Sunday, 9:11 a.m. – Metalcrafting 101by David Sutcliffe
Yesterday the Japanese pro Kazuya Mitamura led us through the Phyrexian plan for the assault on Mirrodin, and how best to spread the contagion of 'the oil'. Heading into the draft on the second day the question was what artifacts the native Mirrans would be able to muster to their defense.
We saw yesterday that the Mirrans dominate Sealed Deck play, with white and red cards the most popular at the top tables and only a very occasional Infect deck slipping through the net. Draft is a whole different ballgame, however, and it suits the Phyrexians much better: they can pick and choose their Infect creatures as they go past while the Mirrans are left to fight over a far smaller number of artifacts.
Leading the Mirran defense forces is the former Belgian champion Vincent Lemoine, one of only three players to emerge with a perfect 10-0 record from the first day of the Grand Prix. He had drafted a blue-white deck that both thrived and depended on artifacts and I cornered the big man to get him to share his secrets.
You seem to have got a LOT of artifacts
Yes, I'm playing with 14 artifacts which is a lot to get in a draft. I'm even playing two off-color Replicas just to try and be sure that I get to Metalcraft. My deck has a bunch of flyers - seven - and a Tumble Magnet and two Vedalken Certarch so I can tap my opponents creatures down. Hoepfully it will be enough.
I guess you must be picking artifacts pretty highly to get that many?
Oh yes, very highly. You have to take a playable artifact over a better blue or white card, just because it's so important to get a lot of artifacts. Taking a Tumble Magnet isn't a hard choice - I think that's maybe the best artifact in the format - but I took a Glint Hawk Idol over a good white card, and I remember in one pick I took a Snapsail Glider over an Auriok Edgewright. There was a pack where I had Darkslick Drake and Vedalken Certarch with a Chrome Steed - I knew one of the blue cards would probably table, but that it was my only chance to take the Chrome Steed. It's tough though, because everyone knows to take artifacts highly you have to fight for them.
And you really need those artifacts by the look of it.
It's so important for me to hit Metalcraft, with two Snapsail Glider, two Chrome Steed, two Certarchs and a Sunchaser, and then other cards like a Myrsmith that also benefit from having lots of artifacts. I also have two Dispense Justice, I don't have much removal so it's going to be important to have Metalcraft for those. The Myrsmith is so good, by the way - that was my Pack One, Pick One, he's broken and helps you get Metalcraft so quickly.
Do you think you missed any picks?
Maybe one or two. After the first booster I only had a couple of blue or white cards, and I opened an Arc Trail then got passed a Kuldotha Phoenix. I thought maybe I could go red, and the Phoenix works with Metalcraft, so I took that over a second mana Myr. I would really like that Myr in my deck now, and I'm not playing the Phoenix. I'm glad I got the Arc Trail though, because it means I don't have to play against it. For a Metalcraft deck that is like your worst nightmare - Arc Trail kills two of your creatures but also sets you back two artifacts most of the time.
And you have a Liquimetal Coating, which is like 2/3rds of Metalcraft
Oh I love this card, I think maybe it's one of the best-designed cards in Scars of Mirrodin. It doesn't look like it does anything so players think it's bad, but it's so synergetic in your deck that it's actually great. I usually try to draft blue/green Metalcraft, with cards like Molder Beast, Carapace Forger and Tel Jilad Defiance, maybe a Rust Tick. In that deck the Liquimetal Coating lets you do so many tricks. Draft is very different to sealed deck in Scars - you don't need bombs in draft, you need synergy.
You have so many artifacts, but aren't playing your Golem Foundry. Is it just bad?
Yes, it's such a bad card. We were talking about it with my friends on the way here, actually - I drafted a deck once with 17 artifacts and 4 Proliferate cards and the Golem Foundry was STILL terrible! I think the Golden Urn is probably a better card than Golem Foundry, it should probably cost just 1 mana, and even then it wouldn't be very good. Ha ha, I also got three Relic Putrescence - they were the last card in every booster. It's so bad, it kind of looks like it might be a nice poison card but it's just terrible.
Finally... you're on 10-0. Are you heading for 13-0?
I don't know. I think my deck is good, but I don't think it will be a 3-0 deck. Maybe 2-1. Finger's crossed!
Sunday, 11:00 a.m. – Poison Daggersby Tim Willoughby
Having spoken to Pro Tour Hawaii winner Kazuya Mitamura to talk about infect on Saturday, it only seemed natural to see what The Chief would do at the draft tables having stormed through day one of Grand Prix Bochum.
To give a quick recap on Mitamura's preferences for the Scars of Mirrodin format, they are fairly straightforward. He likes to poison people. The way that he likes to do this is to draft removal where possible, then the best poison creatures he can get, with a small amount of support from a combat trick or two, and perhaps a little proliferate.
All this sounds fairly straight forward, and it would be, but for the fact that, as with any draft, the ability to go for a particular archetype will always be to some degree dictated by what everyone else doing around one.
For Mitamura's first pick, a Plague Stinger was the choice, though it did come from a pack that might be a little thin on the ground for a second infect pick later on. The Stinger ranks high on Mitamura's list of infect creatures though, as with its evasion it can handily sneak on through and get the job done.
Thereafter in pack 1 though, there was something of a problem. The next four or five packs did not have anything that could honestly be considered a solid infect pick. Mitamura had to zig while he would far rather have been zagging, and did so by picking a Barrage Ogre, Sunspear Shikari, Turn to Slag and Origin Spellbomb in quick succession. There was a slump in the shoulders of the Chief as he imagined the infect deck that someone to his right must surely have.
A Throne of Geth did make it into Mitamura's pile, and unexpectedly a Tel Jilad Fallen came in the pack, but this was not enough to suggest that infect was anything but a pipe dream at this point. While Brad Nelson had done well in Amsterdam in M11 draft by making the most of one pack of one of the colours he needed, in spite of being cut on it in packs 1 and 3, that is not as reasonable a plan for infect.
Pack two offered what is considered by many top pros to be the best rare in the set in Contagion Engine. Even with nothing nifty to proliferate, this rare frequently represents a one sided Wrath of God. Mitamura was passing some good cards, but when you take the best, you really can't complain. Pick two saw a choice between Embersmith and Galvanic Blast, from which Mitamura took the smith. A Contagious Nim lurked in this pack, but Mitamura was not about to try to jump back in for infect, as a half-and-half infect deck is a rough one to make work. Turn to Slag came next, over Trigon of Infestation, and a Sylvok Lifestaff over a pack with Blight Mamba, Ichor Rats and Blackcleave Goblin. Whoever was in infect to Mitamura's right would be reaping the rewards.
Whoever that may have been, they were doing rather better than Mitamura, whose draft seemed to be going a little off the rails, as he found himself taking mediocre creatures while passing three copies of Carrion Call in consecutive packs. Eventually, he picked that Trigon of Infestation from pick 3 when it came back to him on the lap. Maybe things were more open than he had first thought?
If Mitamura was to try to get back in for poison, he was given a great opportunity with pick one of pack three. He had the option on Cystbearer at the start of the third pack, but elected for Ezuri's Brigade over it. The Brigade can easily end games on its own, and he would have sufficient artifacts to be able to get it big fairly reliably. He took a Shatter over Carrion Call or Tainted Strike, and then another one over Golem Artisan. When Mitamura saw a Cystbearer still in the pack on his pick four, he must have thought that the jig was up. He took a Copper Myr, but didn't seem to happy about watching the boat sail on an infect deck. When given the option of Blight Mamba or Sylvok Replica, he went for the safer replica choice. When he saw Myrsmith he took it over another Blight Mamba or a Corpse Cur.
It was looking like the first pack of the draft had sold Mitamura up the river. He saw Corpse Cur, Tel-Jilad Fallen and Ichorclaw Myr next. In fact it could not be that he had been cut in pack one. He must simply have not seen much infect in the first few picks of the first pack because it simply wasn't there. Now it was flowing strong; much more strongly than anything else in the packs. He took the Fallen. A Tangle Anglers (Mitamura's favourite non-rare infect creature) came next. A Thrummingbird seemed unlikely to make the cut for Mitamura, but he took it just in case. Now came Carrion Call as a 10th pick. Could Mitamura squeak this one out? He got a Tainted Strike 11th, and a Blight Mamba 12th.
By the end of the draft, Mitamura was quick to make stick his tongue out and make a thumbs down sign for his deck, which could have ended up in solid poison, but was actually walking a tightrope. It was not irredeemable, but Mitamura would be working for his wins, with the potential to win with either poison or more regular damage.
Feature Match Round 12 – Antoine Ruel (FRA) vs. Robert Wilbrand (GER)by David Sutcliffe
Antoine Ruel began with just a one-land start and was fortunate to escape from it with his life. A Fume Spitter held back Robert Wilbrand's assault by taking care of a Silver Myr, but the German was in no mood for compromise in his first trip to a feature match area. A Neurok Invisimancer and Grand Architect hit play, the Architect brought forth a Golem Artisan, a Sky-Eel School joined the fray and it was simply too much power for Ruel's struggling draw.
BOOM! Game 1 done inside three minutes!
Antoine Ruel 0 - 1 Robert Wilbrand
"That guy is stupid," offered Ruel, pointing to the Grand Architect as he collected his cards from the table, "The good thing is that you got your good draw while I had no land. So now I get to have land while you have bad draws"
It was a good plan, but when Ruel opened with a Copper Myr, then stuttered a turn before finding a third land to play Blade Tribe Berzerkers it didn't seem to be paying off. Wilbrand played a Neurok Invisimancer then put his faith in a Molten-Tail Masticore. Ruel had no intention of letting the Masticore live long enough to regenerate and aimed a Turn To Slag at it, before going on the offensive with his Berzerkers. Wilbrand played a Golem Artisan, but Ruel had an Artisan of his own to match it and remain ahead on the race.
Wilbrand attempted to regain his board position by throwing down a Kemba's Skyguard and Silver Myr, but Ruel pulled a fifth land from the top of his deck and cartwheeled a Contagion Engine into play! The engine accounted for two of Wilbrand's creatures, and infected the other two. Wilbrand hit back as hard as he could with his withering forces, putting Ruel to 7 life. Wilbrand needed defenses to hold back the Frenchman's forces, however, and he found them in the form of a Glimmerpoint Stag. The Stag exiled his Kemba's Skyguard and they returned on the next turn cleansed of the Phyrexian infection, and healing Wilbrand back to 11 life.
Ruel struck again, Wilbrand threw his men in front of the attackers and was left with only a Kemba's Skyguard in play after combat. Bonds of Quicksilver ensured that Ruel's Golem Artisan would not return but it was not enough. Ruel refuelled his forces with an Embersmith and a second mana Myr. The Golem Artisan could not untap but it could still give Ruel's other artifact creatures +1/+1 and they punched through to take the players into a third game.
Antoine Ruel 1 - 1 Robert Wilbrand
Antoine Ruel began the third game with an Embersmith, while Robert Wilbrand could only manage a string of lands before, somewhat ruefully, having to stick a Bonds of Quicksilver onto the Embersmith just to prevent the red mage from going all the way. Ruel followed up with a Golem Artisan, while Wilbrand had a Sky-Eel School before he Dispersed the Artisan and had a Halt Order ready for the Golem when Ruel attempted to replay it.
Ruel had been pinging away at Wilbrand's health all the while, but now the game swung in the German's favor - his deck produced a Glimmerpoint Stag, Rust Tick and Perilous Myr to support the Sky-Eels while Ruel found only a pair of Copper Myr, dealing another two Embersmith damage. Ruel had put Wilbrand to 12 life, but having been battered down to just 4 life Antoine Ruel was forced to throw out a huge seven-point Exsanguinate just to stay in the game! That 14-point life swing reset the scores to 11-5 in Ruel's favor, but it seemed to be just a temporary victory as it had done nothing about the creatures Wilbrand had in play. The German's forces immediately knocked the Frenchman back down to 4 life, and Ruel seemed destined for the graveyard.
What Wilbrand didn't know was that Ruel was holding a Galvanic Blast in hand. Wilbrand was on 5 life, Ruel on two Copper Myr and Embersmith... if the top card of Ruel's deck was a third artifact he could yet steal the match! The Frenchman drew a card, and fought bravely to maintain his poker face as he tapped two lands to play Silver Myr, dealing yet another point of Embersmith damage to Wilbrand! The Myr hit play, and Ruel now had no chance but to hope his Galvanic Blast got through even though Wilbrand had all his mana untapped to either counter the Blast or remove his Metalcraft... he revealed the Galvanic Blast.
Wilbrand looked at the Blast in dismay, and as he scoured his hand and board for an escape route from the four damage he knew that his chance to win the match had just slipped past. Wilbrand WAS in fact holding a counter spell... but it wasn't Stoic Rebuttal, it was a second Halt Order! As soon as Wilbrand had allowed the third Myr into play Wilbrand's fate had been sealed, as the German had not recognised the imminent metalcraft danger.
The Blast resolved, and Antoine Ruel had stolen an incredible win!
Anotine Ruel 2 - 1 Robert Wilbrand
Wiping the sweat from his brow after a match a relieved Antoine Ruel had to count himself fortunate that the artifact he drew on his fateful winning turn was perhaps the only artifact he could draw that Wilbrand wouldn't have aimed his Halt Order at. Totting up the scores from an unusual game, Ruel had dealt only 4 damage from the red zone with two Embersmith attacks, and another 16 damage to the dome via Embersmith, Exsanguinate, and Galvanic Blast!
Sunday, 12:00 p.m. – Stories from the Floorby Tim Willoughby
For those of you that aren't aware, LSV has a tendency to be just a *tiny* bit greedy when he drafts. In the first draft today, he walked away with five rares for his deck, including a Wurmcoil Engine, and a pair of Engulfing Slagwurms. If he gets a lot of mana in play it is fair to assume that his deck has the potential to be wurmier than just about anyone's. The tough bit of this of course is when you draw them all in your opening hand, without a great deal of land.
For reference, this is what that face looks like.
Meanwhile, Shuhei Nakamura has a face of someone who has been lured across to the dark side, and is loving it. His infect draft deck sports some hits, including Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon, and two copies of Necrotic Ooze. The Ooze has a bevy of abilities it can gain, including haste (Skythirix), regeneration (Skythirix or Blight Mamba), lure (Tangle Angler), destroying artifacts and enchantments (Sylvok Replica), and even tapping for blue mana (Silver Myr). Alas, Vector Asp is in the sideboard, but at least it made it in for the photo.
While those two giants of the game are messing around with silly draft decks, Brian Kibler did not make day 2 of the GP. Last time he did this (missing day 2 in San Juan), he went off and played Standard in side events on day 2, and worked out his list to win Grand Prix Sendai. This time, he had to come over to the coverage station, so that he could look up his own article to check a deck list to do the very same thing. Someone in Standard 8 mans might have quite a tough opponent...
Sunday, 12:07 p.m. – The Enemy Withinby David Sutcliffe
Scars of Mirrodin features Magic's perennial badguys, the Phyrexians, who are once again attempting to sneak into everyone's birthday party and steal their toys. The Phyrexians were Magic's original bad guys and we've been fending them off for a long time, indeed the Gate To Phyrexia first opened back in Antiquities over 15 years ago and it's been spewing forth bad stuff ever since!
On Mirrodin the latest Phyrexian ploy takes the form of 'the oil', which corrupts everything it touches, but I fear that the Mirrans may have more to worry about - some of the Mirran's own artifacts may in fact be Phyrexians in disguise! In Antiquities we were introduced to the pesky Phyrexian Gremlins… can it really be a coincidence that such a similar creature now appears on Mirrodin - the Rust Tick?
Maybe I'm wrong, maybe the Mirrans just learnt a trick or two from the Phyrexians along the way, but as the Phyrexian invasion continues into Mirrodin Besieged I think the Mirrans may need to watch out for the enemy within, as well as the oil without.
One thing's for sure - I won't be turning my back on a Rust Tick ever again!
12:30 p.m. – Green Magicby Tim Willoughby
Mark McGovern had a record on day one of Grand Prix Bochum that would make many players green with envy. Finishing 9-1 with a red/blue deck that was solid, but certainly not terrifying, Mark was the only Irish player in the room on day one, and is flying the flag for his country today to, proudly sporting an Irish rugby shirt as he battles with a fairly scary looking infect deck, that can cast its Putrefax three times thanks to some handy Corpse Curs.
"Making day two at GPs is sometimes a bit of a problem for us Irish" joked a cheerful McGovern. "It's not so much getting the wins, more that sometimes we celebrate a bit too much, and then oversleep for the early start on day two."
McGovern was taking no chances, between time differences and the clocks changing overnight, he didn't trust regular alarms, and just set a countdown clock for a number of hours sleep last night, and duly made it to play right on time.
Ireland's history with Magic includes some impressive highlights. John Larkin, now married with kids and away from the game, was a Pro Tour mainstay in its early days. Trinity Green, a format defining deck back in the Urza's Saga days of standard, was a big player that came right out of Ireland, and changed the landscape of what was then a Replenish field.
These days, the scene in Ireland is more focused on limited play than breaking constructed, and is growing all the time. "We have more FNM players than ever before. It might take a while for them to filter through to PTQs and the Pro Tour, but there is more Magic in Ireland than ever now." Given the amount of fun that the Irish contingent seem to have at every event they make it to (I have had more than one mad evening out with the Irish at all sorts of events around the globe, and am simultaneously tantalised and terrified by the notion of covering Irish nationals), I'm sincerely hoping to see more green shirts at events very soon.
Feature Match - Round 13: Simon Görtzen vs Dennis Rosinskiby Olav Rokne
Local star Simon Görtzen has had a great year. He's been a strong player for a number of years, having made top-32 at Pro Tour Valencia in 2007, and been a dominant player in the country for even longer. This year, he came to international prominence by winning Pro Tour San Diego.
Simon Görtzen won the coin toss and opted to go second. The Pro Tour winner had drafted a solid poison deck, but was one and one in the draft. Seeing his opening seven contained only two land, and no early drops, Görtzen thought about mulliganing, but opted to keep.
With his early turn advantage, Dennis Rosinski opened the board with a second-turn Plague Stinger. Still lacking cheap creatures, Simon had no answer.
On his third turn, Rosinski added a Painsmith to his early advantage and stung Görtzen for the first poison of the game.
Görtzen was visibly annoyed to miss his third-turn land, play no spells, and be forced to discard.
"Sometimes this poison mirror is very fast," Görtzen remarked, matter of factly, shuffling up his cards.
Both players stared intently through their decks, looking to sideboard. Görtzen looked at a number of options, including a set of blue cards that he had used in a previous match, but ended up keeping his deck as-is.
"I couldn't afford to board in the blue for this match," Görtzen mentioned after the match. "This was more about speed than attrition."
"Originally, I had thought it would be OK," Rosinski later explained. "But it is just too expensive. So I sideboarded out a very bad card and put in a Carrion Call."
With the choice for the second game in a row, Görtzen opted to start this time. Clearly happy with his opening hand, he promptly declared that he would keep. With four lands, a Blackcleave Goblin, a Tainted Strike and a Contagion Engine as his opening, Rosinski thought for a minute before deciding to throw them away.
"It was a pretty slow hand," My first play would have been a turn four Blackcleave Goblin," Rosinski said. "It was pretty bad."
Both player's opened with a Swamp, Rosinski's tapping to pay for a Horizon Spellbomb. Görtzen followed up with a Forest on turn two and an Ichorclaw Myr. Rosinski's second-turn Forest remained untapped, allowing Görtzen's myr to skitter across for the first poison of the game before he played a Sword of Body and Mind.
Rosinski's third-turn Moriok Replica looked small in comparison.
Görtzen pressed his advantage by equipping the myr and attacking, forcing Rosinski to chump block.
Missing a fourth land, Rosinski could muster nothing but a second Moriok Replica.
On his fifth turn, Görtzen played no cards, but his myr swung again, killing a second Replica.
Rosinski's fourth turn saw him play a Blackcleave Goblin, which he chose to leave at home for defence. During his end step, things got a lot worse for him as Görtzen dropped a Carrion Call for two token creatures.
The Blackcleave Goblin died to Görtzen's Skinrender on turn six, before the Pro attacked across Rosinski's empty defences to deal five poison tokens, 10 cards off the deck and a wolf token. After combat, he moved the sword over to the summoning sick Skinrender and passed the turn.
Görtzen started his turn eagerly sending his army across. Rosinski's Skinrender ate one of the tokens, but he still took seven damage, one poison token and 10 cards off the deck while Görtzen got another wolf token.
"Infect mirrors tend to be pretty quick," Simon noted, this time happier with his statement than at the end of game 1.
"Especially when you have the Sword of Body and Mind," Rosinski replied.
"I was trying to mill you out." smiled the Pro Tour champ.
The players shuffled up, not altering their decks and quickly got to work on the third game. Opting to go first for the third game, Rosinski kept his hand and started.
Rosinski opened the board on the third turn with a Moriok Replica, while Görtzen spent his third turn playing a Strider Harness.
Knowing the game was likely to come down to poison, Rosinski kept the Moriok Replica home for defence, while a newly-summoned Blackcleave Goblin hasted across for two damage.
Rosinski played his fifth land and then attacked with both the Moriok Replica and Blackcleave Goblin. A Tainted Strike and Untamed Might increased the damage to eight poison counters for Rosinski's second five-turn win of the match.
Dennis Rosinski wins 2-1!
Sunday, 2.23p.m. – Reading Signalsby David Sutcliffe
In a top-seeded pod full of hardened competitor Martin Juza stood slightly apart from the others, and the draft spotlight fell on his experienced shoulders. Juza had emerged victorious from Vincent Lemoine's first draft pod with a 2-0-1 record from his Blue/Red Soliton-Arbalest combo deck. Juza's approach to draft isn't to force Infect but to stay flexible for as long as possible and read the draft, which made for a fascinating draft…
Glint Hawk Idol was preferred over Cystbearer, Revoke Existence, Sylvok Replica, Myr Propagator
Turn To Slag clearly outclassed Panic Spellbomb or Clone Shell
Perilous Myr was the only solid card in the third pack
Myr Galvanizer joined it in pack four
Snapsail Glider in five, although Juza shook his head that Cyst bearer #2 was still there
Strider Harness was taken over Instill Infection
Bleak Coven Vampires
Scrapdiver Serpent round out the first booster
After 15 picks Juza had a clutch full of artifacts, but no real commitment to any color. Abuna Acolyte and Glint Hawk Idol suggested white, Turn To Slag red, while the Fume Spitter and Bleak Coven Vampires he had reluctantly taken were fine black cards. In the second pack Juza would need to commit to a color, and in fact that decision came in the very first pick, with a booster that had killer cards for every deck…
In those six picks Juza's deck had suddenly taken shape. Now he was Red/Black and looking to take control of any game he was playing. Unfortunately the rest of the booster didn't offer much more help…
Bleak Coven Vampires #3
That seemed to leave Juza with a Black/Red full of solid cards, lots of artifacts, but perhaps only one outstanding bomb. Going around the table from Juza's left, let's see what the rest of the draft pod had wound up with:
Piotr Longa - had got what looked like the nuts Infect deck. He had a pair of Plague Stingers, Ichorclaw Myr, Blight Mamba, four (FOUR) Cystbearers, a pair of Tel-Jilad Fallen, some Panic Spellbombs and two Grasp of Darkness. Oh, and a Molten-Tail Masticore! He looked in great shape.
Sok-Yong Lee - had a solid Black/Red deck that featured Geth, Lord of the Vault and a slew of great removal cards.
Jonas Kostler - the #1 seed, with 37 points, Kostler's deck looked bomb-heavy with a Hoard-Smelter Dragon, Kuldotha Phoenix, and Strata Scythe but behind the rares his deck looked a little stretched. There was plenty of firepower to win games here, though.
Matthias Kunzler - had what looked like a glacially-slow blue/green deck. His deck seemed likely to sping into life at 5 mana with multiple Sky-Eel Schools, Acid Web Spiders, and Volition Reins. If he could get to them.
Helmut Summersberger - the Austrian had a by-the-numbers Green/Red deck full of burly creatures. His men hit hard but with the red spells being spread thin around the table he was light on removal.
Tomas Bilek - finally, Bilek had been sat to Juza's right and had gone deep into White/Red. His deck featured all sorts of average cards, and three Myr Galvaniser. It looked like he may struggle.
"I'm pretty happy with my deck, maybe one playable short - I would have liked something like a Chrome Steed but I didn't see one", offered Juza, as he found the lands he wanted, "I'm playing the Glint Hawk Idol though. One plains, one Gold Myr, and hopefully thirteen is enough artifacts to make it work for me."
"Taking artifacts in the first pack gives me lots of options in later packs - you take the cards that you know are going into your deck no matter what colors you end up playing. Like, I could have gone poison? But lots of people talk about drafting poison so I didn't want to - I just didn't feel like being poison. There was lots being passed around though, I saw four Cystbearers and they were like 6th or 7th pick, which shouldn't happen."
"The second pack, I had a tough choice between Grasp of Darkness and Myrsmith. I already had Turn To Slag, and I was pretty sure the guy to my right had been taking white because I never saw any in the first pack, so taking Myrsmith seemed bad. The decision to go black paid off when I opened Carnifex Demon. That felt pretty good! Looking back I probably should have taken an Instill Infection over Strider Harness in the first booster, but I didn't know I was going to be black at the time, and Harness goes in anything."
"I think there's probably one Infect deck, and if he's got it together then I just lose. I don't think it's a terrible matchup for me, but if he has it all he beats everything. I like my deck though, Maybe not a 3-0, but I think 2-0-1. You want a draw to make it into the Top8 anyway, and this deck just needs to get me into position to draw. I should be ok!"
We followed Martin into the feature match area. He didn't know it, but his calculation that there was only one Infect deck had been correct, and he was about to find out if he could beat it or not!
Feature Match – Round 14: Piotr Longa (POL) vs. Martin Juza (CZE)by David Sutcliffe
Following Martin Juza's Red/Black deck out of the draft we just watched, Juza found himself unwittingly paired against the one Infect deck on the table - Piotr Longa had Infect in spades, with a Molten-Tail Masticore kicker. The Pole could prove a very sticky obstacle for Juza to clear…
Piotr Longa revealed his battle plan immediately with an Ichorclaw Myr and Cystbearer. Juza flung a Moriok Reaver onto the board but Longa's Panic Spellbomb ensured that the Reaver wouldn't block and Juza was up to 4 poison counters in the blink of and eye, before the Pole added a Trigon of Rage.
The Snapsail Glider that Juza mustered to his defense at least convinced Longa to skip attacking for a turn, and the Phyrexian player paused to play a Grafted Exoskeleton, while Juza bulked up his defenses further with a Clone Shell and waited for the assault. Longa surgically enhanced his Ichorclaw Myr with the Exoskeleton and attacked, but Juza flung his Clone Shell in front and revealed the Oxidda Scrapmelter underneath. Smashing the Exoskeleton killed the unfortunate Myr it was attached to, and when Juza followed up with a Soliton he seemed to have found some valuable breathing space - now his four creatures faced a single Cystbearer across the table.
With Longa passing yet another turn Juza brought down his Bleak Coven Vampires and went on the offensive. It was too much for Longa, whose draw had clearly betrayed him, and the Pole conceded the game.
Piotr Longa 0 - 1 Martin Juza
Longa's assault began in the air for his comeback game, with a Plague Spitter that he pumped with Trigon of Rage. Juza's Scrapmelter accounted for the Trigon, but as he began punching back with his forces - a Perilous Myr, Snapsail Glider and Scrambler - the Czech player was already on 6 poison.
Longa's deck had betrayed him again - black and red mana, but no green. The Pole passed the turn yet again and was pummelled down to 5 life! Finally finding a Forest, Longa put down a Cystbearer but immediately had to throw it under the hooves of Juza's Scrapmelter, dropping to just 3 life in the process. The Pole boosted his Plague Spitter with Grafted Exoskeleton - it was now a 3/3 with Juza on 7 poison, but with a Snapsail Glider in the air Longa couldn't afford to attack, and the Spitter stayed at home to block. It wasn't enough though - Juza played an Iron Myr, handed it a Strider Harness, and swung home with more creatures than the Plague Spitter could handle alone to win the match!
Piotr Longa 0 - 2 Martin Juza
Martin Juza appeared to have dodged a huge bullet in that round, as Longa's deck seemed to catastrophically misdraw in both games. You could argue the wisdom of including Mountains in a Black/Green infect deck just to draw from Panic Spellbomb, and it certainly destroyed Longa's mana base in that second game, but even so there was no sign of the Masticores or Grasp of Darkness that might have helped Longa turn the games around.
Sunday, 5:17 p.m. – Close up with Christopher Moellerby Olav Rokne
Christopher Moeller paints without fear.
"When you're painting a face, you can worry about the nose, the neck, the ear and you struggle with these little things. There's a real sense that you could do something wrong." he says. "What I've discovered later, once you have those instincts in place you have the ability to paint more freely. If the nose is wrong, I'm not afraid to come back and repaint it. That gives me the freedom to do anything that a painting needs."
"My first card was Expunge, which was in Urza's Saga," he recalls. "and I've had at least one card in every set since then, with the exception of one set. It adds up to a lot of cards."
An accomplished artist with a strong background in abstract expressionism, Moeller studied at the University of Michigan School of Art for his undergraduate degree and earned his Master's from Syracuse University.
"At the University of Michigan, my teachers were all abstract expressionist painters, and they would get flustered when I brought in my comic work and my gaming work for evaluation," Moeller says with a grin. "But that early education helped push me in directions that I might not have gone otherwise. The masters was focused on the business end of it. It's a combination that I find very helpful."
In 1991, he published his first professional work, Rocketman: King of the Rocketmen, a comic book that he had written and illustrated himself. He quickly became known for his comic book covers and worked on a variety of projects for Dark Horse Comics and DC Comics as well as the role-playing game Aberrant for White Wolf Publishing.
"Magic cards are similar to comics," he says. "Just like in comics its about choosing the moment that you want to illustrate. There's storytelling involved."
He says that his background in comic books has helped him become the go-to guy for a certain type of Magic: The Gathering card. If the card needs to tell a story, or if the concept is complicated in a specific way, his style is well-suited to the task.
"What I like to do is the moment before or right after the dramatic moment," he says. "The obvious thing is the dramatic moment, and art directors often ask for that. But it can be more effective to paint the lead-up or the result."
In the dozen years that he has worked on Magic, Moeller a lot has changed in the game and he has seen an equivalent evolution of the style of art that is preferred for cards.
"When I started, there were a lot of people working in a transparent medium like water colours. Rebecca Guay is still working in that medium, but I think she's the only one," he says. "There was a real push for opaque mediums like acrylics or oils, for consistency. Now there's a move towards digital mediums, and it has a bit of a video game-like quality. "
He notes that his style has changed as well.
"The changes are evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. Small changes in one area, then small changes in another. There are certain things that have happened over the years. I have less of a reliance on line in my work, greater movement towards graphic shapes, a movement towards simplicity."
Moeller's career has included everything from comic book covers and role-playing game manuals to trading card games and more contemplative personal work.
"Lately I've been painting large works," he says. "I've been doing landscapes, figurative pieces that are dream images. They're not fantasy exactly and they're not exactly reality. They communicate things that are interesting to me in that moment: Elements of the human experience."
Sunday, 4:30 p.m. – GP Bochum 2 - Electric Boogalooby Tim Willoughby
Here at Grand Prix Bochum, following a GP that was pretty hefty, clocking in at over 1800 players, there are a lot of people that didn't make day 2. One good option for them is to play in the Sunday Pro Tour Qualifier. As it turns out this is an option that a great many people took. 521 of them.
To put things into context, this is quite a bit larger than Grand Prix Melbourne, which ran over two days. For a one day event, things needed shaking up a bit. Running enough rounds for a 1 slot PTQ to cut to top eight, then running a 3 round top eight would mean that the PTQ would last until about Thursday, and leave about 520 people disappointed, assuming that they were even awake.
Luckily, at Grand Prix, there tend to be plenty of members of WoTC staff knocking about, to be able to make the big decisions. The first big decision for this PTQ was that giving out one slot was somewhat miserly. By giving out four slots, this PTQ could ensure that the only misers were the ones opening bomb rares, and casting them every game.
The other good thing about giving out four slots is that it means that a few rounds could be cut off the tournament. However, having an event that cuts to top 8 and then pays out to top four is a little awkward. A draft where the winners of the first round go to the Pro Tour and the others don't? Surely there must be a better way? There is. This PTQ is cutting to top 32, and having four top 8 drafts, where the winner of each gets a blue envelope.
None. Too. Shabby.
Feature Match - Round 15: Yves Sele vs Vincent Lemoineby Tim Willoughby
Round 15 sees a very straightforward match, with plenty on the line. The winner will make it through to the top 8 of GP Bochum, while the loser, well, their top 8 dream will be pretty much over. No pressure then...
Lemoine, having won the roll, led off with a Culling Dais, while Sele had a turn two Plague Stinger, more or less the guy you always want on turn two for the infect deck. A Lifesmith from Lemoine seemed to be a fine enough creature, but its ability might be working on the wrong type of life total if Sele was a dedicated infect deck. Sele followed up with a Nim Replica, but chose to let it die in a trade when a Vulshok Heartstoker made the Lifesmith scarily large.
A Strider Harness shortened the poison clock from Sele, while Lemoine was stuck with just ground pounders. Lemoine cast a Tumble Magnet, and used it to hold off Plague Stinger for a while, only to see Blackcleave Goblin join Sele's squad and keep rumbling in. Lemoine only began to stabilise a little when he cast Molder Beast, a creature that he could threaten some real damage with.
Sele didn't like the sound of blockers. He cast a Bladed Pinions, and equipped them to his goblin, in order to be able to fly in for 2 poison in spite of Tumble Magnet tapping down one of his guys. Lemoine was achieving nothing by holding his team back, and attacked in for seven before playing a Ferrovore. His next turns attacks could be substantial, if he got as far as a next turn. Lemoine was on 7 poison, with one counter left on his Tumble Magnet, and a Mountain and a Forest left to fuel whatever was in his two card hand.
Could Sele get enough damage in with his attacks? He would need one more point given that Tumble Magnet was around to stop one of his attackers. Hand of the Praetors seemed to be able to do it, and Lemoine quickly picked up his cards to go on to game two.
Yves Sele 1 - 0 Vincent Lemoine
Both players had a mulligan to take at the beginning of game 2, shuffling frantically in the hope of getting a 6 good enough to make up for a lost card. Lemoine clearly hadn't shuffled frantically enough, down to five in what could be the last game of the match, where he was on the play.
Lemoine had enough lands to mirror his game one start, where a Culling Dais came out. Sele contented himself with a turn two Bladed Pinions, though he did have a little wince when his equipment was trumped by Strata Scythe from his opponent, which let us not forget would key off not just the Forests on Lemoine's side of the battlefield, but any that Sele might play. Sele just had a Swamp and a pass. Lemoine played a Carapace Forger, and passed, threatening a terrifyingly big creature next turn if he could find an artifact to get his metalcraft on. Sele was slow to play spells, having only achieved a Bladed Pinions by the time that Carapace Forger was equipped, and that little bit bigger thanks to there being a Leaden Myr out.
When the monster attacked, Sele thought for a little and took the damage. At the end of the turn he cast Carrion Call, then untapped into Hand of the Praetors, for a big attack. From nowhere, Lemoine was on 4 poison, and had to think hard about what to do next. His Carapace Forger was 8/8 and kept on swinging, but Sele did not seem bothered. Lemoine re-equipped his Scythe to his Myr after combat, and played a second Carapace Forger before passing.
Lemoine had blockers on the ground, but could do little about the Bladed Pinions allowing air strikes from Sele. He equipped his infect lord with the Pinions, got stuck in for 3 poison, then cast a Blight Mamba, which thanks to the Hand of the Praetors, immediately gave Lemoine another poison counter. Just two more poison counters would end the game. Sele was happy to use all his creatures to block the following turn, effectively stranding Strata Scythe on Leaden Myr, as the Carapace Forgers were all 4/4 with two -1/-1 counters on them, and Lemoine was at exactly three artifacts. If he moved the Scythe off the Leaden Myr somehow, his team would die.
Lemoine played Ezuri's Archers after his attacks. And managed to avoid throwing his team into the grumper by equipping it. Instead he passed, and chump blocked with the archers, that were no match for the first strike that Bladed Pinions granted.
Lemoine tried to attack in for the win on the alpha strike but was thwarted by another Carrion Call from Sele. Lemoine sacrificed his Leaden Myr to Culling Dais, hoping to draw something that might save him. His Carapace Forger died to metalcraft not being active, and the Wing Puncture that he drew was just too late, as suddenly he didn't have the creatures on the board that he needed to get back in the game.
Yves Sele wins 2-0!
Sunday, 5.32p.m. – Tumbles, Grubs, and Death Starsby David Sutcliffe
With most of the Top8 berths already booked by players who could afford to take intentional draws in the last round of the Swiss, the focus shifted to three games which could decide who went through to the final shootout of Grand Prix Bochum.
Geertjan Woltjes took an early lead in the first game of match against Andreas Jonnson, with a pair of Kemba's Skyguard ensuring that he was favorite in a tempo race against his opponent's similar Blue/White deck. Fighting back, Jonsson eked his way back into the match with a pair of Lumengrid Drakes, buying enough time for him to drop a Sky-Eel School and halt the aerial bombardment. Sensing the tide may have turned, Jonsson pushed on with an Argent Sphinx but Woltjes immediately trumped that with his own Carnifex Demon. The Demon wrecked Jonsson's creatures and soared home to give Woltjes a lead.
The second game was a similar match of tempo against tempo, but in this game it was Jonsson who had the lead - he had got ahead with a Neurok Invisimancer and Lumengrid Drake and was just hoping to stay alive long enough for the Invisimancer to go all the way. At a critical moment, with Woltjes down to just 5 life, the Dutchman drew a Tumble Magnet to halt the Invisimancer, then 5 threats in a row, while Jonsson pulled a dispiriting sequence of Plains and Islands and was swamped to lose 2-0.
Across from Woltjes and Jonsson in the feature match area, Manuel Mayer and Bas Melis had their match decided by land draws as well. In the first game Manuel Mayer was trapped on two land for several turns, he eventually drew out of it but by that time Melis had a Wurmcoil Engine and Flameborn Hellion heading his way through the red zone and it was too late. Mayer levelled the match in the second game with a Blistergrub that managed to Swampwalk pretty much the whole way to victory, then in the deciding game it was Melis' turn to fall victim to his lands. Three swamps was not enough to hold back Mayer's motley crew of Myrs, Goblins and Ogres and it was Manuel Mayer who emerged victorious 2-1.
In the final match in the feature match area Gunnar Geissler and Thoralf Severin were intent on re-enacting the climactic battle from Star Wars! Severin had constructed his 'Death Star' in the form of a Tower of Calamities and was just waiting for the eight mana he needed to fire it. Across the table, Geissler's Lumengrid Drakes, Kemba's Skyguards and Argent Sphinx played the role of the X-Wings and Millenium Falcon of the Rebel Alliance. If Grand Moff Tarkin had thought to deploy an Acid Web Spider in the Death Star trench there may never have been a sequel, as Severin's arachnid proved more than equal to the task of keeping him alive long enough to find a Palladium Myr and begin disintegrating everything in sight with his superlaser. Geissler's Rebel fleet fought a valiant rearguard action but simply couldn't repel firepower of that magnitude.
Geissler's stunt fighters performed much better in the remake. A Stoic Rebuttal kept Severin's Acid-Web Spider off the table, and before the Empire could even think of deploying it's ground forces the game was over. That led to a critical third game, with the clock ticking towards the end of the round. Just as in Return of the Jedi Severin constructed a second Tower of Calamities, but this time Geissler went one better than Luke, Han and company by actually hijacking the Death Star with a Volition Reins! Severin's groundpounders huffed and puffed, but he had no answer to his own calamitous rare and finally Severin was forced to concede defeat.
Those were the three winners, but potentially they had been playing for just two slots in the Top8 - the coming cut could prove very cruel indeed!