Day 1 Grand Prix Warsaw Coverage

Posted in Event Coverage on May 10, 2014

By Wizards of the Coast

Day one of Grand Prix Warsaw is at an end!

1,005 players rocked up to Grand Prix Warsaw in Poland for the first chance to play with Journey into Nyx at the highest level. Among them were players at their very first Grand Prix, and veterans looking to get in all the practice they could before Pro Tour Journey into Nyx next weekend in Atlanta.

The field was tested with a tricky sealed deck build and nine rounds of fierce competition, from which 130 proved skillful enough to achieve the 7-2 or better record to qualify for play on Sunday.

Leading the pack were just four players with perfect records. Ivan Floch has been tipped by Martin Juza as the player to win the tournament, and alongside him on 9-0 are Bernhard Lehner, Patrick Tomelitsch and Pawel Podbielski. While these four lead the way, there is a whole host of talent chasing, including Joel Larsson, Stanislav Cifka and current number one ranked Pro player, Pro Tour Theros winner Jeremy Dezani.

Join us on Sunday, as we venture into the world of Journey into Nyx draft, and find out exactly how the new set has shaken up an already complex and challenging draft format. With both text coverage from Tobias Henke and Tim Willoughby, and video coverage from Rich Hagon, Matej Zatlkaj, Marijn Lybaert, Simon Goertzen and Steven Leeming, all the action will be right here for you on

Saturday, 9:22 a.m. – Things to Do on a Friday

by Tobi Henke

While the main attraction of a Grand Prix weekend, that is, the actual Grand Prix itself, only begins on Saturday, most attendees spend a big chunk of their Friday at the tournament venue as well. Even discounting the last-chance Grand Prix Trials and the very real possibility of earning two byes for the main event, there's a lot of stuff to do on Day Zero of a Grand Prix. The dealers were happily slinging their cards, Gordian Knot Games offered free Mini Master tournaments, and Rich Hagon hosted his infamous trivia game show—superb entertainment as usual.

Another item on the agenda here in Warsaw was "The Sealed Deck Showdown." This time featuring Pro Tour veterans Marijn Lybaert and Matej Zatlkaj in battle for fame and glory, this program gives spectators a chance to closely watch two of the game's greats build and play a sealed deck. What better way to learn about the intricacies of the Sealed Deck format?

Rich Hagon gave a short introduction and explained the few rules of the contest. Lybaert and Zatlkaj would each have 20 minutes to build a deck from their pool of cards. After a die-roll, Lybaert had won the right to go first ... "And go!"

Marijn Lybaert

Lybaert quickly sorted through his cards, commenting on some of the Journey into Nyx cards in particular. "If I'm blue, I'm always going to play Sigiled Starfish," was one piece of advise, another being: "Market Festival? Maybe if I have a lot of seven-drops, but really ... never."

Filmed in front of a live audience who could watch the proceedings on screen and had also been handed copies of Lybaert's pool list, Lybaert asked the crowd for a bit of help. "Show of hands! Who thinks I should play black? Red?" The two colors were soon moved aside. Having opened Bow of Nylea and Courser of Kruphix, Lybaert joked, "I guess, I don't need to ask for green, do I?"

He tried out the three remaining color combinations and green-white was the perfect fit. Said Lybaert, "White has the early creatures, green the late drops. Bow of Nylea is also best in such an aggressive build, and I even get to play Reap What Is Sown!"

Lybaert was happy, but now it was time for his opponent Matej Zatlkaj to try his luck. He, too, laid out all the colors, and gave valuable imput regarding some potential Journey into Nyx additions. "Sightless Brawler won't always do what you want it to do, but it's not a bad card by any means." He said he wasn't a big fan of Feast of Dreams, though he wouldn't discount it either. "What I'm really excited about is Doomwake Giant. It's an awesome card, a strong rare, and exactly what I need against Marijn's smaller creatures," he said, immediately adding: "No spoilers!"

Matej Zatlkaj

Black and white offered yet more solid to strong cards, including two Wingsteed Riders, an Akroan Skyguard, two copies of Lash of the Whip, and even multi-colored goodies in Triad of Fates and Odunos River Trawler, so Zatlkaj cut the usually long-winded process of color selection short. "Tomorrow, you'll have more time and you definitely should try out as many combinations as possible. But here, with just 20 minutes, I going to make this quick: black-white it is," he announced.

There was a little more back and forth between the audience and Zatlkaj regarding a few card choices, and then it was done; the two contestants were ready to determine the winner. Their match was caught on camera as well, and if you want to see who won, check out our video coverage stream!

Marijn Lybaert and Matej Zatlkaj

Saturday, 10:01 a.m. – Grand Prix Trial Winners' Decklists

by Tobi Henke

The following players all managed to tear undefeated through one of yesterday's 32-player five-round single-elimination last-chance Trial tournaments to claim two byes for today's main event. What does it take to go 5-0 in the brand new Journey into Nyx/Born of the Gods/Theros Sealed Deck format? Check out these decklists and see for yourself!

Przemek Oberbek

Download Arena Decklist

Dmitry Smirnov

Download Arena Decklist

Peter Geuens

Download Arena Decklist

Bartosz Fijalkowski

Download Arena Decklist

Frej Örnberg

Download Arena Decklist

Alex Stok

Download Arena Decklist

Michal Brancewicz

Download Arena Decklist

Marcin Staciwa

Download Arena Decklist

Michal Popielski

Download Arena Decklist

Saturday, 10:40 a.m. – Saito’s Journey into Nyx

by Tim Willoughby

With Pro Tour Journey into Nyx just around the corner, many players are looking to get in some practice with the new set before Atlanta. For Tomoharu Saito of Japan, this weekend is part of a slightly longer journey. Not qualified for the Pro Tour, this former Player of the Year is looking to build his pro points and experience with the format in order to get back onto the Pro Tour. Currently at Silver level, he'll be playing at the Grand Prix in Atlanta, and travelling there with Japanese countrymen who eschewed a trip to Poland.

While Saito is not currently a regular on the Pro Tour, his influence on international Magic is still very much felt. Even if you speak not a word of Japanese, his Twitter account of @TomoharuSaito is a goldmine of valuable information, often in picture form. Cunningly skirting the 140 character limit by using pictures to tell a thousand words, Saito regularly posts images of his latest constructed masterpieces (including 16 Journey into Nyx Standard lists at last count). Lately this has branched out into pictures of various draft decks too, and their records.

'Tomoharu Saito

From a quick study of what Saito has been up to at his shop MTG Hareruya, it seems that there has been quite a bit of Journey into Nyx play at Japan's largest Magic store. Working with his customers and staff (including Hall of Famer Kenji Tsumura), Saito already has some ideas on how the format works for both sealed and draft.

For sealed deck, it seems that there is quite a bit of room for maneuver, based entirely on what cards are opened. This is not a format where any one colour dominates, and Saito likes to let the contents of the packs dictate where he's going rather than wading in with too many preconceptions on what to play. For this weekend for example, he found himself with a fairly classic blue white pairing, building on the heroic storyline that has permeated the format since the arrival of Theros.

When things come to draft things get a little more interesting. Journey into Nyx has shaken up the format a little, and Saito has been drafting apace to get a feel for exactly how. After a little consideration, he found that red is simply not where he wants to be in this format. While some of his greatest success in constructed has come from aggressive red decks, for this draft format, he doesn't feel that there is quite enough power there. Of the other four colours, green is one he's a little less happy to be drafting. A rueful smile and a wince came as he admitted that, 'while green decks look good, they don't seem to 3-0 drafts - that is the trouble with mana ramp'.

The colour that Saito is most interested in right now is black. "Black is a colour that a lot of people have overlooked in Theros draft. They focus on Gray Merchant of Asphodel, and not much more. With Journey into Nyx, black decks, especially aggressive black decks, have got a lot better. Everyone knows blue and white are good, but I think (I hope) that not everyone has figured out black."

A card that Saito referenced as a good example of something that takes a while to get a clear valuation of is Cast into Darkness. This innocuous looking common aura gives -2/-0 and means that a creature can't block. While cheap to cast, it doesn't seem like an all-star for the black decks. However, in forcing a creature to race (with less power to do so) it plays exactly into the new game plan for many of Saito's black draft decks, and is a card he thinks he should be able to pick up fairly late in draft.

It's still early in the weekend, with plenty of sealed deck to get through before draft day, but Tomoharu Saito already has 4 Grand Prix titles under his belt, and seemed psyched up and ready to go. Watch out for him on a Sunday coming to you soon.

Saturday, 11:44 a.m. – Sealed Deck Building with Antonino De Rosa

by Tobi Henke

A former Grand Prix champion and US national champion with a Pro Tour Top 8 to his name as well, Antonino De Rosa certainly is one of the players to watch this weekend. And that is exactly what we did: watch him build his sealed deck.

He was joined in the feature match area by Ben Seck (whose deck-building feature you can catch on the stream later), and while De Rosa was already sorting through his cards, his old friend ambushed him and took a peek over his shoulder. "A little snooping," he joked, to which De Rosa replied: "You can help me!"

Antonino De Rosa

Alas, as it turned out, no one could help De Rosa. He first sorted away what he considered definite unplayables, sadly quite a large stack of cards, and growing larger by the minute. Further investigation moved Lagonna-Band Trailblazer to this pile too, for lack of targeted effects, and it was soon joined by Sphinx's Disciple, Kruphix's Insight, and finally all of the red.

Black had a few good cards, though it wasn't entirely clear whether the stress here should be on the "good" or rather on the "few." Green as a potential partner offered enough cards and creatures but dubious quality overall. Next, De Rosa agonized over black-white, muttering, "This is too hard." With a creature base consisting mostly of Leonin Snarecasters, one Ornitharch, and a Sightless Brawler, it didn't take long for white to be relegated to the sidelines.

For a while, De Rosa abandoned black and instead concentrated on green as a basis for his deck. However, that approach didn't bear fruit either and, despairing, De Rosa was quickly back to black-green. He briefly considered splashing blue for, among others, Griptide and Fleetfeather Cockatrice. "These blue cards are good, but probably not worth adding a third color for," he explained.

Green-black was basically the only chance he had, and he took it. "The white's not good, red isn't a color at all, and blue has no creatures," he complained. He cast a sad glance at Extinguish All Hope: "I probably want more enchantment creatures with this ..." To be fair, he did have Humbler of Mortals, Nylea's Disciple, Nylea, God of the Hunt itself, Grim Guardian, and Fate Unraveler along with two more bestow guys for a total of seven. "Still, I think the card is a little sketchy."

Antonino De Rosa

Deciding on a twenty-third card was the final hurdle to pass, and De Rosa had good arguments for both Market Festival and Fade into Antiquity. In the end, he realized he really only had 21 cards so far, and needed to play both anyway. "The only other options were Shredding Winds and Cutthroat Maneuver, but I don't want another situational card and I don't have enough early drops for the Maneuver. Though I'll likely sideboard those often. Especially on the draw I'll often cut Market Festival."

After the deck building was done, I was just about to ask the question when De Rosa turned around and put it to me: "Like my deck?"

"Well ... no."

"It's pretty bad, isn't it?" De Rosa said with a sigh. However, he was determined to defy all adversity. "I'm still going to win with it. I've had worse."

Good luck.

Quick Question #1

by Tobi Henke

Which Color Gained the Most from the Introduction of Journey into Nyx into the Limited Mix?

(24) Raphaël Lévy: In Sealed it's definitely green. I've played a couple and I was green every time.
Wenzel Krautmann: Green. There's more mana ramp now. Golden Hind is particularly good.
Denniz Rachid: Black. It was good in Theros, then terrible in Born of the Gods, and now it's good again.
(1) Jérémy Dezani: Green.
(25) Martin Jůza: There's a Pro Tour next week, so I'll have to say, no comment. Sorry.
Thoralf Severin: People seem to like black more, and I don't like that because I like black myself. But what actually gained the most is probably white.

Round 4 Feature Match - Tomoharu Saito vs. Lukas Jaklovsky

by Tim Willougby

Tomoharu Saito has to be among the most feared opponents on the Grand Prix circuit. With four wins, and a further fourteen top eight performances, this Japanese pro has plenty of great Grand Prix finishes, as well as substantial Pro Tour success, including being Player of the Year in 2007. Saito is not qualified for Pro Tour Journey into Nyx, but with his passion for the game bringing him to Europe this weekend, it seems likely that Saito's time off the tour will be short lived.

Saito's opponent, Lukas Jaklovsky of the Slovak Republic, was treating Grand Prix Warsaw as an important testing session prior to Pro Tour Journey into Nyx. Currently on 21 Pro Points for the year, Jaklovsky isn't currently troubling the top 25 player list, but a good finish in Atlanta could change all that.

Saito felt his deck was 'so-so' at best, a blue white concoction light on true bombs. Meanwhile Jaklovsky was green black splashing red, with an aggressive suite of creatures, and the combat tricks to back them up. The match seemed likely to be a race between Saito's air force, and Jaklovsky's powerful creatures stuck on the ground.

Tomoharu Saito

Jaklovsky had a little smirk when the first real play from the Japanese player was a Griffin Dreamfinder. The Slovakian's green black deck was able to put Saito on the back foot from early on, thanks to a Nessian Courser, which was soon enchanted with Feral Invocation. Nessian Demolok soon came along and ate one of those Plains, and while Saito had an Akroan Skyguard to attack, and an Ephara's Warden to block with.

Hunter's Prowess on Nessian Demolok was plenty enough to put Jaklovsky far ahead in the game, a big attack took Saito down to six, and drew Jaklovsky four cards in spite of an Opaline Unicorn jumping under the Demolok bus.

A couple of pump spells on attacks were enough to secure game one for Jaklovsky in what can only be described as a rout.

Jaklovsky 1 - 0 Tomoharu Saito

While Lukas had handily taken down game one, for the next he found himself having to mulligan down to five cards. He had a Nylea's Presence to begin to dig his way out, fixing his mana along the way. That Saito hadn't had a blistering start seemed some consolation. Lagonna-Band Trailblazer was Saito's only play for a number of turns. It eventually got joined by Skyspear Cavalry, giving Saito some sort of offence. Supply-Line Cranes pumped the flying double-striker, and finally Saito was in action. Graverobber Spider came down for Jaklovsky, while Saito went for the deathblow with Archetype of Courage.

At no point had Lukas drawn a land that was not a Forest, and soon it was on to game three as Saito's deck was eventually able to muster the damage needed to finish off a hamstrung Jaklovsky.

Lukas Jaklovsky 1 - 1 Tomoharu Saito

For game three, there would be no mana worries for Jaklovsky, with a turn two Sylvan Caryatid. He soon had a Nessian Courser racing a Vaporkin from Saito. Jaklovsky had the bigger clock, but Saito would have an easier time blocking, as he soon had an Elite Skirmisher in play too.

Wary of tricks, Saito let the Courser through, only to see it joined by a newer centaur warrior in Phere-Band Thunderhoof. This new breed of warrior would be a tougher creature to get in a fight with, so Saito played Fate Foretold on his 3/1, hoping to at least get cards out of any future exchange.

Lukas Jaklovsky

Jaklovsky again got stuck in unimpeded, dropping Saito to 14, and following up with Setessan Oathsworn. The green heroics were potentially quite scary, while Akroan Skyguard and Skyspear Cavalry were Saito's hopes of racing.

Nyxborn Eidolon made Settesan Oathsworn into a 5/4, and Pharika's Cure, the last card in Jaklovsky's hand, killed off Skyspear Cavalry. Jaklovsky rumbled in. Saito went to just 6 life, and wasn't able to offer much in the way of an answer to the big attacks from Jaklovsky. While he was the one with cards in hand, it seemed unlikely they could beat the Slovak player's board. A Fall of the Hammer from Jaklovsky, the first red spell he'd played in the match, was enough to clear a path and secure Lukas the win.

Lukas Jaklovsky wins 2 - 1 over Tomoharu Saito!

Saturday, 5:00 p.m. – Pro Tour Prep

by Tim Willoughby

Navigating Grand Prix Warsaw, there is a slightly unusual buzz about the room. As much as there is the normal clamor of a sizeable Grand Prix with a new set, things are a little different. The reason? Pro Tour Journey into Nyx is just a few days away, and for many there is a fair amount of cramming going on.

Normally getting opinions on cards from players is the easiest job in coverage. Everyone has one, you just need to ask. The week before a Pro Tour though, people are a little more guarded it would seem. While there is a big prize at hand this weekend, for many the flight that they are taking on Monday half-way across the world is weighing on their thoughts.

When it comes to building block constructed decks in a new format, often there simply aren't any templates to work from, and there is plenty of opportunity for players to 'go deep' on unusual cards that might not see much play in formats with deeper card pools. This leads to a situation where information is at a real premium, and for many that information is being kept fairly close to many chests.

Christian Seibold finished in the top eight of Pro Tour Born of the Gods, and is working with various German players including his friend Patrick Dickmann who was there with him. He admitted that there was still work to do - with new decks appearing all the time to consider, compare, test and tune. While Dickmann's familiarity with the Modern format was a huge asset in Valencia working on a deck tuner's format, it would be interesting to see how he would fare when creating something new without as much information on how the metagame might look.

Christian Seibold

Having catapulted himself to the top of the game in the last few months with a top 8 performance at Pro Tour Born of the Gods, and playing in the Magic Online Championship in Seattle, Anssi Alkio seemed pretty chilled out in his approach to Magic.

While scouting the room for stories I found the young Swede quietly going through a land box, carefully picking out a set of lands with identical artwork. Anssi was keen not to give away small edges to his opponents who, if they got to see his hand with something like Thoughtseize, might be able to determine if he the land he played for each turn was one they'd seen or not. Little rituals of a tight player.

As he shuffled through a stack of lands from a variety of different sets, he let me in on a little of how his time had been since the Pro Tour. The Players Championship, while a fantastic experience, had been a little bit of a letdown for him, in his performance in Standard. Anssi had made the top eight of Pro Tour Born of the Gods primarily from his constructed prowess, and an 0-4 Standard record clearly still stung a bit.

For this weekend he would be all about learning more about the limited format before Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx, taking a deck that he believed to be 'a little above average' and trying to ride it to the wins he needed to draft. Anssi's finish at the Pro Tour had secured him a couple of byes for the Grand Prix, but he still had a few more big finishes to put up before he was in the 'three byes' zone. The flight to Atlanta would be at 6am on Monday, so there would be little time for rest after a deep finish in Warsaw, but Anssi didn't seem to mind. He'd been testing with a fairly widely geographically spread group of qualified players in the run up to the Pro Tour, but was keen to get on American soil and commence the home straight of testing in the right time zone.

If you want to talk about softly spoken players who make waves with their plays, then few can compete with Guillaume Wafo-Tapa of France. He already has a Block Constructed Pro Tour title from Pro Tour Yokohama, and Time Spiral block constructed. A player known for his love of control decks, he took that one down with Mystical Teachings, and I was keen to know how he felt about a block constructed Pro Tour where he'd have a chance to play with Elspeth, Sun's Champion.

Guillaume Wafo-Tapa

Wafo-Tapa has been testing all week in Warsaw, with a star-studded French team including Raphael Levy, Jeremy Dazani and Pierre Dagan, all of whom have seen considerable success recently. After having had a fairly sprawling collection of players working together for Pro Tour Born of the Gods, testing has been pared back to a hub of about eight in France (great for drafts), to which there a few American pickups once the crew get to the US on Monday.

When it came to what to play in Atlanta, Wafo was not particularly cagey in saying that a week out, he was still not sure what he'd be playing. The lack of a Supreme Verdict effect, combined with the power of aggressive decks in Theros block meant that an Esper control variant wasn't quite a slam dunk for him, with more testing required before he made a decision. With a return to school in September to finish a mathematics degree, Wafo-Tapa also admitted that his attention was a little divided, and that he would have to focus on other things following this Pro Tour.

When the notion of Hall of Fame came up, he made a little smile. With three Pro Tour top 8s (including the win in Yokohama) and a finals showing at the World Championships, Guillaume is very much in the conversation for receiving a ring, and with it invitations to all future Pro Tours. Would that ensure that even with school, we would have a Guillaume at the Pro Tour? A nod and a chuckle seemed to suggest so. While Wafo-Tapa is not one to toot his own horn, it seems likely that come voting time, there will be just plenty of people tooting on his behalf.

Saturday, 5:55 p.m. – Sealed Deck Building Exercise

by Tobi Henke

1,005 competitors have already built their decks, but to all of our readers at home, here's a card pool for you! We picked this one for two reasons: One, the player who had to work with these cards has multiple Pro Tour Top 8s to his name, so a comparison between his build and yours should prove particularly interesting. And secondly, his pool offered a lot of possibilities, with strong cards spread over all five colors and difficult choices to be made even within each color. It's quite a challenge—are you up for it?

We're not going to name the player just yet, so as to not spoil his fun by having the exact contents of his sealed pool spilled all over the internet for everyone to see. Later in the day, of course, we'll reveal both his identity and the 40 cards of his main deck.

Do you pick the same colors and choose the same strategy? Or can you build something even better? Fire up our Sealed Deck Builder and try it!

Quick Question #2

by Tobi Henke

Which Color Suffered the Most from the Introduction of Journey into Nyx into the Limited Mix?

(24) Raphaël Lévy: White because Theros white was just too good.
Wenzel Krautmann: Black. Less Gray Merchant of Asphodel.
Denniz Rachid: Green. I liked it better before.
(1) Jérémy Dezani: White.
(25) Martin Jůza: No comment.
Thoralf Severin: Red.

Round 5 Feature Match - Olle Råde vs. Fabrizio Anteri

by Tobi Henke

Meeting here were Hall of Famer Olle Råde whose best finishes all lie in the past century and recent upstart Fabrizio Anteri who claimed two Top 4s at Grand Prix last year. When I joined the players at their table in the feature match area, the two were discussing their respective travel plans for the upcoming Pro Tour in Atlanta, followed by some small talk regarding possible Block Constructed decks. The atmosphere was decidedly friendly, but then it was time for business. With one loss already, neither player could afford another just yet.

Råde brought a green-white deck, Anteri was on red-white. Heroic played a large role in both of their builds, arguably more so in Råde's. Anteri, however, as was revealed later, felt more happy about his deck and chances.

Game 1

Råde led with Setessan Oathsworn and Time to Feed to both kill Anteri's Akroan Line Breaker and grow a sizeable threat. While Anteri regrouped with Sigiled Skink and Loyal Pegasus, Råde added further pressure in Akroan Skyguard and Voyaging Satyr. However, the Gods Willing he used next turn was the last spell he cast for the entirety of the game.

Instead Råde played land after land. "Now I know what's wrong with my deck. I probably shouldn't have played 20 lands," the usually soft-spoken Swede mocked.

Fabrizio Anteri

Meanwhile Anteri had Battlewise Valor, Oracle of Bones plus Starfall, and finally an Akroan Skyguard of his own. Råde's five spells against Anteri's eight was not a fair fight, and not one that took particularly long to decide.

"The opening hand was five lands, Setessan Oathsworn, and Time to Feed. Not great, but still a keep, I think," Råde said while shuffling for game two.

"Yes, definitely," Anteri agreed. "And I think if you had one more spell, you would have been in charge of this game."

Olle Råde 0-1 Fabrizio Anteri

Game 2

Råde had a somewhat slow-ish start into the game, again casting his first creature on turn three, whereas Anteri opened on a pair of Akroan Skyguards and Wingsteed Rider. He was stuck on three Plains for a couple of turns, though, and couldn't really capitalize on the early creature advantage.

Nevertheless, after some trades and tricks on both sides, a race developed, all culminating in the following turn: Råde was at 8 life, facing a tapped Wingsteed Rider with Dragon Mantle (3/3) plus Akroan Skyguard (3/3) and Supply-Line Cranes, both untapped. He attacked Anteri, who was at 9, with his own Akroan Skyguard, Setessan Oathsworn, Nemesis of Mortals (all without counters), Tethmos High Priest, and Elite Skirmisher. Anteri was fully tapped out, Råde had all his mana up, not enough to turn Nemesis of Mortals monstrous though, with two cards in hand.

Anteri took a long time figuring out his blocks. On the one hand, he didn't want to lose both his blockers to still be able to deal lethal damage on his next turn. On the other hand, he didn't want to die to potential tricks from Råde. In the end, Anteri decided that, "If you have a pump effect, I'm dead no matter what," and blocked Elite Skirmisher with his 2/4 and Setessan Oathsworn with his 3/3. Råde cast Hold at Bay on his Akroan Skyguard, dealing exactly lethal damage.

Olle Råde

"That was a very interesting situation."—"It was!"

Olle Råde 1-1 Fabrizio Anteri

Game 3

The final game in the match was a bit of a let-down. After initial trades (Anteri's Sigiled Skink versus Ajani's Presence, Råde's God-Favored General versus Glare of Heresy), Råde managed to almost stabilize the board, in no small part thanks to Nessian Asp.

But the standoff didn't last long. While not even fliers could breach Råde's line of defense, Akroan Line Breaker certainly could. It intimidated all blockers into submission, first with the help of Mogis's Warhound, then Hopeful Eidolon. Forced to try and race, Råde finally lost to Impetuous Sunchaser.

Olle Råde 1-2 Fabrizio Anteri

Afterward, the players spent some more time at the table and looked at each other's deck. "What do you think?" Anteri asked for advice. "I have these three in my deck"–he pointed at Pinnacle of Rage, Oracle of Bones, and Starfall—"and people tell me, my deck is so aggressive I should run my two Oppressive Rays and Blinding Flare instead. I don't like the Rays one bit, though." Råde agreed: "Don't do that. Oppressive Rays is just bad."

Round 7 Feature Match – Denniz Rachid vs Ben Seck

by Tim Willoughby

Back before the days of LSV and PVDDR, there were only three men in Magic known by an arcane arrangement of letters. BDM (Brian David Marshall) we get to see at every Pro Tour working the coverage. EDT (Eric Danger Taylor), was last seen eating his hat around the time that Kai Budde won his second straight Pro Tour in a row. TBS is still around and playing, though he's not someone we see at European Grand Prix quite so much.

TBS stands for 'The Ben Seck', and Australian player who relocated to San Francisco to work in the computer games industry, and who by a convoluted turn of events finds himself in Europe for the next few months. The only player ever to have won a Grand Prix in Africa, he has yet to lift a trophy in Europe, and came to Poland hopeful of righting that wrong. With just a single bye, and a tricky deck-build, he'd found himself in a tough spot early on, and without a loss to give, he found himself up against Swedish pro Denniz Rachid.

Rachid shot to prominence with top eight finishes at both Pro Tour Dark Ascension and Pro Tour Avacyn Restored. While Theros block hasn't treated Rachid as well as Innistrad block did, Rachid is still hardly the sort of opposition that you want to face when you can't afford to lose another match at the event you're in.

Denniz Rachid

The last hope for Seck was that given the number of byes Rachid had, his deck could very well be fairly poor, with Rachid starting just 1-2 in the rounds he'd had to play.

As Denniz started with Forest, Plains, Island, TBS remarked "Three colour no fixing? Come on, please let your deck be as bad as I hope it is!"

Both players could not afford another loss in the tournament, and while the banter was friendly, it was clear that neither would be happy losing. The early run of the cards appeared to be with Rachid, who got down a fast Nessian Courser to attack with, and gradually used it to knock down Seck's life total to just six. Seck had a blue black deck that took a while to get started, and indeed it wasn't until a Sudden Storm, a Hubris and a Shipbreaker Kraken that there was something of a glimmer of hope for the Australian in game one.

With a gleeful 'Let's get crackin', Seck was very much back in the game. Rachid had to pass without a play for his turn, and soon saw a Shipwreck Singer from Seck to further advance his board.

A Griptide on Shipbreaker Kraken looked to provide just the window Rachid needed, as he used a Nyxborn Triton to pump one of his creatures for a big swing. TBS had other ideas though. Annul stopped that plan, making Rachid's attacks a little less scary. The swing did take TBS to three, but three is very much not dead, and he was able to untap into playing his big kraken once more.

Rachid had TBS on the back foot, and while TBS had the biggest threat on the board in terms of sheer card quality, he had very little life to work with. Rachid's played an Agent of Horizons which would be lethal the following turn.

The play for TBS was more or less scripted. He had to use Shipbreaker Kraken's ability to 'eat' Agent of Horizons. After that, he pretty much had to attack. Who holds back with a 10/10, right? Rachid was hoping that TBS would see things that way. He had the Divine Verdict, and won on the swing back.

Denniz Rachid 1 - 0 Ben Seck

For game two, having seen a fairly fast start from Rachid, TBS elected to change his plan. Where previously he had been a fairly ponderous blue black deck, now he was lean, mean, black and green.

'This game' remarked TBS, 'I am going to go beatdown'. He had a turn one Renowned Weaver, followed by Leafcrown Dryad. With a Call into Darkness on Rachid's first creature, a Stonewise Fortifier, he was able to keep that plan alive for some time. Hunt the Hunter let him kill off a Swordwise Centaur, and attack Rachid to 11.

The Swede had plenty of creatures though, and in Pheres-Band Tromper, he found one that stuck and successfully was able to hold off the beatdown plan.

The Tromper got in and was soon joined by Centaur Courser on Rachid's side of the board. As Akroan Skyguard joined the assembled ranks of Rachid's team, it seemed the beatdown plan might be over. However, Seck wasn't finished yet. He had a Nightmarish End for Centaur Courser, and continued to get stuck in. Rachid was able to use Ray of Dissolution to stop that plan though, removing an attacker and gaining some life in the process.

Ben Seck

While Seck had Weight of the Underworld to apply to Pheres-Band Tromper, it had been attacking and getting bigger thanks to Inspired for some time, meaning that the centaur remained a very credible threat. Soon Seck was on seven, to Rachid's ten life, and facing down yet another big attack. Necrobite was the answer, with an improbable fight between the huge centaur ending in favour of a Golden Hind from TBS.

Stonewise Fortifier had been chilling on the sidelines, unable to block, or profitably attack for the entire game thanks to Cast into Darkness. This all changed when Rachid drew his Godsend and equipped it. Now attacks put TBS to 4. Attacks the next turn put him at 1.

TBS was in a desperate situation. He had to use Extinguish All Hope to kill off Rachid's one creature, and was dismayed to see a Leonin Snarecaster the very next turn. Odunos River Trawler got back a Leafcrown Dryad for Seck, who was battling where he could. Rachid was on 4 following attacks, and Ben, scrabbling for blockers, declared his draw 'probably the best I could have hoped for' as he cast Pharika, God of Affliction, with four mana up.

The green black god was able to make a blocker for Rachid's one creature, keeping TBS in the game a little longer. He had one creature left in his graveyard, and with the life totals 4 vs 1, the game could not have been closer.

Noble Quarry from Rachid drew a wince from Seck. Now a stream of blockers from his god would not even be enough to keep Seck in Grand Prix Warsaw. Spiteful Returned was bestowed on Leafcrown Dryad. Attacks put Rachid at 2 life, but Rachid still had two creatures, which was just enough to seal things. While TBS had the potential to make extra blockers, Noble Quarry was exactly the creature that Rachid needed; ensuring that he would always be able to get one attacker through.

Denniz Rachid wins 2 games to 0 over Ben Seck!

Round 8 Feature Match – Joel Larsson vs. Piotr Wald

by Tobi Henke

With five Grand Prix Top 8s between them, none of these two players was a stranger to the GP scene, but there was a first here nevertheless, as the round started with some confusion as to the players' scores. The records showed both at 18 points, and Piotr Wald was indeed 6-1, but Joel Larsson had previously told coverage he was X-2. What gives? For the time it was decided to start the match, while judges investigated the issue.

Both had built green decks with small splashes. Wald used a green-black base with some blue. Larsson was green-blue with a bit of red.

Game 1

After Forest and Swamp and Satyr Grovedancer, Wald missed his next two land drops. With just Vaporkin, Larsson couldn't really capitalize on that though. As soon as he cast his Prescient Chimera, Wald drew his third land and had Asphyxiate at the ready. Still, Larsson redoubled his grip on the game with Prophet of Kruphix and Pheres-Band Tromper.

Piotr Wald

Nyx Infusion and Weight of the Underworld plus Pharika's Cure took care of Vaporkin and Prophet of Kruphix, but Pheres-Band Tromper grew out of proportions and soon Wald was reduced to chumpblocking. And then ...

Joel Larsson 1-0 Piotr Wald

Game 2

Continuing his streak of bad luck, Wald mulliganed into a hand with Opaline Unicorn and Sigiled Starfish as his only spells and drew two more lands right off the top. Meanwhile, Larsson opened strong, on Vaporkin, Nessian Courser, and Satyr Grovedancer.

Joel Larsson

Wald fought back valiantly with Nyx Infusion and Nylea's Emissary, but Feral Invocation and Sea God's Revenge carried Larsson to victory.

Joel Larsson 2-0 Piotr Wald

However, the interesting part of this story was beginning just now, when I accompanied Joel Larsson to the main event stage, where we awaited the results of the judges' investigation. Apparently, several rounds ago, Larsson and his opponent had filled out their match result slip incorrectly, accidentally giving the win to Larsson.

Since both players had signed the slip and because so much time had passed (during which Larsson and his opponent had both been paired based on the wrong result—to Larsson's disadvantage), it was decided not to correct the records.

Larsson had entered the round with a score of 5-2; now he was 7-1 and quite happy. "I never imagined this might be the result. I don't know where I got this good karma from," he said. "I'm really sorry for my opponent though."

Head Judge Cristiana Dionisio wanted to remind everyone of the importance to double-check result entry slips. "Also, please check your number of points on the pairings at the beginning of each round," she said. "The error could have easily been remedied if it had been caught earlier."

Quick Question #3

by Tobi Henke

What's the Most Influential Journey into Nyx Card for Block Constructed?

(24) Raphaël Lévy: Brain Maggot.
Wenzel Krautmann: Master of the Feast.
Denniz Rachid: The boring—and actual— answer would be Mana Confluence. Prophetic Flamespeaker is the exciting answer.
(25) Martin Jůza: No comment.
Thoralf Severin: Temple of Malady. By far.

Saturday, 9:15 p.m. – Sealed Deck Building Exercise: Conclusion

by Tobi Henke

Earlier today, we posted a Sealed Deck pool for everyone at home to try their hands on. Did you take a look and build your own 40-card deck? If not, do so—the material here made for a challenging deck-building process and was capable of turning into an interesting deck too.

Frank Karsten

At least according to Frank Karsten. Even though the Dutch Hall of Famer picked up two losses early on, he nevertheless managed to clinch a Day-2 berth with the following list. "The deck building was quite interesting, actually. I quickly decided on black and I could easily dismiss white, but I spend forever deciding on my second color," Karsten said.

"Blue didn't have a good enough creature base and also not enough ways to turn on my black rares. Red was a strong contender, with Felhide Spiritbinder as another inspired creature, some creature boost for both King Macar, the Gold Cursed and Agent of Fates, as well as an overall aggressive outlook. Still, the creatures, with chaff like Felhide Brawler and Pensive Minotaur, were just disappointing, as were red's late-game options," Karsten explained. "In the end, I decided on green because things like Pheres-Band Tromper, Swordwise Centaur, and Scourge of Skola Vale were way above anything red had to offer. Maybe even more important, though, were the two mana accelerants Golden Hind and Voyaging Satyr. I definitely consider this to be a tempo format, even Sealed."

Frank Karsten (7-2)

Download Arena Decklist

"The final deck included lots of nifty combos," Karsten went on. "For example, I could find one of my rare creatures with Nessian Game Warden or Commune with the Gods and possibly return them with Font of Return. Obviously, Font and Commune interact profitably with each other as well. Then there was the obvious combo of Agent of Fates plus targeted spells, and King Macar, the Gold-Cursed plus Springleaf Drum also won a game.

"In the actual games, however, all of these combos didn't really come together most of the time and proved a little too cute. Most of my wins came in rather old-fashioned tempo games where curve and creature quality were the deciding factors," Karsten admitted. "My overall verdict for the deck would be: rather don't try this at home."

Round 9 Undefeated Decklists

by Tim Willoughby

Going into round 9, we had seven players with a perfect 8-0 record. Clearly, they weren't all going to be able to leave the venue with such unblemished scorecards, but this performance felt worthy of record, so while they battled, yours truly typed. Final records on the day are detailed below, along with the 40's that each player elected as good enough for their main deck.

Some interesting themes come through here. Of seven decks, all were two colour. All but one ran 17 lands, with the lone dissenter being a very aggressive red white deck. The colour breakdown was as follows;

White: 2 decks

Blue: 3 decks

Black: 3 decks

Red: 2 decks

Green: 4 decks

Green was tipped by many pros as the colour to have gained the most with Journey into Nyx , and colour fixing is often at its best in sealed deck, but to me the big story here isn't that green shows up the most, but that all colours are represented. There are plenty of ways to win in Theros block limited, and it seems that our undefeated players going into round 9 had a variety of ways to do so.

Onto the decks!