You Lika The Juice? – Your 2009 Richmond City Champ!

Read Bennie Smith every week... at StarCityGames.com!
Friday, September 18th – Are we having State Champs this year? According to the Twitter buzz from some folks at Wizards the answer is… maybe. For players like me, what I loosely call the “casually competitive” crowd, States was the highlight of the year. With Standard in massive flux from the rotation, it often felt like anything was possible… with the right mix of luck and new card technology, you could be champ.

Are we having State Champs this year? According to the Twitter buzz from some folks at Wizards the answer is… maybe. For players like me, what I loosely call the “casually competitive” crowd, States was the highlight of the year. With Standard in massive flux from the rotation, it often felt like anything was possible… with the right mix of luck and new card technology, you could be champ even with a couple of Pro players standing in your way. I should know, because it happened to me once, and I came pretty close a couple other times.

Then, almost inexplicably, Wizards came around and said that States was a “failure.” It wasn’t doing what they wanted it to do – namely, attracting more new players to Magic. Well, sure – but that wasn’t what States had traditionally been all about. States was an entity separate for what came to be known as “the Road to Worlds” — winning States didn’t qualify you for a bigger tournament down the road, unlike PTQs, Regionals, or a Grand Prix. As such, it didn’t tend to attract as many of the “sharks” of competitive Magic, those who are looking for a reason to play Magic other than to just have fun. Winning States got you a trophy, some product, and a big smile on your face. That’s it, but it was awesome anyway. It was a “big” tournament with crossover appeal between more competitive players and those who you only see at prerelease tournaments.

I was thrilled when Wizards actually expanded States, adding Limited and 2 Headed Giant to Constructed championship. If it weren’t for an untimely mistake and a friggin’ Hex, Josh & I woulda been the first Virginia 2HG Champs!

But the States program suddenly became a failure and was unceremoniously dumped and replaced by the City Champs program, rolled out to select cities in the pilot run. Oh, how I railed against that decision! It was the topic of at least a couple columns of rants.

Thankfully, Premier Tournament Organizers came to the rescue last year and revived State Champs from the ash-heap of “failure,” and the Magic community cheered. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for this year.

So what happened to the City Champs program? Another “failure?”

Late this summer, Tommy Donovan announced to his regulars that Richmond Comix and Time Capsule (another game shop in Chester, Virginia) would both be hosting Magic tournaments with a variety of formats throughout the month of August, where players accumulated points to qualify for a final big tournament. The Top 16 points earners would play 4 Swiss rounds of Standard, and the Top 8 would do an elimination round draft to crown the eventual Richmond “City Champ.” Here were the formats:

8/1 Richmond Comix M10 Booster Draft
8/2 The Time Capsule Standard
8/8 Richmond Comix Standard
8/9 The Time Capsule Alara Block Booster Draft
8/15 Richmond Comix Magic Game Day Standard with Booster Draft Top 8.
8/16 The Time Capsule Standard
8/22 Richmond Comix Elder Dragon Highlander
8/23 The Time Capsule M10 2HG
8/29 Richmond Comix Vintage 15 proxies are allowed.
8/30 The Time Capsule Type 2 Standard

9/5- Richmond Comix Top 16 Type 2 with a top 8 M10 Booster Draft – City Champs!

How cool was that? Unfortunately for me personally, August was the absolute worst possible month this year for playing Magic, and I was unable to attend any of these tournaments. However, I loved the idea and kept close tabs on the tournaments and the points leaders. And for the day of the City Champs, Tommy was kind enough to keep us updated on how things went on Facebook and Twitter.

I got together with Tommy to ask some questions about City Champs:

Q. Where did you get the idea for holding this sort of tournament?
In any community where there is a competitive nature and multiple venues there is going to be a “my dad can beat up your dad” type of mentality. This isn’t unique to Magic at all but I’m sure anyone who has played around Richmond can tell you everyone thinks the store they play in is “the best” place to play. This can be a good thing in that healthy competition leads to better players but it makes for a poor community. What I wanted to do was bring these different groups of gamers together and show everyone that we can all play together and have a good time. The competitive nature of the players is still there but what we’ve done is foster a sense of community that will hopefully lead to a better tournament scene and more active player base. The loss of a DCI sanctioned City Champs was honestly a bonus for us. Being able to call the series “City Champs” lent a sense of legitimacy that had people excited.

Q. How long did it take to pull it together?
The idea came together late one Friday in June during a game of Elder Dragon Highlander. We were discussing the lack of City Champs and how much we enjoyed playing different formats. By Monday I had a rough idea that would become the City Champs tournament series. In early July I contacted the other gaming shops in town where I knew Magic was played and then waited for a call back. After a couple of weeks I talked to Rick Ralston at The Time Capsule and he was excited about the idea so we got into the logistics. We announced the formats for the series around July 24th.

Q. How did you decide on the formats involved?
I wanted to have a different format every week. I knew that not everyone would be able to come to every tournament so I wanted to include variety so people could pick and choose which games they wanted to come to. Initially we were going to have a sealed event in the middle but I forgot about Magic Game Day. We scrapped the sealed and incorporated Game Day into the City Champs series, which worked out perfectly fine. Rick was a bit more conservative with the formats than we were.

Q. Do you think Wizards should bring back the “official” City Champs program, or do you prefer taking care of it locally?
The player in me says, “Bring back City Champs!” but the TO in me loved having this series as something special we could do for our players. It worked out so much better than I expected and everyone I’ve talked to say they had a great time. If WotC does bring back an official City Champs we will find another way to have another series in Richmond. We’ll have to call it something else of course but we had too much fun to not do it again.

Q. How was the turnout for the tournaments?
I honestly didn’t know what to expect as far as turnout. The whole series was put together so fast that we didn’t really have time to promote it properly and I was a bit worried. We averaged around 16 players for each event. The smallest turnout being 11 for the Elder Dragon Highlander and the largest being 30 for the sealed Two Headed Giant. We had nearly 70 different people come out to these tournaments, some of them driving two or three hours to get here.

Q. What did you like most about how it all went?
The feeling of community that I wanted to try and bring to Richmond is here! I met a ton of players who are regulars at Time Capsule and I know a lot of my players went down there for the first time during this series. An unforeseen bonus came in the form of a trio coming down from Northern VA to play in the Type 1 tournament kick starting a bi-monthly Vintage tournament. One of the things I didn’t expect was that actual Type 1 players would be interested in coming down just for that event even though they didn’t know anything about the City Champs series. It worked out great, and I look forward to seeing those guys in October.

Q. What did you like least?
I didn’t get to play! Sometimes it’s tough being the TO and watching everyone have such a good time. The only other real negative I found were the angry wives. Five weeks of Magic tournaments with a game on both Saturday and Sunday were a bit too much for a few people.

Q. Are you going to do this again? If so, will you be doing it the same or changing some things?
We absolutely will be doing this again! Even if WotC brings back City Champs we will call it something else and keep going. We had such a good time with this series that I can’t imagine why we wouldn’t do it again. We did learn a few valuable lessons that will make planning next year’s event even better. We will be starting in mid June and running ONE event a week until mid August alternating venues.

Q. Have you seen anything you really like from the Zendikar previews?
I’ve seen a bunch of stuff I like. Like you, I am an old Green player so I am a little disappointed there, but I’ve seen so many cards that have me excited for EDH. Angels and Angel killers, traps and full-art lands. There is a lot of stuff in this set that will see a lot of play in EDH. I don’t really play standard but I heard a rumor that some of these cards might be good for that too.

I want to once again say thank you to everyone who came out and played at Richmond Comix and The Time Capsule this summer. We had a great time and I hope you did too. Congratulations again to Andrew Geiss, Richmond City Champion!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Nathan Groves. At the end of the series he was standing alone at the top spot as the points leader. Unfortunately due to circumstances beyond his control, he couldn’t make it to the top 16. I feel like he needs a little recognition as the City Champs points leader.

I also caught up with our City Champ, Andrew Geiss. I was thrilled to hear he’d won Champs because I knew the love of rogue decks beats in his chest. Some of you may remember me highlighting his Ad Nauseam deck before the Seismic Assault/Swans deck took off. Even when he netdecks, they tend to be off the beaten path. I asked him to give us an overview on his experience with City Champs, and then presented him with some Q&A afterwards.

“I knew going into the tournament series I was going to have to leverage on the Limited events because my Standard skills have always sucked,” Andrew said. “Overall I went 10-2 over the course of 3 drafts during the tournament series, taking first, second, and first. In Constructed I went 7-5-1…and one of those wins was a bye! So I guess I was right that I would have to leverage on my drafting skills. I was 2 weeks behind when I found out about the series. I went to a Shards-Conflux-Reborn draft to start my series off and drafted a mediocre Naya deck…well, until I got to pack 2 and drafted 2 copies of Behemoth Sledge! That card just gets there. Unfortunately I don’t have that list anymore. That put me firmly at 5 points, and with 5 points I knew I would get into Top 16 if I just attended a few more events.

“The following week I went and played Standard with a Top 8 Draft. That’s my style of tourney! I took a rogue-style deck based around a PTQ list that I had come across, and figured I could pull a 3-2 with it and then again let my draft skills shine. I saw this PTQ list and played the same main deck but changed the sideboard slightly. I always loved Primalcrux. I had played a similar style deck with Impromptu Raid and Dramatic Entrance and really liked it, so when I came across this it was perfect. I don’t remember what was in my sideboard although I remember gaining 48 life off a Phosphorescent Feast against a mono red deck in one game.” (That would be Adrian Sullivan Ivan Drago — Bennie)

4 Cloudthresher
4 Spellbreaker Behemoth
4 Primalcrux
4 Oversoul of Dusk
4 Kitchen Finks
4 Rampant Growth
4 Fertile Ground
4 Firespout
3 Volcanic Fallout
2 Garruk Wildspeaker
4 Rootbound Crag
4 Mosswort Bridge
4 Fire-Lit Thicket
2 Reflecting Pool
8 Forest
1 Mountain

“I went 3-2 just like I had planned to make the Top 8 for that draft. I don’t have that list, but I drafted a Green/White monstrosity. It was ridiculously consistent. I had 4 Borderland Rangers and 3 Divine Verdict, a pair of Razorfoot Griffins, Armored Ascension, and some other solid beaters. Overall it was a very solid build that took me easily into the finals of the draft, where I lost to Rooks who had a Black/White build with multiple Dread Warlocks and Royal Assassin. Those cards are not good news for a Green/White deck. Royal Assassin pretty much says “good game, you lose.” I had no answer for it at all. Anyway, at this point I had 8 points and was already in Top 16 as a lock.

“The next event I played in was a 2HG tournament with Will Haas. Both of our decks were pretty mediocre and we just didn’t get there. During that two-week period, I was brewing up a Vintage deck. I had never played Vintage, but I wanted to. I went to the forums and Menendian articles to search out a budget build and came up with a Suicide Black-style deck. I’ve always loved Mono Black, so that’s what I drew up.”

4 Chalice Of The Void
1 Lotus Petal
3 Null Rod
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Jet
4 Dark Confidant
3 Phyrexian Negator
1 Necropotence
4 Bitterblossom
4 Dark Ritual
1 Demonic Consultation
2 Diabolic Edict
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Imperial Seal
1 Demonic Tutor
3 Duress
1 Tendrils Of Agony
3 Thoughtseize
3 Hymn to Tourach
1 Yawgmoth’s Will
13 Swamp
1 Strip Mine
4 Wasteland

2 Massacre
4 Leyline Of The Void
2 Extirpate
2 Smother
1 Slaughter Pact
1 Thoughtseize
1 Hymn to Tourach
1 Pithing Needle
1 Darkblast

“The deck turned out to be extremely complex to play, but I feel like I did well to go 2-2 with it. I ended up getting paired against 3 beatdown decks. Had I got paired up with some of the combo decks in the room my chances would’ve been a lot better but it was very fun to play. Vintage is not all turn 1 kills. Some of my games lasted as long as Standard games I’ve played. I really enjoyed it! (Vintage fans—Richmond Comix is going to resume regular Vintage tournaments every other month or so! — Bennie)

“At this point I was qualified for City Champs, and I didn’t actually go to much else. I knew I had to netdeck for the actual City Champs. I needed a 2-2 record to get through to the draft. I knew my chances were good once I got the draft, as that is my strength so I had to pick a deck that was proven to be good and I knew I could pilot to a 2-2. I love rogue decks but it turns out not many that I build are actually good! I’m just not Michael Rooks yet with the whole rogue deck building. I built a spicy Black/White deck from some dude from German Nationals and played around with it online a lot, but I knew I need a backup plan so I brought 2 deck lists for City Champs.

4 Arcane Sanctum
4 Fetid Heath
4 Plains
4 Reflecting Pool
8 Swamp
4 Baneslayer Angel
4 Kitchen Finks
3 Stillmoon Cavalier
3 Tidehollow Sculler
2 Duress
2 Memory Plunder
2 Mind Shatter
2 Shriekmaw
4 Path to Exile
2 Profane Command
4 Sign in Blood
4 Thoughtseize

2 Celestial Purge
4 Infest
1 Memory Plunder
2 Puppeteer Clique
3 Scepter of Fugue
3 Wall of Reverence

I still think Thoughtseize and Duress are two of the best cards in the format not seeing any play right now, and it saddened me so I liked this list a lot. I had just invested in 4 Baneslayer Angels and wanted to play with them. This deck works very similar to the Blue/White Baneslayer deck except you are protecting her with discard effects rather than Glen Elendra. Since I had this built I knew it would be very easy to port over to Blue/White, since I had all the cards.

3 Glacial Fortress
8 Island
4 Mystic Gate
6 Plains
4 Baneslayer Angel
4 Glen Elendra Archmage
4 Knight of the White Orchid
4 Kitchen Finks
4 Mulldrifter
1 Reveillark
3 Vendilion Clique
3 Broken Ambitions
4 Cryptic Command
4 Fieldmist Borderpost
4 Path to Exile

4 Sower of Temptation
2 Jace Beleren
3 Essence Scatter
1 Pithing Needle
3 Plumeveil
2 Negate

“Yep… that’s a netdeck courtesy of LSV. I even printed his sideboarding strategy. I had every intention of playing the Black/White deck, but when I got the tourney I saw 3 Time Sieve decks! I had not tested that matchup with the Black/White deck, but I knew the Blue/White version was very good against it. I also saw a lot of people playing the Blue/White deck themselves and I felt confident playing the mirror, so that’s what I played. I beat Time Sieve played by Emerson, the mirror played by Roger, lost to Rooks (like everyone does) playing his sick Black/White Liege deck… and then drew with Jess to get to the Top 8 Draft.

“Once again I was stoked to get to the draft. There were a lot of good drafters but I still felt confident; I’ve drafted a ton of M10. After a first pick Garruk and second pick Tendrils I was in my favorite color combination of Green/Black. Ripped open my second pack and saw a foil Xathrid Demon and Royal Assassin staring back at me, and I knew my chances were looking real good. Below is what I ended up with.”

7 Forest
10 Swamp
1 Dread Warlock
1 Diabolic Tutor
1 Doom Blade
2 Stampeding Rhino
2 Tendrils of Corruption
2 Giant Spider
1 Wall of Bone
1 Royal Assassin
2 Looming Shade
1 Garruk Wildspeaker
1 Gravedigger
1 Centaur Courser
1 Craw Wurm
1 Howling Banshee
1 Sign in Blood
2 Rampant Growth
1 Mind Rot
1 Deadly Recluse

Notable SB:
1 Weakness
1 Naturalize
1 Nature’s Spiral
1 Diabolic Tutor
1 Disentomb
1 Emerald Oryx

“I’d love to ask your readers what they would’ve taken second pack, first pick – Xathrid Demon or Royal Assassin? It was an extremely tough pick for me, but I went with the Assassin.

“My curve is actually a little rough in this deck. Lots of four drops but I drew like a pro through the three rounds of draft and simply got there. There were some monster decks! I saw a Blue/Black deck featuring Xathrid Demon and 2 Djinn of Wishes. Rooks’ Red/Green deck was absurd too, as he had something like 4 Seismic Strikes, Lightning Bolt, 2 Pyroclasm, Capricious Efreet, and Shivan Dragon.”

Q. First, some bio stuff: Age, where are you from, where did you go to school, married, kids, job?
“I’m 25 and got married a year ago. My wife and I moved out to VA about two years ago from CA. My wife was born in Cotija, Mexico and I was born in California. I have two associate degrees in Computer Information Technology and Electronics Technology and I’m working on my Bachelors. I currently work as a Systems Admin up at Fort Lee. No kids yet, but they are in the future.”

Q. How/When did you start playing Magic?
“My cousin showed me how to play the game when I was young and I’m not sure it was much past Arabian Nights at the time. I remember he had some sick Necro Ivory Tower deck, and he handed me some Black deck filled with rats and the ugliest woman I’ve ever seen, Hasran Ogress. I didn’t win any games and didn’t really understand what was going on. I started really playing online during Mirrodin Block, met a guy named Brad Stonesifer (Slobad_GoblinStinker) who’s helped me tremendously online, and got me hooked on drafts/leagues/sealed but I never played Constructed. I quit when Kamigawa came around, because I thought that set was dumb. Then I started back up in Coldsnap where I forced White every time and took as many Ripple Soldiers and Kjeldoran War Cries as I could get my hands on. I played online and got my rating up to about 1650 and thought I was pretty hot stuff, so that’s when I showed up at Time Capsule for my first real-life event. Oddly enough I drafted some sick Faerie deck and ended up splitting the finals with Ben Banbury-Hamm. I played my first competitive Standard tournament about a year ago at Richmond Comix. I built a Mono Black Control deck for the City Champs back then, and had a Mutavault stolen which kind of ruined my day, but the good news is I won the tournament and got over it since Frank Miller, the ever so gracious owner at Richmond Comix, replaced it for me. I guess it was one of those valuable lessons we all learn at some point…keep your stuff close to you.” (Frank is awesome — Bennie)

Q. What would you put on your “Magic resume”…?
“Honestly, it’s not too hot. The only thing I’ve done is go 6-2-1 at the GP in Atlanta. That was my first and only GP thus far. I beat Michael Jacob in the 3rd round because I top decked a Rafiq…and then a Hell’s Thunder to bash for 10 unexpected points of damage. Yes, both of those cards were in my deck, and yes that’s 4 colors folks. I did beat Rooks with my Goldenglow Moth deck…I call that an achievement since I win about 1 out of 10 games against that guy.”

Q. How would you describe yourself as a Magic player?
“I’m friendly for the most part. I absolutely can’t stand cheating/shady play. I played the first 4 years of my Magic career on Magic Online, where cheating really doesn’t happen. I’m pretty sure people cheat on me still… I just don’t get it at all. Drawing extra cards, untapping lands by dragging your arm downward, playing extra lands per turn, etc. If you cheat, you’re scum! I try to be friendly. I try not to bring anything too serious to FNM, and I absolutely love helping new players build sealed pools. I also don’t mind lending cards to people to help them out. This game is expensive, and it helps a lot to have a network of friends to share with. I can be pretty opinionated at times, but I think most would describe me as a pretty okay guy.”

Q. How did you hear about the Richmond City Champs?
“I actually heard about it through Rick Ralston. I manage his website and he brought it to my attention that I need to update it. Daniel Sale also told me about it. I was pretty excited about it because it was mixed formats, and I felt like I had a shot at winning it.”

Q. What are you going to miss most in Standard once everything rotates?
“I’m gonna miss one card and one card only. Are you ready for this? Goldenglow Moth. Yeah, go ahead and click it, folks! I had an Ad Nauseam deck that I played this little fellow in, and it was one of my favorite decks. Oddly enough I gave up on it too soon and failed to see how Cascade could make it so good. Wouldn’t you know it, PV and all these other pros would turn the idea I had into a winning deck. Guess this is why I ain’t pro yet.” (If you’re curious, you can see Andrew’s decklist at the bottom of this column — Bennie)

Q. What are you going to miss least?
“Cryptic Command, Cryptic Command, and Cryptic Command. I’ve played the card, I have four. The card’s good, but I’m so frickin’ sick and tired of playing against and around the card. This is the one and only reason I get excited when I play Michael Rooks. I know my chances are about 10% against him, but I also know he doesn’t play Cryptic Command and it excites me every time!”

Q. Of the cards spoiled so far, what has you most excited about Zendikar?
“I didn’t play Extended and I wasn’t around for Onslaught, so I’ve never played with Fetchlands. Everyone seems to like these but I don’t because they’re expensive and when I have to explain to my wife that I need about $300 for lands it doesn’t go over real well. I’ve always been a huge fan of Mono Black. I really like Gatekeeper of Malakir, what a great uncommon! I like the Black planeswalker – I think all the effects on that card are insane, and the ultimate to me is very cool. I think Plated Geopede is a card that not enough people are talking about. I think that card is insane.

“I’m also excited about drafting this set. I can’t stand M10. I’ve done okay in it, but I hate it. The packs are so swingy. You’ll get a pack with 8 solid playables and then in the next pack your top pick will be a Silvercoat Lion. It’s such a strange set. The colors feel so unbalanced to me.”

Q. What’s your favorite Magic card of all time?
“I must say I have fallen in love with this textless Mycoid Shepherd that I won. He’ll be coming this Friday to FNM, so expect him to see him there in his full delicious fungus-like self!”

Thanks for the interview Andrew, and special thanks to Tommy Donovan and Rick Ralston for putting together such a fun series! I’m hoping next year I’ll be able to participate, and here’s hoping you inspire game shops in other cities to try something similar if they haven’t already.

So that’s it for this week. I’ll be up at Richmond Comix for FNM tonight, so join me next week as I touch on Standard, EDH and of course more Zendikar!

Take care!


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com