage triggers.

Playing against Eidolon of the Great Revel is extremely challenging for most decks. Yes, it can be “dealt with” but almost always at an annoying cost. If it hits one time before it is removed, Eidolon of the Great Revel is already in Boros Charm range. Make no mistake! You really should probably remove it! But a mistake I saw opponents make over and over was around fetchland management. If you’re at seventeen and you take two you’ll go to fifteen. If you are at seventeen and you go to either sixteen or fourteen you’ve essentially let the Naya Burn player draw a card.

Don’t think this matters? I beat more than one opponent saving Monastery Swiftspear and friends with Boros Charm; Eidolons can be saved from death’s door…

V. Your Sideboard Cards Are Flexible and Powerful

One of the main things I learned from Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa in an article way back when is that one-color decks tend to have weak sideboards relative to multicolor decks. As someone who has spent years playing Patrick Sullivan Red Decks in Legacy, the contrast to Naya Burn in Modern is dramatic. This deck has specific answers to Leyline of Sanctity that can serve as card advantageous Time Walks against Phyrexian Unlife or Pentad Prism. It can lethally reverse an all-in Infect player who has Vines of the Vastwood back. It can — unlike almost every other Red Deck in competitive history — even remove big creatures!

You can re-work your deck in sideboard situations into a lock deck (say your Death’s Shadow opponent leaves you with Deflecting Palm with his Thoughtseize and you manage to stabilize at any point); you can go into mono-creature removal (generally with advantages across the board); or even plan for a progressive slow game around a Grim Lavamancer who will never die.

Oddly — and amazingly — the answer to the age old question of “Who’s the Beatdown?” in some games might be “Not me!”

VI. Corollary: Resist the Impulse to Side Out “Weak” One Mana Spells

Just remember that you need to have a critical mass of one mana spells. You will almost always be tempted to side out Lava Spike (the most narrow card in the deck) or Rift Bolt (the hands-down weakest card in the main deck). It will usually be correct to side out “some” of those. However the strength of this deck once you have three mana is to be able to make two plays per turn while the opponent is only making one play. However you can’t make two plays if you have three lands and all your cards cost two. You need some Rift Bolt suspends / Grim Lavamancer activations / Lava Spikes to the jaw or you are going to end up glutted, stuck, and raced.

That said, Path to Exile costs one!

VII. Know Your “Two-for-Ones”

Searing Blaze has two targets! You can’t counter it by sacrificing Insolent Neonate or shooting your own guy with Path to Exile in response. It will usually be right to leave unbroken fetchland(s) on the table to trigger future landfall on the opponent’s turn rather than just trying to “thin your deck” (especially at the cost of life).

Searing Blood only does two to creatures! It is in some sense less narrow than Searing Blaze but is way less effective against medium sized creatures, way less effective against any kind of tricks, and doesn’t deal damage to the opponent unless the opposing creature actually dies. For this reason it is usually not the right move to go all-in on creature removal using Searing Blood against decks with Mutagenic Growth or whose first play is likely to be a Tarmogoyf.

Destructive Revelry only does two! Don’t get me wrong… When this card is on, it is usually the worst possible card for your opponent to see; but it costs twice as much and does less damage than a Lava Spike. Having a card that only does two in your deck actually costs your goldfish math an entire card, on average while slowing you down a full turn. Yeah. Modern is quick, yo.

VIII. Let Goblin Guide be Your Guide

Always remember the Bella Flores reading of Goblin Guide. Goblin Guide is the best because it turns Magic into chess; you know what your opponent is drawing, so you can make the best plays. Card advantage be damned! The game is often compressed enough that the card advantage doesn’t end up mattering at all. However, the information might matter a lot.

In the deciding game of my PPTQ, my Goblin Guide revealed a Skullcrack on top of my opposing burn deck’s stack. That meant he was going to miss his next land drop and was going to draw a Skullcrack. So I played around the Skullcrack. At the end of my next turn, on queue, he played the Skullcrack just to get a burn spell out of his hand; I responded with Lightning Helix, essentially countering the Skullcrack, and putting him three points closer to death.


Post Script: Today Miles Rodriguez is playing in his first Star City Games Invitational Top 8. He played the same 75 to a 7-1 finish in Modern, with his only loss to the great Brad Nelson. Go Miles!

The list was perfect, no need to change anything. And thanks 🙂

Shaheen Soorani: Expensive Sorcery Master

Posted by Brian David-Marshall | Games, Magic

If you are among the many fans of “Expensive Sorcery Master” Shaheen Soorani waiting for him to unveil the latest iteration of Eldritch Moon illuminated control decks for Standard you will have to wait until after the Pro Tour — or possibly until he does he deck tech in the Tournament Center. Recent success at the Grand Prix level earned him an invite to Pro Tour Eldritch Moon and in Brazil two weekends ago essentially qualified himself for the next handful of Pro Tours, when he finished in the Top 4 of the event alongside teammates Pascal Maynard and Brian Braun-Duin.

Soorani is usually not the globe-trotting adventurer when it comes to Magic; certainly less-so than his two GP teammates. Pascal Maynard was in the thick of the Grand Prix Player of the Year race right up until the end of last season and has demonstrated a willingness to play Magic in any time zone or hemisphere (even if he can’t pass the foil Tarmogoyf). Brian Braun-Duin — aka BBD — is the front-runner in this year’s GP race and is priced into playing a GP in Antarctica if they announced one. Soorani’s Pro Point coffers were not as full.

“Prior to this trip I had 13 pro points on the year with two GP slots at 1 point,” said Soorani of his thinking about heading to South America to play in a team Grand Prix. “After losing that heart-breaker to (Andrew) Cuneo for my win-and-in earlier this year at GP Houston, I booked travel for every North American GP coming up. I really wanted to make a run for it this year and after spiking a 13-2 at GP New York, it all started coming together. I wanted to lock Silver before the PT, and this and the GP in Sydney were the last options. Team Sealed is by far my favorite format, BBD is one of my closest friends, so the decision was fairly easy for me despite the cost and distance.”

The trip was a huge success for all parties invloved. Maynard assured himself Platinum status for next season and Braun-Duin managed to maintain his meager lead over Tomoharu Saito for the invite to the World Championship that comes with winning the Grand Prix Player of the Year title. For Soorani locking up Silver meant he would be qualified for three PTs in a row but perhaps more importantly, Grand Prix Sao Paulo marked the first time he had the chance to play in the elimination rounds at the GP or PT level.

“It was a surreal moment for me to finally play after the Swiss rounds were up. The experience was shadowed by a devastating Humble the Brute — a one-outer — off the top of our opponent’s library in the final possible turn to dash our GP victory dreams, but when the dust settled I had finally made it to a GP to 8. I Top 8’d five SCG Invitationals in a row, which are arguably more competitive than an average GP, but not having one Grand Prix top 8 was starting to make me doubt my competitive abilities. To summarize my experience in one word; relief,” said Soorani who was coming off missing the Top 8 in GP NY on tiebreakers.

All those Invitational Top 8s, near-misses at Grand Prix, and other success are much more impressive when you consider Soorani’s gainful employment. He is a teacher and his time is accounted for every Monday through Friday. The summer is a sweet spot for him when it comes to playing in events.

“That was the only reason I was able to travel as far as I did for GP Sao Paulo. My girlfriend is definitely not a fan of the amount of time I’m away, but she knows that I love this game and it’s become so much more than a hobby,” said the lover of control decks who was dubbed The Expensive Sorcery Master by Pro Tour Hall of Famer Gabriel Nassif during Pro Tour: Amsterdam. I was actually doing a deck tech with him and the French player crowned him that after another Hall of Famer, none other than Kai Budde, snorted derisively at a Thought Hemorrhage.

“(He) asked why it wasn’t Thoughtseize or a good card. Since then I embraced that title, using cards like Mass Polymorph at a Pro Tour, and just using cards that had great control power regardless of their mana cost,” he said proudly. “Control is a way of life and not a tournament-by-tournament decision. I believe it takes the most skill, ingenuity, creativity, and love for the game to create and pilot a control list.”

That reasoning sounds somewhat emotional but when you strip all the pride and self-identification away, there is actually a very specific and concrete reason that Soorani has elected to play with his expensive sorceries (and instants).

“The reason why I chose control and dedicated my career in Magic to this more difficult path, is to be able to win against any foe regardless of mana flooding. It sounds pretty basic, but control decks love to draw lands and filter them through a Sphinx’s Revelation, or Dig Through Time. When midrange or aggro decks hit that clump of land they are toast. When I started playing competitive Magic and saw that happen, I decided to run with control and never looked back.”

If you could pick any single player who embodies the opposite of everything Soorani believes in regard to Constructed Magic it would be his playtesting teammate for the upcoming Pro Tour, Craig Wescoe.

“Wescoe and I couldn’t be farther apart with playstyle, so I’m sure my criticisms of aggro and his of control may be a bit harsh,” laughed Soorani about his team which also includes Chris Fennell. “My hope is his experience developing strategies to beat control, and my experience developing strategies to beat aggro, will improve both archetypes during testing.”

He is always excited to share his unique view of attacking Standard but is doing his best to keep his tongue bitten between now and Round Four of the Pro Tour.

“I’ve worked with teams before and those events were Block Constructed or Extended PTs, so it was easy to keep my mouth shut,” said the popular strategy columnist. “This is the most difficult situation I’ve ever been put in for a Pro Tour, because it’s Standard and I can’t say anything in articles or on social media. What a nightmare!”

Gold status for next year is within Soorani’s reach although he may need to stand on his tip-toes to grab it. He will need a 12-3 finish at GP Sydney and then at least a 12-4 at the Pro Tour the following weekend.

“I decided to give professional Magic my all, for at least the remainder of this year leading up to Pro Tour: Dublin. You can expect to see me at every GP — minus my best friend’s wedding the weekend of Atlanta — in the near future,” said the Sao Paulo semifinalist. “I’ve been playing competitive Magic for quite some time, but I’ve never — until now — given it 100% due to work and school. I want to see if this old dog has enough energy left in him to achieve greatness.”

“Help us turn Ardent Recruits into Civilized Scholars!”

That’s what it says in the fine print on the Gamers Helping Gamers webpage. Also on that page are the names of more than a half dozen veteran Magic players — Hall of Famers, Grand Prix, Pro Tour and World Champions with a smattering of Player of the Year — who formed the non-profit organization to award need-based scholarships to a new generation of Magic players. Timothy McKenna (President), Eric Berger (Secretary), Jon Finkel (Treasurer), Chris Pikula, Robert Maher, Jr., Matthew Wang, and Daniel O’Mahoney-Schwartz make up the board that reviews the submissions each year and decides upon the recipients.

For the past several years I have had the pleasure to introduce the recipients and this year is no exception. This year’s recipients include two four-year scholarships of $5,000 annually and one one-year scholarship for $5,000. They have been waiting all week to share the good news with others so without further ado let me introduce you to this year’s crop of gamers.

Faolan Sugarman-Lash
Age: 18
Hometown: Richmond, Massachusetts
Destination: Santa Clara University
Scholarship: 4 years/$5,000 per year

Faolan Sugarman-Lash

Faolan is an avid consumer of Magic content and actually discovered the existence of the scholarship by watching Jon Finkel’s stream one night and last year, his best friend Dylan Quinn (photobombing above) also won a scholarship award from Gamers Helping Gamers. The Massachusetts-based player, who will be heading to Santa Clara after this summer, describes himself as a competitive player who does not get to play nearly enough.

His Magic playing career began when handed a large box of cards from a family friend. It was not long before he was getting booster packs and questing to get better and better at the game. In addition to Jon Finkel he lists LSV, Kenji Egashira, Alex Hayne, Shahar Shenhar, Reid Duke, HAUMPH, and Jacob Wilson as players who inspire him to be both “a better Magic player and a better person.”

“This scholarship is really important to me,” said Faolan who was looking forward to celebrating his good news with an Eternal Masters draft. “It’s a physical manifestation of the idea that following one’s passions can benefit them! It makes me really appreciate the game that I’ve played for more than half of my life — almost 11 years!! — and the people who make this happen. It’s humbling as well as inspiring to me to be a recipient of this award.”

Jacob Schliesman
Age: 22
Hometown: Kenosha, WI
Destination: University of Wisconsin – Whitewater (Majoring in Media Arts and Game Development)
Scholarship: 1 year/$5,000 per year

Jacob Schliesman

Jacob is already attending the University of Wisconsin — Whitewater and has been applying for the scholarship for the past four years since reading about the first class or recipients. Interestingly that was not too long after picking up Magic roughly a half decade ago when his local homeschooling organization handed out Mirrodin Besieged Intro Packs to all the kids. He was instantly hooked — and hooked beyond just the game play. The story was just as important and engaging to him which worked out well for him while filling out the application for the past handful of years.

“It’s certainly the most enjoyable application process I’ve ever encountered; writing about Magic is something I love to do, and it really makes you think a lot more about the game itself. And it never ceases to amuse me that there is a place for your DCI number right next to your SAT score,” laughed Jacob. His essay for the application included a discussion about how Magic spurred him to study game design and journalism.

“I worked as a writer for my campus’s student-run gaming website,, and actually ran the writing team for about a year. During this time, I had the opportunity to interview a few Magic pros for the website; namely Patrick Chapin, Jon Finkel, and LSV. My goal is to eventually work on the story team in R&D itself, a dream which I’m happy to say I have taken some steps towards since my initial application. I now have a freelance position writing creative text for Magic, and I can’t wait to get started.”

Jacob also wrote about Narset, Transcendent in his essay. Early on in his education Jacob was labeled as “intellectually gifted” and struggled to fit in with his peers as some things came easily to him while others were more elusive.

“This all changed when I read the story accompanying the preview of Narset Transcendent, The Great Teacher’s Student by Kimberly Krienes. Never before had I seen a character whose mind so closely resembled mine. Narset quickly became one of my favorite characters of any medium, as I finally had a character I could relate to. This also taught me the importance of diversity and inclusion in pop culture, because everyone deserves to have a character, be it Alesha, Ashiok, or whoever, that they can point to and say “that one is like me.””

Community is a recurring theme for Jacob and this scholarship was very meaningful for him in multiple ways.

“Not only have I been working towards it for a few years, but I have been trying to be more involved in the Magic community for many years. Currently, those efforts include a semi-collaborative parody Twitter project with A.E. Marling and a portrait of the Magic community through signed Unyielding Krumars. I’ve always wanted to make or write or do things that other Magic fans would enjoy, and to me this scholarship means that I can do that. I can get there.

Not shockingly the world of Innistrad is one of Jacob’s very favorites and he plans to celebrate his scholarship beneath the Eldritch Moon.

Oliver Tiu
Age: 18
Hometown: Cambridge, MA
Destination: Boston College
Scholarship: 4 years/$5,000 per year

Oliver Tiu
If you follow competitive Magic you have probably heard Oliver’s name mentioned often, and with increasing frequency, over the course of this season. He currently leads the Rookie of the Year race, has crossed the threshold to become Platinum through the remainder of this year and next, and could very well be competing at the World Championship if he can maintain his pace in the Constructed Master category at the last Pro Tour this season.

Oliver has been playing the game since the 5th Grade when he saw some fellow campers playing the game. He was drawn into Magic by the artwork rather than the gameplay itself which is somewhat unexpected for someone who describes himself as “extremely competitive”.

I had the opportunity to interview Oliver after the second Pro Tour of the season when he finished in the Top 16 in Spain. It was obvious that the young New England player had attracted the attention of the best and the brightest from the Northeast as both William Jensen and Mike Sigrist went out of their way to make sure I knew that Oliver was the real deal. During that interview he stated that Owen Turtenwald was the player he attempted to template himself after.

“He is simply the most consistent and flawless player I’ve had the pleasure of watching in the current Magic era,” said Oliver who voraciously consumes Magic content (which is how he found out about the scholarship in the first place). “I also admire Luis Scott-Vargas for his mastery of creating Magic content, he has the most entertaining articles and videos out of any player. In addition to that, he is a great player across every format and always is able to see weird plays that would not be seen by a vast majority of players.”

One of the amazing things about the success Oliver has had on the Pro Tour has been his ability to succeed without working with one of the major playtesting teams (which changes for the upcoming Pro Tour when he joins Team Face to Face Games) and that was one of the topics he wrote about his Magic essays.

“I found the questions very thought-provoking, especially the question about what I would change in the Magic community,” said Oliver. “I discussed my favorite Magic card: Deathmist Raptor, my least favorite: Monastery Swiftspear, and what I would change about the Magic scene: decreasing the necessity of teams in order to be successful on the Pro Tour.”

Oliver has a lot on his plate for the coming year between his freshman year of college and following up on a Platinum Pro Tour season.

“This scholarship means so much to me, especially in regards to continuing to play competitive Magic while pursuing a college education,” said Oliver who will be playing at Grand Prix Pittsburgh this weekend. “This scholarship will be a big help in making college affordable for me, and using what I’ve learned in Magic to aid my education. The scholarship is a great idea to reward those who have a skillset that isn’t typically rewarded by the college application process. I hope I’ll be able to contribute to the scholarship when I graduate.”