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Grand Prix D.C. – Day 1 May 23, 2010

Posted by Norm in Tournament.

So the bad news is that I didn’t make day two of Grand Prix DC. I went 6-3 with Naya Allies, picked up my third loss in the seventh round to Bant Conscription. More on that later. We are getting ready to head back to the venue for some drafts and see the conclusion of the GP. I’ve got some video and photos but until I can put that together here are some photos.


Grand Prix DC and Casual Magic Showcase May 21, 2010

Posted by Norm in Casual, Constructed, Tournament.
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This weekend I’m excited to be participating in Grand Prix D.C. Earlier today I drove down with Eric to get a head start and take a fresh approach to the weekend. Might as well since I have a few vacation days to burn.

Traveling Generals

On the drive down we stopped in Breezewood to gas up and get a bite to eat. Eric had never been to a Hardee’s before so we stopped there for burgers. After the meal our EDH Generals showed up for a bit of rough housing.

I won the die roll and was off to a good start when Eric discarded half his library and then played, I forget the name, giving him 15 black mana for creatures in his grave yard and then bringing them all back into play. He smashed for 50+ damage on the next turn. It was a bitter defeat for my merfolk.

Next Stop Verginia

After arriving at our destination we took a few minutes to relax and then start digging into what we are playing and how we anticipate this weekend’s meta game to shape up. I’ll let you know what we are playing after the event.

Tomorrow we are going to head down to the event space and get registered and take in some casual events. What’s that, Casual Events? Yep thanks to Dream Wizards and local casual group MTG Casualties Grand Prix D.C. is host to a slew of casual events. From EDH, Standard, Draft and Peasant formats there will be tournaments and chaos matches galore. If I hadn’t taken so much time to prepare for the GP I would have loved to build a deck for some Peasant showdown.

While the casual events do cost money there is prize support and judging for them. However I’ve noticed that even though there will be judging it will be a more relaxed setting. So no game disqualifications for situation accidents or misplays. This aspect of side events is to bring causal players to the event and really make the event special for everyone.

There is a website dedicated to the casual events here. Which includes all the rules and format specs. Also visit the official Wizards GP DC page for details.

If You See Me, Say Hi

I’ll be around all weekend and if you see me please feel free to come up and say hi. I’m looking to meet a number of other players and other magic writers this weekend. So the more the merrier.

My First Grand Prix Trials April 28, 2010

Posted by Norm in Tournament.
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Earlier this month I decided to attend Grand Prix DC. Not only for the foil Umezawa’s Jitte but because I have a few vacation days to spare and Grand Prix are always well attended and covered. So I’m hoping to meet some of the MTG community while I’m down there.

Grand Prix Trials

So for those of you who don’t know Wizards holds trials for major events where players can earn byes for a specific event. When I decided to go the GP I checked the event website for advanced trials and luckily there was one schedule for last weekend in Pittsburgh. The trial winner earned 3 byes at DC. That trial winner also happens to be me.

I decided to play Naya Allies which I felt was the best deck because of Kabira Evangel. If you can get your allies online you can keep him protected with Violent Outburst at instant speed. The Allies are bigger and flat out better than mono white winnie. And I think it has a fair matchup agaist Jund. UW control is too slow and I can just crash through your walls with Evangel etc.

Have You Ever Beaten Tripple Baneslayer Angel?

I have.

That was my board second game of the final four. My opponent dropped three consecutive angels. Hitting me each round with them. Our life swings were pretty crazy but I had the advantage with Allies as he couldn’t remove or block them and with Talus Paladin on my side of the board I was gaining more life than he was each turn with his 3 x Baneslayer Angels. I eventually won because I was quite frankly, the beat down. That photo was from right before my final turn when I attacked for the win.

One Awesome Allies Play

In game two of the finals I was up a game and facing Student of Warfare and Steppe Lynx and some other guys. I had on my board a lone Akoum Battlesinger and hovering around 10 life. My opponent is clear on the beats with a fast start and is around 17 life. I have another Battlesinger in hand and draw a third on my turn. Luckily I had two red mana and two white. I play both Akoum Battlesinger making two guys 6/1 and the third a 4/1 I attack and he has to block or die. Even playing a second Battlesinger when you have other allies on the board is huge.

Grand Prix DC

I’ll be there, so let me know if you will be too. I hope to arrive on Thursday and make time for events and shenanigans Friday. See you there.

PT San Juan Qualifier Event Guide March 4, 2010

Posted by Norm in PTQ, Tournament.

This weekend I’m attending the San Juan PTQ in Pittsburgh. Since the event will be in the same location as the PA 09 States I thought I’d write a quick event guide.

The important thing to keep in mind is that the event location is about 30-40 minutes outside of downtown Pittsburgh. Originally the event was schedule downtown but has changed to Butler, PA.

General Information

As found on the PES website.

March 6, 2010

Butler Days Inn
Heritage Hall
139 Pittsburgh Road
Butler, PA 16001
Link to Google Maps


Extended Constructed

Registration is from 9:00-10:00 AM. Play begins immediately after registration ends.


  • Due to circumstances beyond our control we will not be able to accept credit cards for US events. We hope to get this issue resolved quickly and we appreciate your patience and understanding while we work through this issue.
  • 32K, REL: Competitive
  • All Universal Tournament Rules and Magic: The Gathering Floor Rules are in effect for this event unless specifically overruled by information in this Format Document
  • Players must bring pen, paper, card sleeves and appropriate counters.

Player Support

At States the was zero support for players who needed last minute supplies such as; counters, notepads or sleeves. Let me repeat, there were no sleeves to be bought at the event. There was only one vendor selling and buying cards but they didn’t have other game playing supplies. I think PES did have a limited supply of notepads at registration but they were out when I got there. So make sure you bring this stuff in advance. I was forced to play with old sleeves at States because I planed buying them at the event.

Space and Food

The ballroom where States was held was cramped and they needed to add about 10 tables at the last minute to accommodate all the players. There is little lounging space in the hall outside the main room so don’t expect to be able to find extra tables to meet with your group. I suggest you keep your extra stuff to a limit. Leave your coat and back pack in the car so it is easier for everyone to move around the event room. There is plenty of parking with a door near the ballroom connecting to the parking lot.

There is a bar with a kitchen in the hotel, Pizza Hut and Burger King across the street, and little else in the way of food.  So plan your food options carefully as you don’t want to run out of energy after a 4-0 start.

Otherwise the PTQ should run just as expected. Good luck and say hi if you see me there.

2009 Regionals Deck Lists May 21, 2009

Posted by Norm in Constructed, Tournament.
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Today Wizards published the 2009 Regionals deck lists. If you scroll down to PA: Pittsburgh you’ll find me happily listed in 8th place, and, hey, they spelled my name correctly.


I’m still on cloud 9 over this but I promise to stop posting about it after today. Yesterday, I did an interview with Dee over on Magic Game Plan Blog and I’ll let you know when he gets that up.


The interview with Magic Game Plan is up. Be warned I sound much better after some editing.

2009 Pittsburgh Regionals Recap May 19, 2009

Posted by Norm in Constructed, Organized Play, Tournament.
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First of I wanted to note that Dillion of the Power 9 Pro Blog came down Friday evening to crash at my place and take the regionals by storm. He finished in 14th place playing B/W Tokens and would have made it to the finals if he didn’t face a pesky lark deck. I have to give a big thanks to Dillon for helping me crash course the meta game, play test against his deck, and hook me up with some cards. I also want to thank Duncan Hewes and Aaron Iforgetyourlastname each lending me an Ajani Goldmane. The card was going for $17 the day of the event and rightly so because it is an all star right now.


So yesterday I shared a link to the list I started with. Here is what I actually ran:

3 Cloudgoat Ranger
4 Figure of Destiny
3 Goldmeadow Harrier
4 Knight of Meadowgrain
4 Wilt-Leaf Liege
4 Wizened Cenn

4 Path to Exile
4 Spectral Procession
4 Ajani Goldmane
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant

2 Mutavault
15 Plains
4 Rustic Clachan
4 Windbrisk Heights

3 Burrenton Forge-Tender
2 Stillmoon Cavalier
1 Celestial Purge
2 Lapse of Certainty
2 Martial Coup
3 Moonglove Extract
2 Runed Halo

The only change came in the sideboard because I wanted Runed Halo for possible Banefire or unknown monstrosities, like Chameleon Colossus. I wasn’t expecting to rely on Celestial Purge and I actually never brought it in. If I had to do it all over again I would probably  drop Celestial Purge for an extra Lapse of Certainty and, maybe, trade Martial Coup for two Wrath of God. I never played Martial Coup all day, either not having enough mana for the wrath or not drawing it. The games I had it and didn’t play I didn’t need it for the win, and I didn’t draw it in a few games where it could have helped. People have been down on Stillmoon Cavalier but I think he was really good. Whenever I played him, especially against B/W Tokens I won the game.

I think that this deck was successful for two reasons. One, people were expecting it to be B/W Tokens and boarded accordingly. I won round three against a control variant because he boarded in Whispermare and other board sweepers. So that surprise element was a huge advantage. Two, this deck is just full of gas especially with Ajani and all the pumpers. Dee wrote on the Magic Game Plan that there are 12 Glorious Anthem effects in this deck and they are either creatures or giving vigilance. In my mind I traded Wilt-Leaf Liege for Glorious Anthem and I think the Liege is better because it is also a creature.

The biggest surprise of all was main deck Goldmeadow Harrier. Not only for defense but on the attack I needed to tap a chumping Bitterblossom token more than once. I didn’t have a problem ditching Stalwart for Harrier, because either Stalwart is good on turn one or lame in mid to late game. Harrier is good in either place because it can keep you protected later.

Round 1

I played Mike who was running a Naya/Bloodbraid Elf deck that I assume had overrun but I didn’t see it during the match. Game one he got out fast bringing me to 2 life quickly with 3 Wild Nactal and a Bloodbraid Elf. I was able to stabilize with, you gessed it, Goldmeadow Harrier, Spectral Procession tokens, and Cloudgoat Ranger. One Elspeth later and I’m able to bring him from 17 life to zero in four turns. Game two, I get a turn one Figure of Destiny and get in for two damage. He drops a turn three Wolly Thoctar and I take beats for a few turns until I can setup 2 Windbrisk Heights each with Wilt-Leaf Liege. In a turn where I swing with spectral tokens and bring out both Lieges he takes a lot of damage, like 12 and he can’t recover from my pumped guys.

I’m glad this match played out like it did because I had to come back game one and it quickly made me focus on how I was playing as well as give me the confidence to do a lot of damage fast. 1-0

Round 2

My first match results were miss recorded so I needed to get that sorted out. I was worried I filled out my slip wrong but fortunately it was just entered into the computer wrong. This round I played another Mike running B/W Tokens. Game one he gets the good tokens draw and plays Finks, Redcap with Ajani and keeps me held back with Zealous Persecution. I basically draw into slow cards and don’t have the gas.

Game 2 he gets double Bitterblossom but I’ve got the gas, Figure of Destiny, Wizen Cenn and Ajani I steadily smash until his two Bitterblossoms kill him on his upkeep turn five.

Game 3 is a bigger battle. He gets multiple Zealous Persecution and a finks with Ajani. He gets me down to 9 but I’m able to path his creature and kill his Ajani. When I stabilize I’ve got Spectral tokens, two Windbrisk Heights with a Liege under each (I know), and I am smashing for six three turns in a row before he scoops. I think I got lucky in this game because he was only drawing land mid game. If he had gotten a creature to follow up me Pathing his Kitchen Finks I don’t know I would have been able to recover. 2-0

Round 3

I play Brock who is running some sort of four color control, I’m not sure if it was lark but I didn’t see one. Game one he gets land screwed and I get him down to to twelve with double Knight of Meadowgrain and when I stick an Ajani he scoops.

Game 2 we get to play. This game is a lot of back and forth at first. I play a creature and he drops a Kitchen Finks he goes up to 25 life before dropping Wrath of God. I see some counter and get hit with Broken Ambitions a few times. I keep playing creatures and eventually stick a Figure of Destiny and hit him a few times for four damage. He kills the figure with path eventually I get another and am able to edge it out against him. Just in time too because he was about to draw into his cards. I don’t remember what he showed me but it wasn’t lark. He did say he thought I was playing B/W Tokens and brought in Whispermare and other tools to fight tokens. He did have a lot of Wrath and I was lucky to keep a step ahead of him. 3-0

Round 4

I play Joe with B/W Tokens. I remember this match as being a tough game but looking at my notes I seem to have game one pretty much in hand. Turn one Figure to Cenn. I swing for more than five a few times and don’t take one point of damage.

Game two was the difficult one. He gets me down to 15 fast until I rebound and take him down to 9, when he drops kitchen finks and bitterblossom, but my guys just get too big for him and I swing for damage. I think this is one of the games were I was able to use Harrier to tap a Bitterblossom token to swing in for the match. 4-0

Round 5

I play Bill who is playing, yep, B/W Tokens. I get an early Knight of Meadowgrain and we trade beats until he drops Spectral Procession in two consecutive turns. With Ajani he flies over for 12 points in one turn and I can’t recover. I figured I’m bound to loose a few games to B/W but I bring in Stillmoon and we start game two. I’m out of the gate with a good start and get Stillmoon and Knight of Meadowgrain. His next turn he plays Spectral Processon and we trade beats with me ahead because of the knight. Until he gets a Cloudgoat Ranger from the hideaway land and Ajani. I get him down to two and will win next turn with Stillmoon except I loose when he attacks after pumping with Ajani and then pumping Cloudgoat still hitting me for six with the tokens. I’ll admit I wasn’t aware of this trick and that is how I lost. Anyway good game and at least I learned a trick I could use. 4-1

Round 6

I face Grant playing Revelark. I know Grant from around Pittsburgh and we were both at the same FNM the night before, however we didn’t play each other so we didn’t know what each other was playing. Unfortunately (for him) he gets really mana screwed game one. I don’t have an amazing hand but  knock him out in about 6 turns. Game two he gets mana screwed again and I have one of my best hands. I open with Figure, turn two Wizen Cenn, turn three Wizen Cenn. He would have had to have wrath to stabilize. 5-1

Round 7

I play David who also made top 8, at this point I’m paired up against him at 5-1 and he is 6-0. We are at table 2 and the other two 6-0 guys are drawing into the finals. David was playing a very interesting B/W Token deck but had been destroying people all day with a combo using Marsh Flitter, Sigil Captain and Murderous Redcap. Game one he gets an ok start and I’m at it with my usual beats until he stabilizes with tokens and gets all three of his combo creatures on the board. I loose.

Game two, I board in Runed Halo for the first time of the day, and I get one in my starting seven. I come out strong with Knight of Meadowgrain and Sillmoon. He gets a Kitchen Finks, that leaves the game with my path, and really doesn’t get anything else he needs. I win quickly. Game three, I get out early again getting him down to 15 and he has Bitterblossom. We jockey for board position and he is taking damage from his bitterblossom and I am swinging with a  figure of destiny, killing his token. I either get Ajani or Wilt-Leaf Liege because I smash for 8 points when he is at 10 forcing him to block with his spectral procession tokens and Sigil Captain. I win next turn. 6-1

Round 8

At this point I’m ranked 4th in the overall standings with first and second at 19 pionts (6-0-1) and one other guy in 3rd at 18 points. We are all facing each other and everyone wants to draw into the finals. I’m nervous about this because there are about 10 other people with 18 points. I consult a few people and decide to draw. Luckily I get in on tie breakers at 8th place overall.

In retrospect if I would have played and won this round, I probably would have finished first overall. Especially since the other two people ahead of me drew. My matchup was against B/W Tokens and I have been playing really good against that deck. I was also really tired at this point and the break was welcome. Too bad I spent most of it worried I was going to get bumped out of top 8. 6-1-1


I face Adam who is playing Revelark. I was a little worried about facing this matchup all day and I got lucky against it in round 6. Dillon who was watching over my shoulder pointed out some misplays in game one that basically cost me the match. I get out to my usual turn one Figure of Destiny and a turn two Knight of Meadowgrain. My mistake was I was holding Ajani and Rustic Clachan. I didn’t play the Clachan with my other kithkin and so my turn four land came into play tapped. I couldn’t play Ajani which would have given me a huge advantage in this game. I get him down to 13 and he stabilized, wraths my board and keeps counter mana open at all times. He ends up getting a lot of guys and winning. I did get him down to 3 life by the end of it… so close.

Game two I board for power, by not taking out anything that will slow my deck down. Especially since his deck is meant to streatch out the game and win later, I need speed. I do bring in my two Lapse of Certainty but that’s all. Draw, I get the gas. Turn one Figure, turn two Cenn, turn three Cenn. On turn three he plays stillmoon which is just a wall with my pumped guys. His turn four he is at 5 life and I thought he would wrath, but instead he drops another Stillmoon. On my turn I’m holding Ajani which will stick but I’m also holding something special. I swing with my guys he blocks a 6/6 figure and one 3/3 Cenn leaving one 3/3 to get in for damage. I have four mana open and discard two Rustic Clachan for the extra two points and the game.

Game three I have an ok hand but not what I need. I get him down to 12 before he can stabilize and I’m never able to resolve another creature. By this game I’m making a lot of silly mistakes and I missed a couple plays to help me stay in the game somewhat. I loose.

All in all this was an amazing day and I’m really proud of how I played and finished. I wish I wasn’t so drained in the finals. The day was really long with the event starting at 10 am and the finals didn’t start until 8:30 – 9. There were around 230 participants in this event.

2009 Pittsburgh Regionals Top 8 May 18, 2009

Posted by Norm in Constructed, Organized Play, Tournament.
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If you study the following picture closely, you will notice two things.


1. My name is not spelled Hoelsman, it’s Huelsman.

2. I MADE TOP 8!

So suck on that BW Tokens I beat you three out of four times.

Unfortunately, I didn’t win in the finals and did not earn a ticket to nationals. I’ll have a more detailed tournament report coming up but I wanted to share the news this morning as I took a day away from the internet yesterday.

I haven’t seen the coverage posted on the Wizards of the Coast site yet but I’ll link when it goes up. If you want to take a look at my deck list I basically played mono white Kithkin.

Thinking Regionals May 7, 2009

Posted by Norm in Tournament.
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Like the rest of the competitive magic world I’ve been thinking and starting to prepare for the upcoming Regionals. I think the biggest question on everyone’s mind is what new tech from Alara Reborn can we use that hasn’t been exploited yet. Personally I’d love to throw Glory of Warfare into a Vengeant Winni deck and shuffle up. I don’t think it will be that simple though.

As of right now I’m leanning toward Kithkin as I’ve had the most experience with the deck and I have the cards. I feel that when I loose with Kithkin it is because I keep a bad hand or fall victem to mana issues. So in addtion to it being a good deck I feel confident with it.

So what crazy ideas are you cooking up for regionals?

Tonight We Played Constructed March 19, 2009

Posted by Norm in Constructed, Tournament.
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And here is what I learned.

1. Mono black goblin rogue has no chance against any of the competitive decks in standard right now. I played it tonight because I thought that it would be a surprise and I could get in with fear and persist before my opponents would be able to stabilize. I did almost win a match against mono red but I didn’t have enough gas, and there is no chance against 5CC so don’t even try.

2. The reason I really am writing this post is because of Bant variants. First off check out Dillion’s Bant Brew post. There is a good conversation going about cheaper builds as well as an interesting build with faeries.

I was really interested in building a Bant theme because it has all of the stuff about Shards of Alara that make Magic fun; Exalted, life gain, control and a little aggro. A few weeks ago I scoped out a version of the bant deck online and put together something that I could manage with cards I own. I wanted to be able to play this deck so my only appology is that I was going for the fun factor over the win conidion. Anyway. Here is a link to my deck list, Middle Class Bant (I didn’t get a chance to complete the deck list before going live).

My version – Cheap Bant
It is fun but if you are playing against other stronger competitive decks in the format you can’t compete. Without the Hierarchs you just don’t have the speed. Maybe I should have included Birds. In less competitive realms I think this deck is good.

Dark Bant
This deck runs Tide Hollow Sculler and Doran. It is a really creative idea. However I think that the mimic build is better because of the aggro. The build I played against ran Rafiq and cryptics so I was really at a disadvantage. I didn’t win with my Cheap Bant build.  Oh well.

Ideal Build
I can’t really say. I haven’t played with the Fae that Dillon originally suggests. But the question is turn two mimic or sculler? both could be really strong. Maybe there is a version that runs both creatures with one in the sideboard.

With all that said, I still think Ajani Vengant Kithkin is better.

Pro Tour-Kyoto on the Horizon January 8, 2009

Posted by Norm in MTG, Tournament.
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For those of you on the competitive side of the game I just browsed the Pro Tour-Kyoto event information page. Looks like it is going to be a great event and I wish I could be around for the festivities. Players are going to receive an updated copy of Treva, the Renewer.

If you are going to Kyoto and would like to provide event coverage on Casual Magic drop me a line.