The Cak’s Thoughts On… Champions – GP: Austin *T16*

Fresh off his top 16 finish in Austin, the man they call “The Cak” is back to share his experience and give his thoughts about the top 5 commons in each color. If you are looking for someone with a proven track record to give you his opinion on this fresh format, The Cak is your man.

At the start of each new format for Limited, I actually get excited to play Magic. I know that is hard for some of you to comprehend, but yes, I can get excited to play in new Limited formats. I don’t know why, but it’s true. This year, I am especially excited because I believe that I have a huge head start over what I did last year. Normally I don’t practice before the first Limited GP, but this time I actually drafted the set a couple of times and went to the prerelease and did a practice Rochester the night before Grand Prix: Austin.

At the prerelease, my teammate miiiiight have had a set of Nagao, Bound by Honors. My deck was quite the peach itself, including Jugan, the Rising Star, Kodama of the North Tree, Kodama of the South Tree, Jushi Apprentice, and Minamo, School at Water’s Edge, which blew someone out after he Restrained my Jugan . This is where I learned how good Strength of Cedars really is. It forces your opponents to play the game differently and if they don’t even know if you have it, chances are you are going to win the game. All it takes is one unblocked creature late game, and the game is likely over due to the set’s lack of removal. Anyway, onto the report.

Friday morning around 5am, Gerald W. Thompson, the Master Brian McCall, and myself wake up and head to the airport to catch a flight from Minnesota to Chicago. Little did we know that fog in Chicago was delaying flights, so we were forced to take a flight that left three hours later, but it went straight to Austin, so it wasn’t terrible. We arrive in Austin around 4:30 and take a cab to the La Quinta Inn. Besides the pool looking like a dead guy was being fished out of it, the hotel wasn’t all bad. We headed over to the site around 8-9pm, to find one of my favorite characters Mark Zajdner talking it up, as usual. I actually don’t think he knows his own level of ridiculousness.

We get a Rochester draft set up with myself, Gerry, Mike Krumb, Krumb’s friend Phil, Brian McCall, Matt Shmaltz, some guy from Iowa, and to top it off, for anyone that knows him, Turbo Bob. I can’t say enough about this guy. He is awesome. He’s the slowest drafter I’ve ever seen, and aside from that and getting mad at Matt Shmaltz for taking a splashable White card, he’s all right. I ended up with a solid R/G deck with my bomb being Kodama of the North Tree. Being untargetable in the last set wasn’t much to shine upon, but it’s actually very good in this set. Also being a 6/4 trampler that can come out on turn 4 helps. The North Tree won me a lot of games that draft and I was very fortunate to draw it frequently. Another card that I think is ridiculous that many people look past is Kami of Fire’s Roar. This guy is actually first pick-able in R/G, as Green has Moss Kami and Feral Deceiver, both of which can get through a lot of damage by themselves and they are both spirits to boot. I split in the finals of that draft with Gerry, and those two Imi Statues I took better be good. After the Rochester, we took a cab back to the hotel and got a solid 6-7 hours of sleep to get ready for the upcoming Grand Prix. (Sheldon, say it with me. GranD Prix. There’s a “D” in there.)

Saturday morning we call a cab. The hotel has free muffins out, so I pocket a few (bad idea), and head over to the site. Now this is actually one of the most important parts about Limited Grand Prix – the decks that you receive. Most people think that it doesn’t matter, but it actually does. The better the deck you receive, the better chance you have at making day 2 (if you build it correctly). I know, I know, this is completely shocking to most people, but it’s true. Even the pros need good decks to win. The deck that I received was no peach, but it wasn’t the worst deck I’ve seen. Here it is:

3 Kodama’s Might

1 Kodama of the North Tree

1 Burr Grafter

1 Dripping-Tongue Zubera

1 Humble Budoka

2 Venerable Kumo

1 Glacial Ray

1 Yamabushi’s Flame

1 Bloodthirsty Ogre

1 Cruel Deceiver

1 Cursed Ronin

1 Nezumi Cutthroat

2 Nezumi Ronin

1 Rend Spirit

1 Scuttling Death

1 Soulless Revival

2 Villainous Ogre

1 Befoul

7 Forest

3 Mountain

7 Swamp

Aside from the 2 Venerable Kumo, the deck itself is fine. The Kumo is a playable card, but not something you want more than one of in a sealed deck. Just look at that mana base and awe. Wow. Looking back on it, this deck is awful. I have no fixers or acceleration. Having just one Kodama’s Reach or Sakura Tribe-Elder would have made the deck sooooo much better. I can’t complain about the Kodama’s Mights though, as they are what allowed me to make day 2. As for the North Tree, I didn’t cast it once the whole day. I had it in hand about 5-6 times, but never drew 3 Forests. The only games that I drew more than 2 Forests were the ones that I drew Cursed Ronin. Obviously.

The last article about my 7th place finish at Pro Tour: Seattle got a lot of negative criticism, although I wasn’t surprised. (Bashed, passed, got screwed and still bashed, bashed, etc etc). I’ll try to actually put effort into this one.

Round 1 and Round 2: Bye

Byes are so nice to have at GP’s. They give you time to think about how much you misbuilt your deck and how awful it is. Although I believe that I built this deck correctly. It also gives you time to playtest to see how you can sideboard differently to you’re your deck better throughout the day. There was nothing I could do about the mana base. I just had to pray for solid draws I guess.

Round 3: Patrick W Hereford

Patrick seems like a nice guy and he was a decent player. His deck was a solid G/W/R and I’m not sure if he had a splash or not. Game 1 the only thing that I remember is stalling on three lands for too long then getting bashed by his decks awesome curve. Game 2 I actually get a good draw involving turn 2 Humble Budoka and turn 3 Nezumi Ronin. I eventually win the game with Kodama’s Might spliced onto another Kodama’s Might. Game 3 my opening draw gave me tons of hope. I kept Swamp, Forest, Forest, Mountain, Nezumi Cutthroat, Kodama of the North Tree, and Yamabushi’s Flame. However, my deck did not serve me well as I didn’t draw another forest the entire game and I was stuck drawing Venerable Kumos and Cursed Ronin.

Record: 2-1

At this point, I am the only one in the group who has a loss and I think about dropping to save rating points. I say to myself I didn’t fly all the way here to drop after 1 round, so I stick it out.

Round 4: Mark B Dean

Mark is a local, I think. I didn’t really get a chance to see him do anything really. Game 1 he has to mulligan into a sub-par hand and I win with a solid curve. Game 2 He has to mulligan down to five and I eventually splice Glacial Ray on a Kodama’s Might and he scoops right there. I feel for you Mark, I really do.

Record: 3-1

Round 5: Gaudenis Vidugiris

This guy has one of the coolest names I have ever seen. He has a very fast G/W/r deck sporting Sensei Golden-Tail and a thousand and one two- and three-drops. Game 1 he curves out insanely with Orochi Ranger, Kabuto Moth and a Kitsune Blademaster. My deck behaves accordingly and I get smashed. Game 2 is my turn to curve out with Cutthroat and Nezumi Ronin. I follow it up with Yamabushi’s Flame and Glacial Ray and we go to game 3. Game 3 he’s on the play and he plays turn 1 Devoted Retainer followed by Kami of Ancient Law. I play a turn 2 Cutthroat and we begin to race. He doesn’t hit his third land drop, but he plays a creature every single turn. I eventually stabilize by casting Kodama’s Might and splicing Soulless Revival and Glacial Ray onto it, making the turn a net result of like a four-for-one for me.

Record: 4-1

Tim Aten just lost to the Master Brian McCall this round and dropped from the tournament. Just think of it this way; some people’s nightmares are other people’s dreams.

Round 6: Ryan K. South

This is another local, although it seems like he lacks experience. I would put good money that he brags about top 8ing FNM’s and such. Ryan is a really nice guy though, and a great sport. Game 1 eventually goes to a stalemate and I lose to Myojin of Cleansing Fire and Nezumi Graverobber. Nice Deck (deleted). Game 2 I play a turn 2 Nezumi Cutthroat and it actually goes all the way along with a Scuttling Death. He had one turn to draw a Plains to cast his Myojin and I would have lost right there. Game 3 I get an insane draw involving Cutthroat, Nezumi Ronin and a Cursed Ronin with five Swamps. I kill him before he can get enough mana to cast his Myojin.

Record: 5-1

At this point, I have gained practically all of the confidence back in my deck that I lost after round 3. I just needed to win this next round to make it into day 2.

Round 7: Beau Ferguson

I’ve seen his name before somewhere, but I can’t remember where. Game 1 is looking good for me until he plays a turn 3 Honden of Infinite Rage followed by a turn 4 Honden of Cleansing Fire. Frown. Game 2 I get a solid draw and I believe he missed some land drops here and there. Game 3 he mulligans and I can’t believe it when he misses his second land drop. I play a turn 2 Cutthroat and go to work. He almost stabilizes, but I finish him off with Yamabushi’s Flame and Glacial Ray.

Record: 6-1

How lucky, I’ve managed to 4-0 with this pile after losing almost all hope. I was hoping to draw next round, because I really didn’t feel like playing with my deck again.

Round 8: Sean K Rohan

Sean is an amateur from Seattle I think. I offer the draw and he thinks about it for a while then says yes. I was so relieved when I saw his deck. Any deck with Nagao can’t be bad. He finished one spot ahead of me at the end of the Grand Prix, so he had to be a solid player.

Record: 6-1-1

I was actually very happy how the day turned out, as I started 2-1 and ended up 6-1-1. I was pretty confident in my rochester skills also. My first pod was awesome. Take a look at this:

Harris, Russell

Aitchison, Michael

Pelcak, John

Smart, Jason

Dalglish, Jamie

Hansen, Kevin

Thompson, Mike

Lunsford, Alan

Yeah, that’s a nice one all right. I’ve heard of Mike Thompson from somewhere before, but that’s it. [Aitchison made the top 8 at U.S. Nats this year. – Knut] We leave the site and I believe that I should at least 2-1 the pod. I needed a 5-1 record to top 8 and I was thinking it was possible with this pod.

Rochester deck # 1

3 Yamabushi’s Flame

1 Ryusei, the Falling Star

2 Uncontrollable Anger

1 Ronin Houndmaster

1 Brutal Deceiver

1 Ember Fist Zubera

2 Callous Deceiver

2 Consuming Vortex

1 Honden of Seeing Winds

1 Kami of Twisted Reflection

1 Mystic Restraints

1 Reach Through Mists

1 River Kaijin

1 Soratami Cloudskater

1 Soratami Mirror Guard

1 Soratami Rainshaper

1 Teller of Tales

1 Floating-Dream Zubera

9 Island

8 Mountain

The deck turned out to be very solid. No one for two slots to the left or to the right of me was drafting Blue so that helped a lot. Also, pack 2, the guy to the right of me opens Ryusei. At that point, all he had were Green cards, and I knew for sure he had at least a Reach. I figure he would take the dragon, but he opted for the more powerful Vine Kami, or something of that caliber. I slammed my hand down on that dragon and it was all smooth sailing from there. If those Yamabushi’s Flames that I opened had been Glacial Rays, the deck would have been flat-out retarded. I was a bit worried about the 2 Uncontrollable Angers being double Red, but they turned out fine.

Round 9: Alan Lunsford

Alan seemed like a fine player, but was rushing me at every chance he had. Apparently he got a draw from someone stalling or something. I also got a warning from a judge that was most likely his friend. That guy was a real joke. Game 1 he curves out with Kami of the Ancient Law, Kabuto Moth, and Mothrider Samurai. I get a slow draw, but manage to cast a turn 6 Red Dragon. He obviously has the one answer in his deck for it in Cage of Hands and I lose accordingly. Game 2 is actually identical to game 1 in that I cast a turn 6 dragon and he Cages it. In the end of the game though, I have Cloudskater in play along with Teller of Tales. My options are to Flame his dome and hope to draw a spirit or loot at the end of his turn and hope to draw a spirit to tap his flyers. I don’t and I lose. Pro Player Tim Aten informs me of my mistake and I go on tilt. Thanks Mr. Aten.

Record: 6-2-1

Round 10: Russell Harris

I think that the draft was a bit rough for Russell. He ended up with solid cards, but they were spread out between three colors. Anyway, I win game 1 with Soratami Mirror-Guard making five guys unblockable and swing for the win. Game 2, I basically win when he spends all of his resources trying to kill Ryusei and I just bounce it. I finish him off with the Ryusei and Yamabushi’s Flame.

Record: 7-2-1

Round 11: Jason Smart

Jason informs me that he hasn’t played in three years, and I could tell. He had a really good deck that was heavy Black with two Cursed Ronin, Nezumi Shortfang, and Graverobber. Game 1 is really close, but he eventually wins with Graverobber and Cursed Ronin. Game 2 he gets a double Cursed Ronin draw along with Oathkeeper, Takeno’s Daisho. I knew I had to race him through the air and that’s exactly what I did. It gets to a point where I have to block both of his guys and I end up chumping with Ryusei to take one of his Cursed Ronins out. He thought he could move the equipment as an instant to save both of his guys. Sorry brah. I get the Blue Honden in play and draw Teller of Tales and Blue Zubera off of it. I eventually kill him with the Teller and another flyer in a close game. Game 3 Jason Mulligans and misses land drops, and I win easily.

Record: 8-2-1

I was satisfied how the draft turned out, as I won both of my matches after losing the first. I was disappointed that I didn’t 3-0 the pod though. I could, however, 3-0 my last pod though and still make top 8. The next pod I was in was a little more reasonable.

Michael Musser

Tamblyn, Mitchell

Parker, Brock

Pelcak, John

Thompson, Mike

Dalton, Kirk

Rohan, Sean

Aitchison, Michael

This draft went pretty well for me. I moved into White early and people around me stayed away from it. I did get a Thief of Hope late pack one and went into Black then. I was kind of forced into cutting Brock from Black. Sorry dude. I also got a Devouring Greed 15th pick this draft, which was nice. :B Here’s the list

1 Nagao, Bound by Honor

1 Eight-and-a-Half-Tails

1 Takeno, Samurai General

2 Mothrider Samurai

2 Kabuto Moth

1 Kami of Ancient Law

1 Devoted Retainer

1 Kami of Old Stone (Tbulge)

1 Indomitable Will

2 Blessed Breath

1 Kitsune Diviner

1 Cage of Hands

1 Samurai of the Pale Curtain

1 Reciprocate

1 Hideous Laughter

1 Cruel Deceiver

1 Devouring Greed

1 Nezumi Cutthroat

1 Scuttling Death

1 Thief of Hope

10 Plains

7 Swamp

I’m not sure if this is better than my first deck, but it sure had enough bombs to be. Nagao is better than any dragon in the set, hands down. It’s basically a 4/4 that pumps your samurais for four mana and it only costs one White to cast. I did manage to get the turn 4 Nagao, turn 6 Takeno draw. My opponent was real impressed with that one.

Round 12: Michael Musser

I’ve seen this name before, but couldn’t remember where. Michael was a good player and was playing a Blue/White deck that had infinite flyers. Literally infinite. If I ever drew my Infest (Hideous Laughter), he couldn’t possibly win. Game 1 I play a turn 4 Nagao and expect to win easy, but he plays a turn 5 Azami, Lady of Scrolls. I eventually lose to bounce and counterspells. Nice Deck! Game 2 I play Nagao again, but it gets bounced and he wins with flyers. He looked funny.

Record: 8-3-1

Round 13: Kirk Dalton

I don’t remember much from this round. All I know is that Kirk was playing Green/Black and destroyed me game 1. Game 2 I go turn 3 Moth, turn 4 Nagao, turn 6 Takeno and that was that. Game 3 I get another solid draw and win.

Record: 9-3-1

Round 14: Mitchell Tamblyn

Mitchell seemed to have a pretty weak R/G deck. The cards just weren’t there for him I guess. Game 3 he puts on the pressure early and I stall on four lands for a long time. I eventually get rid of an Order of the Sacred Bell with a Serpent Skin on it with Reciprocate. He has to use a Yamabushi’s Flame to get rid of my Kami of the Old Stone and I eventually stabilize with Takeno and Eight-and-a-Half-Tails then finish the game with a Devouring Greed for eight.

Final Record: 10-3-1, 16th

This GP was just sad. Just ask this guy


I was really hoping that I would get a slot for Nagoya there, but I came in 16th and the slot only went down to 10th. I can’t complain about top 16 though. Yeah, there wasn’t really a great turnout, but it was a fun weekend. It worked out for both Tamblyn and I, as he had no chance at top 16, but he still made money even after the loss. I feel that I actually had a good shot at top 8, but that will come another day.

I would have to say the best part about the Grand Prix was seeing Mitchell Tamblyn, Ken Krouner, and Phil Lapointe get kicked out of the site for throwing cards. The head judge came over and said “good night gentlemen” when it was really Aten doing all the card throwing. You’ll get caught eventually.

Things I learned from the weekend:

It doesn’t matter how good your deck is. I did a 3v3 after the GP with Gadiel and Miserd00d against team “2 + 2 = HOCKEY” (Zajdner + Paul Russell + TheReanimator). Yeah, I had the best deck of all time, containing 2 Consuming Vortex, 2 Kodama’s Might, Kodama of the South Tree, and splashed 2 Blind with Angers. Yeah, I discarded on turn 4 five times throughout the draft and didn’t play two solid games in a row. All of the bad luck I was supposed to get during the GP showed up late in the form of this draft. Gadiel managed to 3-0 the draft and still lose. Who gets 6 Frostwielders?

This format is all about tempo. Whoever gets the faster draw and can back it up is most likely going to win. Cards like Glacial Ray and Consuming Vortex are also very important. Returning Glacial Ray to your hand after casting it is just sick. If you read the above article, I spliced Ray and Revival onto a Kodama’s Might for a five-for-one or something crazy like that. After that point there was no chance I could have lost that game.

Top 5 Commons from each color: If I learned anything from the GP, its what order to draft the commons in. Although sometimes I can only learn from Magic Online, which ones are actually better.


1. Nezumi Cutthroat – This guy is absolutely absurd. No question in my mind that it should be number 1. It obviously weaker against black decks, but if you are playing against the blue white deck it can go all the way easily.

2. Befoul – Solid removal. It can always hit something, unlike the Rends. I don’t know if I’d ever hit a land with it, but I’m sure it would be fun Bauering the [email protected]#& outta people.

3. Wicked Akuba – In Blue/Black, this guy can be drafted over the Cutthroat if you have multiple Soratami Mirror-Guards. Gets in a ton of damage early and forces your opponent to trade with it.

4. Devouring Greed – It is possible that this could be higher up on the list, or lower, depending on the number of spirits in the deck. If you think this analysis is obvious, you are correct.

5. Rend Flesh – I’m still not sure which Rend better, but I’m pretty sure it’s this one. I might actually take Rend Spirit over this in a draft though, because my opponents are sure to have some kind of dragon spirit in their deck. Your results may vary.


1. Teller of Tales – There’s no doubt this guy is number one. His ability is insane and can break games open by himself. Not to mention he is a 3/3 flyer for five.

2. Consuming Vortex – Yea that’s right, I put Consuming Vortex over Mystic Restraints. Call me crazy and whatnot. The set is all about tempo and when Vortex is spliced, it’s usually hard to lose. This costs one Blue and Restraints is two. Stop putting this over Restraints in your lists people – this is better.

3. Mystic Restraints – I put this below Vortex because it is four mana and Vortex is two. Vortex can also be spliced and it can save a dragon from falling to rend spirit. This might be better in Rochester if there are multiple Frostwielders at the table.

4. Soratami Mirror-Guard – Four mana for a 3/1 flyer is solid, and his ability is too good to ignore. This guy can make the games that were impossible to race possible. Also insane with Akuba.

5. Soratami Rainshaper/Soratami Cloudskater/River Kaijin – I actually don’t know which one is better. The Kaijin can be crucial to some decks, but both Rainshaper and Cloudskater have insane late game abilities. I would probably put Big Skates over Rainshaper.


1. Order of the Sacred Bell – Green’s commons are probably the closest in power to each other, but four mana for a straight up 4/3 is very good. Backed up by bounce or removal this guy can end games quickly.

2. Kodama’s Might – This card is very good. Only one mana to cast and splice almost makes it better than the order, but you cant be creature light in this format. I had three of these in my sealed deck day 1 and they are the reason I made it to day 2. It turns your awful deck with bad creatures into a winnable deck.

3. Kodama’s Reach – Big Sigs says this one is awful, when in fact it’s actually good. Who would have guessed? I should get paid $400 per article or something. Anyway, this card is good and possibly a first pick if you picked up a splash. I like to take these early so I can take cards like Cage of Hands later.

4. Moss Kami – This is like the biggest creature in the set. It’s insane with Vortex and especially Kami of Fire’s Roar. Playing this guy turn 4 is ridiculous and you will win the game if he doesn’t go to the graveyard or get Caged.

5. Feral Deceiver – This guy doesn’t look like much, but when he hits a land on top, he turns into a monster. I’m starting to love this guy because there’s always land on top of my deck. Obviously.


1. Glacial Ray – This card is insane. In Blue/Red, it makes Eerie Procession playable just to search it out. It’s that good. If you ever get two of these in one deck lick the back of one and stick it to the other.

2. Yamabushi’s Flame – More good burn. I might take this over Glacial Ray, but only if it was last pack and I had zero arcane spells. It’s a good way to help get rid of dragons and gets around soulshift.

3. Kami of Fire’s Roar – This guy is probably the most underrated common in the set so far. I’ve had this guy in a couple of drafts already and he has never been bad for me. Either your opponent has to deal with him right away or they aren’t going to win.

4. Frostwielder – This card can straight up win you games against Black or Blue. It kills almost all of Blue’s flyers and Black isn’t short on one power dudes either. Very good in stalemates also, but four mana for a 1 / 2 pinger is kinda weak.

5. Ronin Houndmaster – Very good in aggressive decks. Deals a lot of damage early and it can trade with cards like Order of the Sacred Bell. I’m not sure if this is better or worse than Frostwielder yet.


White is a very difficult color to do a top 5 list for. I really depends on what deck you’re drafting and what it needs.

1. Kabuto Moth – This card is insane. Just having it in play sitting there screws everything up for your opponent. Even if you never activate it, it always impacts the game.

2. Cage of Hands – Another Pacifism and it’s probably the best one ever printed. Being able to return it to your hand is huge and it deals with problem cards for Blue/White like Nezumi Cutthroat.

3. Kitsune Blademaster – Not many cards have first strike in the set, which makes this card very good. It takes down practically any creature in the set and sometimes you can just sit back on it and win with flyers.

4. Indomitable Will – It’s hard to think that such a great card would be so far down on the list, but I would almost always rather have the creature or removal. This is a great trick, and even if you don’t have it, people play around it.

5. Kami of Ancient Law – A two-drop with an ability that actually gets used is quite good. It’s also very good against other White decks and it’s even a two-mana 2/2. This guy actually gets activated more than you think. He goes up on the list if you need two-drops for your deck.

Well that does it for the common review and this article. That was kind of half-assed, so read Tim Aten articles for more depth. His are way better than mine. By the way, nice mug shot, Gerry. Good work, also.

For the team season this year, look for :B (Gadiel, Tim and I) to be making a return in Chicago and then some concoction of me, Tim Aten, and Mitchell Tamblyn or something for the PT. It really is a shame that G$ had to chose the free agent market over Tim and I. I hope it works out for the both of us.

Final question: Has anyone else that has beaten Kai before been called a little cheating kid?

[email protected]

Ashkar on MODO