Day 1 Coverage of Grand Prix Moscow

Posted in Event Coverage on June 14, 2014

By Wizards of the Coast

It's been an exciting and surprisingly quick Day 1 at Grand Prix Moscow in the Elektrifikatsiya center. More than 500 Magicians showed up to prove their skills against some of Russia's finest players as well as some international competition that was trying to lock up Silver or in some cases even Platinum at one of the last Grand Prix of the season.

The familiar archetypes, most notably Black Devotion decks as well as Jund Monsters, put up strong numbers today, proving once again that you need to have them on your radar when you're preparing for a Standard tournament. Their firm grip on the metagame left very little room for innovation, making it hard for creative deck builders to come up with something unique that could make a lasting impression in the Russian capital.

Surprisingly enough, two out of the three players that remain undefeated after eight rounds of Swiss, are not relying on these popular archetypes. At the very top of the standings, we find Susanne Bornelöv from Sweden, joined by the two local heroes Dmitriy Butakov and Denis Andrejchikov. Butakov has successfully made the transition from Magic Online to the card game and he is running a Bant Control deck. Andrejchikov relies on Boros Burn while Bornelöv went with G/B Devotion.

Also still in competition are (16) Lee Shi Tian, Alessandro Portaro, Antonino De Rosa and Tomoharu Saito who will all have to put up a strong performance tomorrow to secure a spot in the Top 8.

Make sure to check back tomorrow and until then, we say "спокойной ночи"!


Saturday, 9:45 a.m. – Grand Prix Trial Winning Deck lists

by Olle Råde
 

Yarullin Said - Jund Monsters

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Vladimir Lesnik - Jund Monsters

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Natfullin Airat – Black-Green Devotion

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Venis Andreychikov – Red/White Burn

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Anton Samoshin – Black - Green Devotion

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Dmidry Medvedev - Mono-Black Devotion

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Saturday, 12:30 p.m. – Running a Club in Russia

by Oliver Gehrmann
 

I sat down with Moscow residents Phillip Larin, who works at the Club Portal, and Artem Voshchennikov, a single card vendor, to learn a little bit more about the unique challenges of running a store in Russia. You will be surprised to hear that there are quite some differences when you're comparing your typical hobby store in Moscow to one in Western Europe or America.

Artem, you're usually selling single cards, yet you've teamed up with "Club Portal" this weekend. How come?

Artem: We joined forces for this event so we could provide a large selection of singles (which I'm providing) as well as having accessories present on our booth like deckboxes, sleeves, etc. (which Club Portal is offering)

We have been friends for years since we're playing together in the same "club".

These "clubs" seem to be a pretty big deal over here. Can you explain the difference between a "club" and a "store"?

Phillip: A "club" is basically like a synonym for "store" in Russia. It means that you're only using a small amount of your floor space to sell items whereas you're using the vast majority to provide space for customers to play or do something else that's not directly affecting sales. So rather than "hobby store" or "gaming store", we tend to refer to our stores as "clubs".


Business was going well all morning for Artem and Phillip!

Can you come up with other differences between the Russian community and the rest of the world?

Artem: I think it's fair to say that our community is a lot more used to travelling. They don't only attend the PTQs that are close by, they also cross borders to enroll in tournaments in Belarus, Poland, the Ukraine or Finland. When you're from St. Petersburg, it's often easier to travel to Finland to attend a PTQ rather than making a trip to Moscow.

This then in turn affects the preferences of our respective communities. Our friends from St. Petersburg are really into Legacy since it's an extremely popular format in Finland. So the Finnish excitement about the format has been instilled in our "northern capital" and that's why we refer to the St. Petersburg community as the "Northern School of Legacy".

Is there a lot of rivalry between the communities from different cities, e.g. between Moscow and St. Petersburg?

Artem: We are mostly friendly. We are travelling together to the Grand Prix in the other European countries; often, we try to turn them into longer trips. Last year, we travelled to Verona and we then went on and made our way all the way through Italy to end up in Utrecht where the next Grand Prix was taking place. That was quite an exciting trip and it's slowly turning into a tradition.

The only problem can be the visa situation, but we're on top of that and we can provide assistance to the few members of our group that tend to have troubles.

I have been told that Russian cards are really popular.

Artem: The Russian cards are - together with the Korean cards - the rarest cards on the market. That often makes them very popular with collectors and whenever we leave the country and attend an event in the rest of Europe, people are all over our binders, wanting to trade their cards for Russian versions.

Doesn't that translate to a pretty easy life when you're selling single cards on the secondary market, Artem?

Artem: Our players don't play enough Drafts and Sealed to get the cards that they need. With so little product available on the market, the prices for the singles are pretty high by comparison.

Unfortunately, it's virtually impossible for us to import cards from other countries. The people who are working in customs often just read "cards" and then their alarm bells are ringing. They don't really understand the product and they just make us pay high fees when we want to pick up the items.

Then again, this increases interest in the trips to the non-Russian Grand Prix since players can get their hands on the much-desired cards rather easily once they've crossed the border. So there are upsides to it as well.


The team of Club Portal even created a T-Shirt for the event!

Did you sell a lot of cards for the event this weekend?

Artem: While sales were going great, we didn't sell that many cards to the players from our own club. We lent a lot of cards out since they were simply missing too many of them to put together some of the more competitive decks.

How many hobby stores are there in Moscow, then?

Phillip: We have two clubs in Moscow and there's only one more place in the whole city where you can buy Magic cards that I know of. So the stores can actually sell a lot of product, which is, as far as I'm aware, not the case in the rest of the world where you can buy Magic in almost every mall. So the store owners don't face as much competition as they do in the rest of Europe or in the US where players are used to having access to plenty of different sources where they can buy their Magic cards.

Then again, the general interest in Magic is slightly lower, so you still have to put in a lot of work and effort to make a living as a store owner.

Well, thank you both for these great insights into the Russian community! We're looking forward to seeing you again at some of the upcoming Grand Prix in the rest of Europe!


Saturday, 1:00 p.m. – The Gang of Four: The Best Decks in Standard

by Olle Råde
 

Looking at the standard decks here in Moscow and talking to some of the players, it becomes more and more clear that four contenders battle for the title of best deck in Standard. Until Magic 2015 , and the rotation this fall, the top players seem to agree that the decks to beat this weekend are Black Devotion, with a splash of Green, Blue White Control, Red White Burn and the rather newly tuned Jund Monster deck.

Neither of the decks may be strangers to Standard veterans, but for those not as familiar I thought I'd introduce the decks that we think are the top contenders for the trophy at Grand Prix Moscow. And since my own reference these days is from Magic Online, this is where I will find some of the lists, rather than only from a recent Grand Prix.

First things first. The Black devotion deck has been a thing in standard even since Kentarou Yamamoto made the top 8 of Pro Tour Theros in Dublin in October last year. His deck, although strong at the time, may look like an ancient fossil from an entire season ago. But in fact a lot of the cards remain the same, although the most successful decks now splash Green, with the release of Temple of Malady in Journey into Nyx.

Black Devotion, splashing Green

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Next up is the Red and White burn deck, dubbed Boros Burn. Although maybe not as flashy as the other top decks. This deck does what it does best – throws burn spells at your opponents face in a consistent matter, curving from Shock to Warleader's Helix. Mister Burn has also enjoyed a new addition from Journey into Nyx in the form of Eidolon of the Great Revel, an Eidolon seeing play both in Standard, Modern and Legacy burn decks these days.

Boros Burn

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The only late bloomer in Standard now seems to be the Red, Black and Green deck named Jund monsters. Although Art Macurda made top 8 at Grand Prix Phoenix earlier this year, the deck has not been considered one of the top decks until recently. Now it seems like the deck of choice for a lot of top international players. It also won several of the Grand Prix Trials in Russia, the night before the actual Grand Prix.

Art Macurda's Jund Monsters

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Esper control also made the top 8 at Grand Prix Phoenix, but since the deck has gotten a few new tools with Journey into Nyx, most notably Nyx Fleece Ram and Deicide, a decklist from Magic Online better captures the latest versions of the archetype. The biggest decision when opting to play Blue and White these days is not how many Sphinx's Revelation to run, but rather if you are going to play strictly Blue/White, or opt for a Black splash. Although this specific list doesn't run too many new cards, the player, Andrew Cuneo is an impressive deck builder, so I wouldn't be surprised if his take on control could be a potent weapon in Moscow.

Blue White Control

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Saturday, 2:00 p.m. – Metagame of the 17

by Olle Råde
 

In the 532-headed crowd here at Grand Prix Moscow the variety of decks is surprisingly small. Although we haven't looked through all the deck lists. One deck does stand out as a favorite among both player and judges – Black Devotion. Either mono Black or with a small touch of Green.

It's such an easy deck list to count the cards on, explains Swedish judge Tobias Fjellander, who has counted quite an number today, making sure everyone have gotten their 60 cards in printing.

Since it would be hard to analyze the statistics of all the players, even with the mathematical skills of Frank Karsten, we won't be able to give a complete metagame breakdown. What we can tell you is what some of the most notable players are piloting. Well, not individually, but as a group. Here are the select group of 17 people whose deck lists we took a peak at this morning:

Lee Shi Tian, Patrick Dickmann, Marijn Lybaert, Antonino de Rosa, Marco Cammilluzzi, Chapman Sim, Daniel Fior, Tomoharu Saito, Trey van Cleave, Alessandro Portaro, Dmitriy Butakov, Mike Krasnitski, Alexander Privalov, Anatoly Chihwichov, Alexey Antonenko, Mikhail Stroev, and Roman Masaladzhiu.

Here's the archetype breakdown of what this group of both Russian and international stars are playing:

  • 7 Black Devotion variants
  • 3 Blue White Control
  • 2 Esper (Blue/White/Black) Control
  • 2 Jund Monsters
  • 1 Mono Blue Devotion
  • 1 Boros Burn
  • 1 Bant (Blue/White/Green) Control

More metagame on Sunday, when we have a detailed breakdown of all Day 2 decks for you!


Saturday, 3:00 p.m. – Quick Question: How did you chose to come to Moscow for the Grand Prix?

by Olle Råde
 
Marijn Lybaert: I really want to qualify for the Pro Tour in Hawaii, and the qualifiers in Belgium have more than 220 people, so I like my chances better here. Although I expected close to 1,000 players, so 530 is a nice surprise.
Alessandro Portaro: I've never been to Moscow before, and I like playing Grand Prix in general. And the flight from Italy wasn't to expensive, so I decided to spend a week here on vacation.
Tomoharu Saito: I'm trying to get Pro Points to reach gold level, and I've never been to Russia. I have a world map where I color the countries I've visited playing Magic, and Russia is a big country, so it will look nice on the map.
Lee Shi Tian: I booked my flight before the last Pro Tour, so I didn't know where I would be in Pro Points. I have 42 points now, so I'm locked for Platinum for next season, but tree points here would give me Platinum benefits for Pro Tour Magic 2015 , which would be nice.
Patrick Dickmann: To try to get Pro Points for Platinum. I have 36 now, but I have two weak finishes at Grand Prix. And there are only a few left in the season, so I wanted to play as many as possible. Unfortunately I couldn't get anyone from Germany to come with me, so I traveled alone.

Round 4 Feature Match – Patrick Dickmann vs. Alexey Isupov

by Oliver Gehrmann
 

Alexey Isupov's day started a little more than an hour ago thanks to his 2 Byes. The Russian was able to boost his confidence with a quick win, but he would now have to put in some extra work to maintain it; he got paired against Germany's Patrick Dickmann - one of the most accomplished players as of late. Dickmann has already amassed 39 Pro Points this season thanks to strong finishes at both the Grand Prix and the Pro Tour stage including an excellent third place at Pro Tour Born of the Gods!


Alexey Isupov now had to go up against Patrick Dickmann!

Both players would soon find out that they went with the same deck: B/G Devotion. Isupov had already been toying with the archetype for several months, so he felt he was well-familiar with it. Dickmann on the other hand told us in confidence that he originally wanted to play Mono-Blue Devotion this weekend. He sat down with Anssi Alkio, however, who ended up not making it to the event since he wanted to apply for his visa at the very last minute, not realizing that his application would reach the consulate on a Russian holiday, which in turn meant that he didn't get back his papers in time. He then shared his list with Dickmann so at least one player would reap the rewards of the hours of playtesting that Alkio had put in.

What made B/G Devotion better than Mono-Blue Devotion, according to Alkio, was that you didn't need to have an extremely good opening with the former. That convinced Dickmann, who hasn't been feeling as confident with his choice as Isupov, but confident nonetheless.

So much for the introduction, let's get to it, shall we?


Patrick Dickmann has been on a roll as of late!

Isupov gave away what he was playing when he started the game with Temple of Malady, sending the card he saw to the bottom. Dickmann wanted to double check and make perfectly sure what his opponent was playing, however, using a Thoughtseize to strip his opponent off his Desecration Demon.

With 3 more removals in hand, Isupov was now left without a threat, but that changed momentarily when his Deck provided him with Scavenging Ooze. Dickmann let out a sigh, certainly not liking what he saw.

Lifebane Zombie allowed Dickmann to take another look, but it couldn't put up a strong opposition as Abrupt Decay immediately dealt with it. This series of plays continued over the course for the next turns - Dickmann tried to match the ever-growing Scavenging Ooze with a threat of his own and Isupov used a removal to deal with it.

Since the German's deck wouldn't provide him with a removal, Dickmann decided it was time for game 2.

Game 2

Once again, Dickmann opened with a Thoughtseize on his second turn, which cost Isupov his own copy of the Spell.

The game turned into a war of attrition, with both players continuing to drop lands, but not making any other plays. That changed on Dickmann's fourth turn, when an Underworld Connections enchanted one of his lands. It was immediately met with an Abrupt Decay.

Dickmann continued to draw removal from Isupov's hand, recruiting Vraska the Unseen, but Isupov had drawn into Hero's Downfall in the meantime.

The Russian then tried to switch gears and put himself into the driver's seat, adding a Pack Rat and creating a token. Dickmann immediately discarded 2 copies of Abrupt Decay to make sure the Rat plague wouldn't get out of hand.

Over the following turns, Dickmann started to pull ahead slightly with Courser of Kruphix that started to provide him with much-welcome extra Lands, most notably a Mutavault. He couldn't really apply a lot of pressure, though, but an Underworld Connections would provide him with a stream of cards in the turns to come.


Dickmann was pulling ahead, but he was lacking a big threat!

While things didn't look too great for Isupov, he wasn't completely locked out of the game just yet. He found a Pack Rat to keep Dickmann busy, who had a Dark Betrayal handy to get rid of it.

Since Isupov wasn't exactly on a big clock, he now started to amass cards, courtesy of an Underworld Connections of his own.

Dickmann then finally found a threat in Desecration Demon, once again turning the tide in his favor. Isupov, however, had drawn into a Scavenging Ooze that was immediately getting busy, exiling creatures from Dickmann's Graveyard! Things would get interesting in the second game after all!

A second Underworld Connections and a second Scavenging Ooze put Isupov ahead, who also found another Hero's Downfall to get rid of Dickmann's Desecration Demon. While the German found a second copy, he was now forced to double block one of the Scavenging Oozes. Isupov continued to impress with the cards that his deck provided him with; a timely Golgari Charm allowed him to make sure his Scavenging Ooze would survive the battle.


Two copies of Scavenging Ooze put Isupov in the driver's seat!

The German attacked with Desecration Demon and he added a Pack Rat. Isupov drew into more solutions with his 2 copies of Underworld Connections, both copies of Scavenging Ooze went in and Dickmann used the effect of Pack Rat twice to create 2 Token copies. Isupov found Ultimate Price, however, to deal with Pack Rat, forcing Dickmann to block with both Tokens and losing them, which left him with only Desecration Demon. To make things worse for the German, Isupov also found a Desecration Demon of his own.

Dickmann wanted to attack with Desecration Demon, but Isupov felt confident he no longer needed 2 copies of Scavenging Ooze, so he sacrificed it. Dickmann found his last copy of Courser of Kruphix and he passed.

Isupov then added Vraska the Unseen and Dickmann immediately shuffled up, openly showing his frustration that he had mostly drawn Lands while Isupov had always found the perfect answer to every play that Dickmann made. Definitely not the start that Dickmann had been hoping for.


Round 6 Feature Match – Maxim Balaev vs. Dmitriy Butakov

by Olle Råde
 

If tables could speak, they would probably make more sense to a confused coverage reporter than these two Siberian players battling it out in round 6 at Grand Prix Moscow.

Magic Online cover boy, and 2012 Magic Online champion Dmitriy Butakov lives in Barnaul in Siberia. And although his 25-year-old opponent Maxim Balaev "only" lives 1500 kilometers away, in Kurgan. The players weren't acquainted before the match.

"Siberia is big, and full of bears," Butakov said, jokingly as we discussed the players hometowns.

The Decks

Maxim Balaev had opted for the most popular archetype this weekend, Mono-Black. Deciding however, to go with the old school version without any splashes. Hoping to overwhelm his opponents with Nightveil Spectre, Pack Rat and card advantage from Underworld Connections.

For people who follow Magic Online or Grand Prix coverage, Dmitriy Butakov's deck choice shouldn't come as a surprise. He was with Blue/White/Green Control, featuring no creatures, but an array of Planeswalkers like Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Kiora, the Crashing Wave and Jace, Architect of Thought. If fact he piloted the same deck to a 42nd place finish at Grand Prix Phoenix a few months ago.

The Games

Maxim Balaev won the die roll and started with the classic opening of scryland, go. Butakov responded with one of his own and passed the turn back. The action got considerably more intense when Balaev fired of back to back Thoughtseizes on his following turns. The first one seeing Supreme Verdict, Azorius Charm, Elspeth, Sun's Champion ad Detention Sphere in Butakov's hand. Opting to discard the Detention Sphere. His smiled was turned upside down into a frown when Butakov however, stopped his second Thoughtseize with a freshly drawn Dissolve.

Balaev tried his chances with Nightveil Specter, not too optimistic about it's chances after just having seen Butakov's hand. Butakov laid another scryland, and passed the turn.


Maxim Balaev

Spectre attacked, and as predicted got sent back to Balaev's library with Azorius Charm. He tried a second Spectre, only to once again frown to a freshly drawn counterspell in the form of Syncopate.

Butakov summoned Jace, Architect of Thoughts, and activated it, seeing two lands and another Elspeth, Sun's Champion, settling for the latter.

Balaev's Nightveil Spectre took out Jace, but he had no further play, just passing the turns with 4 lands in play and a hand filled with two Gray Merchant of Asphodel and multiple copies of Devour Flesh. Butakov cleared Balaev's board with Supreme Verdict, and when his Siberian countryman couldn't muster any further offense he cast one of two Elspeth, Sun's Champion that Balaev knew he was holding and started building an army of Soldiers.

Nightveil Specter

Balaev tried a third Nightveil Specter and Butakov's Soldier army grew bigger, threatening to ultimate Elspeth in two turns. Nightveil Spectre attacked Elspeth, now at 7 loyalty, but was met with Last Breath and Balaev passed the turn.

Butakov calmly attacked with his tokens, rather than activating it's ultimate to threaten lethal damage, but losing Elspeth in the process, and being vulnerable to Bile Blight. A play that instantly got rewarded, as his soldier army indeed was killed with Bile Blight. Balaev drew for his turn and found ...

... Hero's Downfall. But he knew he wasn't out of it yet, as he remembered Butakov holding another copy of the Planeswalker. The Soldier army kept growing, and even though a Grey Merchant of Asphodel gained some life back, Balaev knew he was out of the game when Butakov added Kiora, the Crashing Wave to his side, and conceded on his turn, drawing nothing but more Devour Flesh.

For sideboarding, Maxim Balaev took out all of his removal (Bile Blight and Devour Flesh), to strengthen his deck with Duress, Erebos, God of the Dead and other cards that are strong against the control archetype, which is a tough matchup, especially in game one, where the Black deck has a lot of dead cards.

Dueling scrylands started the second game, where the first play was a Lifebane Zombie from Balaev, once again getting to see his opponents hand, but once again not being able to do much about it. Butakov held two copies of Detention Sphere, Kiora, the Crashing Wave and Elspeth Sun's Champion.

One of the revealed Spheres took care of the Zombie, and Balaev knew he would have to keep his best threats for last with both Sphere's and Planeswalkers in Butakov's hand.

His turn four Desecration Demon was met with Kiora, the Crashing Wave, which he promptly took out with Hero's Downfall, before Butakov, in a chess like manner of back and forth moves took out the demon with his second Detention Sphere.

Jace, Architect of Thought

A Nightveil Spectre on his following turn was met with Jace, Architect of Thoughts, netting Butakov two cards before be played his crucial sixth land, threatening Elspeth of his next turn.

Specter attacked and sent Jace to the bin, and Balaev added Gray Merchant of Asphodel to the board, draining Butakov for five and keeping his fingers crossed there was no Supreme Verdict in his hand.

Butakov did indeed have the Supreme Verdict and cleared the board.

Another Desecration Demon was met with Elspeth, who in turn was met by Hero's Downfall and the 1-for-1 trades, back and forth continued.

Balaev drew for his turn, an Underworld Connections, that he cast and instantly activated to draw a card, but with all lands and no threats he had no more moves this time.

Butakov had one more Planeswalker up his sleeve however, and quickly slammed down Jace, Memory Adept on the table. And counted a while before deciding to mill ten cards from Balaev library, with only two copies of Hero's Downfall left in it to answer the Planeswalker.

Maxim drew for his turn, activated Underworld Connections and played a scryland. Thinking about his scry, which prompted a smile from Butakov, who would most likely mill the card away anyway on his turn.

Another ten cards were shaved of Balaev's deck on Butakov's turn. Time running out to find an answer before his deck would be completely depleted.

He did however, once again, draw a crucial Hero's Downfall, but again it was too little too late, as Butakov held a Dissolve, and his next mill left only 10 cards in Balaev's library.


Dmitriy Butakov

With only one Hero's Downfall left in his deck Balaev would have to draw it the next turn not to be milled out by Jace.

When he didn't he instantly extended his hand in defeat. More Russian conversation followed, and both players surely wished each other good luck for the rest of the tournament.

Maxim Balaev still needing one more win to make Day Two, and Dmitriy Butakov with this victory earned his spot in tomorrow's competition.

Dmitriy Butakov defeats Maxim Balaev 2-0


Saturday, 5:00 p.m. – Quick Question: What is the best deck in Standard?

by Olle Råde
 
Marijn Lybaert: There isn't one. I would say that Boros Burn, Black Devotion variants, control like Esper or Blue White and Jund Monsters are the four top decks, and they are pretty evenly matched.
Alessandro Portaro: The Sphinx Revelation decks! They have all the answers, and when the game goes long it's impossible to lose.
Tomoharu Saito: That's a hard one. I like Blue/White, either with or without a splash. Maybe not in terms of power of the deck. But it has a lot of play to it, and many choices.
Lee Shi Tian: Mono Black Devotion, or Black based with a small splash. Cards like Mutavault and Thoughtseize makes it the best deck in the format.
Patrick Dickmann: If you have strong opening hands I think Mono Blue Devotion is the best deck. But the Black based decks are probably better on average, and can win even without a great opening hand.

Saturday, 5:30 p.m. – Securing Silver

by Oliver Gehrmann
 

20 is a truly Magic number - it is the minimum threshold of Pro Points to earn a membership in the Pro Players Club. There are plenty of perks that come with a membership in this exclusive club, among them free byes and / or attendance fees for Grand Prix as well as invitations to the grandest stage of them all, the Pro Tour.

There are quite a few players in attendance this weekend that showed up first and foremost to earn the last few points they needed to advance to Silver Level. I sat down with them to learn a little more about their motivations, why they chose the decks they did and their expectations prior to the event.


Marco Cammilluzzi is in hot persuit of Italy's finest Magicians!

Rome resident Marco Cammilluzzi has already amassed 16 Pro Points this season, which is not quite enough to score him a ticket for the World Magic Cup thanks to strong competition in form of Samuele Estratti, Andrea Mengucci and Emanuele Giusti. Cammilluzzi certainly wouldn't mind pulling ahead and with just 5 points between him and Estratti, there's still a chance he will do just so.

He is playing U/W Planar Cleansing Control this weekend and after he just won his game, he's now sitting on a 5 - 1 record.

Marco, why did you make the trip to Moscow?

"I enjoy the city a lot! It's somewhat hard to find your way around if you don't speak Russian, but it's so beautiful.

"If it weren't for my friends, I still wouldn't be here, though. Alessandro Portaro and Antonino de Rosa told me they would attend and I then decided last minute that I would join them. I bought my ticket just a few days ago!"

How did you end up playing Esper Control with Planar Cleansing?

"I read some articles by Jim Davies and I think he's a really good player. I respect him a lot. Some friends of mine tested his build on Magic Online and they claimed it had good results and it's lots of fun to play. In the end, that was enough to convince me. I'm now 5 - 1 and I couldn't be happier with the deck choice."

"It has a good match-up against Mono-Black and Jund masters, so it's well positioned for the format in my opinion."


Marco Cammilluzzi was just about to wrap up the match in round 6!

Did the fact that you could secure your ticket or maybe even claim the captaincy for the World Magic Cup also play a role when it came to making a decision?

"At the last 3 Grand Prix, I didn't earn any Pro Points. This put me down, but thanks to the motivating words of my friends, I decided to give it another try this weekend and score both the Silver Level as well as making sure that I'll be on the team for the World Magic Cup. The event is just such a lot of fun, you always want to be play there, so yes, this was yet another reason for me.

"Oh, and I also lost the last final at GP Prague against a Russian Player, so I wanted payback this weekend!"

So are you having a good time so far?

"Of course! Mostly thanks to my friends - it's simply the best part of the game, the friendships you're making."

Trey Van Cleave

We just wanted to give an honorable mention to Trey Van Cleave, who is sporting quite the resume with 7 Grand Prix Top 8 and 3 Wins. It doesn't really come as a big surprise to us that he's chosing to fight on foreign soil to add another title to his collection.

He is relying on Mono-Blue Devotion this weekend and after round 5, he has already amassed 12 points. We couldn't catch him in time for an interview, but there are even more players that are finding themselves in a similar situation.

Chapman Sim

Singapore superstar Chapman Sim is currently sporting 16 Pro Points, just like Marco Cammilluzzi from Italy. This almost secures his ticket for the World Magic Cup with only Kelvin Chew in front of him and he's also just a few points short of making Silver.


Chapman Sim always wanted to visit Moscow anyway!

Why did you make the trip to Moscow, Chapman?

"Oh, there are a lot of reasons; I definitely wanted to make sure I can secure Silver for the next season. Then, if I get lucky, there's also a chance I'll tie Kelvin in Pro Points. My third reason is I've never been to Moscow before and I've always been looking for an excuse, so this seemed like a very good one. Oh, and last, but certainly not least, I've just been to Manchester, so it was a pretty short flight in comparison."

How did the tournament go so far for you?

"After my byes, I played against Azorius mirror and I drew. I was afraid I would end up in the more mirrors from now on, but I got lucky just now. Then again, generally speaking, there are a lot of control decks in the draw brackets, so I don't like my chances at this time.

"I actually considered conceding because I was somewhat afraid of the Draw Bracket, but I opted against it and I think it's not a bad decision. If I'm somewhat lucky with the match-ups, I should be fine."

I heard from some players that they picked Moscow on purpose since they expected the competition to be slightly less experienced. What's your experience been so far?

"Most of the players I went up against were very competitive, so I don't think that this is a good reason to attend a Grand Prix in Russia. I've seen the decks that I was expecting, so there doesn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary."

How did you end up playing Esper?

"Oh, I'm not exactly playing Esper; I only have 2 Thoughtseize and 4 Blood Baron of Vizkopa. There is no Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, no Doom Blade and no Ultimate Price to be found in my list, so it's rather different compared to your typical Esper deck. I used the free slots to improve my mana base, so my build would become more consistent."

"I picked the deck because I wanted to stick with something that seemed consistent enough for me to score the 1 point I need. I've been playing this for most of the Standard season, so it's definitely the deck I'm most familiar with, which made it a good choice in my opinion."

It turns out that there are plenty of reasons to attend a Grand Prix in Moscow apart from the fact that it just so happens to be one of the last in the current season. Hopefully, we'll return to the beautiful Russian capital in the near future so more players can get to experience it.


Round 7 Feature Match – Antonino De Rosa vs. Arsen Arushanyan

by Oliver Gehrmann
 

Antonino De Rosa sat down and he started the match with some friendly banter, asking his opponent Arsen Arushanyan whether he's been playing a lot of Standard (which could also be a clever move to get some extra information heading into the game).

"I play mostly Standard, but also some Modern. I just started, so I'm not a very experienced player, though", Arushanyan admitted. De Rosa on the other hand needs no introduction; he's advanced to the Top 8 of a Pro Tour back in 2006 in Prague and he's also won four Grand Prix while he advanced to the Top 8 of an additional 9.

I asked him in return whether he's been playing a lot of Standard and he told us that he did play some prior to this tournament, but he added that he only plays "in stages". When his job allows him to invest more time into Magic, you can see him at quite a few events while the rest of the year, he won't make too many appearances.

De Rosa was playing B/W Control while Arushanyan was running an aggressive Naya Deck.


Arsen Arushanyan was the underdog in our Round 7 match!

"Don't laugh at my cards", De Rosa asked, when he cast Divination, adding: "It's a Limited card!". "I won't", Arushanyan promised, before he went in with Voice of Resurgence, dealing first blood of the match. Boros Reckoner came down and now Arushanyan's Naya Deck was in full swing!

A Supreme Verdict was less of a Limited card, however, wiping the board and leaving only a token behind. Arushanyan added another attacker, but Last Breath dealt with it momentarily.

As a result of Arushanyan's ongoing onslaught, De Rosa went down to 14. Fleecemane Lion entered play and De Rosa decided to go searching with Azorius Charm, drawing him a card. He passed without performing any actions the following turn, he took the damage from the attacks and he gave away why after, casting a big Sphinx' Revelation to refill his hand and heal back to 12!


A second Supreme Verdict left Arushanyan in a very unfavorable position!

The following turn, a second Supreme Verdict left Arushanyan without a field, but a Selesnya Charm provided him with a token at least.

De Rosa now had enough room to breathe, however, and Ætherling was just what he needed to take complete control of the game.

Dryad Militant and Judge's Familiar came down on Arushanyan's turn, but Syncopate made sure the latter didn't hit play.

De Rosa then did some quick maths and he decided that it would be best to simply attack again with Ætherling. He then cast Planar Cleansing and Arushanyan didn't waste any time, declaring immediately that the match would proceed with game 2.

De Rosa claims the lead!

"Let's check my notes...", de Rosa said, followed by "I don't have your deck in my notes" shortly after. Arushanyan had to laugh, but he didn't lose focus, trying instead to mentally prepare for game 2.


So far, things were unfolding just as Antonino De Rosa was planning!

After Arushanyan announced that he would be taking the mulligan for a second time, De Rosa announced that he was fine with the 6 cards his deck provided him with. Arushanyan then ended up going down to just 4 cards!

That was certainly good news for De Rosa, who used the extra time to explain why the concept of Lands is such an important part of Magic - his background as a former game designer was paying big dividends here.

Arushanyan was starting in spectacular fashion with a Temple Garden and Judge's Familiar. It left play the following turn when De Rosa wanted to use Last Breath on Dryad Militant. Arushanyan didn't skip a beat, finding yet another creature, but De Rosa had Azorius Charm to buy himself some time, sending it back to the top of the deck.

Arushanyan rebuilt, but De Rosa now had the necessary mana to cast Supreme Verdict, putting Arushanyan far behind since he was now running low on cards.

The Russian tried to rebuild with Dryad Militant, but De Rosa more than matched it with Archangel of Thune. This put Arushanyan's offensive efforts to a complete halt!


Antonino De Rosa took control of the game with Archangel of Thune!

Arushanyan wouldn't give in, finding a Loxodon Smiter, but a big Sphinx' Revelation from De Rosa provided him with yet more options.

Jace, Architect of Thought and Mutavault entered play the following turn and this was now a perfect set-up for De Rosa.

While Loxodon Smiter turned Jace into less of a threat, De Rosa was still able to activate its second effect again, which got him another copy of the Planeswalker (Arushanyan picked it for him, claiming that it was the only right choice, which certainly seemed like sound advice).


Arushanyan found a way to deal with the Angel, leaving De Rosa with only Jace!

Arushanyan found Domri Rade the following turn and he used it to make his Boros Reckoner fight De Rosa's Angel. The American asked again if Arushanyan was certain he wanted to do that, Arushanyan nodded and De Rosa then went up to 35 life and only Jace in play.

A discussion ensued whether De Rosa would "risk" activating Mutavault when Arushanyan would declare attacks. The American promised he wouldn't activate it if only Loxodon Smiter attacked, but Arushanyan wouldn't take the bait, instead opting to not risk it and not attack at all.

The following turn, De Rosa announced "Wrath of God", casting Supreme Verdict; he then activated Mutavault and that concluded the game!

Arushanyan extended the hand and De Rosa immediately honored him, telling him that he was one of the nicest opponents he's ever played in his year-long Magic career.

De Rosa claims the win!

"Who usually wins this game?", De Rosa asked. "Me", Arushanyan responded immediately and full of confidence. "Although you have some interesting choices in your deck that give you an edge", he added smiling.


Saturday, 6:15 p.m. – Quick Question: What is the most underrated card in the format?

by Olle Råde
 
Marijn Lybaert: Abrupt Decay. It's a 2-mana removal that also takes care of all the cards that the Black devotion deck has problems with. It kills Underworld Connections, Detention Sphere, Domri Rade and it's even good against bestow creatures like Herald of Torment.
Alessandro Portaro: Nyx-Fleece Ram. In the match ups where it is good, it wins games by itself.
Tomoharu Saito: Mana Confluence and Brimaz, King of Oreskos. Both very powerful.
Lee Shi Tian: Hall of Triumph
Patrick Dickmann: I really wonder why more people aren't playing Courser of Kruphix.

Saturday, 6:30 p.m. – Bubble Match Round-up

by Olle Råde
 

The bubble here in Moscow might not be the biggest, as only 532 players are in attendance, and the amount of top level pros are far from GP Atlanta a few weeks back, where 17 out of the top 25 ranked players were in attendance. That doesn't mean that a few of the big names didn't have their backs against the wall in the 8th(!) and last round of the day.

Alessandro Portaro (Esper Control) vs. Vitaly Korol (Black Devotion with Green)

The young Italian, who has made a claim to fame lately not only by being a regular at the European Grand Prix circuit, but also by making the top 8 at 10 PTQs this year, without picking up the much desired invite to the Pro Tour.


Alessandro Portaro

The match that was make or break turned out to be a lot about Pack Rats. In the first game Portaro held the Rat invasion at bay with an Elspeth, blocking with Soldiers until he could sweep the board with Supreme Verdict and take over the game with Sphinx's Revelation. In game two however a second turn Pack Rat meant a quick demise for the Italian.

The third and deciding game was a race of Underworld Connections against first Divination and then multiple Sphinx's Revelation. After drawing a massive number of cards and answering all of Korol's threats, two brothers in arms in the form of Blood Baron of Vizkopa sealed the deal, and Day Two, for Portaro.

Alessandro Portaro 2–1 Vitaly Korol

Trey van Cleave (Mono-Blue) vs. Dimitriy Pavlov


Trey van Cleave

A named player who wasn't quite as lucky was Trey van Cleave, who despite valiantly having made the trip to Moscow saw his army of Flying Men being raced y multiple copies of Nemesis of Mortals, while Nyx Weaver held the ground and Shadowborn Demon showed up right on time in both games for a pretty lopsided victory.

Dimitriy Pavlov 2–0 Trey van Cleave


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