Day 1 Coverage

Posted in Event Coverage on October 30, 2010

By Event Coverage Staff


  • Saturday, 10:46 a.m. – PRIZES! PRIZES! PRIZES!

    by David Sutcliffe

The Friday night before a European Grand Prix is rapidly becoming something of an institution, drawing players to the Grand Prix venue long before the first cards are played in anger the next day and offering something for everyone.

Super Friday Night Magic offered a friendly and welcoming environment for players to warm up and loosen their mental sinews ahead of the weekend, with great prizes available. For the dedicated Grand Prix competitors there were also Grand Prix Trials running from midday with the winners earning a valuable 3 byes on Saturday morning. Not content with allowing card players to play cards, we have taken to arranging special events every Friday evening - something unique that players can come away from the Grand Prix having had the one and only chance to do something a little bit different. In Gothenburg that took the form of watching legendary Magic artist Alexei Briclot create a brand new piece of Magic 2012 artwork - Chandra's Phoenix and here in Gothenburg it was the chance to take part in Rich Hagon's 'Magic Gameshow LIVE!'

Forming teams of 1-4 people, players chose sides between Mirran and Phyrexian factions to decide the fate of Mirrodan through the power of Magic trivia. On offer as prizes were boxes of Scars of Mirrodin product, the Path of the Planeswalkers graphic novel, and some of the sole-scorchingly hot RyzMagic shoes! The top two Mirran teams would face off against the best two Phyrexian teams for a Top-4 shootout...

Round One: Mythics - 3 minutes to name all 15 Mythic rares in Scars of Mirrodin. No team could manage a clean sweep of all 15 in that time limit. Could you?

Round Two: Mirran/Pyrexian - every card in Scars of Mirrodin is either Mirran or Phyrexian. Calling that Dross Hopper was Phyrexian and Trigon of Mending was Mirran didn't test our players too badly. But would you have correctly picked that Necrotic Ooze was Mirran, even though it's black and necrotic?

Round Three: Grand Prix Venues - there had been 15 Grand Prix held in 2011 before Bochum, in a round that fell straight into the laps of our Pro team - Craig Wescoe and Luis Scott Vargas - and they swept the round to take decisive lead on the Phyrexian side.

Round Four: Tokens - in Scars of Mirrodin nine creature tokens are made by twelve cards. Can you name those cards and the tokens they make in three minutes?

Round Five: Art - it's a push to say that our coverage guru Rich Hagon had 'recreated' the art of fifteen Scars of Mirrodin cards, and I think it's more fair to say that he had 'interpreted' their artwork instead. The task facing our teams was simple - could you name the card despite Rich's artistic incompetence? Posting all fifteen of his creations would probably break the internet, but here's a flavor of the high standard on offer....

Round Six: Infect - for the final round before the Top-4 duel, could you name all 14 Infect creatures in Scars of Mirrodin. Once again none of our teams could manage to get all 14 (did you?), but we had our Top4 teams.

Semi-Finals: Name Spellings - and the fun began in earnest. Rich had found ten players who had finished in the Top8 of a Grand Prix in 2011. The challenge to the teams? Step forward the likes of Zoltan Szoke, Sven Dijt, and Masayasu Tanahashi - could you have spelled their names?

Incredibly, two of our teams could and we had a final of worthy champions, with the best Mirran team facing off against the dastardly Phyrexians Luis Scott Vargas and Craig Wescoe. The whole of Mirrodin waited with bated breath for the final round...

Final: Foreign Card Names - do you know the English card name for these cards? Trigon de Reparation being Trigon of Mending was a gimme, and Bomba Paniku being Russian for Panic Spellbomb didn't test our contestants unduly. But how about Salve Zingante (Galvanic Blast) or Tempeldiener des Hohepriesters (Abuna Acolyte)? Not so easy!

Incredibly, the final ended in a tiebreaker situation, which Luis Scott Vargas won for the Phyrexians to damn Mirrodin by correctly spelling "Tzzzuuuwwtzzm" from the Path of the Planeswalkers graphic novel (the sound that Koth's fiery blast makes on page 32). All the Phyrexian teams stepped up to claim their share of the spoils, with the losing finalists taking their choice of the Ryz shoes home to help them run for their lives from the Phyrexian infestation, and the Magic Gameshow was over!

  • Saturday, 12:03 p.m. – The re-ascension of Justin Gary

    by Tim Willoughby

Brian Kibler is, for the first time in a long time, playing in a tournament outside of America, without having to worry about jet lag. Kibler has been in Germany for some time, with Justin Gary and the Gary Games crew, promoting their new deck building card game Ascension at Essen - the biggest games convention in the world.

That there was a GP the weekend after the show made the choice to play here an easy one. I caught up with him during round one as he was helping pro tour Houston winner Justin Gary with sideboarding plans for his deck. While Gary games quite a bit with Gary Games, he hasn't played so many Magic games recently, and was glad of some extra opinions. The pair had picked different factions (Justin has the devilish grin of a Phyrexian, while Kibler has the confident smile of a Mirran), but are very much on the same side this weekend, and Justin seemed to be having a whale of a time.

"This is only my third time playing with Scars of Mirrodin. I did a draft when Kibler got a box, and I did one draft on Friday, but aside from that this is the first Magic I've played in about 4 years"

Justin is more or less the only old school member of team Your Move Games who has not scored himself a Hall of Fame ring, and with Brian Kibler now being another friend in the hall, Justin definitely seemed interested in doing what he could to score himself a slot.

"When I left Magic, I felt like I had achieved everything that I wanted to achieve. Then they introduced this new thing. I would definitely like to get into the Hall, and if I was in, I would for sure play in the Pro Tour. I'm not sure that I'm ready for the PTQ grind though."

"The problem is, Magic is a hard game. When I was good at it, part of that was because I played a lot. Now I don't have as much time to play, I can see that it will be tough to get back to the same level."

That same level, of course, is pretty high. Justin won Pro Tour Houston with Oath of Druids in the now legendary Houston YMG 1-2-3, where Rob Dougherty and Darwin Kastle, his teammates, came second and third with different constructed decks. Throw in a US Nationals win in 1996, and a median Pro Tour finish of 26.5 while he was at his peak, before starting law school. That he isn't in the hall of fame already seems a telling statement on just how many top level pros there are. The man even made top 8 of Pro Tour Rome (Pro Tour Tolarian Academy) playing Jank - a deck whose typical route to victory was to attack with 2/1 creatures!

The other option Justin has for getting back on tour of course, is just to win big in Germany, and get the qualification that way. With a solid pool, Justin definitely has a good shot at doing just that. Watching him test during his byes in round 1 was kind of like watching someone learn to run while they learn to walk. When confronted with Molten-Tail Masticore, he unleashed his trademark smile. "I'm pretty sure I have an idea of what that guy does. Can I still catch people forgetting to pay its upkeep?" he remarked as he studied a cluttered board. While manoeuvring for a hefty alpha strike, Justin hearkened back to the good old days, catching Ryan Fuller missing the upkeep on two of the old Masticore. By the time the story was at an end, somehow, so was his opponent.

While Justin is busy with a whole host of projects with Gary Games ("Is the fact that the company is often referred to as GGs a coincidence? No."), he is right in the zone today, and here's hoping we get to see more of him at events soon.

  • Saturday, 12:45 p.m. – Choose your side!

    by Tim Willoughby

At the Mirrodin Besieged prerelease, things will be working a little differently to normal. While everyone will be receiving three Scars of Mirrodin boosters, for the new set, they have a choice to make. Each player can either elect to have three packs of boosters with nothing but Phrexian cards, or three packs of cards with nothing but Mirran faction cards. Very soon indeed, the time will come to choose.

Before then though, I did a quick sweep of the room to get a feel for where different players felt most aligned. Myself, I am staunchly Phyrexian, and have been doing my best to infect others with my point of view ever since the party in Amsterdam. It looks like Phyrexia might have a bit of work to do though, as we look at how alignments shake out at the moment.

The Dastardly Mirran

The home team on Mirran currently has quite a force, perhaps down to the fact that they do a good job of pretending to be the 'Good Guys'. Here are just some of the good guys that put themselves in the Mirran Camp.

Luis Scott-Vargas
Tomoharu Saito
Shuhei Nakamura
Martin Juza
Brian Kibler
Craig Wescoe
Kazuya Mitamura
Raphael Levy

If that was our top 8 this weekend then it would be a pretty incredible top 8, to say the least. Let us look at team Phyrexia.

Olivier Ruel
Justin Gary
Geoffrey Siron
Arnost Zidek
Robert van Medevoort
Bram Snepvangers
Christophe Gregoire
Matteo Orsini-Jones

On paper, Team Mirran looks a little stronger, especially for recent finishes (Justin hasn't played in a big event for about 4 years), but there is nothing to say that our plucky squad of Phyrexians can't upset a few people. The balance of Mirran cards to Phyrexian in Scars of Mirrodin is heavily in favour of Mirran also, which may be a factor. Could Mirrodin Besieged infect a few more players to the Phyrexian side by the time that we get to the end of the block? I wouldn't count it out.

  • 1:30 p.m. – Featuring Frank

    by David Sutcliffe

I remember my Mirage pre-release: I played Green-White with two Jolrael Centaurs and got blown out by two of my opponents using Grinning Totem to take my Pearl Dragon from me. On the way home I managed to trick myself into trading away my beloved Autumn Willow for a Crash of Rhinos. An 8/4 Trample Had to be a rare, right?

Frank Adler

Frank Adler remembers his Mirage pre-release as well. His Mirage pre-release was Pro Tour Atlanta 1996. Atlanta was the one and only time that a Pro Tour was played using a Sealed Deck format, and not just any sealed deck but a pre-release, and Frank remembers it well because he beat Darwin Kastle in the final to claim $26,000 and become one of the first ever Pro Tour champions! It has been a long time since we saw Frank's name at anything like a Grand Prix, so as he entered the tournament following his first round bye we laid a trap in the feature match area and waited for him to wander into it…

Lara Jungmann was his opponent, playing in her first Grand Prix with an aggressive flying white/blue deck. She began the first game strongly, equipping a Darksteel Axe to a Screeching Silclaw and adding a flying Snapsail Glider to her aerial assault. Adler hit back by equipping a Strider Harness to his Contagious Nim and dealing 3 poison counters back to his opponent. Jungmann destroyed the Harness then held her Snapsail Glider back to block the Nim, but the wily old fox Alder had tricks and used a Withstand Death to make sure his Indestructible Nim survived it's clash with the Snapsail Glider. Weighing up the numbers Lara realised she was favourite to win a race and attacked again with her Silclaw, dropping Adler to just 8 life. Unfortunately for her the former champ had tricks to spare, and at the end of his opponent's turn Adler played Carrion Call to double his poison potential then attacked with an Untamed Might to win the opener in the blink of an eye!

Adler (GER) 1 - 0 Jungmann (GER)

The second game began with a more aggressive Infect offensive from Adler, with an Ichorclaw Myr and Blight Mamba joined by a Trigon of Infestation, while Jungmann struggled to fight him off with her Mirran forces - a Loxodon Wayfarer, Glint Hawk, and Snapsail Glider. It rapidly looked as though her defenses were outclassed, however, and Lara was forced to turn to her own Phyrexian machinations to turn the battle in her favor, playing a Contagion Engine which removed Adler's creatures from the battlefield.

Moving to the offensive, Jungmann took the air with a Glint Hawk and a Kemba's Skyguard, dropping Adler to 15 life. But you don't beat a Pro Tour champion that easily, and Adler summoned up his mthic Blight Dragon, Skithiryx - although he couldn't give it haste it was quite a deterrent against Jungmann's airforce. That bought the German the time he needed to begin producing Insects, and Lara could only manage to hold Skithiryx back by throwing her flyers at it one by one. A turn later and the inevitable Untamed Might was revealed to end her misery.

Adler (GER) 2 - 0 Jungmann (GER)

Lara Jungmann

After the match Lara fanned out her cards to reveal an Elspeth Tirrel that would make a potent combination with her Contagion Engine along with a bunch of good flyers, but admitted that the Infect matchup was probably going to be a tough one. Turning to Frank, I wanted to catch up on what one of the earliest Pro Tour champions had been up to…

It's the first time we've seen you in a long time… where did you go?

I played through until the last Pro Tour of 2000, which was in Chicago. My son, Luis, was born on New Year's Eve of that year and obviously my priorities changed so I had to stop playing Magic. I started playing again a few years ago, when my son got older, but only very casually. I moved back to Cologne, where I had lived when I was playing on the Pro Tour, and I found all the old players who were still around and made them start playing again. This is my first big big tournament in nine years, though - I think I'm going to have to stop to read the cards a lot!

Of course, you were in Cologne, so you knew Kai Budde?

Yes, you could probably say that we taught him to play Magic. He was very young when he first started playing with us, maybe just 13 or 14 years old. I think he is living in London now - he wasn't in Cologne when I moved back there unfortunately.

You didn't seem to be very rusty in that game, have you played much?

Well, thank you. I got good draws though. I haven't had much practice, I just played at a couple of pre-releases and then an FNM to reactivate my DCI ranking and get my first round bye. It's too early to say if I'm playing well or not - ask me in a few rounds, maybe. I don't expect to make day two, though, just because I don't really know what my opponent can do. I know the cards in my deck, but I don't really know what cards my opponent could have.

Do you like Scars of Mirrodin?

I do! I haven't played many games with it but I really like it - there are loads of good combinations of cards and interactions which make it really interesting. And Infect is really good if you get enough of it. I have ten Infect creatures, or things that give Infect, and I think that's just enough - a few less and I wouldn't want to play it. But I had to be black, I opened my pool and the two best cards were black - a Skithryx and a Carnifex Demon. I had to play those!

And finally, is there an Adler junior learning to play?

Not today. My son is just nine years old, ten this year, and he's learning to play. He started off on Pokemon, now he's really into Yu-Gi-Oh and building maybe four or five different decks every week so I think he must have learnt something from me! We'll move him onto Magic soon, though.

Frank Adler

  • Saturday, 3:26 p.m. – Infecting with Kazuya Mitamura

    by Tim Willoughby

The first people to win a Pro Tour by playing poison with Chris Lachmann and Jake van Lunen. If Kazuya Mitamura has anything to say in the matter, they won't be the last. Since Scars of Mirrodin came out, the Pro Tour Honolulu champion has been cutting a swathe with infect decks, and he was instrumental in the success of our own Rich Hagon over in Toronto, as he, Yuuya Watanabe and Shuhei Nakamura gave The Voice of the Game in the art of infection.

Nine poison counters - not quite enough

Mitamura is in Bochum this weekend, and gave me the full lowdown on exactly what the infect deck is looking to do, and how to draft and build it best.

"In sealed deck, infect is very difficult to build. It is very rare that infect will be the best option for a sealed deck. Maybe one in thirty or one in fifty decks in sealed will be a good infect deck."

The reasons for this are twofold. First, in sealed deck, you have no say on what cards you open. Sometimes you simply don't open sufficient infect creatures, meaning that it is really hard to win the game through poison. One of the traps of green and black in this format is that mixing infect cards with non-infect cards can mean that you are trying to do two different things, with neither of them being as effective as they could be. The second problem for infect decks in sealed deck comes down to the way that other people's decks are put together. In Scars of Mirrodin sealed deck, most infect creatures have quite low toughness, and most people will be playing what removal they have, which is likely more than they would be able to easily pick up in a draft, where removal is at a premium. Even a good infect draw can easily be thwarted by some timely removal early on to blunt their start.

When it comes to draft though, that is where Mitamura gets excited.

The first thing that any good infect deck is looking to pick in Scars of Mirrodin is not actually infect at all. "The most important thing is removal" remarked Mitamura, quite matter of factly. "You need to be able to attack with your infect creatures, and removal lets you do that."

For this reason, something like Grasp of Darkness is a very high pick for the infect deck, as is Skinrender, in spite of being a creature that cannot deal poison damage itself. Likewise, Contagion Clasp is a very very strong card for infect decks, as not only does it serve as removal, it can prove decisive in ending the game with proliferate.

The poison itself clearly cannot be ignored though. In an ideal world, you'll be taking removal spells first (as that leaves you open to read signals) but you can't win with poison without some infect.

Unsurprisingly, the rare infect creatures are some of the higher picks for the infect deck. However, there is a little more to the pick orders of infect creatures than looking at the colour of their rarity symbol.

Yes, Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon, whose spelling is the scourge of coverage writers everywhere sits atop the pile of infect creatures. The reason that he is on top is that he is the great white shark of infect bodies, fusing all of the most important elements - size, survivability and evasion.

Once we get past Skittles the Poisonous Dragon, Hand of the Praetors is next, as he does so much for your entire team. After that though, the order might contain a few surprises. Here it is in its entirety

Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon
Hand of the Praetors
Tangle Angler
Plague Stinger
Ichorclaw Myr
Corpse Cur
Tel-Jilad Fallen
Ichor Rats
Contagious Nim
Blight Mamba
Blackcleave Goblin

I did ask about Vector Asp too, which met with a terse "That is not an infect creature". Too small, and mana intensive, the Asp is not one you want to be playing with. Trigon of Infestation and Carrion Call are both better in slower, more controlling infect decks - the kind packed with removal, and looking to build inevitability, rather than just curving out and cracking into the red zone. Mitamura admits that these are the infect decks he prefers.

Proliferate is clearly a strong addition to infect decks. Any of the artifacts that can do it are great additions. Contagion Clasp and Throne of Geth are both very good, while Contagion Engine was quickly called the 'best card in the set' by a nearby Martin Juza.

What is of less value, perhaps surprisingly, is equipment. You might notice that the infect creatures toward the top of Mitamura's list are those with higher toughness - able to get in fights with blockers and then live to fight again. Because most infect creatures have a very low toughness, in Mitamura's eyes, there is little value in equipping them with much - they trade very well already, and it is unlikely that there is much you might equip that will change blocking decisions greatly, so why bother? About the only equipment that really shone for Mitamura outside the rare slot was Heavy Arbalest. Because the damage dealt by an infect creature using the Arbalest is still infect damage, it is like another proliferater, in being able to end the game without attacking. Better than most equips are pump spells. Untamed Might is certainly a welcome addition to poison decks, though Mitamura was quick to point out that picking many of them is not necessarily worth it. He would stick with 2 at most.

Tainted Strike and Grafted Exoskeleton deserve additional mentions. In a really good infect draft deck, these are superfluous. However, as the archetype gains steam, it is less likely that getting a really good infect deck will be possible. Mitamura estimates between 2 and 3 infect decks will be supported by a table, and there could easily be that number of people or more trying to walk the poison path. As soon as infect decks start to need to branch out and play non-infect creatures, both the Strike and the Exoskeleton become quite good. Getting a strong read on the table for infect is one of the real skills of the archetype. When things are going well, it is easy as pie to draft - just keep taking infect creatures. When lots of people are doing it, a little finesse is required.

One interesting card mentioned for the sideboard of the infect deck is Withstand Death. This card is horrible in the mirror, where all those -1/-1 counters laugh at the notion of indestructibility. However, in more regular matchups, the instant holds its own well, addressing one of the concerns of most infect creatures - that if they do get blocked, they will almost certainly be dying.

Infect is a slightly risky deck, but one with a great deal of reward to it; a good infect deck will frequently be one of the better decks on a draft table. In sealed, it is often a bridge too far, but that definitely doesn't mean you shouldn't be looking for it - there are plenty of decks that have trouble staving off infection.

  • Feature Match - Round 4: Tomoharu Saitou (JPN) vs. Kazuya Mitamura (JPN)

    by David Sutcliffe

Whenever we enter the fourth round of a Grand Prix there's a distinct feeling that things could be about to turn real as the true Pros enter the fray. Taking a tournament of 1,500 players and adding 300 of the best players in the world to it is akin to pouring a truck-load of sharks into a public swimming pool. Not all those sharks can find themselves a juicy swimmer to eat though, and inevitably a couple of sharks will wind up bumping into each other pretty much straight away. Spare a thought, therefore, for the two Japanese legends Kazuya Mitamura and Tomoharu Saitou, who found themselves paired against each other straight out of the gate.

Saitou seemed keen to steal a march on his compatriot immediately, playing a Perilous Myr then using a Galvanic Blast to destroy Mitamura's Leaden Myr. Saitou's spidey-sense had obviously been tingling and he had correctly sensed that Kazuya Mitamura would need that Myr - he skipped his next three land drops to remain trapped on just two lands. Fortunately for Mitamura he did have a Shatter on hand for the Sabreclaw Golem that Saitou had hoped would quickly seal a win, and that bought Mitamura enough time to finally reach his third land having taken only four points of damage!

A Rust Tick was a good defensive choice for Mitamura, and that held back Saitou's Trinket Mage. Saitou followed up with a Blade-Tribe Berzerkers, but Mitamura played a Vulshok Replica and equipped a Sylvok Lifestaff to his Rust Tick. The Vulshok Replica traded with the Blade-Tribe Berzerkers, and after playing a Trigon of Corruption Mitamura finally stabilised the board.

Kazuya Mitamura (JPN)

Mitamura's first attempt to win was to seize control with Geth, Lord of the Vault, but Saitou had a Turn To Slag on hand for that. Turning to Plan B, Mitamura simply played out a constant stream of threats from his hand - a Moriok Replica and Sabreclaw Golem arrived in play, and once the Golem had been handed a Sylvok Lifestaff not even a newly-played Scrapdiver Serpent could stand in it's way. Saitou sent his Serpent onto the offensive, dropping Saitou to 9 life, and played a Sky Eel School, but it was too little and it was too late. Revealing a Grasp of Darkness Kazuya Mitamura removed the Sky-Eels and attacked with everything he had to put Saitou to 2, then threw a Galvanic Blast on top for good measure. GG!

Tomoharu Saitou 0 - 1 Kazuya Mitamura

Game two began in a very familiar fashion, with Mitamura suffering mana problems (four swamps and red cards in hand) while Saitou simply couldn't draw anything scary enough to punish his opponent (Necropede and Perilous Myr was a clock that could be ignored for a long while). Mitamura finally found his red mana and played a Clone Shell which successfully dissuaded Saitou from attacking.

With his defenses prepared Mitamura went directly to Plan A: Geth. Unfortunately for him Saitou was already ready to force him onto Plan B with a second Turn To Slag, then adding a Darksteel Sentinel. With Geth already in the graveyard Saitou obviously felt he wasn't too concerned about what might be lurking inside Mitamura's Clone Shell and began whittling away his opponent's life total with the Sentinel. Mitamura had an Embersmith down and plenty of artifacts in play but was faced with the reality that the only things he could kill were the Necropede and Perilous Myr - both of which would kill his Embersmith!

Tomoharu Saitou (JPN)

A Sylvok Lifestaff changed the maths for Mitamura, and having handed it to the Embersmith he was perfectly happy to trade his 'smith away for one of Saitou's creatures and a valuable 3 life points. Then for a second game running Mitamura's wealth of creature removal ensured he took control of the game. Saitou's Scrapdiver Serpent met a Turn To Slag, his Darksteel Sentinel felt the Grasp of Darkness, a Shatter removed the Perilous Myr as a blocker and then Mitamura swept to a win behind a 9/9 Chimeric Mass as a metal crafted Galvanic Blast!

Tomoharu Saitou 0 - 2 Kazuya Mitamura

  • Saturday, 4.12p.m. – Taking The Magic With You

    by David Sutcliffe

Panama is not a country that springs to mind when you think of Magic powerhouses, but for a long time the European Grand Prix staff has been able to call on the skills of level 3 judge, Carlos Ho, a native of Panama living in Spain. Here in Bochum we have a second connection to Panama though, and a great example of how Magic is a global game, in the form of Karl Philipp.

Karl Philipp

How did it all start for you?
I was born in Germany but my family moved to the United States when I was young, and we lived there for a long time, about 7 years. I started playing Magic while I was in America - I think it was for 7th Edition, while we were living in Pittsburgh. After that we moved to Panama and it didn't take me long to find the local games shop where everyone was playing.

We don't hear much about Magic from Panama, what was it like?
They were really organised! The store I played at was called 'Quimera' in El Dorado, just outside Panama City, and they were the official retailer for Panama. They ran FNMs all the time, with all the promo packs and prize support and all that stuff. I played there all the way through Ravnica block and Time Spiral but I missed Lorwyn block because of college.

And now you've moved back to Germany?
Yes, we've moved back to Germany, to Mannheim. It actually took me a while to find the games store in Mannheim, which is Wizard's Well. Not because they were hard to find but because I had to learn German again! They run loads of events as well - lots of FNMs, a lot of Legacy tournaments, and also they play Highlander almost every Saturday. I'd never heard of Highlander before I moved here but I really like it, it's a great idea!

So I guess Magic has followed you around the world?
Oh definitely! It breaks down language barriers and you know you have something in common - once you find your local playgroup it's like an instant group of friends. It helped when I moved to Panama, and it's been good again moving back to Germany.

Finally, so what's your deck like for the Grand Prix?
I'm not playing in the Grand Prix, unfortunately. We got here too late to register, but I'm going to spend the day playing in the public events - maybe doing a couple of drafts but I've got my Legacy burn deck with me so hopefully I'll get to play that. I've already bought a few new cards for it from the dealers here - Molten Influence and a few Nevinyrral's Disk to destroy enchantments. I'm looking forward to trying it out!

  • Saturday, 6:26 p.m. – Rocking the Tokens

    by David Sutcliffe

We've become used to seeing creature tokens inside our booster packs over the years - Faeries, Elementals, Spirits, there's been a host of them and Scars of Mirrodin is no exception. Between Wolves and Cats, Wurms and Myr some of the best cards in the expansion involving putting creature tokens into play. So the question I wanted an answer to was simple: which is best?

Now it doesn't take a Hall of Famer to spot that a 2/2 Cat token is better than a 1/1 Soldier token but this question isn't really so much about the tokens themselves as it is about the cards which produce them… do you know your Kemba, Kha Regent's from your Golem Foundrys?

Luis Scott Vargas

1. Deathtouch Wurm
2. Lifelink Wurm
3. Soldier
4. Golem
5. Wolf
6. Myr
7. Cat
8. Insect
9. Goblin

"If you're playing with Golem tokens and you don't have Precursor Golem in your deck then you're an idiot. Or you have a ridiculous amount of Proliferate for your Golem Foundry."

Martin Juza

1. Soldier
2. Deathtouch Wurm
3. Lifelink Wurm
4. Wolf
5. Golem
6. Myr
7. Cat
8. Insect
9. Goblin

"Wait, I forgot Myr Battlesphere! Stick Myr up to #4, the Sword of Body and Mind isn't as good as Myr Battlesphere."

Kenny Oberg

1. Lifelink Wurm
2. Deathtouch Wurm
3. Golem
4. Myr
5. Wolf
6. Soldier
7. Insect
8. Cat
9. Goblin

Shuuhei Nakamura

1. Deathtouch Wurm
2. Lifelink Wurm
3. Soldier
4. Golem
5. Wolf
6. Myr
7. Cat
8. Insect
9. Goblin

"Wurmcoil definitely #1, Goblin definitely last!"

  • Saturday, 7:10 p.m. – The State of the Art with Steven Belledin

    by Tim Willoughby

Here in Bochum, we have a couple of artists who are busily signing cards for seemingly never ending streams of Magic art lovers. Armed with a stack of various sharpies, and a smile every bit as persistent as the players looking to get their Deathmarks signed, Steven Belledin had clearly found his happy place.

Steven Belledin

Steven is one of a generation of Magic artists who has grown up with the game, playing at high school and college, and now doing illustrations on the cards themselves. Growing up in Pennsylvania, Steven moved to New York to do an illustration major, that left him well set up to do any number of jobs in and around illustration, art direction and graphic design.

While in New York, Steven played Magic with a chap called Jeremy Jarvis. With Jeremy now the art director for Magic, it would not be the last time they crossed paths.

"The fact that I get to do this for a living tickles me. I grew up with Magic art, and now I get to make it. I really feel that I'm living the dream. I love it. My work has been in decks alongside Paolo Parente and Chris Moeller (who is also in Bochum this weekend), which is huge to me."

Having illustrated Magic cards since Coldsnap, Belledin has certainly had his fair share of powerful cards to illustrate, including a regular player in many sideboards - Deathmark.

"That piece falls in line with my own graphic philosophy. I like simplicity in my own work and I think it is a very straightforward and simple image. I was looking for something that people would stop and look at. I think that graphic imagery is more arresting on a gut level. I love stuff with tonnes of detail and is more 'noodley', but I could never do it for myself.

"I did the eye the other way up intentionally. I thought I could use the fact that it sits flat on the table to my advantage, so that it would be the right way up for the opponent - which is kind of creepy and in flavour for black. It wasn't asked for by the art department but I think it amped up the creep factor."

Between Deathmark, and the Duress in M11, it would be hard to argue that Belledin doesn't have a certain flair for the creepy. When looking at his portfolio though there is quite a mix, from basic land, all the way up to Transcedent Master - Belledin's current favourite piece on a card that is out right now.

"That is one of the ones that my wife has demanded that I never sell. There are a few like that. Seedcradle Witch is another like that. It is one of the pieces I've done that came out exactly as I wanted it to, and I would describe as a beautiful picture. Normally I can't look at my pictures without seeing bits that I'd like to change."

One of the good things about the 'no sell' list is that because Belledin works in oils, they are just great to put up on the wall.

Artfully done.

"I am an oil painter for better or for worse. I guess that makes me a bit of a dinosaur. I have sometimes had to make small modifications digitally but really, I feel a bit rubbish with digital - it just doesn't flow for me in the same way."

Those oil paintings have flowed steadily for Belledin throughout his work with Wizards of the Coast though, including the opportunity to re-imagine some iconic cards from Magic history.

"With Masticore I tried to pay some tribute to the original, but kind of stopped it there as I wanted to make it my own piece. It looks like a really dangerous artifact creature now, which was a big part of the brief. When I did Cho Manno, the Hildebrandt brothers had done the original, and it was very hard for me to divorce myself from what they had done - I'm a big fan of a lot of their work.

"My first job with wizards was doing D&D work, and I had played D&D from when I was 7 all the way through college. To actually see my work in the pages of their books was really surreal. Even today with Magic, it never gets old. On some strange level I feel like I'm getting away with something. It really is fun. It's a wonderful wonderful opportunity, being here in Germany, but i has never really sunk in."

Giving the quality and versatility inherent in Steven Belledin's work, it seems likely he'll be 'getting away with it' for a while to come.

  • Feature Match - Round 6: Sebastian Thaler vs Martin Juza - "My deck's sweet. My deck's really sweet"

    by Tim Willoughby

Martin Juza sat down for his feature match in fine spirits for round six, and had no concerns with letting his opponent know it. The last time that Juza played Thaler, it was in an epic Elf mirror in the top 8 of Pro Tour Berlin. That match saw both players gaining huge amounts of life off Essence Wardens, and the game running super-long. Something suggests that Scars of Mirrodin sealed will not be quite as slow paced.

Martin Juza.

Juza showed himself to be something of a high roller, getting a 12 on two dice, and choosing to draw, valuing the extra card over tempo. This meant that Thaler would get the first damage in, as he played a Glint Hawk Idol on turn two, and animated it for a swing on the third turn. Thaler was green/white, while Juza had Mountain supported by Iron Myr for red mana, and enough white mana to cast a Kemba's Skyguard.

A Sylvok Replica from Thaler left Juza with a decision. Thaler was all tapped out, meaning that this would be a good time to off the 1/3 if he could. Juza couldn't do it, but he did play a Contagion Clasp to render the Replica a little less effective in a fight, and then used Glint Hawk to return the artifact to his hand.

Thaler was without plays for his fourth turn, simply holding up mana for his various activated abilities. Juza simply shrugged and cast Hoard-Smelter Dragon. Sylvok Replica would do little about that. At the end of turn Slice in Twain killed Juza's Myr, and drew Thaler a card. Facing down a dragon that could make short work of his board, Thaler would likely need a trick or two. He cast a Molder Beast and passed.

Juza's whole team could fly, and none of them were afraid of artifact removal. Juza's dragon even acted as removal on Glint-Hawk Idol, clearing a path for a substantial attack. 11 points in the air took Thaler to 7, and when he didn't draw any help, he picked up his cards to go on to game 2.

Sebastian Thaler 0 - 1 Martin Juza

Sebastian Thaler.

Juza was quick to sideboard for the second game, suggesting that he might already have a better build for his deck worked out. As he removed one of the cards from his deck, he cheekily declared one of his cards to be 'the worst'. Four cards came in for Juza.

This time Juza was on the play, and looked on as Thaler made a turn one Origin Spellbomb. Juza had a Myrsmith for his turn, but could not attack into the 1/1 that inevitably came for Thaler. A Kemba's Skyguard would do better on attacks for Juza, while Thaler again looked on with a Sylvok Replica that had few targets.

Juza cast a Sylvok Replica of his own that had plenty of targets, but no green mana as fuel. He got a Myr out of Myrsmith into the deal, and ultimately still seemed fairly happy with how things were going. A Chrome Steed from Thaler looked interesting, but it would not stay large if Thaler sacrificed his replica, leaving him in a tricky spot. This was somethign that the caring sharing Juza made easier, by drawing a Forest to allow him to kill the Replica once Thaler had tapped out for Molder Beast.

Horizon Spellbomb joined Thaler's side of the table, threatening a lot of damage with Molder Beast. Indeed the Beast rumbled in, and got bigger thanks to the Spellbomb fetching Thaler a Plains. A post combat Glint Hawk Idol from the German was well and truly trumped by Sunblast Angel (in foil no less) from Juza, which took down Thaler's big green monster. It seemed that Thaler might have an answer to the 4/5 flyer in Tower of Calamities, but again Juza seemed to have all the right answers, with a Revoke Existence to remove the powerful tower from the game before it could be used even once.

Someone is having a blast and it is not Thaler.

Razor Hippogriff ensured that those answers would keep on coming, getting back Juza's Sylvok Replica. From there, with Thaler drawing thin, the game was over in swift fashion.

Martin Juza wins 2-0!

  • Feature Match - Round 8: Bram Snepvangers (NED) vs. Petr Brozek (CZE)

    by David Sutcliffe

Bochum marks yet another event where the ever-dependable Bram Snepvangers is doing well, proving once more that his imminent arrival in the Magic Hall of Fame is well-deserved. Round eight pitted the Dutch master against stern opposition, though, in the form of the Czech pro Petr Brozek, a former national champion with a PT top8 to his name. With both players undefeated at this point it would be a vital match for both players to avoid a costly defeat.

Snepvangers was forced to mulligan at the beginning of the first game, but a sturdy Rust Tick ensured that his black-red deck had little to fear from Brozek's opening of a pair of Gold Myr, and he took the time to add a Trigon of Corruption to the board. For his part Brozek took his offensive to the air with a Sky-Eel School and Glint Hawk. The Czech player's problem was his mana, though - he had only played three land and was depending on his pair of Gold Myr, something Snepvangers was quick to call to an end with his Trigon of Corruption. A Grasp of Darkness followed this to send the Sky-Eel School to the graveyard and leave Brozek with only three lands and a Glint Hawk in play… but facing only a Rust Tick across the board this didn't seem too bad!

Bram Snepvangers

Brozek played a second Glint Hawk, then after Snepvangers had thrown his last Trigon of Corruption counter onto one of the Hawks he threw down a Neurok Invisimancer and Perilous Myr. Pushing for the win, he had Bram to 12 life and facing a battery of beat down! Bram played a Barrage Ogre in an attempt to stabilise, but Brozek simply piled in for another 5 damage that Bram's creature's couldn't stop, pausing only to Disperse the Barrage Ogre.

A Skinrender took care of one of the Glint Hawks but couldn't prevent Bram taking another 3 points of damage, dropping to 4, and when Brozek played a Tumble Magnet he seemed close to victory. Another 3 damage reduced the Dutch Hall of Famer to 1 life. But that was the one life point that mattered: with his Barrage Ogre finally online, and a Perilous Myr on the launcher ready to be flung, Bram Snepvangers had suddenly taken control of the board! The Dutchman's Ogre and Trigon removed Brozek's flying armada, and kept anything else the Czech pro had drawn off the board. A turn later Bram's Skinrender began its inexorable march through the red zone and Bram stole a win that seemed to have already slipped through his fingers!

Snepvangers 1 - 0 Brozek

Brozek opted to draw in the second game, and when Snepvangers was forced to mulligan for a second time it seemed a wise decision. But game two saw a very different outlook from the Dutchman, with a third turn Necrogen Scudder and following Oxidda Scrapmelter (destroying a mana Myr) setting Snepvangers very definitely on the offensive in the second game. Brozek fought back with a Tumble Magnet and Razor Hippogryph, dumping a Precursor Golem with Riddlesmith before using the Hippogryff to to gain 5 life by returning it to hand. Undeterred, Bram played Bleak Coven Vampires and swung his forces - the Scudder and Hippogriff butted heads but all his efforts he had only taken Petr Brozek down to 16 life!

Petr Brozek

Things got better for Brozek in his next turn, playing a Contagion Clasp, returning it with Glint Hawk, then playing the Clasp a second time, shrinking both the Scrapmelter and Vampires down to 2/2 and 3/2, respectively. Snepvangers attacked again, and Brozek traded down his Glint Hawk and Riddlesmith to leave Bram with only a Rust Tick and Iron Myr in play. It was Brozek's turn to play hardball now - his Precursor Golem hit play, but when he tried to return it to hand with a second Glint Hawk he only succeeded in drawing out a Shatter to spoil his potentially game-winning play.

Both players were into Plan B now, and pretty much playing top deck Magic. Snepvangers found a Skinrender which killed Brozek's Glint Hawk, but Brozek immediately drew into a Sky-Eel School. The Rust Tick was proving to be a surprising MVP for Snepvangers at this stage because it had been able to tie down Brozek's Contagion Clasp and prevent him from recharging his Tumble Magnet. Unfortunately for Snepvangers Brozek trumped that with an Argentum Armor! The Sky-Eels swelled to an enormous 9/9 and Brozek levelled the match.

Snepvangvers 1 - Brozek 1

That gave the players less than two minutes to complete a third game, and in truth they never began it - both players sideboarding in all their cheapest cards to avoid being blown out by a mana screw took them close enough to the time limit that they agreed to simply call the match a draw. The two heavyweights walked away a little bruised from their encounter, but unbowed, and with both their unbeaten records still intact.

  • Feature Match - Round 9: Arnost Zidek vs Helmut Summersberger

    by Tim Willoughby

When I asked him at the start of the day if he considered himself Mirran or Phyrexian at the start of the day, Arnost Zidek beamed from ear to ear and proudly declared himself to be Phyrexian, remarking that he had enjoyed the various sets already that had featured Phyrexians. His smile remained going in to round 9, playing Helmut Summersberger with an as yet perfect record.

Summersberger won the roll, but it was Zidek who got off to the quicker start, with a Glint Hawk Idol followed up by Snapsail Glider, while Summersberger had just a Perilous Myr. A Snapsail Glider came down for Summersberger to even up the field (snap!), but it had to stay on the ground, while Zidek's took to the air thanks to achieving metalcraft with a Leaden Myr. Zidek also found his first coloured spell of the game for his Plains and Forests in Sunspear Shikari.

Helmut Summersberger

It didn't seem that either player would have metalcraft for long. A Contagion Clasp took out Zidek's myr, and then Revoke Existence from Zidek removed Perilous Myr. Some attacks and trades, followed by Grasp of Darkness from Summersberger led to virtually empty boards on either side, with Zidek ahead on life. Chimeric Mass (for 4) from Summersberger seemed a more imposing threat on a clear board than Rusted Relic, which even with a Copper Myr to help it, was not really changing the board.

Considering that Summersberger had Swamps, and Zidek Forests, this seemed like a virtual mirror, as Summersberger played his own Rusted Relic and a Sylvok Lifestaff to get it active. Zidek had an Arrest for the 5/5, but little more. Summerberger further built his field with a Perilous Myr. Soon he would have the mana to start using Contagion Clasp to proliferate additional counters onto his Chimeric Mass.

Zidek cast Ezuri's Brigade, now really hurting for a third artifact, as he had two metalcraft cards in play. A Carnifex Demon from Summersberger looked a back-breaking board changer. It immediately put a -1/-1 counter on each other creature in play, putting back Zidek's plan considerably. Now Contagion Clasp looked even scarier. The life points were 19 to Zidek and just 9 to Summersberger, but this lead on life seemed unlikely to last.

A little proliferation from Summersberger left Zidek with just a 2/2 Ezuri's Brigade as his creature base, made Chimeric Mass bigger, and Carnifex Demon a little smaller. Summersberger swung for 9. Zidek had no play, and at end of turn, Carnifex Demon used his ability again, making Ezuri's Brigade a 1/1, and ripe for removal thanks to a Contagion Clasp activation. That was enough, and it was on to game two.

Arnost Zidek 0 - 1 Helmut Summersberger

For game two, Summersberger was on the play and led with a Sylvok Lifestaff, and had a turn three Palladium Myr as the first creature to equip it to. Zidek was content to cast turn two Glint Hawk Idol, into turn three Copper Myr, allowing an attack. The myr soon died to Instill Infection, leading Zidek to replace it with an Iron Myr. Still stuck on two lands, this time having a mountain (unlike game one), Zidek had to look on with envy as Summerberger continued to add to his available mana that mana paid for a Fume Spitter, which was equipped with Sylvok Lifestaff. Before it could sacrifice itself, Summersberger played Elspeth Tirel, and gained some life with her. The Spitter then shot down Iron Myr, gaining Summersberger more life thanks to that equipment.

Arnost Zidek

Zidek could only laugh as he was missing lands, but had yet another myr (this time Silver Myr) to cast for his turn. This seemed a meagre force against the likes of Elspeth, whose protectors grew in number when Summersberger cast a Necrogen Scudder and a Perilous Myr to block with.

Finally, one of Zidek's myr survived long enough to overcome summoning sickness, and he drew a third land (a Forest). A Palladium Myr put Zidek's mana development right on track, though it was unclear how much help this would be in the face of a planeswalker with plenty of loyalty.

Summersberger was not fast to worry about protecting his planeswalker, attacking with his team, and getting the trade with Glint Hawk Idol that blocked his Palladium Myr. Elspeth bolstered Summersberger's team, making 3 soldier tokens. While Zidek's mana woes might well have been over, he was now on perilously low life. In such a situation, Perilous Myr seemed a strong choice, and it even enabled a 4 point Galvanic Blast to kill Elspeth.

This did little to help against a 4/3 equipped Necrogen Scudder, when Zidek had no flying blockers. He went to 5 on attacks, with the blocks he was forced to do leaving him with just a Palladium Myr. Summersberger was not out of gas, casting a Snapsail Glider after combat to keep the pressure on. Zidek thought long and hard about how to deal with situation, but there was little he could do. He simply extended his hand in defeat.

Helmut Summersberger wins 2-0, advancing to 9-0!

  • Saturday, 11:45 p.m. – Round Ten Round-Up: Tough at the Top

    by David Sutcliffe

With qualification for Day Two drafts decided after round nine, a bonus 'first round of Sunday' took place on Saturday night in an attempt to seperate out the field a little further before the six rounds of draft. With the 'bubble' temporarily burst we were free to focus on the top few tables and watch the carnage that the unbeaten decks could unleash on each other.

Clashing on an unbeaten 9-0 record Tore Skalevik of Norway was immediately under fire from Helmut Summersberger's brutal white beatings. Summersberger had shredded his opponent's defences with a Contagion Clasp/Glint Hawk combination that killed first an Embersmith then a Vulshok Replica, before equipping a Darksteel Axe to his Hawk and playing Rusted Relic. Finally getting to five mana Skalevik made a critical error with his Turn To Slag, shredding the Glint Hawk but completely failing to destroy the indestructible Darksteel Axe that it was carrying, and thus also failing to turn off the Rusted Relic. It only took one combat phase for that error to become fatal and put him a game down. Losing the second game quickly, Summersberger squeaked over the line to a 10-0 record when his Chimeric Mass proved simply too much once the pair had got to topdeck Magic in the third.

Davy Loeb waited impatiently for a mana train that never arrived

On the table next door Davy Loeb was hoping to defend his own 9-0 record against fellow Pole, Wojciech Herdzina. Following a trend on the top tables there was not a single blue or green card in sight in this match either, and Loeb took a swift lead with a Geth, Lord of the Vault that Herdzina simply couldn't answer. I don't know what the Polish for "Geth is stupidly good, I can't beat that card" is, but I'm pretty sure I heard it while Herdzina was shuffling up his cards. Unfortunately for Loeb his luck ended there, and he cut an unhappy and frustrated figure as his deck malfunctioned in the decider, leaving him starved of mana and entering the draft with 'only' a 9-1 record.

Kostler simply brought too much gas to ensure he went 10-0

That was the top players from the Blue half of the Grand Prix. Leading the Green half, Jonas Kostler had lost the first game against Lukas Kraft swiftly, but fought back in a critical second game with a Sunblast Angel that destroyed three of his opponent's creatures. When Kraft attempted to fight back with Chimeric Mass it was immediately answered by a Glimmerpoint Stag. The Chimeric Mass returned on the next turn, but with no +1/+1 counters on it, and was successfully nullified. The deciding game went much the same way as the second had done, with Kostler riding his Sunblast Angel and Glimmerpoint Stag home to victory, while Lukas Kraft seemed entirely happy to settle for his 9-1 performance.

Vincent Lemoine swiftly rolled past Sok-Yong Lee to become only the third player with the perfect 10-0 record, while in the feature match area a final tussle between Grand Prix champions Simon Goertzen and Kenny Oberg was ended only when Goertzen was able to find one more body to equip a Strata Scythe to than Oberg was able to kill. To be honest, at the point where Oberg was forced to hurl his Sunblast Angel in front of an Iron Myr as a desperate chump blocker, the Swede perhaps felt the writing was on the wall.

You would do well to spot any green or blue cards at the top table

And that was all they wrote. From 1800 players we're down to under 200, and those 200 will return tomorrow morning for six more rounds of EPIC Scars of Mirrodin drafting. Congratulations to the winners, chin up to the losers, and we would see them all tomorrow!

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