Day 1 Coverage of Grand Prix Rimini

Posted in Event Coverage on July 27, 2013

By Wizards of the Coast

The first day of Grand Prix Rimini is settled, and the field of just over a thousand players has been whittled down to just the lucky (or good) ones who will return tomorrow morning to draft Magic 2014 for the first time in a major tournament. Grand Prix Rimini has been a landing point for many players heading to the World Magic Cup in Amsterdam next weekend and for many players it has been their first real view of how Magic 2014 will shape up for next weekend, with Martin Juza describing the Grand Prix as "my prerelease".

What have we learnt about Magic 2014 so far? Card advantage seems key, and while it's possible for quick decks to win (especially quick decks with Slivers!) it tends to be the slower decks with the bigger cards that have won the day. And also that a Deadly Recluse can attack for 16 Trample damage if you make it mad. With the Sealed portion behind us the focus turns to the much headier world of draft as we search for the best draft archetypes... how many Slivers is enough? Is there such a thing as too many? Is Blightcaster worth building a deck around? How many Blue/White flyer decks can a table support?

We will know a lot more tomorrow evening, after we've watched three more drafts by some of the best players in the world. Stick with us to find out the draft strategies and combos that may make the difference in your own PTQs for Dawn of the Gods later this.

Until tomorrow morning... ciao!


Saturday, 10:55 a.m. – Grand Prix Rimini: Gateway to the World (Magic Cup)

by David Sutcliffe

The Palacongressi in Rimini is performing two roles this weekend. The first is as tournament venue for Grand Prix Rimini, the first major event to use the Magic 2014 Limited format. The second role, a little less obvious, is as the unofficial meeting point for many of the competitors who will be heading on to the World Magic Cup in Amsterdam, now less than a week away.

That second role means that the Grand Prix has an almost uniquely global feel, with more players than usual making the long haul trips around the world to ensure they arrive in Amsterdam jetlag-free. A cursory glance down the player list is enough to highlight some names and country tags that we're not used to seeing on the European Grand Prix circuit.

Probably clocking up more airmiles than most is the Australian duo of Riley Knight and their national champion Justin Cheung. Spending only a little less time watching in-flight entertainment was 2013's Rookie of the Year, Felipe Becerra from Chile, and also heading across the Atlantic were Miguel Gatica from Costa Rica and the experienced Wilfredo Bojorquez from Guatemala. More puzzling was the early arrival of Canadian John Stern – had nobody told him there was a Grand Prix in Calgary this weekend as well?

Flying to Rimini from the other direction we were joined by two members from the powerful Israeli team – multi-GP champion Shahar Shenhar and Niv Shmuely, who will be representing Israel for the fourth time! From the same neck of the woods we welcomed the young Daniel Antoniou, who retained the Cyprus national championship earlier this year and will be captaining his team for a second successive year.

Throw in some of the top European players who will be representing their country at the World Magic Cup and Rimini is taking shape as a tournament packed with some of the best that the whole world of Magic: The Gathering has to offer. Maybe you've heard of the likes of Pro Tour Philadelphia champion Samuele Estratti of Italy, legendary Hall of Famer Olle Råde, or the Hungarian duo of Tamas Nagy and Gabor Kocsis who took their team to the Semi-Finals of last year's World Magic Cup and will be representing Hungary again this year?

There are a multitude of nations represented in Rimini, and all of them dreaming of holding aloft the coveted World Magic Cup trophies. Last year we saw a final battled out between two unfancied teams, with Chinese Taipei crushing Puerto Rican dreams. The World Magic Cup is a tournament where any country can find success, and any national flag can end up draped over the winners. You might fancy the chances of Magic giants like the USA, Germany or Japan, or strong experienced teams like Israel or Hungary but when every country puts forward the best of their best, all bets are off!

Saturday, 11:50 a.m. – Sealed Deck Building with Antonino De Rosa

by Tobi Henke

Antonino De Rosa is no stranger to the spotlight. He was the national champion in 2005 when he was living in the United States and, currently living in Italy, he won Grand Prix Turin just last year (his 11th Top 8 and fourth win overall). "I have to warn you though. I haven't played Magic in almost a year," he said when asked to the feature match area to construct his sealed deck.

De Rosa began by flipping through his pool, stopping several times to read cards. White was the first color to be dismissed, and he took an immediate interest in the green which offered a solid curve of creatures, some combat tricks, and good mana fixing with two Verdant Havens. Adding red didn't allow for a two-color deck and all the red cards were quickly relegated to the sidelines, except for Flames of the Firebrand as a potential splash.

Antonino De Rosa

Next, he laid out green-blue, then green-black, taking a close look at one of the rares: "Liliana's Reaver ... that's probably really good, isn't it?" The blue, however, provided a much more aggressive set-up, lots of evasion including two Trained Condors as well as bounce and tap effects for additional tempo. De Rosa went back and forth between the two options a couple of times. "Blue or black, that's the question."

"I always liked blue-green tempo," he mused. "The again, these guys"—pointing at Liliana's Reaver and Deathgaze Cockatrice—"seem sweet with two Giant Growths. Trollhide too."

"The good thing about the black is, I'd have just enough playables and wouldn't have to make any cuts." The blue-green deck, on the other hand, had plenty of cards. That's clearly a good sign, and indeed, blue-green was the deck De Rosa decided to go with in the end. Two Divinations didn't make the cut, neither did Frost Breath, and he agonized over Coral Merfolk, bemoaning his lack of two-drops to work along his pair of Trained Condors. Then it was done. "We have a deck," he announced.

Talking about his chances with those 40 cards, De Rosa mentioned that he had zero byes for this Grand Prix but liked his deck well enough. "I like it, especially the many tricks. It's not like your usual green deck where you just play fatty after fatty," he said. "Could be better, of course, but could also be much worse."

Saturday, 1:15 p.m. – Sealed Deck Building Exercise

by Tobi Henke

1,037 competitors have already built their decks in this tournament, but for all of our readers at home, here's a pool for you! A player who finished in the Top 8 of a recent Grand Prix received these cards earlier today and whittled them down to 40. Do you pick the same colors, choose the same strategy? Or can you build something even better? The comparison should prove interesting. So fire up our Sealed Deck Builder and try it!

Later in the day, we'll reveal both the identity of the player and the 40 cards of his main deck.

Saturday, 2:05 p.m. – Quick Question: Best Common in Sealed?

by Tobi Henke
Shuhei Nakamura: "Draw. Always. No exception."
Ben Stark: "Draw. Not close. Playing first is for formats with more evasion. Even if you're both aggro, you can just block and trade. There is no reason to ever play first here."
Max Schultze: "Play. The good decks in this format are actually quite aggressive."
Frank Karsten: "It depends on the deck. With my deck I was choosing to play all day."

Round 3 Feature Match – Marcin Friedrich vs. Felipe Tapia Becerra

by David Sutcliffe

One of the more exotic players to have arrived here in Rimini is the 2013 Rookie of the Year and Chilean national Champion Felipe Tapia Becerra (you can read a few words with him after picking up the Rookie of the Year title here). Drawn by the challenge of captaining his team at the World Magic Cup, Tapia Becerra was attempting to finalise his preparation with a strong performance at the Grand Prix. Entering the tournament with two byes, Tapia Becerra would be flying the Chilean flag against Marcin Friedrich of Poland.

The Rookie of the Year announced that he liked his opening seven cards with a confident "Keep", which Friedrich took a little more time before accepting the challenge. The early turns suggested that Tapia Becerra's confidence may have been misplaced, though, and Friedrich edged an early lead with an Elvish Mystic and a Deadly Recluse, while Tapia Becerra could only play a series of Islands and Plains.

Marcin Friedrich

With a resigned shrug, the Chilean champ played a fourth basic land but it soon turned out that the posturing was all bluff, and as Friedrich attacked with his two creatures a Nephalia Seakite swooped down to devour the Elvish Mystic. The two players traded blows for several turns, Tapia Becerra's 2/3 Seakite making up for lost time while the Deadly Recluse went back the other way, and soon both players stood at 14 life apiece.

Friedrich played a Striking Sliver – not the biggest of threats – while Tapia Becerra added a Trained Condor to his flying offense – not the biggest of defenders – as the game remained cagey. The Chilean's air armada edged him ahead in the damage race, though, and when Friedrich played an Advocate of the Beast Tapia Becerra was waiting with a Frost Breath to pull even further ahead on tempo.

Marcin Friedrich needed more help and turned to some Pitchburn Devils but his demonic assistants could only watch as Tapia Becerra's birds continued to fly right overhead – down to 4 life and facing 4 power of flyers Friedrich was in real trouble. He attacked back to put Becerra down to 5 and aimed a Plummet at the Trained Condor. The Plummet would turn the game on its head and hand the advantage to Friedrich, but Tapia Becerra's calm demeanour suggested otherwise. Revealing a Cancel from hand the Plummet was countered and the first game was very rapidly in the bag for the 2013 Rookie of the Year!

Marcin Friedrich 0 – 1 Felipe Tapia Becerra

Gladecover Scout

The Pole began the second game on the front foot once again with a Gladecover Scout and Striking Sliver, although his two creatures were only 1/1. This time Tapia Becerra was matching his opponent stride for stride, with a Mutavault, Imposing Sovereign and Trained Condor setting the South American very firmly on the front foot.

Friedrich played a Regathan Firecat to boost his groundbound army and that gave Tapia Becerra a pause for thought, before he activated his Mutavault and attacked with both that and the Trained Condor, leaving the Imposing Sovereign on defense. Friedrich swung his team and used a Thunder Strike to ensure his Regathan Firecat survived its encounter with the Imposing Sovereign. Tapia Becerra also had a Celestial Flare but that only accounted for the Striking Sliver.

Friedrich wasn't done and ramped his board position up further with a Kelonian Tusker and Advocate of the Beast. It was clear that Becerra couldn't compete with the size of Friedrich's creatures and the Chilean champ returned to his aerial bombardment, adding a Steelform Sliver then sacrificing his Mutavault as a blocker on the next turn.

Tapia Becerra's air force had taken Friedrich down to just 6 life, but Becerra still only had 4 power of creatures in play. On the other side of the table Friedrich's last ground offense had reduced Tapia Becerra to just 3 life himself! Another game hung in the balance...

Tapia Becerra needed a plan to squeeze out two more damage, and he had just that – a Nephalia Seakite that he cast with Flash at the end of Friedrich's turn! Just like the countered Plummet had threatened to steal the first game away from Tapia Becerra, he now hoped to steal the second game back with the surprise appearance of his Seakite. But once again it wasn't to be. Tapping for the Seakite had left Tapia Becerra without the mana needed for Cancel and that was the window Friedrich had been waiting for... a Volcanic Geyser streaked from his hands and ended the game!

Deadly Recluse

Marcin Friedrich 1-1 Felipe Tapia Becerra

Unfortunately for Marcin Friedrich the Pole began the decisive third game badly, forced to Mulligan his opening seven cards away. He kept six cards but remained rooted to just two lands for a few critical turns. A Deadly Recluse was a good defense in that situation but Tapia Becerra Dispersed the tricky spider then had a Cancel for its return to the board. That cleared the way for the Chilean air force, and Becerra began the beatdown with an Imposing Sovereign aboard a Trained Condor.

Friedrich found his third land and did his best to race back – a Regathan Firecast was handed Shiv's Embrace but just as the Firecat seemed ready to blaze a trail to victory the poor kitty was locked back in its cat basket with Claustrophobia.

That was decisive. Friedrich attempted to buy more time with Plummet but Tapia Becerra's trusty Cancel was on hand to foil that plan and the 2013 Rookie of the Year began his warmup for the World Magic Cup with a swift win!

Marcin Friedrich 1 – 2 Felipe Tapia Becerra

Round 4 Feature Match – Michael Krumb vs. Shuhei Nakamura

by Tobi Henke

Mark of the Vampire really put its mark on the first game, with three copies played in total, including a crucial Mark on Krum's Air Servant. Leading one to nil, Krumb then lined up a number of fliers to take the match. Commenting on his spectacular draw in game two, he said, "I really can't complain. My draws were amazing."

Both players had traveled far for this tournament, Michael Krumb (three Grand Prix Top 8s, one win) from the United States, Shuhei Nakamura (22 Top 8s, five wins) from Japan. Krumb's sealed deck was blue and black deck featuring an impressive array of fliers, whereas Nakamura had built a green and black deck with Bogbrew Witch and Bubbling Cauldron but sadly no Festering Newt.

Shuhei Nakamura

In the first game, Krumb powered out a turn-four Sengir Vampire via Warden of Evos Isle. In the meantime Nakamura had put Mark of the Vampire on Kalonian Tusker and deployed Deadly Recluse which first kept the Vampire at bay, then killed it via Enlarge.

Krumb fought back with Tidebinder Mage and Liturgy of Blood on Kalonian Tusker. Nakamura's Mark of the Vampire was gone and now it was time for Krumb to cast a Mark of the Vampire of his own, turning his Air Servant into a truly monstrous 6/5. Nakamura had another Mark himself and put it on Advocate of the Beast.

The race was on: Nakamura attacked for 4 points of damage per turn and gained 4 points of life. Krumb, meanwhile, attacked for 8 damage per turn with Air Servant and Warden of Evos Isle, gaining 6. As one would imagine, this race wasn't entirely fair and soon ended with Krumb victorious.

Michael Krumb

Nakamura decided to have Krumb play first for the second game, and he did, summoning Trained Condor, Deathgaze Cockatrice, Sengir Vampire, Air Servant, and Clone, all on consecutive turns.

Nakamura answered the first flier with Hunt the Weak, the third with Plummet, didn't have an answer for either the second or fourth, and answered the Clone with a deep sigh. Nakamura tried to stop the bleeding with the combination of Deadly Recluse and Fireshrieker, but it was too late. He had taken too much damage early, and Krumb's Deathgaze Cockatrice delivered the final points of damage.

Krumb advanced to 4-0 in the tournament, leaving Nakamura at 3-1.

Round 5 Feature Match – Denniz Rachid vs. Arjan Van Leeuwen

by David Sutcliffe

With Grand Prix Rimini attracting many World Magic Cup players it hasn't taken long for the tournament pairings to start throwing big names against each other in the feature match area. Dutchman Arjan Van Leeuwen had been playing in Grand Prix for over a decade and already had two Grand Prix titles to his name, both wins coming in Shards of Alara Limited. His opponent was the experienced Denniz Rachid of Sweden, and although Denniz cannot claim any Grand Prix titles he has bagged a pair of Pro Tour Top 8s.

Van Leeuwen won the dice roll but was immediately on the back foot as Rachid raced out of the blocks with a Gladecover Scout, Mutavault, Deadly Recluse and Sliver Construct all hitting play before Van Leeuwen could even summon a single creature!

Arjan Van Leeuwen

If that early offense threated to blow Van Leeuwen away then the Dutchman didn't seem too worried. Van Leeuwen summoned a Rumbling Baloth that only Rachid's Deadly Recluse dared to attack, then sent the Baloth forth and summoned a Giant Spider as defense. Rachid played a Divination to find additional options, then enchanted his Sliver Construct with a Trollhide. Now a 4/4, the Sliver was too big for Van Leeuwen's Giant Spider to handle and Van Leeuwen dropped to 12 life.

Van Leeuwen attacked immediately with both his Giant Spider and the Rumbling Baloth, losing his Baloth to the Deadly Recluse's venomous bite. Sacrificing the Baloth in such a way seemed rash but Van Leeuwen had a backup in the form of Sporemound, which he played and immediately added a 1/1 Saproling token by playing an Island. Rachid paused before decided to pass on his next attack and that allowed Van Leeuwen to follow up with a Messenger Drake. The Dutchman was threatening to take control of the match and Rachid needed to find an answer to the crisis.


One person's crisis is another person's Opportunity, though, and Rachid drew four cards at the end of Van Leeuwen's turn before untapping and deploying a Sporemound of his own and a Coral Merfolk joined his forces. The extra cards Rachid had drawn became a crucial advantage and the Swede was able to back his creatures up with Water Servant, then a Time Ebb and Disperse! Van Leeuwen was left with only Sporemound, Giant Spider and a Saproling token in play and Rachid decided it was time to launch an alpha strike, flooding the red zone with bodies.

Blocking the huge attack currently was crucial and Arjan Van Leeuwen spent a while before deciding to trade Sporemound for Sporemound, and block the Water Servant with his Giant Spider. Both players had instants to play; Van Leeuwen using Giant Growth to save his Giant Spider while Rachid had a Ranger's Guile to do the same for his Sporemound. As the dust settled Arjan Van Leeuwen took 9 damage, dropping to 3 life, and had only a single lonely Giant Spider to defend against Rachid's army.

Van Leeuwen drew a card, then calmly scooped up his permanents as good old-fashioned card advantage claimed the win for Denniz Rachid, who had hugely outdrawn Van Leeuwen thanks to the combination of Divination and Opportunity.

Denniz Rachid 1 – 0 Arjan Van Leeuwen

Denniz Rachid had been in the lead from the first turn and the second game began in similar fashion as the Swede opened up with an Elvish mystic and Voracious Wurm, then a Water Servant on his third turn. Across the table Arjan Van Leeuwen deployed the deadly Fireshrieker then his fearsome Seraph of the Sword finally stopped Rachid's assault in it's tracks.

Unable to attack against the Seraph of the Sword Denniz Rachid was forced to step his foot off the gas and could only follow with a Scroll Thief, the Swede skipping his fourth land drop. Van Leeuwen consolidated his defense with a Giant Spider then Rachid upped the stakes further with a Seacoast Drake and Deadly Recluse.

Van Leeuwen decided it was time to start his attack and equipped the Seraph of the Sword with Fireshrieker, Rachid hurling his Seacoast Drake in front of the angel as she swept forward. Now it was the Swede's turn to attack and he swung with his Scroll Thief, Voracious Wurm, Deadly Recluse and Water Servant. Van Leeuwen blocked the Scroll thief but took 6 damage, down to 11, and Rachid followed up with a Sporemound to expand his army even further!

Seraph of the Sword

Undaunted by the forces arrayed against him Arjan Van Leeuwen sent the Seraph of the Sword into the attack again, summoning a Messenger Drake to his defense after combat. The Dutchman now had two creatures back to block with but Rachid wasn't slowing down and attacked again. It was the sort of attack that signalled combat tricks and Van Leeuwen considered his blocks carefully before assigning his Giant Spider to block the Voracious Wurm and his Messenger Drake to trade with the Sporemound. Both players seemed braced for instants but none were forthcoming, meaning Van Leeuwen took damage, and both players draw a card from their respective Scroll Thief and Messenger Drake.

Rachid still had to contend with the Seraph of the Sword but a Plummet did that, and then a Wall of Frost joined the Swede's forces. Rachid was about to take firm control but Van Leeuwen had precisely the card he needed to turn things his way, taming Rachid's Deadly Recluse with Domestication then equipping it with the Fireshrieker!

Arjan Van Leeuwen's spidery defences had stalled the game but unfortunately for the Dutchman it was only another Opportunity for Denniz Rachid to draw even more cards. Sucking up a new hand the Swede prepared to take control of the second game the same way he had the first.

The window of opportunity for Arjan Van Leeuwen to win seemed to be closing, but the veteran double-champ had a trick up his sleeve... an Enlarge that saw Rachid's stolen Deadly Recluse swell to an 8/9 before attacking. Critically, Rachid had not spotted that the Deadly Recluse also had Double Strike, and the Scroll Thief he volunteered to block with could not absorb enough damage! Trampled to death by a spider the size of New York, Denniz Rachid was heading to a third game.

Dennis Rachid 1 – 1 Arjan Van Leeuwen

Predatory Sliver and Coral Merfolk traded in the early turns as Denniz Rachid forsook his trademark rapid opening for a layer of fatties on turns 4 and 5: Rumbling Baloth and Sporemound. Van Leeuwen's creatures were a Messenger Drake and Phantom Warrior – harder to block than Rachid's forces, but significantly smaller. Rachid brought down a Predatory Sliver of his own then toughened it up with a Trollhide and swung for the fences, sending his Sliver, Baloth and Sporemound into the attack. Van Leeuwen blocked manfully with his Phantom Warrior and Messenger Drake to kill the Rumbling Baloth but took 7 damage to fall to 7 life. Rachid followed up with a Seacoast Drake and Van Leeuwen was forced to play Howl of the Night Pack to find defenders – but only got two Wolves for his howl!

Denniz Rachid

The game was swinging towards Sweden and all the smart money was on Rachid closing this match out, especially once the Swede had removed the Messenger Drake with Plummet. Activating his Mutavault to join the attack Denniz Rachid brushed Van Leeuwen's wolves aside to leave Arjan Van Leeuwen on the verge of defeat. Van Leeuwen needed to draw something pretty amazing to survive this... and he did not, instead offering his hand in congratulation.

Denniz Rachid 2 – 1 Arjan Van Leeuwen

Saturday, 6:15 p.m. – Quick Question: Your Most Valuable Sideboard Card Today?

by Tobi Henke
Shuhei Nakamura: "Angelic Accord."
Ben Stark: "Pay No Heed. Boarded it every time I was playing against a red deck today, and when they would Chandra's Outrage or Volcanic Geyser my very good creature, a 4/4 or something, I'd counter it for one mana. Really strong."
Max Schultze: "Negate. Actually the only card I boarded at all."
Frank Karsten: "Cyclops Tyrant, boarded against every deck without red."

Saturday, 7:00 p.m. – Meet Jon Stern

by David Sutcliffe

Canadian veteran pro Jon Stern is probably having the best Magic year of his life. The end of 2012 saw Stern post a strong Top-8 finish at Grand Prix Toronto but 2013 has seen him step things up another notch or two, kicking off the year by winning Grand Prix Atlantic City in January then winning the Canadian national championship to lead the Canadian team to the World Magic Cup in Amsterdam. The World Magic Cup won't be the first time that Stern represents Canada, having been on the team all the way back in 2002, a year before he posted a Top-32 finish at Pro Tour Yokohama.

With 11 years separating Stern's appearances in the Canadian national team there was likely to be a lot we didn't know about John Stern, but that wasn't the first mystery on my mind as I sat down with the Canadian captain to catch up. With a Grand Prix in his home country this weekend I wanted to know why he had chosen to fly to Rimini over Calgary?

"That was actually a really easy decision to make. Canada is a really big country and when I qualified for the World Magic Cup I only really knew one of the other guys on my team and he lived maybe 2 or 3 hours drive away. The next guy was 5 hours drive away, and then the last team member is like a 6 hour flight away. We worked out that the best way for us to test together was to meet in Amsterdam, so they're getting in on Monday and I'll meet them there. I knew I wanted to play in one of the Grand Prix this weekend and with Magic 2014 being a new format I thought that a Grand Prix would be the best place to learn about it ahead of the World Magic Cup. On top of that Calgary is like a 4 hour flight in the wrong direction and it's a great reason to see a country. I've been to Italy before, for Pro Tour Venice, but that's a long time ago!"

A long time ago means 2003, the same year that Jon scored a Top-32 finish at Pro Tour Yokohama. What happened to him in the meantime?

"I started playing with Revised edition in 1994, and then I was on the Pro Tour train for three years but in the end the grind got me, I guess. Constantly worrying about how I could qualify, sitting on my ranking, playing PTQs. I was travelling to a lot of Pro Tours and not really doing particularly well - back then PTQ winners weren't given flights to the Pro Tour and it got really expensive. It's really good now that they give flights for PTQs, it makes a huge difference to PTQ winners. I quit playing the game competitively but kept coming back for a few tournaments – I played Darksteel for instance, then I played Time Spiral but not any of the other expansions in the block. I did the same thing for Champions of Kamigawa as well. Working made it difficult to find time to Magic seriously."

So you weren't playing competitively, yet now you're a Grand Prix champion and national champion. What changed?

"I played in a Zendikar event and that reactivated my rating. A friend told me that I had qualified for nationals and that was really what started my playing again. I was only playing in local events, not travelling, but then I made Top-8 at Grand Prix Toronto and on the back of that I was able to get sponsorship exemption, then I went and won Atlantic City and I've been qualified for everything since".

So is the new Jon Stern the same player that the old Jon Stern was in 2003?

"I think it took me a while to get back to the same level of play. What's really changed is that I'm not so focussed on the grind and I can relax. I'm not constantly worried on where I'm going to finish, putting pressure on myself that I have to make Top 32, or I have to make Top 8. These days I play because it's fun and if I win then I win. I'm not as emotionally invested in the game this time round. I could always accept variance, that you're going to lose games, but in the past I couldn't really separate the tournament I was in from everything else. Now I don't care if I have to mulligan, or if my opponent has to mulligan, because it doesn't matter – I just play the game in front of me.

I've got a team now for Pro Tours as well – I'm part of ManaDeprived – and that makes a really big difference. It was always hard to test for Pro Tours in Canada because it's so big you could live on the other side of the country to the other Pro Tour qualifiers, or you may not have good chemistry, so it was hard to prepare. Working with ManaDeprived we always have 8-12 guys at a Pro Tour and the house testing in the week before a Pro Tour is so important. I'm not the greatest deckbuilder from scratch but now I know I don't need to worry about that because we're always going to come up with a decent deck"

Turning to the World Magic Cup. Last year Chinese Taipei surprised almost everyone by winning the trophy. Does that tell you it's a wide open competition and anyone can win?

Jon Stern

"I don't think 71 teams have got a chance to win, but maybe 40 or 50 teams can realistically win it. One good player can carry a team a long way, or three solid players in a team can do really well. I think the teams that have two named Pros are the clear favourites but there are a lot of teams who have one Pro then one or two really good solid players, and that could be enough."

And how about Team Canada?

"We've got a really solid team, I think. We should be favourites to make day two, although I won't really know for sure until we all meet up on Monday. Part of it being a team competition is that you have to count on your teammates, but I think we have a good team"

Saturday, 7:15 p.m. – Sealed Deck Building Exercise, Part Two

by Tobi Henke

Earlier today we showed you a complete sealed pool, currently being used in the tournament by Valentin Mackl, an up-and-coming player from Austria, who made it to the Top 8 of Grand Prix Miami last month.

Valentin Mackl

Here is the deck he built:

Valentin Mackl

Download Arena Decklist

"This was really hard to build," Mackl said. "When there were five minutes left for deck construction I still had blue-black laid out on the table. This looked like more of a safe bet, but in the end the Sliver deck simply was more powerful.

"Which is not to say," he pointed out, "more consistent. Three colors without any mana fixing may seem greedy. Then again, it's Sealed so that's not entirely wrong. When you don't have the power, you absolutely need to be either aggressive or greedy. And this pool didn't have an aggro option."

Overall, Mackl was unexcited but cautiously optimistic about the deck. "If I draw the right parts of the deck in combination, it can do some absurd stuff, especially with the seven Slivers. If I don't, I don't," he shrugged. "We'll see."

Round 6 Feature Match – Martin Jůza vs. Robbert Menten

by Tobi Henke

The first game, in part, came down to the number of Pitchburn Devils either player had (two for Menten, one for Jůza), the second was partly decided by the number of copies of Advocate of the Beast (again two for Menten, one for Jůza). Another deciding factor in both games was Menten's Garruk, Caller of Beasts. And indeed, after Menten's 2-0 victory Jůza had to admit: "Your deck is pretty strong. Definitely better than mine."

The two players had met before, in the Top 8 of Grand Prix Brighton in 2009. "That was actually the very first Top 8 I ever made," said Jůza while the players shuffled at the beginning of the round, to which Menten added, "And you haven't stopped since." They exchanged some more battle stories about the colors they had drafted back then, but in the Sealed Deck format of the presence Menten had built one beast of a red-green deck (with just a little splash for blue), while Jůza brought black-red for game one, switching to blue-green for game two. And no, he was not exactly happy about either of those decks.

Martin Jůza

When the smoke cleared after the early trades in the first game, Jůza was left with Accursed Spirit, while Menten still had his Kalonian Tusker and added pressure with Marauding Maulhorn. Unfortunately for him, Jůza cast Pitchburn Devils on the very next turn and blocked the Maulhorn which was forced to attack, wiping Menten's side of the board completely clean.

But Menten recovered remarkably with his own copy of Pitchburn Devils followed by Garruk, Caller of Beasts. The planeswalker died in two attacks to Accursed Spirit, but first he found another copy of Pitchburn Devils and two other creatures on top of Menten's library.

Facing two Pitchburn Devils now, Jůza could only attack with his Accursed Spirit, and he certainly couldn't block the one Devil which attacked. Soon both Devils attacked and Menten's Hunt the Weak ended the game

For the second game, both players started with Deadly Recluse on turn two, which traded, followed by Advocate of the Beast on turn three. On his turn four, Jůza had Deadly Recluse and Menten had Marauding Maulhorn on his. The Maulhorn started accumulating counters while Jůza was stuck on three lands. When Jůza finally found his fourth to cast Rumbling Baloth, Menten already had six to cast Garruk, Caller of Beasts.

Robbert Menten

The planeswalker provided Menten with another Advocate of the Beast, Garruk's Horde, and Air Servant. Jůza simply didn't have the resources to deal with all of that. He soon extended his hand in concession.

"The draw I had in game one was about the best I can ever get with this deck," Jůza said afterwards. "And it still wasn't good enough."

Round 8 Feature Match – Emanuele Guisti vs. Samuele Estratti

by David Sutcliffe

Pro Tour Champion defeated double Grand Prix champion here in Rimini as Samuele Estratti defeated Emanuele Guisti 2-1 in a good-natured match between Italian World Magic Cup teammates.

Advancing to an 7-1 record Pro Tour Philadelphia champion Samuele Estratti simply had too much firepower for Emanuele Guisti, with creatures that were simply bigger and better than anything Guisti could call on. Guisti's hopes of repeating his 2008 victory in Rimini win were not over though, and he would fight on with a chance of sealing a spot in Day Two in the final round.

Emanuele Guisti

The humble Undead Minotaur took an unexpected role on centre stage in the first game. After Emanuele Guisti had used his black and red removal spells to slay Estratti's red and green creatures the only thing stopping Guisti from running rampant with his Undead Minotaur was its Clone sitting across the table under Estratti's control. The two bull-headed beasts stared dumbly at each other for several turns before Guisti was able to take to the air with a home-made Shivan Dragon - a Pitchburn Devils enchanted with Shiv's Embrace to create a 5/5 Flying firebreather – and seal the win.

"Undead Minotaur dominates the format" Estratti joked, while the two Minotaurs had shared the board between them.

The Minotaur attempted to cement MVP status in Guisti's deck in the second game, donning the Kiss of the Vampire to become a 4/5 Lifelink threat. A few unanswered turns later and the life totals were 32-6 in Guisti's favour when Estratti finally found a Time Ebb to send the Minotaur packing. A Lava Axe from Guisti dropped Estratti to just 1 life remaining but from then on the traffic was all one-way. Estratti closed out the game with not one but TWO Colossal Whales, courtesy of his Clone, going from 32-1 down to 0-1 ahead in just four attack steps!

Samuele Estratti

Without his trusty Undead Minotaur Emanuele Guisti was doomed in the decided match. His replacement of Child of Night and Goblin Shortcutter were both despatched by Flames of the Firebrand and when he turned to Blood Bairn, attempting to enchant it was Shiv's Embrace, Estratti was waiting with Disperse. From then on it was a race between Estratti's Woodborn Behemoth and Rootwalla and Guisti's Ratchet Bomb, a race made meaningless when Estratti pulled a Volcanic Geyser to seal the match with a shot of damage direct to the face.

"Emanuele needs the auras on his creatures otherwise he can't race me" Estratti said after the match, the Italian national champion summing up the flow of the match pretty well!

Saturday, 7:55 p.m. – Quick Question: Best Common in Sealed?

by Tobi Henke
Shuhei Nakamura: "Uhm. I think ... No, that's uncommon. Uhm. Chandra's Outrage."
Ben Stark: "Probably Pacifism."
Max Schultze: "Elvish Mystic. It's super strong because, in this format, you really want to cast all the green fatties, preferably before your opponent does."
Frank Karsten: "We're still torn between Pacifism and Chandra's Outrage. Probably Pacifism."

Saturday, 9:45 p.m. – Undefeated Decks

by Event Coverage Staff

Tamas Glied, 9-0

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Lorenzo Barnini, 9-0

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Christian Retuerta, 9-0

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Raoul Zimmermann, 9-0

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Zoltan Szoke, 9-0

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Rasmus Bjorklund, 9-0

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