Day 1 Coverage

Posted in Event Coverage on September 13, 2008

By Wizards of the Coast


  • by Rich Hagon
    Podcast: Saturday, September 13th, 18:30 p.m.
    The Cut
  • by David Sutcliffe
    Feature Match Round 9
    Emanuele Canavesi (ITA) vs Luis Scott-Vargas (USA)
  • by Tobias Henke
    Feature Match Round 9
    Paul Cheon vs. Matthias Künzler
  • by Rich Hagon
    Podcast: Saturday, September 13th, 17:25 p.m.
    All at Sixes and Sevens
  • by David Sutcliffe
    Feature Match Round 7
    Marco Cammilluzzi (ITA) vs. Joel Calafell (ESP)
  • by Tobias Henke
    Feature Match Round 6
    Morgane Kelterbaum vs. Olivier Ruel
  • by Tobias Henke
    Feature Match Round 5
    Guillaume Wafo-Tapa (FRA) vs. Luis Scott-Vargas (USA)
  • by David Sutcliffe
    Blog: Saturday, September 13th, 4:37 p.m.
    Sideboarding Fae-lure
  • by Rich Hagon
    Podcast: Saturday, September 13th, 15:25 p.m.
  • by David Sutcliffe
    Blog: Saturday, September 13th, 2:24 p.m.
    Standard Block Constructed
  • by Tobias Henke
    Feature Match: Round 4
    Arnost Zidek vs. Antoine Ruel
  • by David Sutcliffe
    Blog: Saturday, September 13th, 1:14 p.m.
    The Home Team
  • by Rich Hagon
    Podcast: Saturday, September 13th, 12:45 p.m.
    From Door To Door
  • by David Sutcliffe
    Blog: Saturday, September 13th, 12:32 p.m.
    Holy Oli Famer, Batman!
  • by Tobias Henke
    Blog: Saturday, September 13th, 12:10 p.m.
    Last-minute Trading
  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Info: Day 1 Country Breakdown
  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Info: Fact Sheet

Blog: Saturday, September 13th, 12:10 p.m. -- Last-minute Trading

by Tobias Henke

Some trading traders.The minutes before the start of a Grand Prix always see players scrabble about for the last missing cards from their decks. There's frantic trading, borrowing from friends, and of course with hundreds of players in one room, many of them show up at the official dealers' booths.

The single best-selling card on this weekend, apparently would have been Stillmoon Cavalier. Alas, this monster of a pump knight is sold out completely, as more recently we've seen the card enter the sideboards of Faerie and Kithkin decks, and sometimes even replacing some Kithkin in maindecks.

Much less so but still in big demand are Fire-Lit Thicket and Flooded Grove, Runed Halo and Hallowed Burial, all of them of course included in the multicolor madness that is Quick' n Toast. This deck is also responsibly for the surging popularity of the format's premíer uncommons: Kitchen Finks and Firespout.

One trader, however, was quite surprised about the lack of demand for one particular card. “Mutavault! No one asked for it.” Perhaps that is the upcoming Shards of Alara block at work already. With one multicolor block followed directly by another, the once coveted Vault might not fit into the manabases of newer creations.

Blog: Saturday, September 13th, 12:32 p.m. – Holy Oli Famer, Batman!

by David Sutcliffe

During the calm that three byes brings to the best players in the world, I tracked down the legendary French player, and brand new Hall of Famer, Olivier Ruel, to talk about fame, stress, and Shards of Alara.

The Hall of Fame's Olivier Ruel.So, first thing's first – congratulations on making it into the Hall of Fame!

Thank you! Being in the Hall of Fame is something that I've wanted really badly all along. When the Hall was first announced several years ago the first thing I did was find my name and work out what date I would be eligible for the ballot – I had to wait four years. In practical terms being in the Hall doesn't mean much because I was probably going to be at all the Pro Tours anyway, but it's much more than that and the recognition is a great feeling. I've committed my time and my life to this game for 15 years and to now be voted into the Hall of Fame... it feels like I've really become a part of the game

Not everybody wanted you to be there, though.

No, and having a debate about my eligibility was great. I feel I should be in the Hall of Fame because in the five areas that were mentioned – Integrity, Sportsmanship, Success, Playing Ability and Contribution – I've done really well in four of them. Obviously having been suspended isn't great for Integrity and I totally understand why some people didn't want to vote for me. But I've been suspended and come back. I paid my debt and I already have to live with the fact some people view me with suspicion. I thought the debate was really good, but I'm glad I made it in.

Moving on, you're sitting second in the Player of the Year race.

*Olivier grins*

Do you know how many points there are for the team portion of Worlds? No? I need to find out. Shuuhei is way out in front and if he makes it onto the Japanese team for Worlds I think he will win. Even if he doesn't I probably have to make a Pro Tour Top-8 because he is going to be at more Grand Prix than me.

And of course, you really benefited from coming second at French Nationals.

That was really important. Nationals this year was more important to me than in other years, and then I started badly and all the way through Nationals I was thinking only about making Top-16 and getting just one or two Pro points. When I found out I was in the Top-8... and then making it onto the team so that I can pick up more Pro points at Worlds!

*Olivier shakes his head*

You know, my semi-final in Nationals was probably the most stressful match I've played for a long time. When you make the Top-8 of a Pro Tour then your job is pretty much done because you already have money and Pro points, so if you lose the Quarter Final you aren't too worried. But in Nationals losing in the Quarter Final is almost as bad as going 0-4 and dropping out. And the Semi, with a slot on the Worlds team at stake, that was the most pressure I've been under for a long time.

This weekend then. I spoke to you at Grand Prix-Birmingham and you were playing Faeries.

Yeah, I hadn't done much testing and just ‘ported over my standard deck. This weekend as well I still haven't tested much. Guillame Wafo-Tapa told me I should play his deck (Quick N Toast), and so I am. It's a typical Wafo-Tapa deck, you know - Mind Spring and that - and I love the archetype. The only testing I've done is online, against Faeries? I know the Faeries matchup really well from Standard as well... anything else I'm not so sure about!

Best card this weekend?

Cryptic Command. Ah no, that's a boring answer. I hope it's Jace Beleren. He's in my sideboard, so I hope he turns out to be the best card!

And looking forwards, have you seen anything you like in Shards of Alara?

I've seen something I don't like, and that's my brother Antoine's Invitational card. It hasn't been spoiled yet so I can't tell you about it, but it's going to be used with a card from Eventide and it's just... *Olivier makes a face* doesn't feel like an Invitational card, it's not a Meddling Mage or an Avalanche Riders. It would be a shame if it turns out to be the last Invitational card – the Invitational was a great event and I hope it comes back next year.

And finally, what's your favourite song right now?

Song? Hmmm... Give Up, by CSS.

Podcast: Saturday, September 13th, 12:45 p.m. – From Door to Door

by Rich Hagon

In this first show from Grand Prix: Rimini, we begin a long way away in my home in rainy England. From there we journey using cars, trains, planes, buses, taxis and even (gasp) a little walking, before arriving in this attractive Italian venue. Then it's on to the tournament center, with plenty of big stars looking to generate Pro Points, including an American raiding party of massive strength. More soon!

Click Here to Download

Blog: Saturday, September 13th, 1:14 p.m. – The Home Team

by David Sutcliffe

Italian Magic is definitely in an upswing right now, and there is quality in depth among the players. Mario Pascoli is sitting in 7th place in the Player of the Year race, William Cavalgieri has backed up his win at a hard-fought Italian Nationals by making the Top 8 of Grand Prix-Copenhagen, and coming up right behind are players like David Besso and Patrizio Golia, and it's not yet 12 months since Giulio Barra was in the semi-final of Pro Tour Valencia.

Perhaps the reason for this resurgence is that they are starting off young, and they don't come much younger than little Kristian Menta, only 8 years old, who is sat just a few tables away from his father, Markus. It's perhaps fitting that Kristian is at the head of a Kithkin army and he obviously knows his stuff. Despite having to sit cross-legged in his chair to be able to see onto the table he has taken a 1-0 lead against his third round opponent Ludovic Dorle, and is looking to move up to a 2-1 record. Kristian has quickly built up a legion of fans that includes Pat Chapin, who has been calling in to see how he gets on. Go, go, Team Kithkin!

Eight Year Old Kithkin Master, Kristian Menta

Feature Match: Round 4 – Arnost Zidek vs. Antoine Ruel

by Tobias Henke

After three byes the pros start entering the fray. This round Frenchmen Antoine Ruel sat across from Czech player Arnost Zidek, Zidek being with Faeries and Ruel... well, Ruel started the action with a triplet of Raven's Crime, two copies from his opening hand, supplemented by a discarded Mutavault. This surely was unexpectedm not least of all for his opponent who had to take some time to decide on what to keep. His second-turn Bitterblossom sure was among thos...

After his start of Swamp and Reflecting Pool, Ruel now put down an Island to reveal himself to be playing blue-black as well. On turn 4 he went for Sower of Temptation, but Zidek had Scion of Oona in response to the Sower's triggered ability.

However, two turns later an evoked Shriekmaw from the French got rid of the Scion, but one threat was soon replaced by another, when Zidek dropped Stillmoon Cavalier. Along with the flowing stream of tokens from his Bitterblossom, Zidek was definitely way ahead in the developing of his board. Ruel had to do something: Sower of Temptation attacked, then was killed by Ruel's own Shriekmaw, only to be reanimated via Makeshift Mannequin. That took care of the Stillmoon Cavalier...

Unfortunately not for long. Zidek soon had his own Sower of Temptation which killed the opposing Sower thanks to its Mannequin counters. Soon after, Ruel succumbed to the flying beats of tokens and the quite dominating Stillmoon Cavalier.

Zidek 1 – 0 Ruel

“I hate Bitterblossom,” Ruel grumbled, to which Zidek simply shrugged and replied, “I expect everyone does.”

Olivier Ruel strategizes...Game 2 started with Ruel attacking on turn 2 and 3 with his double-Mutavault draw, while Zidek once again had the dreaded enchantment on his second turn. Ruel followed up on his early offense with Soul Snuffers, but Zidek instantly had Nameless Inversion for it.

From then on Ruel was in and out – out of steam but seriously in trouble. While on the other side 1/1 tokens amassed again, he could only sit and pass turn after turn...

Finally a Mulldrifter brought him back into the game. First he found Makeshift Mannequin (targetting Soul Snuffers) which was countered, and then a second copy of the Snuffers made it into play. Next, Sower of Temptation showed up on Ruel's side and along with more Mutavault beats as well as his own ticking Bitterbomb Zidek suddenly found himself on three life before he could stabilize.

At this point Ruel only had one Sower of Temptation in play...

“Tap your guys,” the Frenchmen commanded via Cryptic Command. Zidek responded with his own Cryptic Command... But Ruel simply flashed Negate and that was the end of game 2.

Zidek 1 – 1 Ruel

Zidek boarded some more, taking out all of his Stillmoon Cavaliers. Apparantly, when Soul Snuffers show up on the opposing side of the board, that card is not quite as good anymore.

But on to the deciding game. Time was running low, both shuffled up in a hurry, and started quickly. Ruel, going first, had the first play: Thoughtseize, played on his second turn instead of his first to improve his chances of hitting Bitterblossom. He missed. “No turn-2 Bitterblossom this time?” “Oh, it's up here,” Zidek retorted and pointed to the top of his deck. And indeed, there it was! As we've seen before: a blue-black deck without Bitterblossom has got a real hard time competing against a blue-black deck with Bitterblossom...

.. but Zidek takes out a champ!This time was no different. Ruel was under constant pressure as Zidek followed up on his Bitterblossom with Scion of Oona, Mistbind Clique, and Spellstutter Sprite. Ruel could only shake his head at the near-perfect Faerie draw presented to him... Especially, since none of the cards mentioned were in the Czech player's hand, when it had been revealed to Thoughtseize at the beginning of the game.

“I'm sorry,” Zidek said, as Ruel reached over for the handshake of concession. And then as he shuffled up his cards, he recited the age-old mantra of Magic players everywhere: “Better be lucky than good.”

Zidek 2 – 1 Ruel

Blog: Saturday, September 13th, 2:24 p.m. – Standard Block Constructed

by David Sutcliffe

One of the most striking things about this Block Constructed season has been how closely it has mirrored the goings on in the Standard format. Of course there will always be some crossover between the two formats but it has rarely (if ever) been more marked. The cards from Lorwyn/Shadowmoor block have so completely influenced the Standard metagame that pretty much any Standard deck you can think of is playable in Block with just a minor bit of tweaking. This was true as we started the season in Birmingham, as players rolled up right after Pro Tour-Hollywood with almost the exact same decks they had played the weekend before, and it seems to have only got more pronounced.

Quiz: Is this a game of Standard or Block Constructed?We always had the Faeries deck, we always had the Quick N Toast-style five colour control decks, and we always had Kithkin. But joining those at the top of Block Constructed are Doran, Elves, Fish, RB Torrent of Souls, and perhaps most surprisingly considering how much they draw on Time Spiral block cards in Standard, Red Deck Wins and Reveillark both performed well at the recent 5k Starcity Games event in Boston.

As Round Four got underway, and the best players in the world entered the fray for the first time, it was an ideal opportunity to take a look at the decks on the top tables and get an early read on what the metagame for this event will be. It is, as you would expect, dominated by the three main decks Kithkin, Faeries, and Quick N Toast – probably each of those decks constitutes 25% of the field on the top tables, but the remaining 25% is a flourishing array of decks that suggests this format is a long way from being stale and predictable – multicoloured Fish decks, both white and green, Reveillark and Doran, and a surprise card that has turned up in huge numbers is Soul Snuffers, which has crept into a few different decks as a great answer to all the token generators in the format.

Now, if you're sitting at home reading the coverage and wondering why you would care what decks are being played in the last big tournament of a Block Constructed season I put it to you that what you're actually looking at are the decklists that will define the Standard metagame in just a few weeks when we wave goodbye to the largest card pool there has ever been in Standard, and usher in the smallest. It's a theme I'll return to in a future blog, but for now I'll leave you to think about just how much the decks you're going to see in action this weekend will be the decks you're playing in Standard in a month's time.

Podcast: Saturday, September 13th, 15:25 p.m. – 125

by Rich Hagon

Five rounds are in the books here in Rimini, and it's time to see if the testing has paid off for the Pros in search of Points as we start the downhill run to Worlds in Memphis. Cheon, Scott-Vargas, Bucher, Wafo-Tapa, Levy, Ruel...who will get their campaign off to a winning start?

Click Here to Download

Blog: Saturday September 13th, 4:37 p.m. – Sideboarding Fae-lure

by David Sutcliffe

Just a quick one, this, from my touring the tournament floor. We've all been in situations where you sideboard in a ton of cards and they just sink to the bottom of your deck like a stone and you crash out in the second and third games without seeing them. Well spare a thought for Andre Mueller's opponent in the sixth round here today, Ondrej Bures. Playing Kithkin against Mueller's Faeries six of the seven cards he drew were sideboard cards, and he still lost! He managed to draw double Moonglove Extract, double Wispmare, and double Oversoul of Dusk but it wasn't enough, to the disbelief of both players.

But that's Faeries for you – it's pretty much never worse than 40/60 in any given matchup because so many of it's spells just don't care what it plays against. Spellstutter Sprite will still counter Wispmare, Mistbind Clique will still tap out your lands to stop you casting Oversoul of Dusk, and then when you finally force one into play a Cryptic Command will still tap your Protection from Blue and Black creature down and allow the Mistbind Clique to swing away for the win.

Feature Match: Round 5 – Guillaume Wafo-Tapa (FRA) vs. Luis Scott-Vargas (USA)

by Tobias Henke

Luis Scott VargasThe arrival of top American players at a European Grand Prix is big news as it signals that things are getting to the sharp end of the year – it also means that some feature matches just pick themselves. This is one such matchup, between two true heavyweights of the game each playing their own variations on the five colour control deck commonly know as Quick n Toast. It`s a deck that the quiet French genius, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, is a noted expert of in both Standard and Block Constructed, but here he faced one of his toughest matches against the uber-experienced Scott-Vargas.

Both players began in true mirrormatch style by sharing the same spells. Each ran their Kitchen Finks into each other over a couple of turns to gain life, and they were evenly matched on card drawing as well with both players getting two Mulldrifters into play before trading them off in combat. It took seven or eight turns for an edge to really appear; to hold off a Kitchen Finks that had Persisted after being killed by Nameless Inversion, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa played Sprinjack Pasture. But in response to his first tapping out to produce a Goat token Scott-Vargas dropped a Cloudthresher into play with Flash. While the Cloudthresher would be frustrated each turn by a Goat token it meant Wafo-Tapa would be forced to commit mana each turn to the Pasture – a key concern.

Scott-Vargas took another lead in the control deck Cold War with an Oona`s Grace, and started using the Retrace ability to cycle away his unwanted lands for business cards. Control matchups are often about accruing small edges, and with the Cloudthresher and Oona`s Grace Scott-Vargas had taken a key lead even though the life totals didn`t reflect this. Scott-Vargas attempted a Makeshift Mannequin onto a Mulldrifter, but this was Cryptic Commanded – a result he was no doubt happy to see, and Wafo-Tapa`s lifetotal continued to dwindle to 12 as each turn he sacrificed his Goat to the Cloudthresher but took 2 from the Kitchen Finks that was still running around causing mayhem.

The Frenchman finally responded with a Kitchen Finks of his own that would again stall the board and save his lifetotal, but Scott-Vargas had another end-of-turn Cloudthresher to ask yet more questions. It was now two Cloudthreshers against only one Goat and that meant it was time for Wafo-Tapa to hit the reset switch - he sank five mana into a Hallowed Burial, and backed it up with a Broken Ambitions on Scott-Vargas` Cryptic Command. The Burial resolved, but any respite was brief and at the end of the Frenchman`s turn a third American Cloudthresher hit play, romped in for 7 damage, and a turn later it was all over.

Guillaume Wafo-Tapa 0 – 1 Luis Scott-Vargas

Guillaume Wafo-TapaSideboard tech began the second for Luis Scott-Vargas – a turn 2 Vexing Shusher was followed up with a Kitchen Finks, but they struggled to make immediate headway against Wafo-Tapa`s pair of Kitchen Finks. Nevertheless, Luis Scott-Vargas seemed committed to attempting to out-tempo the Frenchman and used a Cryptic Command to bounce a Finks, then using a second Command to counter a Cloudthresher that was flashed in to block the Shusher. Finally, after much ado but very little actual damage, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa resolved a Shriekmaw and sent the Vexing Shusher away, clearing the American`s board.

The Frenchman attempted to capitalise on the fact his opponent had used two of his Cryptic Commands in a failed bid to gain a tempo win by casting a Mind Spring but Scott-Vargas had sideboarded in Negate as well as the Shushers, and countered the killer draw spell. Undaunted, Wafo-Tapa followed up his Shriekmaw with a Kitchen Finks and went on the offense, quickly eating away at Scott-Vargas` lifetotal...down to 12... to 9... now to 6. On the ropes, and facing down a 3/2 Fear creature he couldn`t block, Luis Scott-Vargas began to dig for answers by throwing two Mulldrifters into play with a Kitchen Finks to bolster his lifetotal. Wafo-Tapa matched his opponent with two Mulldrifters of his own, then simply returned to his Shriekmaw strategy, taking Scott-Vargas back to 5 life.

There was no doubt now that Scott-Vargas was really under pressure. He cast a Mulldrifter to draw further but had to fend off a Mannequin to Wafo-Tapa`s Cloudtresher with a third of Cryptic Commands, also choosing to put the Shriekmaw back in hand to buy crucial turns and draw steps. Unfortunately for the American it wasn`t the Shriekmaw that returned to play on Wafo-Tapa`s next turn, however, but Oona, Queen of the Fae! Luis Scott-Vargas was stranded high and dry, all out of answers, and Oona flooded the board with her Faerie kin to level the match!

Guillaume Wafo-Tapa 1-1 Luis Scott-Vargas

Oof, oof, Ouphe! Kitchen Finks for LSV, Kitchen Finks for GWT, a second Kitchen Finks for LSV. For the first time in the match one of the players missed the opportunity to trade creatures like-for-like when Luis Scott-Vargas chose not to attack, and it appeared as though Wafo-Tapa had taken an early lead when he evoked a Mulldrifter to get ahead on cards. But tapping out for the Mulldrifter allowed Scott-Vargas to throw down a River Kelpie and that changed everything - his Kitchen Finks were now going to give him cards if they traded with Wafo-Tapa`s blockers, and that was why he hadn`t offered any combat trades the turn before. Unwilling to block and give his opponent cards, Wafo-Tapa`s lifetotal plummeted to 10. A Shriekmaw killed off the nasty River Kelpie for a first time, but Scott-Vargas answered with a Shriekmaw of his own to maintain the aggressive pressure, shrinking the French Finks to a 2/1 but boosting Wafo-Tapa to 12 life.

Wafo-Tapa was on the back foot, he tried to summon a Cloudthresher to block but knew it would be counted, this time by a Broken Ambitions, and took another 6 damage, dropping to 6. Finally Scott-Vargas played a Mulldrifer, tapping himself out. It seemed the opportunity that Wafo-Tapa needed to resolve his Hallowed Burial, but Wafo-Tapa didn`t have it in hand could only buy a turn with Cryptic Command to tap Scott-Vargas` creatures.

Luis Scott-Vargas played a Jace to give himself even more card advantage - he now lead 6 cards in hand to 3, but he would have to wait to finish the match as Wafo-Tapa pulled up another Finks, and used another Cryptic Command to tap creatures for a second turn. Finally, in sheer desperation, Wafo-Tapa played a Mind Spring for 7 and Scott-Vargas responded with a Cloudthresher - winning the match to a resigned shrug from his opponent.

Guillaume Wafo-Tapa 1 – 2 Luis Scott-Vargas

Feature Match: Round 6 – Morgane Kelterbaum vs. Olivier Ruel

by Tobias Henke

Morgane KelterbaumThese two French players are still undefeated, though each one has a draw. The game started with some joking between the two friends... and then was interrupted when a judge came over for a deck check. After a rather long time he came back with the decks and a warning for both of them, along with the admonition to always take care of the state of your sleeves.

Olivier won the die roll, but it was Morgane who had the first play. However, her second-turn Knight of Meadowgrain was immediately send to the graveyard by Olivier's Nameless Inversion. An evoked Mulldrifter followed on his side and then Mind Spring for two. Meanwhile Morgane played Spectral Procession and Ajani Goldmane.

Firespout cleared the board, after Olivier had been hit by Ajani-enhanced Spirit tokens twice. When Knight of Meadowgrain came down and then in, Olivier had Plumeveil and began to take control of the game. Next he cast Kitchen Finks. Morgane came back with another Knight of Meadowgrain and Wizened Cenn. However, when Olivier dropped Oona, Queen of the Fae, things were looking dim.

Morgane had no answer and Ruel started attacking and producing a sixpack of tokens every turn now. In the end he decided to run her out of cards, but in fact he could have won just as easily via beatdown.

Morgane Kelterbaum 0 – 1 Olivier Ruel

This time Morgane went off to much quicker start, with Goldmeadow Stalwart on turn 1, followed by Figure of Destiny and Burrenton Forge-Tender. She then dropped a Knight of Meadowgrain and pumped the Figure.

When Olivier had Plumeveil on her next attack and chose to block Burrenton Forge-Tender, however, she didn't pump the Figure to 4/4, instead playing yet another creature – to a board that was totally unprotected from Firespout now. And there it came. Firespout cleared the board except for Olivier's Plumeveil.

Olivier RuelConsidering this was a three-one trade-off, Morgane recovered remarkably quickly with Spectral Procession, Knight of Meadowgrain and Wizened Cenn, but at this point it already was too late. The opposing Quick' n Toast deck was set up and running the card-advantage machine: Two Mulldrifters and then Mindspring for a full new grip.

When Morgane had only one card left in hand, Olivier tried to clear the board (except for his two Mulldrifters) via Austere Command. Morgane responded with Mirrorweave on one of the Mulldrifters, but in response Olivier bounced it with his Cryptic Command. The stream of cards was flowing freely now and it was not going to stop anytime soon.

While it still took quite a lot of time to actually bring her lifetotal to zero, as the Knights of Meadowgrain, and later Ajani gained a lot of points, the result at that point was not really in doubt. Just before three Kitchen Finks and two Mulldrifters charged into the red zone to deliver the last points of damage, he revealed his hand – three Hallowed Burial.

Morgane Kelterbaum 0 – 2 Olivier Ruel

Feature Match: Round 7 – Marco Cammilluzzi (ITA) vs. Joel Calafell (ESP)

by David Sutcliffe

I mentioned earlier in a blog that Italian Magic has strength in depth right now, and as well as all the players you may have already heard there is a cadre of very good players just waiting for their turn in the spotlight. One of those players is Marco Cammilluzzi, who already has one GP Top 8 to his name from the final Grand Prix of Time Spiral block this time last year, in Florence. Standing in his way for this round was the stalwart Spanish veteran, Joel Calafell, and his Merfolk.

Scarblade Elite began the offense for Cammilluzzi, and a Wolf Skull Shaman joined it the next turn. Over on the other side of the board Joel Calafell led out with his Stonybrook Banneret... then showed exactly how nuts the Fish deck can be, with his third turn involving casting three creatures and drawing two cards! Merrow Reejerey, Silvergill Adept, Silvergill Adept, and then to add insult to injury the Wolf Skull Shaman threw itself in front of the attacking Stonybrook Banneret, now a 2/2 thanks to the Reejerey! Wow, what a turn!

Back to Cammilluzzi, his fourth turn play was the huge and threatening Chameleon Colossus – in any other match he would have been in great shape right now but against the fishy hordes that put him squarely on the back foot. Calafell played his own Colossus, also a Merfolk of course, tapping down Cammilluzzi's own Colossus with the Reejerey, and forced another trade – this time the Scarblade Assassin diving under a Silvergill Adept.

Marco Cammilluzzi With his back firmly against the wall Cammilluzzi pulled a godsend - a Fire Lit Thicket that gave him access to red mana for the first time, and he charbroiled the Spanish fish with a Firespout before pummelling away with his Chameleon Colossus and casting another Scarblade Elite. Unphased Calafell hit right back with his own Colossus to make the life scores 14-12 in his favour, and stole the Elite with a Sower of Temptation. But Cammilluzzi wasn't done swinging the game in his favor and trumped Calafell's Sower with a Cloudthresher on his next turn. Cammilluzzi's Chameleon Colossus drove over into Spanish territory and it was now 8-10 and the Italian had the lead.

On his next turn Calafell left all his mana untapped – a distinctly fishy play from the Fish deck, and Cammilluzzi smelt trouble.

“How many Commands are you holding, then?”

“Mmmm.... some?”

And it was true, Cryptic Command tapped down Cammiluzzi's men for the turn, netting the Fish deck a card into the bargain.

“Please don't kill me!”

It was a plaintive plea, but while Calafell may have wanted to put the Italian out of his misery he could only send his Colossus over to drop Cammilluzzi to 6 life before adding a Sygg, River Guide to the board. Sygg alone was a problem for Cammilluzzi though, as it could block his Colossus and protect itself, then ensure the Italian wouldn't be able to block the incoming Spanish Colossus the turn after. Cammilluzzi tried to assassinate Sygg, but the tricky fish man gained Protection from Black as well... but in doing so Calafell had tapped out and Cammilluzzi was able to used a Crib Swap to finally get rid of Calafell's Chameleon Colossus.

Frustratingly for Calafell that gave him only 5 power of creatures (Sygg, the Shapeshifter token, and a Mutavault) and Cammilluzzi was on 6 life. He cast a Stonybrook Banneret, sent Sygg on a lone mission to reduce the Italian to 4, and then played a Vendilion Clique in Cammilluzzi's upkeep. In response Cammilluzzi dropped a Nameless Inversion onto the Clique but had to cycle away a Firespout.

It had gotten really tight at this stage. Cammilluzzi's Cloudthresher and Colossus ate a pair of blocking Merfolk but couldn't get through to the player behind... but in truth they didn't need to. Calafell couldn't usefully defend any longer - he had to attack - but as he swung for lethal damage he had to rely on the face that Cammilluzzi wouldn't know he could remove a Shapeshifter spell like the Crib Swap from his graveyard as payment to the Scarblade Elite. That was a vain hope. The Elite killed Sygg in response to him gaining Protection from Black and the Italian took 2 damage from the Mutavault, but immediately attacked back to take the lead in the match.

Marco Cammilluzzi 1 – 0 Joel Calafell

Joel CalafellTime was very much on Joel Calafell's mind as the two players sideboarded and he implored his opponent to play more quickly. Despite both decks being aggressive the tight combat math had given Cammilluzzi some tough decisions and he had been slow in making them. One game down, Calafell was rightly afraid that he wouldn't have time for another two games in the remaining 15 minutes. And that time only ebbed away the more as both players were forced to mulligan away their first seven cards.

Things seemed to take another grim turn for the Spaniard as his opening Fish draw was low on Fish, and his first actual creature – a Merrow Reejerey – was immediately faced down by a Doran, the Siege Tower. The two players traded Nameless Inversions onto each other's creatures at the cost of Calafell's Reejerey and Cammilluzzi's , but Calafell was unable to muster any sort of offense, and had to Cryptic Command away the Doran only for it to be replaced with a Chameleon Colossus. Even worse, his Sygg was immediately Crib Swapped, and a Glen Elendra Archmage looked no match for Cammilluzzi's board when a second Chameleon Colossus was added to it. Calafell took a hit from the first Colossus and dropped to 11 life. Never mind coming back to win 2-1, it seemed as though Calafell would be dropping 0-2.

Then the Spanish comeback began. A Sower of Temptation stole one of the two Italian Colossi, and the Glen Elendra Archmage was able to counter a Firespout that would have swept the board... could Calafell steal a win? He swung his entire team for 7 damage, putting the Italian to 9 life, and added a Chameleon Colossus of his own. Cammilluzzi dropped a Soul Snuffers to try and buy time, but it was a futile effort. Calafell played a Recumbent Bliss onto one of Cammilluzzi's two blockers and wrapped up the game barely 60 seconds after seeming to be out of contention.

Marco Cammilluzzi 1 –1 Joel Calafell

With five minutes to go in search of a decider it seemed we were destined for a draw. It would take a tremendous opening hand, or a massive deck malfunction, or both, for one of the two players to get a win, and the odds of getting a result were hit again by Cammilluzzi having to mulligan yet again. He pile shuffled as rapidly as he could, but I'm sure for Joel Calafell it must have seemed to happen in slow motion. Cammilluzzi liked his hand of six, and we were underway!

And Calafell played at light speed to get a result ... Stonybrook Banneret, Sage's Dousing your spell, Sage's Dousing your spell, Glen Elendra Archmage, Sygg, Chameleon Colossus... in for 1, in for 3, in for 5, in for 9, in for 9... win!

Incredible! In the space of just six minutes Joel Calafell had gone from seemingly the wrong end of a 0-2 beating to win the match 2-1, and barely ten seconds before time was called on the round!

Marco Cammilluzzi 1 – 2 Joel Calafell

The wheels had come off for Marco Cammilluzzi in spectacular fashion, unfortunately, and he could be forgiven for being dazed and disappointed to be the loser. When his Scarblade Elite and Doran, the Siege Tower had been countered in the final game the Italian found himself stuck on three land and holding 4cc spells, and was beaten about the head before he could recover.

Podcast: Saturday, September 13th, 17:25 p.m. – All at Sixes and Sevens

by Rich Hagon

In By the end of this, our third show here on Day One, seven of the nine rounds will have been completed. With only 64 set to see Sunday action, it's time to make a move, as every round sees more and more deserted tables, a testament to the carve-up on the edge of elimination. Are the Brits annihilating the field? You might be surprised.

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Feature Match: Round 9 – Paul Cheon vs. Matthias Künzler

by Tobias Henke

Matthias KuenzlerBoth players are still undefeated, a straight 8-0 so far, and obviously want to keep their records immaculate. Former US Nationals champion Cheon is playing a Quick' and Toast variant this weekend, while his opponent from Switzerland is with Faeries.

Künzler had the first plays of the match, in the form of Thoughtseize and Bitterblossom. Cheon only had Kitchen Finks on turn three and didn't even keep that for long. The Finks were hit by Nameless Inversion on his next turn's upkeep, and finished off by Peppersmoke. Not much happened for a couple of turns, except for the ongoing assembly of Faerie Rogues on the Swiss side of the table.

Meanwhile, Cheon got his own engine running, cycling a couple of lands by means of Oona's Grace, looking for... Ah yes, the Cloudthresher which got evoked and succesfully cleared the board.

But Künzler's board recovered all by itself thanks to Bitterblossom. Cheon had another attempt to get rid of the Fae pest, but his Austere Command fell victim to Künzler's Broken Ambitions. He tried Oona, Queen of the Faem but that was countered as well. Soon he succumbed to the flying beats.

Paul Cheon 0 – 1 Matthias Künzler

Paul CheonCheon started game 2 with Vivid Grove, Künzler started to Ponder, which allowed him to once again set up the fearsome turn-two Bitterblosson. This time, though, Cheon had the Broken Ambitions ready.

However, Künzler kept up the pressure with Jace Beleren. Cheon had to evoke Cloudthresher just to get rid of the Planeswalker. Then the game entered a phase of serious nothingness. No spells were slinged, no creatures summoned, nothing cast at all. However, Künzler repatedly attacked with Mutavault, bringing Cheon to 14.

This ended, when Cheon dropped Kitchen Finks. Künzler retorted with Shriekmaw. And now the action really was on. Cheon had Mind Shatter for Künzler's whole grip; the Swiss in turn topdecked Jace Beleren and through the Planeswalker's ability Ponder. With two mana still up, Cheon jokingly asked for Bitterblossom to come out of the Ponder. Even though the Swiss shuffled, it didn't come. Yet. Next turn he dutifully played his Blossom.

From now till the end of the game Cheon, literally only drew land. “This doesn't seem fair,” Cheon complained. “It's Faer-ies,” answered Künzler to which Cheon responded, with conviction: “Un-Faeries.”

Paul Cheon 0 – 2 Matthias Künzler

So Matthias Künzler from Switzerland finished day one with a perfect record of 9-0, while Paul Cheon did not seem too disappointed with his 8-1.

Feature Match: Round 9 – Emanuele Canavesi (ITA) vs Luis Scott-Vargas (USA)

by David Sutcliffe

Despite having vanquished the silent Frenchman, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, in an earlier feature match Luis Scott-Vargas had not had the run of the luck today and found himself ‘on the bubble' in round 9. A win against the faeries of Italian Emanuele Canavesi, brother of a former Italian national champion, would see the American through to the second day and into the money. Any other result would almost certainly end his Grand Prix-Rimini experience prematurely and leave him to return across the Atlantic empty-handed.

“I've not won a die roll yet so... uhuh, I thought so, you to play?”, hmm... now that didn't sound like the comment of a confident Luis Scott Vargas. That sounded like a player who was having a bad day at the office.

Both players began a little cagily, as the control matchups often do. Canavesi used a Broken Ambitions to counter a Kitchen Finks, but when he played a Scion of Oona and tried to attack he had to use a Snakeform to dissuade Scott-Vargas from blocking with his flashed-in Plumeveil, before following up with a Bitterblossom. The Italian seemed to be tying himself in knots a little, much to the amusement and consternation of his watching friends. Things weren't going smoothly for his opponent either, though, and the problem for Luis Scott-Vargas was land – he was stuck at four, and that's bad news for the Quick N Toast deck. Even so, while Scott-Vargas was hiding behind his Plumeveil he wasn't going anywhere quickly, and seemed happy enough to sit and watch as Canavesi stocked up on faerie tokens from the Bitterblossom while he waited for land.

Finally up to six lands, Scott-Vargas attempted to pull the plug on his opponent's creatures with a Firespout, only to have it Cryptic Commanded, then found that his second Firespout that turn was met by a Spellstutter Sprite. In his turn Canavesi scented blood and attacked with 5 of his Faeries and a second Scion Of Oona gave them extra muscle, dropping Scott Vargas from 20 life to 8 in one fell swoop, and then a Peppersmoke dealt with the Plumeveil. Out of lifelines Luis Scott-Vargas tried for a third time to Firespout away the flying pests but when that was also countered by a Cryptic Command he conceded defeat and turned to his sideboard for Game 2 somewhat resigned to his fate.

Emanuele Canavesi 1 – 0 Luis Scot-Vargas

Following a second turn where Canavesi had only attacked for 2 with his Mutavault Scott-Vargas played a third-turn Mulldrifter with evoke, but as Canavesi hit him with a Thoughtseize it revealed that the American might not be having such a great start after all as all he was clutching Jace Beleren, Cloudthresher, Oona, and four lands. The Jace was torn away by Thoughtseize and Canavesi sat back to continue attacking with his Mutavault, using a Snakeform on Scott-Vargas' Plumeveil when it arrived to block. Unfortunately that Snakeform had opened the door for Oona, Queen of the Fae and the American wasted no time in getting her into play while he could.

Canavesi was in trouble from the second Oona resolved – he played a Stillmoon Cavalier that could block the Queen herself, but the Fae she spawned would be another matter, and then as the Stillmoon Cavalier gained the wings needed to block Oona Scott-Vargas flashed in his Cloudthresher to kill the Cavalier anyway. Canavesi bought himself a turn with Cryptic Command but that was all he bought, and a turn later Oona swept in to level the match 1-1.

Emanuele Canavesi 1 – 1 Luis Scott-Vargas

A Thoughtseize revealed a different hand for Scott-Vargas in the final game – a pair of Mulldrifters and a Cryptic Command. Canavesi sent one of the Mulldrifters packing, played a Stillmoon Cavalier on the next turn, and then a second Cavalier on his fourth turn. Against those two Protection from White creatures Luis Scott-Vargas' Plumeveil and Finks defence looked a little impotent and he started to haemorrhage life points... to 12... to 8. Maintaining the pressure Canavesi used a Thoughtseize to lever the Cloudthresher from Scott-Vargas' hand leaving only a Cryptic Command, and added a Bitterblossom to the board. For his part Scott-Vargas found a Makeshift Mannequin and used it to return the Mulldrifter to play, restocking his hand.

And then came the killer play. Emanuele Canavesi cast a Puppeteer Clique aimed at the dead Cloudthresher and in it came, dropping Luis Scott-Vargas to 6 and killing the Puppeter Clique that had spawned it all in one fell swoop. The Clique Persisted, returned a Kitchen Finks, and then everything the Italian had raced into the red zone to end the game and the match in a blur!

Emanuele Canavesi 2 – 1 Luis Scot-Vargas

While Canavesi deserved the win the impression I got there from Luis Scott-Vargas, from start to finish, was that he was a man who simply didn't believe he was going to get through. In the second game he came alive as soon as Oona hit play, but for the first and third games he never really seemed to have the plays and options available that you expect to see from Quick N Toast. Unfortunately for Luis I've a feeling he's got a few bad beats stories to show for this weekend, but little else.

Podcast: Saturday, September 13th, 18:30 p.m. – The Cut

by Rich Hagon

In 7 wins and 2 losses might only be good enough for 88th place here in Rimini. That doesn't make Day Two by a long way, with only 64 coming back tomorrow. On the other hand, 7-2 also very comfortably made it through, and that's all down to the fun of tiebreaks. We meet The Innovator Patrick Chapin, and bring you all the number-crunching you need to make sense of the final meltdown rounds. See you tomorrow!

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