- Friday, 19.22p.m. – Trials and Tribulations
by David Sutcliffe
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
That famous rhyming couplet was written by Clement Clark Moore in 1823, and clearly he hadn't ever attended a Grand Prix because here in Gothenburg the night before the Grand Prix was a hive of activity. As the final decorations were shifted into place around the hall we had Grand Prix Trials ready to launch, a buzzing trade stand, a Super Friday Night Magic to look forward to. Last but not least we would have a truly unique Magic experience - the very first sneak peak at Magic 2012! Top Magic artist Aleksi Briclot, whose work on the game includes the iconic Planeswalkers such as Jace Beleren and Chandra Nalaar, would be painting an M12 card live in front of the audience that night!
Events kicked off as early as midday, with the first of 14 (fourteen!) Grand Prix Trial flights - the most Grand Prix Trials we've ever had at a European Grand Prix. Clearly players were hungry for both a shot at earning themselves three valuable byes or Saturday morning, and also for some Magic 2011 sealed deck action.
The queue was out the door, and the first five flights launched as quickly as players could be registered for them. In amongst those Grand Prix trial lists were some Pro Tour luminaries, including Japanese legend Shuuhei Nakamura. Shuuhei certainly doesn't need any more byes, because he'd be in danger of skipping the entirety of Day One, but he loves to play and is always happy to fit in just a little bit more practice. The Magic gods appeared to have favored Shuuhei once again, as I watched him mulling over just how many of his three Fireballs he should include in his deck (he correctly chose to play all three).
Also amongst those first five Grand Prix flights was your intrepid coverage reporter, me! I sat down to experience the Grand Prix Trial environment for myself. The pool I was given to register had powerful red cards with an Ancient Hellkite and a pair of Fireballs as the headline act and a further fifteen red cards you would be happy to play if it wasn't for the Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves that fuelled a bunch of angry green creatures. Unfortunately for me this was only the deck I registered and I had to pass it across the table to my fellow trialist sat opposite. He seemed happy with what he'd been given, and in return he had handed me Chandra Nalaar and an Inferno Titan. I still wasn't sure that was an entirely fair trade but managed to build a Red/White deck with an ok curve that capped out at a couple of potentially game-winning Mythic rares. Because I'm an old-school player I couldn't resist using Terramorphic Expanse to splash into Black as a third color for Doom Blade and a Rise from the Grave. Fingers crossed that my mana base would hold together…
Magic time! My first opponent for my first ever Grand Prix Trial was local Swede, Hakon. It turned out that he was playing a very quick blue/white flyers deck and he opened with a Stormfront Pegasus and Blinding Mage, while I had a Silvercoat Lion and Prodigal Pyromancer. The Pyromancer gave me some initial hope that I could control his offense and I began to race back on the ground, Unfortunately as soon as my Pyromancer killed his Pegasus it was replaced by a Cloud Elemental and Cloud Crusader - just five turns in and I was facing a nasty demise as my mana base had gone on strike, providing me with only three lands. My only hope was that I could pull a fourth land and try to land a surprise assault with Inspired Charge to steal the game but it wasn't to be and I was left clutching a handful of expensive cards.
A game down within ten minutes and I had an immediate introduction to the pressure of the single-elimination Grand Prix Trials because I was just one game away from going out of the Trial altogether! Having seen a slew of little blue and white creatures from Hakon I side boarded in a Combust and a Deathmark and returned to the battlefield. My luck seemed to change in the second game as mana was no longer an issue and I put down some Goblin Pikers and began attacking, although my Prodigal Pyromancer met a Mana Leak. Hakon began to lay down his familiar flying offense and hit back, creating an airborne force that would kill me before my groundpounders could kill him. I was holding my Inferno Titan in hand, and that would blow a huge hole in Hakon's gameplan if I could get it into play but I couldn't risk it getting countered so I tempted his hand with a Fire Servant. That drew out a second Mana Leak from Hakon's hand and the way was now clear for my Inferno Titan. The Titan arrived to sweep away Hakon's offense but my opponent wasn't done and answered with a Sun Titan of his own, recalling his airborne force. In my turn the Titans traded blows and I got Hakon down to just 1 life point. True, I only had 2 life points, but I did have a Cloud Crusader ready to defend me from his Cloud Elemental and enough ground creatures to ensure that the game was mine on the next turn. Hakon drew a card, smiled, and laid a Pacifism on my Cloud Crusader - his Cloud Elemental sailed past my useless Pegasus (damn tree-hugging hippies!) and the round was his.
So that was the end of my Grand Prix Trial experience, and while I had gone out in a single round I had been within a fingertips-reach of a win in each game despite my mana issues in the first game. And I didn't feel too bad about losing, after all it wasn't like I would need the byes the next day anyway. Yes, that's right - I only lost because I wasn't really trying to win anyway. If I keep telling myself that maybe it will hurt less.
But losing in this Grand Prix Trial flight certainly wouldn't mark the end of my Magic Friday, and as I watched my coverage companion Tobi Wachter being inducted into the Super FNM I could look forward to a real Magic treat - watching Aleksi Briclot bringing an M12 card come to life on the big screen. And you'll see much more about that later…
- Saturday, 12:05 p.m. – Super FNM, Super Fun
by Tobias Henke
When I arrived at the site yesterday afternoon, Rich Hagon, our local coverage overlord for the weekend, basically greeted me with: "Good to see you. You need to take part in the Super Friday Night Magic. You're going to have a blast." If your boss puts you on an assignment like that... well, that's just Magic. Even more so since I had missed the M11 Pre- and Release events and had never before played Sealed Deck with the set.
Super FNM is like regular FNM, only it takes place at the Grand Prix venue, more than a hundred players take part, and they are showered in FNM premium cards. Sounds fun? Well, I have to admit Rich was right. I did have a blast.
It all started when I looked at my pool and, soon after, my deck. Just a few highlights: In red I had Chandra's Outrage, Pyroclasm, Prodigal Pyromancer, and two Fireballs. Blue had Foresee, Mind Control, Clone, as well as Stormtide Leviathan, while all of that would be held together by green with two Cultivates, two Garruk's Packleaders, and some more beef. I even had Crystal Ball to make up for the fact, that I was going to run 18 lands despite double Cultivate. If you totally recall, this made it three Balls altogether, so obviously I had to feel extremely confident.
But having something to play with is not half as important as having someone to play with. Apart from all the high-level Magic and the intense tournament atmosphere Grand Prix are just a fabulous place to meet new people. During my three rounds in the tournament I met Arvid, Mikael, and Peter (L-R).
My first opponent was Arvid. He was a nice guy and we almost immediately started chatting. After I found out he's a "local lad" right here from Gothenburg, I was interested in what he would usually be doing on a Friday evening... for example when there doesn't happen to be a Grand Prix next door.
"Magic, of course," he said and smiled. "Usually we get together with a couple of friends and we do cube drafting." We talked for a while about the intricacies of cube drafting, and in the meantime his Stormfront Pegasus, Wild Griffin, and Assault Griffin had taken the first game. I had hoped for Pyroclasm or at least Azure Drake from my deck, but alas, none of that showed up. In the second game, I quickly assembled the sweet combo of Prodigal Pyromancer and Chandra's Spitfire, and in the third, I drew Fireball and Mind Control while he missed at least one land-drop. It was still close, but in the end I had won the first match 2-1 and wished him good luck for the next day.
Mikael, my round-two opponent, was from Sweden too, but came here from some place "about one hour north" which I can neither pronounce nor spell. He's staying with a friend here in Gothenburg, so he naturally opted to go for a little Friday Night Magic to try and get the most out of this weekend. He was very easy-going and good-humored throughout the match, even when his deck simply refused to give him the good cards. Between ForeseeCrystal Ball, and Augury Owl he must have put at least 13 cards on the bottom of his deck. In the second game, I had Cultivate on turn three, Giant Spider on four, and then I killed two of his creatures with a three-mana Fireball.
The trick here is that in the beginning there is only one point of damage to be evenly divided between two creatures (rounded down), but before the Fireball actually resolves one of the creatures (Phantom Beast) dies to its own ability triggered by being targeted. One creature left, one damage left.
Peter was from Denmark and was relaxed and funny even after his four-hour trip earlier in the day. Nonetheless, this match was the most exciting of the three, with lots of tempo involved as well as some difficult decisions. It all came down to the third game, where I had Pyroclasm in my opening hand, but tried to slow-roll it to maybe kill more than one creature. When I finally realized I wouldn't be able to get more than his Wild Griffin, I already had to take care of his Cultivate-accelerated Yavimaya Wurm with Greater Basilisk. The Basilisk was then sent back to my hand via Æther Adept. I still had no time for Pyroclasm, but had to recast my 3/5. This time around, it received a well-timed Pacifism and that was it. Meh. I'm pretty sure I could have won that game. On the flip-side this means Peter certainly deserved to win it more than I did.
The better player wins? Now, that's a fine conclusion to my first exploration of M11 Sealed.
- Saturday, 11.15a.m. - Local Heroes
by David Sutcliffe
Your local community is a huge part of what makes Magic: The Gathering such an amazing game to be involved in, but when the Grand Prix circus rolls into town it can be easy to focus on Gabriel Nassif vs. Luis Scott Vargas, or Shuuhei Nakamura vs. Brian Kowal over the stories of players we're a little less familiar with on the world stage. But that's just a fraction of the stories that will unfold here in Gothenburg and so we're proud to bring you some coverage of what the local heroes - the Swedes - get up to over the weekend.
No doubt we'll see a couple of Swedes in the Top-8 limelight tomorrow afternoon and if you want to find out how they got there then go and check out some Swede-centric coverage (in English) at: http://www.community.wizards.com/mtgse
- Saturday 11.42pm - 1001, A Swedish Odyssey
by Rich Hagon
Cracking the four-figure barrier, this Scandinavian Grand Prix promises to be a hot one. With Pro Tour Amsterdam less than a week away, the Great and the Good of the global game have descended on Gothenburg to try their luck with M11 Sealed Deck on day one, before embarking on a maximum of three M11 drafts on day two. In show one, we discuss the recent Grand Prix results, look at the Player of the Year Race, and take you through a star-studded line-up that includes multiple unexpected appearances on the start list by former champions. Winning this one is going to be tough.
- Saturday, 11.45a.m. – Chandra's Phoenix
by David Sutcliffe
I teased you about it earlier, and it's truly exciting to be able to bring you a real Magic: The Gathering exclusive - the live creation of a card you'll see in Magic 2012 next year! This was a surprise last minute addition to the Grand Prix Gothenburg schedule with Magic artist Aleksi Briclot, of Planeswalkers fame, offering to paint one of the cards he'd be commissioned to illustrate in front of the audience on Friday night. String were pulled to clear it with R&D, a projector was summoned up from somewhere, and after a few technical issues (for a short while I thought Aleksi was going to show us "Urza's Windows Control Panel") we were all ready to please the crowds that had gathered.
They say a picture paints a thousand words, and so I'm going to get out of the way and let Aleksi's talent do the talking as he brought to life the card tentatively titled "Chandra's Phoenix"…
It takes more than three hours to complete a Magic card, though, so even though Aleksi has Chandra's Phoenix looking so amazing in such a short piece of time he estimated he still had another 8-10 hours of work in putting the fine detail into his piece before he's going to be happy to have it sit in his already amazing portfolio of Magic cards. Even so you, can look out for Chandra's Phoenix looking pretty much exactly like this in Magic 2012 and remember that you saw it here first. For those people lucky enough to be here on Grand Prix Friday they had a captivating insight into how Magic cards get made which I'm sure they'll remember for a long time to come.
And now it's time to start speculating as to what Chandra's Phoenix will actually do…
- Saturday 2.53pm - The Booster of Doom
by Rich Hagon
Apart from being awesome players, what do Marijn Lybaert, Brian Kibler, Craig Wescoe, and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa have in common? They've all taken our Booster of Doom challenge. Nine spectacular commons, three foolishly good uncommons, a mouthwatering rare, and a killer mythic. What's the first pick? What comes back? And what on earth is the last card left in the booster? Lots of great Magic chat, just a click away.
- Saturday, 4:11 p.m. – Sealed Deck, Sealed Lips
by Tobias Henke
There are two options at this time of day: either you get to know who or you get to know what. Obviously, in the age of free WiFi and mobile internet no pro player wants to have the contents of his Sealed pool and deck spilled all over the web. So we'll walk you through the deck building process with one of them who shall, for now, remain unnamed. Rest assured, though, that this guy knows what he's doing. After all, he is a former Pro Tour champion. (Don't even try to guess on that basis, there are way too many around the venue today.)
Here is his complete pool:
"The first card to make the deck was Mystifying Maze," said the mystery man, winking. "That was super easy. And it's actually a very strong card, getting around Auras, as a back-up for combat tricks, and doing lots of other cool things."
"Then there was the big question whether I would be able to run my Baneslayer Angel. White doesn't have a lot to offer, but it does have Blinding Mage and Condemn in a pool which is light on removal anyhow," he explained. "Blue was pretty much set from the start, with two good fliers [Conundrum Sphinx and Air Servant] and all around solid cards."
"The only other option was black, which is really light on creatures, although it does have Doom Blade, Assassinate, Quag Sickness, and two Gravediggers, but going that way would have probably led to green just for the creatures." He thought for a bit and added: "Splashing black on the other hand would have meant that Quag Sickness was out, and also Mystifying Maze in a three-color deck is far from ideal."
Here's his deck:
"The deck ended up with a tad too many situational cards," our mystery pro stated when asked about his chances. "But I needed so many instants to maximize Mystifying Maze anyway, so I'm not too worried about it."
"Despite only having eight white cards and 14 blue ones, I run an even manabase to ensure the maximum number of keepable opening hands. By the way, did you notice how great Alluring Siren is in my deck, what with good blockers like White Knight, Harbor Serpent, Phantom Beast, and most of all Baneslayer Angel of course?"
"Overall, I'm probably just going to play control whenever possible. My fliers are strong, but cannot really enter a race. That's why I'm running Jace's Ingenuity and Sorcerer's Strongbox. Possibly the biggest problem with this strategy would be an opponent's Mind Control," he added. "But I already have six answers to that in the main deck: War Priest of Thune, Solemn Offering, Æther Adept, Cancel, Negate, and somewhat also Mystifying Maze. So yes, I'm happy about my chances."
Well, good luck! And thanks!
- Feature Match Round 4 - Shuhei Nakamura vs. Sam Black
by Tobias Henke
1001 players is actually not a big turnout for a European Grand Prix. Couple that with the fact that so many pros are in attendance and you get fantastic feature matches as early as round four. These two don't need any introduction, but their decks do. Both were packing blue cards. Nakamura paired them with green and was not happy about the way his deck turned out, whereas Black was of course the black mage and was, presumably, feeling good about it.
Nakamura scryed with Preordain, found Crytal Ball, and used that as well. Meanwhile, Black cast Clone to make it two Thieves on his side to Nakamura's one. Nakamura summoned Spined Wurm, which felt a Stabbing Pain at his end of turn and was removed by Assassinate in the following main phase. That allowed Black to get through with one of his Thieves. Black added Black Knight and Augury Owl to his team, while Nakamura was struggling to keep up. The potentially devastating Sleep had to be used as a poor substitute for an actual defense.
Acidic Slime from Nakamura killed one of Black's Islands, but was killed itself via Corrupt. Again Nakamura was down to just one lonely Scroll Thief as his only creature, again Black's Thieves got in for one extra card.
But now Nakamura's scrying had finally coughed up a creature that was apparently going to stay: Duskdale Wurm. Black cast Howling Banshee and then blocked the Wurm with two Scroll Thieves, the Black Knight and the Howling Banshee. When Nakamura had Plummet to send the Banshee wailing for its own impending demise, only one Scroll Thief remained. Black took seven damage while he rebuilt his team with Liliana's Specter, Azure Drake, and Gravedigger, returning Howling Banshee. Once again all four of his creatures (Digger, Specter, Thief, and Drake) blocked and this time Nakamura didn't have a trick. He just killed Black's Thief and Drake in combat, then had Cancel to counter Howling Banshee.
The remainder of the game was characterized by Nakamura's continuing scrying thanks to Crystal Ball. He summoned two Azure Drakes, cast Ice Cage on Gravedrigger, and got in for more and more damage. Black was out of gas, and soon out of life.
Shuhei Nakamura 1 – 0 Sam Black
Black had Liliana's Specter as his first creature, but that was no match for Nakamura's Scroll Thief. His Howling Banshee was, but then again it wasn't for Nakamura's Cudgel Troll. Black had no choice but try to race Nakamura through the air, an enterprise which looked all the more promising when his Air Servant showed up. Sleep from Nakamura stalled things, but didn't put Black in any real danger as Nakamura only had five power in total. The American simply cast Azure Drake, threatening lethal damage on the very next turn. Ice Cage and Augury Owl from Nakamura meant Black fell one point short, though, but when he cast Clone to copy Howling Banshee, Nakamura quickly nodded and picked up his cards in concession.
Shuhei Nakamura 1 – 1 Sam Black
Nakamura chose to draw first, which allowed Black to get down the first creature in Augury Owl and get in the first damage through the same. The first spell on Nakamura's side was Foresee on turn four, but Black's draw wasn't optimal either. He had to do without black mana for the first four turns and had Air Servant as only his second spell, after drawing one of his elusive Swamps.
The Swamp was destroyed by Acidic Slime, but Black retaliated quite nicely with even more air force in Azure Drake. Ice Cage took care of the Air Servant after one hit, but Nakamura was getting dangerously low on life. His Duskdale Wurm received Flashfreeze and his lifetotal received an additional blow from Howling Banshee's ability, after Black had overcome his earlier color screw. Sleep bought another turn, but that didn't change the way this was going... which was all downhill for Nakamura.
Shuhei Nakamura 1 – 2 Sam Black
- Saturday, 3:45 p.m. – Famous Faces in Exotic Places
by David Sutcliffe
With a delightfully palindromic 1001 players (thanks to Mr Howlett for that one) Grand Prix Gothenburg was the largest Grand Prix we'd ever had in Scandinavia. We'd gotten used to breaking attendance records at European Grand Prix recently, but you need only look at the country breakdown to see that something a bit special is going on here. Four Argentinians, seven Brazilians, thirteen Japanese, and no less than twenty-two brave souls from the United States of America made this a Grand Prix that was particularly star-laden.
Do you think the fact that the Grand Prix was the weekend before Pro Tour Amsterdam had anything to do with it?
What that meant, apart from another shattered record, was that as the players with three byes entered the fray in round four the high profile clashes were unavoidable right from the outset and the feature match area was awash with matches that would have made for excellent Finals. Sam Black found himself paired with Shuuhei Nakamura, Ken Yukuhiro and Tom Van Lamoen would fight out it, as would the all-Swede matchup of Kenny Oberg and Mattias Jorstedt. But spare a thought for Paulo Vitor Dama Da Rosa and his countryman Bruno Borges, who flew 7,000 miles just for the chance to play each other!
So you flew 7,000 miles just to play against another Brazilian?
Actually, it was way more than 7,000 miles - it was more like 10,000 miles! First I flew from Porto Allegre, where I live, to Sao Paolo. Then to New York, then to London, then to Amsterdam, and finally to Gothenburg.
You're not afraid of putting in the air miles! I know we caught up at GP Rotterdam last year and you had about two months cof riss-crossing the world from one Grand Prix or Pro Tour to another. But would you have made the trip here if it wasn't for the Pro Tour?
Probably not - it's a lot more difficult for me to travel so much now that I'm at university. I'm here for Gothenburg/Amsterdam, and I'll be doing the same thing for Sydney/Toronto as well. But I can't set aside two months to just fly around and play Magic any more.
And you fly on to Amsterdam...
Pretty much! I don't know what the new Extended is going to be like yet, and I don't think the rest of the team knows either. In fact I don't think anybody knows! I've already played a lot of Extended, but I don't like any of the decks so I really don't know what I'll play.
Back to this weekend. I found you watching the Sam Black vs. Shuuhei Nakamura match - this many Pros in a Grand Prix is going to throw up some great matches. Does that make you more excited about the event?
I would rather that everyone else was bad! On the one hand it's great that there's so many of my friends here, but on the other hand it's bad for me because it's going to be a lot harder for me to do well.
Speaking of great matchups - you've been a fixture on the Pro Tour for a long time now, but is there anybody you'd like to have played against that you haven't got to play yet?
Oh yeah. I'd love the chance to have played against Kai Budde or Jon Finkel, when they were at their peak. I was playing starting playing Magic when they were winning Pro Tours, but I wasn't on the Tour myself. Then by the time I got to the Pro Tour they had left the game so I missed out on my chance to play against them.
I think that they really were just better than anybody else who have ever played Magic. Like WAY better. I'd really like to play against them and get to find out what it was that made them special. For a while you could see that Kenji (Tsumura) was the best player in the world. And he was. But he was only a little bit better - just a great player, technically. But I think that Kai or Finkel were something else, and maybe if I played against them I would be able to see what they do differently.
Well good luck for the rest of the day, and I'll let you get back to watching Sam and Shuuhei!
- Feature Match Round 5 - AJ Sacher vs. Adam Koska
by David Sutcliffe
Round five threw up another hot matchup - this time it would be two tcgplayer.com authors throwing down, with the strategy website's AJ Sacher and Adam Koska (fresh from a Top8 finish at Czech nationals) duelling it out in the feature match area.
"Despite conventional wisdom I'm going to be playing first" offered Sacher after winning the 'which of these two cards is a Swamp' competition. Whatever happened to the coin toss? You don't see the Superbowl starting off with Drew Brees asking 'which of these is the Jack of Clubs?' do you?
Koska shrugged, unhappily "well, this just doesn't feel right, but I'll put a Pacifism on the Vanguard".
Sacher followed up his assault with a Cloud Elemental and Cloud Crusader, then successfully trumped Koska's lonely Azure Drake with a Baneslayer Angel! Koska scryed into his future with a Foresee but when his attempt to Diminish the Baneslayer after blocking with the Azure Drake was Cancelled it seemed like it could prove a critical blow. Sacher added a Stormfront Pegasus and Cloud Crusader to his air force and with 11 power of flying creatures on the board Koska was rocking against the ropes.
The Czech player attempted to stabilise, playing an Air Servant. From next turn it would be able to pin down Sacher's flyers but for this turn it gave the American another trip to the red zone. Sacher didn't turn down the opportunity and attacked with everything he had, the Air Servant blocked down a Cloud Crusader and lived to tell the tale but Koska was dropped to just 1 lifepoint remaining. Scenting blood in the water AJ Sacher kept his foot on the gas and played a second Stormfront Pegasus, then dropped the last card from his hand - a Crystal Ball.
"It's been a pretty awesome draw" Sacher conceded.
And it was too good for Koska. He drew his card for the turn and weighed up his options, but none of them offered an out from his imminent demise. Perhaps in the next game he'll be saving his Pacifism for that Baneslayer Angel instead of an Elite Vanguard?
Sacher (USA) 1 - 0 Koska (CZE)
Koska opened the play in the second game with a Squadron Hawk, searching out a second Squadron Hawk to his hand. Sacher deployed his Stormfront Pegasus and an Elite Vanguard but was unwilling to attack while Koska's Squadron Hawk was on the lookout. That respite bought Koska time to lay plans for the future with Foresee…
"I'll keep all four," he said, after mulling it over.
"Jesus" was Sacher's response. He knew that was bad news if Koska was unwilling to lose a single one of his four cards then they were guaranteed to be bad news for the American.
Playing his part Sacher played an Azure Drake while Koska returned fire with a Conundrum Sphinx. Not having found a fifth land Sacher could only play a Cloud Elemental and watch as the Czech pro continued his build-up with a Gargoyle Sentinel. Koska chose not to attack, and Sacher was able to match his opponent in the aerial arms race by playing an Armored Ascension on his Elite Vanguard to make a 4/3 flyer.
Koska was still on the front foot, however, and turned all of his seven lands sideways to play a Vengeful Archon. Sacher sent the Archon right back to his opponent's hand with an Æther Adept, sneaking his Vanguard across the board to deal 4 damage, but with the American still starved of land there was nothing to discourage Koska from simply putting his Vengeful Archon back onto the battlefield on the next turn, and he then used a Solemn Offering to cut Sacher's Elite Vanguard back down to size.
The Czech player chose not to force an attack through, though. Although Sacher's creatures were outclassed they virtually all flew and would be able to combine forces to trade off with Koska's big flyers. A turn later things were different, however - an Excommunicate threw Sacher's Azure Drake off the board and that was the signal for the Vengeful Archon to head into the red zone. Sacher had a Condemn waiting for it, but Koska was able to Cancel that. Sacher was all out of good options and threw down a Mighty Leap to stack three of his creatures against the Archon. That downed the big flyer, but at the cost of four cards to Koska's one - trade that the Czech pro was happy to take.
And why not? The Archon left the battlefield but the Czech player simply replaced it with an Angelic Arbiter and an Air Servant. Sacher found his Crystall Ball but all that he was able to divine of his future was that going to take 11 damage in Koska's next turn and that nothing he could draw would help him survive the turn after that.
Sacher (USA) 1 - 1 Koska (CZE)
"One good draw apiece!" Koska exclaimed, as the pair shuffled up, and Sacher was in no mood to argue.
"I always feel like when I play against one of those giant white guys I play against both of them" he said, somewhat unhappily, "I never seem to play against somebody who just has the Archon, they always have the Arbiter as well."
AJ Sacher began the third and deciding game in familiar fashion, with a Stormfront Pegasus and Cloud Elemental, which Koska skipped his second turn and could only offer a Gargoyle Sentinal for his third turn. That sort of draw put the American firmly on the front foot and his flyers screeched across the table while he deployed a further pair of Squadron Hawks.
The next turn an Excommunicate stripped Koska of his Gargoyle and Sacher's forces dealt another 6 damage to leave Koska on just 8 life. Koska deployed an Air Servant but that barely slowed the onslaught - the American put an Armored Ascension on a Squadron Hawk to make it a 4/4 and attacked again. Koska blocked the Cloud Elemental away and took 7 to leave himself clinging to his one remaining life point.
The Air Servant could keep Koska alive at this point, but only at the cost of tapping all his lands each turn and Sacher simply had to keep playing threats in order to get past, adding a Stormfront Pegasus. Koska deployed a Conundrum Sphinx but that still left him one answer short of the questions Sacher was asking and he extended his hand in congratulations.
Sacher (USA) 2 - 1 Koska (CZE)
"Ah I guess I should have mulliganed", Koska said, "I had Servant, Gargoyle, but a couple of things that weren't useful. It was too slow"
"Yeah my deck is pretty good and very fast. I have loads of quick flyers and even if I get to the late game I have Baneslayer and Crystal Ball"
"You're the first person I've played against today who got good draws, so I think maybe my deck isn't as good as I hoped. I have these big flyers but I need time."
It sounds like Adam Koska has his work cut out if he's to make it into Day Two, while AJ Sacher's next opponent had best come equipped with an air raid shelter!
- Feature Match Round 6 – Anton Jonsson vs. Kenny Öberg
by Tobias Henke
This is the all-Swedish feature match in the Swedish Grand Prix, so naturally it drew quite a crowd. Anton Jonsson is a possible inductee for this year's Hall of Fame who at one point in his career was considered one of the best Limited players on the planet. Kenny Öberg is mostly known for his creation of Tezzerator, a deck which put him in the Top 8 of Pro Tour Berlin 2008, although he did rack up a Grand Prix Top 8 and a couple of respectable finishes since then.
The match started quick with two-drops on both sides: Blinding Mage for Jonsson, Augury Owl for Öberg. Jonsson had no play on turn three, but did get a Mountain off his Terramorphic Expanse, while Öberg summoned Scroll Thief. On turn four Jonsson had a second Plains and Wild Griffin. Öberg got his Augury Owl tapped at beginning of combat, then made Water Servant. The Servant went to the top of his library at the hands of Excommunicate, while Wild Griffin went on the offense. Öberg recast Water Servant, Jonsson cast Harbor Serpent. The islandwalking 5/5 joined forces with Wild Griffin to put Öberg at 8. Assassinate got rid of the Serpent, but Wild Griffin was still roaming free.
At 6 life, Öberg found an answer as he summoned Nightwing Shade with two mana up. Jonsson drew a card, made a sad face looking at his ever-increasing number of lands and at the potential 3/3 flying blocker, and passed the turn. So far he had drawn six spells and at least nine lands, and that was no match for Öberg's draw, much less for the Frost Titan he was now about to cast.
Frost Titan got stuck under Blinding Mage (instead of the other way round), Nightwing Shade was dealt with by Condemn, but Water Servant attacked and attacked. After what seemed like an endless series of chumpblocks Jonsson was out of options, then life.
Anton Jonsson 0 – 1 Kenny Öberg
The second game started even more aggressively than the first, with Stormfront Pegasus for Jonsson and Black Knight for Öberg. As soon as the attacking had started, however, it ended. Jonsson had Ice Cage and Öberg summoned Royal Assassin.
Jonsson built up his forces with two Wild Griffins, while Öberg wasn't doing much of anything. Still, he was safe behind his Assassin. Or was he? As it turned out, he wasn't. A series of Excommunicate, Excommunicate, Call to Mind (targeting guess what), and Excommunicate from Jonsson meant Öberg could neither use his Royal Assassin nor draw anything else. The fliers got him down to 4 and Fireball finished him up.
Anton Jonsson 1 – 1 Kenny Öberg
For the final game, it was Öberg who started quick with Child of Night and Augury Owl. The Owl met Cancel, and on his turn Jonsson cast Foresee. That left an opening for Öberg to deploy Water Servant. Jonsson's first creature was Scroll Thief, and when that blocked Child of Night, Öberg had Stabbing Pain to turn the Thief into vampire lunch. At least Jonsson could Condemn the Servant.
But Jonsson once again had nothing of relevance to the board: with Jace's Ingenuity he was certainly aiming for the late game. And indeed, Harbor Serpent stalled the ground and Ice Cage took care of Öberg's freshly-cast Nightwing Shade. At 9 life Jonsson had actually managed to halt his opponent's offense, and soon his Wild Griffin even started to apply some beatdown of his own.
Öberg summoned Black Knight and searched up a Mountain. He then attacked with Child of Night and the Knight, the latter of which Jonsson blocked with Harbor Serpent. With two points of first strike damage already dealt, Öberg tried for Lightning Bolt on the 5/5 and was visibly shaken when Jonsson revealed Redirect! Bolt, Knight, and Child all went to the graveyard.
But despite all his card drawing and despite this latest feat of generating amazing card advantage, Jonsson hit a series of lands that left him unable to deal with Öberg's next threat: Air Servant was not only a 4-power flier, it also immobilized Jonsson's Griffin. Oh, and it also melted the Ice Cage, Öberg's Nightwing Shade was incarcerated in. A very serviceable Servant.
Anton Jonsson 1 – 2 Kenny Öberg
- Saturday, 5:11 p.m. - 120 Beats Per Minute
by Rich Hagon
Magic has always been a game where tempo matters. In M11, it really matters, and the four Round Five feature matches we have for you showcase it beautifully. Nicolai Herzog, Aj Sacher, Adam Koska, Katsuhiro Mori, and Arjan Van Leeuwen, are among those in action. You have a fireball, so if the game goes long, you win. Unless your opponent has one too. You have bomb rares. You win. Unless you're already under the gun. You have multiple flyers. You win. Unless your opponent can stabilize in time. Tempo at its finest. Sing it children - a one, a two, a one-two-three-four...
- Feature Match Round 7 - Anssi Myllymaki vs. Hao-Shan Huang
by David Sutcliffe
If you don't know who Anssi Myllymaki is then the chances are that you don't play enough of Magic Online, because in September last year the unassuming Finn was crowned the 2009 Magic Online World Champion when he defeated seasoned Japanese pro Shouta Yasooka at the World Championships in Rome. Having only played Magic for four years Anssi had played almost exclusively online before Worlds, but we've seen before how the hothouses of Magic Online can rapidly accelerate a player's development. His opponent would be the Taiwanese player Hao-Shan Huang, one of the many more exotic players who have been attracted to Europe for the Pro Tour in Amsterdam. His highest finish to date has been a Top-64 at Pro Tour San Juan, but he's unbeaten so far today and will be stern opposition.
Neither player made a particularly swift start, with Huang the first to put some offense on the board in the form of Chandra's Spitfire, while Myllymaki hid behind his Wall of Frost and an Azure Drake. Huang played a Warlord's Axe and followed that with an Acidic Slime but Myllymaki continued to throw down creatures that would be hard for the Taiwanese player to get past - this time a Giant Spider.
Forcing a way past the Finn's defenses would require brute strength, and Huang handed his Acidic Slime the Warlord's Axe and attacked, reducing Myllymaki to 13 life. The Finn hit back with his Azure Drake but that was blocked by Chandra's Spitfire. Myllymaki followed up with an Augury Owl, then a Giant Growth to try and boost his Owl to a 4/4 when it blocked the Acidic Slime on the next turn. Unfortunately for Myllymaki the Acidic Slime was hit by Huang's own Giant Growth.
On the next turn Myllymaki found a Diminish for the Chandra's Spitfire when it blocked his Azure Drake, and played a Miotic Slime. Huang hit back with an Earth Servant, transferring his axe across to the rocky elemental. That made the Earth Servant the biggest creature on the board, but with a well-timed Mind Control Myllymaki enlisted it's services for himself! With Huang's defenses down the Finn sent his Giant Spider and Miotic Ooze into the red zone
But Huang had tricks! A Naturalise on the Mind Control returned the Earth Servant to his rightful possession, and it crushed Myllymaki's Spider underfoot. On Huang's next turn the Axe was transferred back to the Acidic Slime and he attacked again, to make the life scores 8-10 in his favor.
But Myllymaki wasn't quite done drawing good cards. He followed up last turn's Mind Control with Garruk Wildspeaker, untapping two lands to rebuild his defenses with an Azure Drake. Huang banged the table in frustration as he drew - just a Gargoyle Sentinel, which he deployed before passing the turn. Myllymaki found his own Gargoyle's Sentinel, then on Huang's next turn he handed the Warlord's Axe to his Gargoyle and attacked. Unfortunately it seemed that he hadn't calculated the combat correctly and Myllymaki was able to double-block the incoming Gargoyle with his Azure Drake and Gargoyle, losing only the Drake in the bargain.
Myllymaki began filling his board with Garruk's beast tokens while beating down with a Gargoyle Sentinel from the air. That strategy cut off Huang's ground forces and put the Taiwanese player a turn from death. In a final desperate play, Huang found a Spined Wurm and equipped it with the Warlord's Axe, then used Fling to hurl his 8/5 Wurm directly as Myllymaki's head. Myllymaki had no answer to this surprise assault, meaning Huang dealt lethal damage and stole the game!
Myllymaki (FIN) 0 - 1 Huang (TWN)
Anssi Myllymaki's opening gambit to level the match was a Steel Overseer, but Huang zapped it straight away with a Lightning Bolt before using Call to Mind to pick his Bolt back up. But it seemed immediately obvious from the Taiwanese player's posture that all was not right in his world and he slumped back in his chair as he played land after land - his only non-land card being a Whispersilk Cloak that sat alone on the table. Across the way it was clear that Myllymaki was in no mood to compromise and the Finn swiftly deployed an army of a Sylvan Ranger, Azure Drake, and a Miotic Ooze.
Huang had a Flashfreeze for Myllymaki's Yavimaya Wurm but his one sole hope of mounting a defense came in the form of a Platinum Angel. It took a mere two seconds for the Finn to untap and destroy the Angel with a Naturalise, though, and Huang unhappily scooped up his cards as the obvious victim of a catastrophic deck malfunction.
Myllymaki (FIN) 1 - 1 Huang (TWN)
That meant the match was tightly poised, but once again the game got off to a sleepy start - Huang playing a Prodigal Pyromancer and Augury Owl, while Myllymaki waited 6 turns before venturing a single play. His Harbor Serpent was met with a Cancel, but he managed to get his Gargoyle Sentinel to stick on the following turn, while Huang went back to the tank for another three cards with Jace's Ingenuity.
These were entirely different matches from the familiar flying beat down races we had seen from the white/blue decks earlier in the game, with both players playing cagily. Huang aimed a Chandra's Justice at Myllymaki's Gargoyle, the Finn responded with a Giant Growth, Huang had Flashfreeze for the Giant Growth, and finally Myllymaki used an Unsummon to recall his Gargoyle to hand. The Finn chose not to replay his Gargoyle, but put down a more significant threat while Huang was tapped out - in the form of a Yavimaya Wurm. But Huang coolly returned the Chandra's Justice to hand with a Call to Mind then played a Gargoyle Sentinel of his own, which killed the Finn's Wurm when it attacked, with a little help from his Prodigal Pyromancer.
Huang was succeeding in keeping Myllymaki from established a beachhead on the battlefield for his creatures, but was only able to slowly deal the Finn any damage from his Owl and Pyromancer - nine turns had gone by but Myllymaki was still on 13 life! The Finn played a second Yavimaya Wurm but the game suddenly began to spiral away from the online World Champion as Huang played his Platinum Angel, Azure Drake, and Cloud Elemental in quick succession.
All Myllymaki had was a selection of basic lands he could play and they were not going to help, so he reluctantly scooped up his cards. It was Hao-Shan Huang who would maintain his unbeaten record on day one!
Myllymaki (FIN) 1 - 2 Huang (TWN)
- Saturday, 8:17 p.m. – Digital Champions in an Actual World
by David Sutcliffe
I didn't let Anssi Myllymaki escape the feature match area immediately after his matchup against Hao-Shen Huang because I wanted to have a quick chat with the quiet Finn…
So you're the Magic Online World Champion, Anssi. Congratulations! We don't get to see you at many events though?
Thanks, and no. I think this is just my second serious event this year. The first one I played in was Finnish nationals, and now here today. If I do well enough here today and get enough ranking I may travel to Worlds though. I'd like to go but I'll have to see how I do.
That was a bit of an odd game that you just played (against Hao-Shen Huang) it seemed like you were both playing slow decks there.
Yes I think so. My deck is definitely slow, and I think you could tell from the fact that we both wanted the other player to have the first turn that we were trying to be control decks. I think he side boarded in the blue cards to try and make himself faster after he lost the second game though. But it wasn't much like the other games I've played, really.
Does it feel different playing in real life, compared to online?
Yes. I mean firstly I'm far more relaxed when I play in real life because I don't care so much if I win or lose - it's not as important to me as winning online. But also when you play online the computer does a lot of the work for you in understanding what cards do, and also you can set it up so that it lets you do something when you know you want to do something. In real life it can be quite confusing - players misunderstand cards, or they disagree about when something is happening. That doesn't happen online.
Despite that loss you're doing well though...
I am! I think I'm doing pretty well. I got three byes from a Grand Prix Trial I played in at Finnish Nationals. To be honest if I hadn't won that trial I probably wouldn't have come to Gothenburg. But I'm happy. If I win another round I make it to day two, and I think my deck can win another round. We'll see!
Finger's crossed we'll see Anssi in day two, and maybe he'll even manage to pick up a cardboard title to go with his digital one!
- Saturday, 8:22 p.m. - Podcast: With Room To Spare
by Rich Hagon
Nobody wins a Grand Prix on day one, but an awful lot of people lose them. Our four feature matches in round seven feature two pairs jockeying for a perfect record. These include Hall of Famer Nicolai Herzog, and possible future Hall of Famer Bram Snepvangers (like maybe a week in the future). Meanwhile, our other two matches feature players on 6-1. The winners will be guaranteed a spot in the Sunday draft action, while the losers will have to play the last round of the day to make sure of their place. Getting in with room to spare is a good feeling. Who gets it? Click to find out.
- Saturday, 7:25 p.m. – Brothers In Arms
by Tobias Henke
Just one week ago Daniel Gräfensteiner and Tobias Gräfensteiner crossed paths in the quarterfinal of German Nationals and this weekend they both ended up in the green half of the tournament. When pairings like that come up, how do they deal with having to play and inevitably knock each other out of contention?
"Of course we weren't very happy about playing each other at German Nationals," said Tobias. "But there was never even the thought of one of us conceding. We are both very competitive, we both needed the pro points as much as the other, and well, each one of us wanted to win."
"If a situation comes up in which one of us really, really needed the points to cross some level threshold and the other didn't, we might," he added. About their quarterfinal match he had the following to say: "Actually, we still disagree on the correct sideboard plan. We both played the same 75 cards, but I sideboarded Polymorph and Spawning Breath while Daniel left in all of the Lightning Bolts and Burst Lightnings. I won, so obviously I was right, eh?"
What if they met in the tournament today? "We would just play it out... And I would win."
- Feature Match Round 8 – AJ Sacher vs. Bram Snepvangers
by Tobias Henke
Sacher won the die-roll: "I'm going to play first. You probably want to draw anyway?"
Snepvangers, by way of answering, just laughed. He wasn't looking as happy anymore, though, when he looked at his opening seven. Seven turned to six and thus all the advantage Snepvangers might have gotten from drawing first evaporated.
Sacher started fast with one Squadron Hawk and another. Meanwhile, Snepvangers put down a Mountain and two Swamps, and cast Liliana's Specter. Sacher didn't seem too concerned about having to discard Cancel, his only lands up to this point being Plains. He played a fourth one, cast Cloud Crusader and passed the turn, holding back with his Hawks. Snepvangers had no play and neither did Sacher, but Cloud Crusader attacked. On his turn, Snepvangers Assassinated the 2/3 flier, and found Drowned Catacomb to play Preordain.
Snepvangers raised an eyebrow in a Spock-like fashion and denied. No. In fact, red was his splash color for things like Prodigal Pyromancer which he cast next.
Sacher's Hawks were about to die a fiery death and he was still stuck on Plains only. At least, now he had five of them and could summon Siege Mastodon. But things turned bad for him even more when Snepvangers cast Triskelion.
Sacher's deck, however, decided it was time to drop its own bomb: Baneslayer Angel. Unfazed, Snepvangers took it to his side with Mind Control, but Sacher took it right back with Solemn Offering. Snepvangers looked through his options, which at the hands of his Diabolic Tutor included all cards left in his library. In the end he went for Diminish. Baneslayer Angel turned into a flying, first-striking, lifelinked 1/1 creature with protection from Demons and Dragons, but sadly completely vulnerable to Prodigal Pyromancer, which shot it down.
Triskelion started to attack and was targeted by Condemn. Snepvangers had the Triskelion deal 2 damage to Sacher and 1 to itself. On the next turn he recollected it with Gravedigger, commenting: "Not much of a surprise, I think."
AJ Sacher 0 – 1 Bram Snepvangers
Sacher missed a turn-two play, but had a solid curve of Cloud Elemental, Azure Drake, and Jace's Ingenuity, while Snepvangers had Preordain as his first play, then nothing till turn four, when his Fireball shot down Sacher's 2/3. The Ingenuity led to Foresee, which led to a sixth land and Steel Overseer.
Snepvangers had his sixth too, and summoned Triskelion. Even before Snepvangers could reach his dice to put counters on the Construct, Sacher placed the Overseer in his graveyard.
Sacher himself was not out of tricks either. With seven lands he put Armored Ascension on his 2/4 Drake and attacked, then Canceled Snepvangers's Mind Control. It was a Mighty Leap to get the drake up to lethal size, but just a small step to attack. Or something like that...
AJ Sacher 1 – 1 Bram Snepvangers
For the final game both players had to mulligan and had nothing but lands for their first three turns. On turn four and five Sacher didn't even have that, and at the end of the latter he discarded Armored Ascension. Snepvangers went straight up to seven lands. He cast Liliana Vess – Sacher had Cancel – but Snepvangers had Negate.
Liliana started to discard cards from Sacher's hand who was still stuck on three mana. Instead of land he now drew Steel Overseer, at the very least something he could actually play. But the 1/1 didn't look too good, once Snepvangers summoned Triskelion. It didn't take long before Sacher conceded.
AJ Sacher 2 – 1 Bram Snepvangers
- Saturday, 9:37 p.m. - Podcast: M11, Before M11
by Rich Hagon
Day one of Grand Prix Gothenburg was tons of fun, but it was also fabulously efficient, as one of the smoothest days ever seen came to a close at an eye-popping 9.30pm, well ahead of even the most optimistic schedules. 1001 players have been reduced to 138, and we take you through some of the remaining runners and riders, as we prepare for six rounds of M11 draft, followed by the top 8 showdown. Plenty of former champions have made it in, so we're guaranteed plenty of high-octane stuff tomorrow. See you then!
- Decklists - Day 1 Undefeated Decks
by Tobias Henke
So what did we learn today about the Sealed Deck format with M11? Well, you should better cross your fingers and hope for good blue cards, because that's what took five players to completely unblemished records of 9-0. Whether you pair the blue with white, green, black or some combination of the three, blue is the undisputed king. Red can be splashed but apparently shouldn't be a main color.
To do as these players did, you will also need to have some early creatures. Splashy rares and expensive bombs can get you far, but make no mistake: M11 is, even in Sealed, a lot faster than its predecessor ever was, and on average each of these decks includes more than four two-drops, and that is counting creatures only.
- Saturday, 9:43p.m. – Chips down. Numbers up.
by David Sutcliffe
A recurring theme on the first day of Gothenburg has been the number of star players who are here, and the final round of the day threw up three of the biggest names in Magic: The Gathering in last chance elimination matches to make it into the second day - Katsuhiro Mori, Luis Scott Vargas, and Brian Kibler. The saying is that 'when the going gets tough, the tough gets going' and we've seen time and time again that when the pressure matches come up the best players in the world to show their mettle.
Katsuhiro Mori faced what was, on paper, the toughest matchup of the three stars in the feature match area - he had to get past the experienced Swiss pro Nico Bohny. That didn't prove to be the case in the first game, however, and Mori smashed home with a Yavimaya Wurm and a large Fireball to Bohny's head as the Swiss star struggled to keep up with only 5 lands in play. Mori started the second game in a hurry, with a Child of Night and Fiery Hellhound, pumping the Hellhound as hard as he could to get damage through. Bohny answered those two creatures but was already down to 8 life, and then Mori's Viscera Seer went all the way as his opponent proceeded to draw pretty much every land in his deck.
Katsuhiro Mori (JPN) 2 - 0 Nico Bohny (CHE)
For the American, Luis Scott Vargas, things weren't quite so simple. Of the three players he was the first to wrap up his first game - crushing his opponent under his green creature's hooves - but he lost the second game equally quickly to set up a tense decider. LSV's attempt to launch another quick offense was slowed by a Quag Sickness that didn't kill his Azure Drake, but at least rendered it unable to meaningfully attack. Unfortunately for Valkamaa leaving the vestiges of the Azure Drake in play was a mistake, and LSV returned it to his hand with an Æther Mage, then on his next turn played a Garruk Wildspeaker, untapped two lands, and replayed the Azure Drake. That was too much firepower for his opponent, and as he added a Yavimaya Wurm LSV stomped his way through to join Mori in the second day's draft.
Luis Scott Vargas (USA) 2 - 1 Sami Valkamaa (FIN)
That left Brian Kibler to negotiate his way past the local hero Per Algander, of Sweden. The first game was matchup of mind games, or more accurately of Mind Controls, which Algander won by virtue of having two Mind Controls to Kibler's one, and topped those off with a Frost Titan. In the second game Kibler quickly earnt himself a large card advantage lead with a Sign in Blood and a pair of Mind Rots. That dealt with Algander's hand but left Kibler needing to stabilise the board - although he was clinging onto a Corrupt. Algander used a Diabolic Tutor to find his Frost Titan, but just as Kibler was about to Corrupt the big blue threat he drew a better option - Mind Control. Algander destroyed his errant Titan with a Doom Blade but that left him all out of cards in hand, while Kibler still had 4 left to go. It was the advantage that Kibler had played for from the start, and he swiftly turned those extra cards into beatdown and levelled the match.
For the deciding match Kibler made a brave call - side boarding out all his blue cards to bring in a set of white cards that he felt would help him control the match, including a Blinding Mage and a pair of war Priest of Thune for Algander's Mind Controls. While that plan worked on paper it misfired in reality. Blinding Mage pinned back the Frost Titan, but the Swede's Bog Raiders swampwalked their way past Kiblers defenses time and time again while the American drew no useful offense of his own. With a pair of War Priests in hand Kibler was well-stocked against Mind Control but Algander hadn't drawn Mind Control, and the Bog Raiders completed their morbid march to eventual victory.
Brian Kibler (USA) 1 - 2 Per Algander (SWE)