Day 1 at Grand Prix–Prague

Posted in Event Coverage on September 5, 2009

By Wizards of the Coast

It's the end of summer in the golden city of Prague. While the weather is still relatively warm, the sky is overcast, accompanied by a constant drizzle, and people are mostly turning to indoor activities.

Well, what better indoor activity is there than a weekend full of Magic! 1,543 players from all over the world agreed and flocked to this Grand Prix to take on Magic 2010 Limited and to have their shot at fame, glory, the title, trophy, and the prize money. But first they will have to master today's nine rounds of Sealed Deck play. Only those with scores of 7-2 or better will advance to tomorrow's draft rounds.

In attendance this weekend are quite a few big names. The usual suspects from the European Grand Prix circuit, as well as a couple outsiders: The Americans sent a small contingent with Gaudenis Vidugiris and Sam Black, while the former Player of the Year Tomoharu Saitou and incumbent Player of the Year Shuuhei Nakamura are headlining a Japanese nine-person delegation made up of yet more headliners.

Day 2 of Grand Prix Prague is just short of 200 players, which means that the draft will be a massive affair. Among those drafting will be Jakub Slemr, Magic’s World Champion in 1997, along with the Czech’s spearhead pro Martin Juza. Both were not among the six undefeated players, though, six guys who have the best position in the struggle for Top 8.

Speaking of guys, day 2 also has two women sitting down for a draft, something that hasn’t happened in a good while. They will face stiff competition, as a good 41 players of the 199 received the check-mark “sounds familiar” on the coverage reporters’ copy of the day 1 standings.

Sunday will consist of two draft pods with the corresponding rounds preceding the Top 8 draft. That means the players will look out for both a powerful deck, but also a consistent deck. Finding the right balance between powerful Rares and the construct that supports them will be tough. Many pros we spoke with today said that they’d be gunning for a mono-colored draft deck if possible. Remember Geoffrey Siron at Pro Tour London 2005? He did exactly that and swept that Top 8.

It is unlikely that the pros will let such a thing fly on Sunday evening. Especially the powerful mono-black deck will very likely not happen; but can another, underappreciated color take the slot? Tune in tomorrow when Tobias Henke, Hanno Terbuyken and ace podcaster Richard Hagon will bring you all and more from GP Prague 2009!


pairings, results, standings

Blue Bracket


9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Green Bracket


9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Saturday, 11:36 a.m. - More Than Just A Dirty Dozen

by Hanno Terbuyken

By now, we’re used to big Grand Prixs, so much that even the 1543 players in Prague seem a tiny bunch in this beautiful hall in the industrial palace of Prague. Sheer mass predicts that Star Power is almost inevitable on the floor (even without a plastic guitar).

A high note among the cacaphony, for example, is Nicolai Herzog. The coverage staff could hardly believe their eyes when they espied the two-time Pro Tour and European Championship winner at the breakfast table this morning. But Herzog is not the only Hall of Famer to grace the wooden floor of Prague’s industrial palace. Olivier Ruel and Raphael Levy are also here, as expected, because they are everywhere. Ruel in particular has the chance to pass Kai Budde in lifetime pro points if he wins GP Prague.

All of Europe is represented with their pro players, from Jan Ruess (Germany) to Marijyn Lybaert (Belgium) to Stewart Shinkins (United Kingdom), who is looking to gain his 100th pro point at this GP. Of course, there are many, many more recognizable names here. Look to Rich Hagon’s audio coverage of GP Prague for more information on everybody, if you don’t want to sort through the player list yourself.

We have to highlight three more groups of players, though. First, the Americans are represented, with Gaudenis Vidugiris and Sam Black both looking to continue their success stories. The two of them have been seen at many a GP in Europe over the season, and stand out as the front-runners of American GP travellers. Vidugiris in particular can do back-to-back GP Top 8s, as he comes fresh off a Top 8 in Niigata.

Their small number is dwarved by the Japanese, though. Yuuya Watanabe, Kazuya Mitamura, Shuuhei Nakamura and Tomoharu Saito: why should you know these names? Easy. Together, they represent half of the top 8 players in the Player of the Year race. They brought five more Japanese players with them to Prague, making this the largest Japanese contingent at a European GP ever.

Among the top 8 in the PoY race, you’ll also find Martin Juza. The Czech is strumming through a streak right now, with back-to-back second places in Brighton and Bangkok. Can he snatch the win here in his home country?

We will see. Oh, and by the way: Jakub Slemr, the 1997 World Champion, is also here. Magic never lets you go.

Saturday, 12:30 p.m. - Deck Construction With Reinhold Kohl

by Tobias Henke

Let’s start with a little introduction. Reinhold Kohl of Germany is one of this year’s up-and-coming players and, with two top eights at limited-format Grand Prix this year (in Rotterdam and Brighton), Kohl is on the shortlist of this weekend’s players to watch. Also, he is currently sitting at 15 pro points with invites to Pro Tour - Austin as well as the World Championship, so he is very eager to at least scrape up another five points to secure level four in the Pro Players Club. To get there he now needs a good deck for today’s Sealed Deck rounds (only six for him, thanks to three byes).

“Basically, it’s always the same question: do you choose quality or consistency?” was the first thing Kohl said after an agonizing 30 minutes of deck construction. No, actually, first thing he said was: “Wow, that was hard.”

And hard it was. The last half of that time, Kohl spent switching one color for another, then going back to three colors, then two, always re-evaluating, reconsidering, re-examining, and making a face of general unhappiness. But let’s start at the beginning. “With every color I usually start out by checking for very powerful cards, then for sheer numbers,” Kohl explained afterwards. “Green was easily excluded. There were barely enough cards and quality wasn’t nearly high enough. Black was a lot more difficult. There was Doom Blade, Assassinate, and Deathmark, a card that I like to play in the maindeck.”

But black was lacking creatures, so he set that aside as well. “That left blue, white, and red and that’s were the trouble started,” Kohl went on. “White had the greatest depth, lots of solid creatures, while blue offered a couple of fliers as well as Mind Control and Sleep. Red on the other hand had removal and enough cards to work as a main color, even.”

“I started with this typical everyday blue-white deck, splashing for red removal,” said Kohl. “But that deck had too many cards and mana issues. For example, I was never going to be able to do without Ponder, but that in turn would have forced me to leave some really good cards out. Also, this deck didn’t have enough creatures, especially to make Sleep work well.”

“So in the end I went with red-white, a solid, pretty straightforward, aggressive deck with lots of creatures.” Kohl reiterated his former question: “Once again, quality or consistency.”

Podcast - Check It Out

by Rich Hagon

1534 players have come to the capital of the Czech Republic, ready to battle their way through nine Rounds of M10 Sealed. For those who manage to put together seven wins, a second day awaits, this time featuring six Rounds of M10 Draft. And then, if they're still standing, one final Draft will await the Top 8. With Olivier Ruel exactly 10 Pro Points away from finally taking over from Kai Budde in the Lifetime Pro Points standings, he only needs 1533 other players not to win the event....

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Saturday, 2:15 p.m. - Twisting by the Pool

by Tobias Henke

Admittedly, this does not teach you anything about the game, but the Grand Prix experience is more than simple analytics, more than great minds figuring out how to break a format, more than tales of close matches or complete blow-outs. We want to capture the whole atmosphere, and in the early rounds there is always one very common scene to watch. Players gather round and exchange stories of extremely lucky (or unlucky) people who were passed unusual Sealed pools.


Hypnotic Specter
Like this one guy who opened a booster pack which included two Hypnotic Specters, one a shiny premium foil. Obviously, among his pool he had another booster that held a third Hypnotic Specter. Now in a 40-card deck that’s pretty mean and will ensure that almost every game starts with a turn-three Hypnotic Specter. Another player is apparently favored by celestial powers, with two Serra Angels, a Guardian Seraph, and a Baneslayer Angel, a line-up that one could easily describe with any number of words that usually don’t quite apply to angels.

Even more so, unprintable words were used by one very unfortunate player who had been hoping for angels, dragons, djinns, or anything but instead was handed a pool with four Mirror of Fate. And the very best story so far brought to our attention is about two players who sat at the same table during deck construction and were rather surprised when taking a glance across the table. A quick check confirmed: Both had received a pool with the exact same six rare cards.

Saturday, 2:30 p.m. - Hallowed Halls

by Hanno Terbuyken

The 1891 building stands up to today's standards.Grand Prix are something special. They are the biggest tournament a Magic player can attend, they are held in beautiful cities, and they provide players with stories they will tell even to their grandkids. These stories are often harboured in interesting venues, but few are as storied and as beautiful as the stunning Industry Palace that hosts GP Prague.

Built in 1891, the Industrial Palace was the centerpiece of the Jubilee Exposition that year in Prague. Architect Bedrich Munzberger was inspired by the Eiffel tower in Paris that had wowed the world two years earlier. He tried to go for a simliar look and feel in the iron structures outside and included a 51-meter high clock tower. The construction was made mostly of steel and glass.

Without players in the hall, the stark beauty of the ceiling's rennaissance-like simplicity comes out even more.Inside, though, as a well-designed example for historicism, the wooden ceiling beams allude to rennaissance architecture that spread from the late 15th century through what is now Poland and the Czech Republik. King Vladislav II. Jagiello was one of the rules responsible for inviting humanist thinkers, writers and builders to his court, and their influence soon reached the fields of architecture. That in turn is reflected in the Industry Palace’s ceiling.

It is a gorgeous site for a Magic tournament, and befitting for a Grand Prix that has some of Magic’s past heroes striving for new glory.

Podcast - Check It Out Online

by Rich Hagon

While we wait for the Pros to enter the Main Event, some of them will be sleeping, some of them will be shopping, some of them will be honing their decks. Manuel Bucher will be sitting beside me, taking us through a Magic Online M10 Draft as it happens, because he's nice like that.

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Quick Questions - Best M10 Color

by Hanno Terbuyken

What is the best color in M10 Limited?

Shuuhei Nakamura Olivier Ruel Manuel Bucher
"Red, considering the entire card pool. Otherwise probably black." "Blue and red in Sealed, because they have Mind Control and Fireball. White is the worst. In draft, everything that is not red." "Blue and red. I like blue in draft, too."
Marijn Lybaert Martin Juza Jan Ruess
"White." "I'd say black." "Blue."

Feature Match Round 4 - Matteo Orsini-Jones [ENG] vs. Tomoharu Saitou [JPN]

by Tobias Henke

Matteo Orsini-JonesThis is it, round four of the tournament, all the pro players have used up their free byes and now enter the fray. In this match, two of them square off against each other.

Orsini-Jones took a mulligan down to six, while Saitou chose to keep his two Swamp hand. Right though this decision may have been, this time it didn’t work out for Saitou. He never had a third land. By the time he finally found Plains this was once again only his second land, because meanwhile Orsini-Jones had cast Acidic Slime. Also, there was Cudgel Troll, briefly performing his duty of beating down.

Matteo Orsini-Jones 1 – 0 Tomoharu Saitou

Saitou wanted to rather have an extra card and accordingly opted to draw first for Game 2, while Orsini-Jones certainly would have liked to get some extra cards as well, but sadly couldn’t do anything about his double mulligan. At the end of Saitou’s first turn cards in hand were four to seven in Saitou’s favor. Yet, Orsini-Jones developed quite well with Rampant Growth and Terramorphic Expanse.

Saitou started the beats, however, with Child of Night, then Blinding Mage and Gorgon Flail. Orsini-Jones deployed Cudgel Troll, but that certainly didn’t stop Saitou. Blinding Mage tapped down Orsinini-Jones’s lonely blocker at end of turn, Child of Night and Blinding Mage attacked to set lifetotals to 26 to 13, and then proceeded to cast Serra Angel.

Orsini-Jones could only disable Saitou’s tapper by playing and attaching Whispersilk Cloak to his own Troll. Unfazed, Saitou simply equipped his Angel with his piece of equipment and continued the beats.

Matteo Orsini-Jones 1 – 1 Tomoharu Saitou

Tomoharu SaitouYet again Orsini-Jones had to take a mulligan. His green-based deck seemed solid enough with a reasonable amount of fixing, but here it didn’t really show. Saitou started quick with Elite Vanguard on turn one, but had no follow-up, while Orsini-Jones had a Deadly Recluse to trade with the early threat. Wall of Bone came down on Orsini-Jones’s side, Magebane Armor on Saitou’s. Next up, was Giant Spider for Orsini-Jones and White Knight (which was immediately equipped) for Saitou.

The White Knight started to smash in, again and again. Not much else came down on both sides, at least nothing of consequence. Saitou had a Wall of Faith, Orsini-Jones had Child of Night, but certainly this game would not see any attackers except for White Knight anytime soon. What did change however was that Saitou turned his 4/6 protection black first-striking Knight into a 5/7 protection black first-striking Knight with deathtouch (helped by Gorgon Flail). In the end, the White Knight proved to be well equipped to win the game and match.

Matteo Orsini-Jones 1 – 2 Tomoharu Saitou

Podcast - Fore-Check

by Rich Hagon

Well, four check actually, as Round Four is featured, as are four Feature matches. The 2007 Player of the Year and the 1997 World Champion may be a decade apart, but here they're just a few feet apart, with Tomaharu Saitou looking to defeat Matteo Orsini-Jones, while Jakub Slemr opens his campaign against Germany's Raul Porojan. Add in a supporting cast of Matej Zaltkaj, Michal Hebky, Alex Popov and Jan Rehak, and you have a great start to our Feature Match coverage.

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Feature Match Round 5 - Matthias Künzler [CHE] vs. Martin Juza [CZE]

by Hanno Terbuyken

Martin Juza is on a hot streak right now, having Top 8 appearances in Bangkok and Brighton to his name and a solid position in the Player of the Year race. He spearheads Czech Magic and is a crowd favorite here in Prague. Matthias Künzler is a Swiss player with a very solid resumé and three GP Top 8s.

Game 1:

Martin JuzaMartin Juza dispatched Künzler’s first creature with Seismic Strike and matched Künzler’s Blinding Mage and Snapping Drake with Berserkers of Blood Ridge. Doomblade killed the Siege Mastodon that Künzler had wanted for defense. But of course, Blinding Mage prevented the Berserkers from doing much.

Juza had Pyroclasm, and Künzler hesitated to put his cards into the bin. “Slowrolling the Negate?” Juza asked, but no – Künzler let the Pyroclasm go and then took Juza’s Berserkers with Mind Control. The Player of the Year hopeful was forced to Doomblade his own creature, and both players were back to square one.

Juza: “That’s unfortunate.”

Stone Giant from Juza saw himself mightily trumped by Künzler’s Captain of the Watch, followed by Pacifism on Juza’s blocker. Juza went to 9 and scoop within a blink.

“That was a nice one from the top,” Künzler acknowledged his own luck.

Matthias Künzler 1 – 0 Martin Juza

Game 2:

Juza figured that an extra card would be much more helpful than playing the first land, and let Künzler go first after mulligans for both players. The Swiss was quick to keep, but Juza decided against it. His five weren’t good enough, either – four cards, and Juza gave a thumps-up. Off they went.

Matthias KünzlerNeither player missed a land drop, and off his first three, Künzler drew two cards with Divination. Juza looked like he had some game despite being way behind on cards, with an unspectacular Kelinore Bat and Diabolic Tutor.

“What do you think I went for?” Juza asked. “Could be anything,” Künzler replied and added Siege Mastodon to his Razorfoot Griffin. Juza played Duress and saw Pacifism, Mind Control, Snapping Drake and Mind Spring – a tough hand to beat with just Kelinore Bats in play.

“You’ll keep those two,” said Juza as he put Pacifism and the Drake aside. “Oh jeez, I am so dead,” he sighed and binned Mind Control. Assassinate removed Künzler’s Razorfoot Griffin from the equation. But Juza had missed his fifth land drop, and Künzler drew three cards off his Mind Spring. At 16 (Künzler) to 12 (Juza), he dropped Captain of the Watch again.

“Really?” Juza shook his head. Pyroclasm or bust were his options, and he had little choice but to go bust in the face of Künzler’s pretty good deck.

Matthias Künzler 2 – 0 Martin Juza

Saturday, 5:33 p.m. - Four To The Floor

by Hanno Terbuyken

Walking the floors, something always catches a reporter’s eye or ear. Here are some examples.

Jens Strohaeker about to lose a game.

Nick Sephton, Jens Strohaeker, Falko Görres and Pasi Virtanen had all set out to play GP Prague. What makes that so special? All four are well-known figures among the judge community. They have a combined judge level of 11 – and their combined wins were less than that, as evidenced by the fact that after round 5, all four of them had already dropped from the tournament.

Raphael Landmann

Raphael Landmann from Vienna, Austria, was struck with an unfortunate accident just two days prior to GP Prague: He cut through his left-hand thumb with a knife. A couple of stitches and a thumb-cast later, he is here in GP Prague and learning how to shuffle with one opposable thumb less. It’s not easy.

How comfortable would you like to be?

>Maybe he should have asked Claire Baker for advice, who brought something quite clever to the GP. You know how the Magic cards in your hand always seem to re-sort themselves, or hide behind each other, or drop from your hand accidentally when you actually wanted to play the other land? Well, Claire has the solution: A wooden stand to keep all your cards in hand in a quasi-iron grip. Plonk it before you and have two hands free to tap all your lands at once! No more tedious putting down and picking up of hands. Ask your local carpenter.

Learn to play the pleasant way.

The two demo girls showing the game to everybody lucky enough to stumble into the hall without prior knowledge maybe would like such a card holder. What they do all day is playing a beginner’s game of Magic with everybody, from schoolboys to concerned mothers and interested policemen. That’s right, even the long arm of justice takes a keen interest in Magic! But mostly it’s schoolboys they have to teach the basics. And those who grok the game can directly move on to the Xbox 360 right next to the demo station and play a quick round of Duels of the Planeswalkers, the Xbox Live Arcade game that delivers your digital fix of Magic to your living room couch.

Feature Match Round 6: Jakub Slemr [CZE] vs. Lino Burgold [DEU]

by Tobias Henke

Jakub SlemrJakub Slemr from the Czech Republic really does not need any introduction. Or at least, ten years back he didn’t need any introduction. He is the 1997 World Champion and also the first person to appear twice in the top eight of Worlds. Lino Burgold on the other hand has broken into the spotlight only this year with a win at Grand Prix - Hanover and, recently, a third place finish at German Nationals.

Burgold took a mulligan, but also had the first play of the match with Silvercoat Lion. Slemr, who had gone first, trumped that immediately, though, in the form of Viashino Spearhunter. Next up was Dread Warlock for Slemr, then Palace Guard for Burgold. While Slemr added Looming Shade to his team, Burgold dropped the veritable bomb Armored Ascension. Up till now, the German had only Plains, five of them, which resulted in an awfully big Palace Guard.

Slemr then cast Royal Assassin which got rid of the 6/9 flying creature, but not before it had reduced Slemr’s lifetotal to five. Meanwhile Burgold had played two Mountains and now summoned Magma Phoenix. Subsequently, the Phoenix blocked, and killed everything except for Slemr’s Looming Shade, bringing Slemr down to just two life. But the Shade and a freshly-cast Gravedigger went to work on Burgold’s life. Burgold returned Magma Phoenix to set up another three-point explosion, but just in time, Slemr had Fireball to set the score to...

Jakub Slemr 1 – 0 Lino Burgold

Lino BurgoldNeither player mulliganed for Game 2. Burgold had opted to draw first, so Slemr started with Dread Warlock, followed by Royal Assassin. Burgold, who had sideboarded out his white cards and brought in black to replace them, matched those with Fiery Hellhound and, with one Swamp in play, Tendrils of Corruption to finish the Assassin. The Royal Assassin, however, was not finished yet. Disentomb brought it back, but now Burgold had a second Swamp to kill it off with Consume Spirit.

Now the game entered a sort of killing frenzy. Both players, who by way of habit tend to play extremely quickly, traded several creatures with removal spells... at the end of which, there was one Looming Shade remaining on Slemr’s side of the battlefield, one Wall of Fire on Burgold’s.

Burgold gave Slemr an opportunity, when he tapped low to equip his Wall with Whispersilk Cloak. Slemr hit for five damage with his Shade (getting Burgold down to nine), but in return Burgold had Lightning Bolt for the Shade. He also had Child of Night and made sure to keep it tugged safely away within the protective Whispersilk Cloak. And that was just as well, since now Slemr cast Rod of Ruin. Still, that’s not much of a race, so Slemr added Berserkers of Blood Ridge and destroyed Wall of Fire with the help of Tendrils of Corruption. It seemed as if the tide had turned, but now Burgold had Tendrils of Corruption of his own to stop the Berserkers. Also he summoned Looming Shade, which Slemr then killed with Seismic Strike (one damage) and his Rod of Ruin ( a second damage) All the while the Child of Night went about its nightly (and possibly childish) business. Additionally, Howling Banshee came down for the German, but obviously that too was killed by yet another Tendril of Corruption from Slemr.

Then it was time for Burgold’s Fireball...

Jakub Slemr 1 – 1 Lino Burgold

Both players (simultaneously) took one mulligan for the final game of the match, but whereas Slemr stopped at six, Burgold went as far down as five. Child of Night entered the battlefield for Burgold, once again Viashino Spearhunter came down for Slemr. The next three turns Burgold was unable to find a third land. Slemr on the other hand had Looming Shade, then Berserkers of Blood Ridge, and finally Seismic Strike to kill the Child. A third land for Burgold meant business... Or did it? In fact his deck could only muster a Looming Shade, hardly a serious threat here.

Indeed Burgold had already fallen behind way too much. Slemr apologized for the anticlimactic mana screw... and attacked for the win.

Jakub Slemr 2 – 1 Lino Burgold

Feature Match Round 7: Ondra Posolda [CZE] vs. Jan Prodzak [CZE]

by Hanno Terbuyken

The Czech republic is the upcoming force in European Magic, and these two players are among the names that float around as being “pretty good”. Talking about Czechs, that puts them already above a good chunk of the Magic-playing public. Both came into the match with a loss already on their scoresheet, so the next games would push one of the two Czechs to the brink of tournament extinction. Three losses and you’re out, that’s the way the Grand Prix works.

Game 1

Jan ProdzakSeven cards is a healthy amount to start a game with, but only Prodzak would get that luxury in this all-Czech game. Posolda decided that six was good enough for him, even on the play. Also, Horned Turtle as his first play was something he seemed to like, as he did it again right away when Prodzak Excommunicated the shelled defender.

Prodzak hit five mana, tapped them and hit the board with an on-curve Baneslayer Angel. Child of Night, equipped with Magebane Armor, played the second fiddle in Posolda’s small but deadly orchestra. Blinding Mage was merely an afterthought. Djinn of Wishes from Posolda turned up nothing, and that game was over.

Ondra Posolda 0 – 1 Jan Prodzak

Game 2

Prodzak chose to play, and this time, both were on equal footing as they had the comfort of a full hand. Drudge Skeletons from Posolda and Warpath Ghoul from Prodzak were unspectacular oopenings, but Prodzak knew how annoying that regenerating Skeleton could be. Weakness on it and attacking with Warpath Ghoul took his Czech countryman to 17.

Ondra PosoldaPosolda had Snapping Drake but Prodzak once again showed off his deck: Liliana Vess made Posolda discard a Mountain. He picked up Liliana to re-read the Planeswalker, realizing that if left unchecked, the lady in black would make his life miserable – as ladies in black are wont to do.

Unsummon from Posolda left Prodzak with a fizzled equip of Magebane Armor on the Warpath Ghoul, and Posolda countered Prodzak’s second attempt at the Ghoul. Finally, he had worn down Liliana enough to kill her – losing three lands through discard in the process.

Prodzak’s board was empty, so Posolda attacked him with Snapping Drake and Horned Turtle, down to 12 life. But Prodzak trusted his deck to deliver. And it did: Baneslayer Angel, equip with Magebane Armor, win the game. Easy.

Ondra Posolda 0 – 2 Jan Prodzak

Podcast - Four More Feature Matches? Check.

by Rich Hagon

An intriguing lineup of Feature Matches headlines our fourth show here on Day One of Grand Prix Prague 2009. Hall of Famer Raphael Levy goes up against Croatia's Ognjen Cividini. An all-Italian clash sees Samuele Estratti take on the Grand Prix Rimini Champion Emanuele Giusti. Estonian Hannes Kerem battles Riccardo Neri from Italy, while the still undefeated Jakub Slemr looks to take down Grand Prix Hanover Champion Lino Burgold. And then there's bonus action from Round Seven, featuring a little local matter of interest in the British Isles and our near neighbours...

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Quick Questions - Which Country Wins Worlds?

by Hanno Terbuyken

Which Country Wins Worlds?

Shuuhei Nakamura Olivier Ruel Manuel Bucher
(points at himself) "Japan!" "Not France. I don't even know the teams, probably Japan?" "With Shuuhei and Watanabe on their team? Japan!"
Marijn Lybaert Martin Juza Jan Ruess
"Belgium! It's a little optimistic, but it might happen." "Japan, and I predict Top 8 for the Czech team. It's pretty good." "I'll say Germany, why not!"

Feature Match Round 8: Shuuhei Nakamura [JPN] vs. Oliver Baloch [SVK]

>by Tobias Henke

In the penultimate round of this tournament, let's do it a little differently. Instead of focusing on the very top of the standings, here is a match of two players that are currently sitting at records of five wins and two losses, on the brink of elimination. They will have to win the next two matches in order to secure further participation tomorrow. Of course, only one of them can do it. Conventional wisdom strongly favors Shuuhei Nakamura who, by virtue of his Player-of-the-Year title, officially is the best player in the world right now, but even great odds can be overcome and we've certainly seen a fair share of surprises so far this weekend. Afterall, this is Magic, right?

The game started with a third-turn Centaur Courser from Baloch, which was met with Essence Scatter from Shuuhei. To make matters worse, Shuuhei used Mind Rot to pull another two cards out of Baloch's hand, in addition to the one less he held due to his mulligan.

But who needs lots of cards when one very special card can do the trick just as well? Baloch summoned Garruk Wildspeaker to his side who in turn conjured up a 3/3 beast, on an otherwise empty board. Shuuhei had Snapping Drake, took Garruk down, and then cast Looming Shade and Drudge Skeletons to even out the board.

Acidic Slime from Baloch took out Shuuhei's only Island, but “no Islands” of course meant “lots of Swamps” so his Looming Shade was even more fearsome. Also Tendrils of Corruption was rather impressive, when it took out the Acidic Slime and netted a bonus of six life.

It took a little while to finally get there, but Baloch had to start chump blocking the Shade and we all know that' it's all downhill from there.

Shuuhei Nakamura 1 – 0 Oliver Baloch

Baloch started fast with Silvercoat Lion, then Llanowar Elves, followed by Serra Angel, but Shuuhei's start was not bad either. His first play was Mind Rot in turn three (discarding Veteran Swordsmith as well as Giant Spider), and on turn four he followed it up with Tendrils of Corruption, killing the Angel.

Razorfoot Griffin made an appearance but soon was stricken with Weakness. Rod of Ruin and Zombie Goliath found their way onto Shuuhei's side of the battlefield, but both were taken care of by Baloch's Acidic Slime. Shuuhei did have Black Knight, but he had already taken some handy packages of damage and now Baloch made another Serra Angel. When Shuuhei's Duress revealed Fog as well as Glorious Charge in his opponent's hand, Shuuhei just nodded and shuffled up his cards.

Shuuhei Nakamura 1 – 1 Oliver Baloch

Unlike Baloch, Shuuhei chose to draw first. Initially, Baloch seemed quite happy about this, but that soon changed when he mulliganed once again. Still, Baloch had the perfect curve: Deadly Recluse, Veteran Swordsmith, and Giant Spider. But Shuuhei was well prepared with an (if somewhat more defensive) curve of himself: Drudge Skeletons, Wind Drake, and Gravedigger (to retrieve the Wind Drake that had traded with Veteran Armorsmith). Unfortunately for him, Baloch had Gorgon Flailand White Knight.

Divination got Shuuhei further ahead in cards, but he was falling behind on life. (And more important: on the board!) However, Giant Spider was taken out by Tendrils of Corruption, netting six life, and that allowed Shuuhei one more turn to set things up instead of actually doing stuff. He cast a massive Mind Spring for six cards, and on the next turn summoned a couple of creatures, Horned Turtle among them. That took care of the White Knight, and turned the tide of this match. Rod of Ruin, Zombie Goliath, and others followed, and in the end Shuuhei's card advantage was just too much.

Shuuhei Nakamura 1 – 1 Oliver Baloch

Podcast - Check Point

by Rich Hagon

The halfway stage is a time to take stock. If you're one of six players out of 1534 with a perfect record, it's time to reflect that the job is still only partway done. If you're at 8-1, you've had a great day, but probably only have one defeat left to give on the morrow. And if you're one of almost 150 players sitting on 7-2, well, you better get a good night's sleep, because you're going to need it. Join us tomorrow for all the Draft action as GP Prague goes into overdrive.

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Saturday, 9:48 p.m. - A Not Quite Wild Bunch

by Hanno Terbuyken

Planeswalkers. Mind Control. Fireballs. Serra Angels. Magic 2010 makes many memorable Magic moments, many of which where happening up and down the aisles of GP Prague. In the end, it were black cards that carried the top of the standings to their victories. Among them are the six undefeated players who made it through the day unscathed: Worlds Top 8 competitor Hannes Kerem [EST], Jan Schmidt [DEU], and Richard Parker [UK] with an insane deck in the green half of the tournament, and on the blue half Ognjen Cividini [HRV], former Rookie of the Year Yuuya Watanabe [JPN], and Lukas Tajak [DEU].

Day two of GP Prague will have 197 men playing – and two women. Elina Kilappa from Finland and Louise Johansson from Denmark also made it at 21 and 22 points respectively. There are a couple more interesting individuals who we will see on Sunday, the most interesting of which most of our readers probably will not recognize on sight. The Czech Repulic’s Magic methusalem Jakub Slemr, the 1997 World Champion, racked up 21 points (a 7-2 record) and will return for his first Sunday in nearly a decade.

Of those in the running for Player of the Year, of the top 15 players just four who were here made it in: Martin Juza, Michal Hebky, Sam Black – and Yuuya Watanabe, who also did a 9-0 run. That leaves him as the most likely candidate to walk away with a couple of pro points on Sunday. Shuuhei Nakamura, Tomoharu Saitou, Kazuya Mitamura, and Gaudenis Vidugiris had to bite the bullet and the dust. We’ll see tomorrow if Juza, who already has two losses under his belt, and Watanabe manage to take some advantage of the misfortune of their competitors. Check back on Sunday to find out who will walk away from GP Prague with the money, the points and the trophy!

Saturday, 10:35 p.m. – Undefeated Decklists

by Tobias Henke

Through nine grueling rounds of Sealed Deck play, six players made it unscathed. All six kept their records impeccably clean all day, untarnished by any losses at all.

Talking about similarities, we now have the formula for the perfect Sealed Deck too. First, you’ll want two colors only. Even splashing for Fireball was only done by one of these players. Also, pretty much everone settled on 17 lands, no experiments. Admittedly, so far no big news. However, the real lesson here is the number of creatures: While removal spells are important for sure and while many of them look more impressive than most of the minor creatures, one should never go too low on creatures. One of these decks only includes 12, but that’s the bottom limit. Ideally, and most of these do, you’ll want to have 15.

Jan Schmidt, 9-0

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Hannes Kerem, 9-0

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Richard Parker, 9-0

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Ognjen Cividini, 9-0

Download Arena Decklist

Lukas Tajak, 9-0

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Yuuya Watanabe, 9-0

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