Leading the field after the first day of Sealed action are six players with impeccable 9-0 records; Zoltan Szoke and Tamas Glied of Hungary, German Raoul Zimmerman, Swede Rasmus Bjorklund, Spain's Chistian Retuerta, and Lorenzo Barnini flying the flag for the home country, Italy. A single defeat would cast any of those six leaders down into the mix along with some huge players hungry for a Top 8 berth, including Ben Stark, Denniz Rachid and the 2013 Rookie of the Year Felipe Tapia Becerra from Chile.
Who will stay cool in the heat of summer, and whose challenge will wilt away under the scrutiny of drafting a new set for the first time?
Let's find out!
by Tobi HenkeRound 14 Feature MatchEmanuele Giusti vs. Alberto Mattioli
by David SutcliffeSunday, 4:30 p.m.Meet Miguel Gatica
by David SutcliffeSunday, 3:45 p.m.Drafting with Tamas Nagy
by David SutcliffeRound 13 Feature MatchTamas Nagy vs. Tamas Glied
by Tobi HenkeSunday, 3:15 p.m.Look at That!
by Tobi HenkeSunday, 12:55 p.m.Drafting with Felipe Tapia Becerra
by David SutcliffeRound 11 Feature MatchZoltan Szoke vs. Raoul Zimmerman
by Tobi HenkeRound 10 Feature MatchFelipe Tapia Becerra vs. Ben Stark
by David SutcliffeSunday, 11:05 a.m.Frank Karsten's Magic List of Magic Cards
by Event Coverage StaffDay 1 Blog
by Event Coverage StaffInfo: Fact Sheet
Sunday, 11:05 a.m. – Frank Karsten's Magic List of Cards
While Frank wanted to keep some secrets to himself, and admitted that he's still working out some of the wrinkles in the rankings with other Pros, he was willing to sit down and share an awful lot of his already vast knowledge of Magic 2014 . Specifically, we wanted to know how the Commons ranked together.
"What I did was I took screenshots of all of the cards and put them into a few files, then started moving the images around to make a list of the cards in order you would pick them – assuming no card interactions mattered of course. I've put that file onto my iPad and it's been a really useful tool to bring to Rimini because it's helped us talk through our picks. I spent some time going through it with Ben Stark and that has already changed how I am thinking about some of the cards. It's good that we don't all agree on the pick order."
"The top picks in the format are all the removal spells, particularly the ones that basically deal with any threat, like Pacifism or Claustrophobia. I think Ben Stark rates Shock below Liturgy of Blood and Claustrophobia because it only does 2 damage, so doesn't kill big creatures. I like Shock more than he does – I think a lot of 4 drops you want to kill have 2 toughness, like Charging Griffin or Deathgaze Cockatrice, and Shock lets you deal with those cards and keep tempo. Killing a 4 drop for 1 mana is really good. The fact that Shock is an Instant is also important because it stops combat tricks, and I won a game yesterday with Shock in response to Enlarge."
"These are the best creatures – they're both efficient creatures and good attackers which enable your other creatures. They both make it very hard for your opponent to block your attacks. It's interesting that I don't think people value Master of Diversion highly yet – I just had one table around to me in the first draft, which I didn't expect."
"After the Condor and Master of Diversion I think you get a big group of creatures that are hard to rank against each other – they're basically the best creatures from each color, the creatures that can stand alone and have an impact in the game. I rank creatures particularly highly in Magic 2014 because I've found that in this draft format you can end up playing decks with not many creatures, only 12-13 in some drafts. My philosophy for Magic 2014 is 'when in doubt take the creature'."
And those best creatures are...
"Green has a lot of really good creatures, and that makes Green a solid color despite not really having any removal"
Charging Griffin in White
"White seems to be a weak color overall"
Deathgaze Cockatrice in Black
"Black has weak creatures, generally. Child of Night is a low pick in this format because I don't think 2 mana 2/1s are good. There are too many creatures that are 2/3 or 2/4 and your 2/1 gets outclassed very quickly. With Master of Diversion and Trained Condor they go up in value but otherwise a 2/1 can easily sit around and do nothing".
Marauding Maulhorn in Red.
"Pitchburn Devils are ok but I find that the best creatures from the other colors are either bigger or have evasion, and the Devils can't compete in either case. Pitchburn Devils moves up a lot in the R/B sacrifice deck with things like Blood Bairn and Altar's Reap, though.
Frank then shared a few general thoughts about the Magic 2014 draft format:
"If you look at the 3 drops and 4 drops in Magic 2014 there are a lot of 4/4s, 4/3s, or flyers. There's not many 2/2s or 3/2s that would allow a Grizzly Bear to trade up, and that's a big reason why the two drops are less important in this format.
Although I've given you a 'pick order' I think the pick order breaks down a lot, and it's more important to have 1 of each creature than lots of the same one – you'd rather have 1 Elvish Mystic and 1 Rumbling Baloth than 2 Baloths, for instance. There are also some important deck synergies that the pick order doesn't show. I just drafted B/W and that deck often uses a lot of enchantments, which meant I picked an Auramancer quite early, hoping to see Quag Sickness later. The B/W decks also have a really good synergy between Master of Diversion and Mark of the Vampire – that makes a really powerful attacking creature, and the Lifelink stops one of the best counters to Master of Diversion, which is to race him".
Frank's pick orders have started some interesting discussions already. Where's the love for Dawnstrike Paladin, is Shock better than Claustrophobia, and is Trained Condor really the best common Creature?
What do you think?
Round 10 Feature Match – Felipe Tapia Becerra vs. Ben Stark
"It's amazing, maybe better than mine. It just doesn't line up very well with what I've got," said Ben Stark about Felipe Tapia Becerra's deck after his quick 2-0 win. "I mean, he had to Shock my Archaeomancer which just returned Divination. That can't end well." And indeed the match was decided purely on card advantage, of which there was a lot—on Stark's side.
Rookie of the Year and Chilean national champion Tapia Becerra had drafted an aggressive black-red deck, featuring an impressive array of removal spells. Still it was no match for the blue-red deck piloted by Limited mastermind Stark.
Felipe Tapia Becerra
Stark's Messenger Drake and Scroll Thief met Tapia Becerra's Doom Blade and Quag Sickness, to allow Child of Night to continue its attacking. But while Tapia Becerra was pulling ahead in life, Stark was pulling ahead in cards. Divination was followed by Archaeomancer, which drew the aforementioned Shock from Tapia Becerra, and when Stark cast Young Pyromancer and re-cast the Divination, Tapia Becerra's offense was stopped for good.
The second game provided more of the same. Once again, Tapia Becerra started fast with Corpse Haulers and Blood Bairn, but Stark, with a little bit of help from Divination, found Shock, then retrieved it with Archaeomancer, and traded away his Shivan Dragon for two cards (a creature sacrificed to Blood Bairn and Wring Flesh). He finally got rid of Blood Bairn with Volcanic Geyser, then was able to draw several cards off Scroll Thief, and in the end a couple of fliers, including Messenger Drake, took the game.
Throughout the whole match, the black-red deck had to trade one for one again and again, until there was nothing more to trade away. Stark buried Tapia Becerra in cards and scored a decisive victory.
Round 11 Feature Match – Zoltan Szoke vs. Raoul Zimmerman
With both players suffering mana problems to trade losses in the second and third games the decisive win came in the first, with Szoke's lightning Sliver offense simply too quick for Zimmerman's slower U/W deck to contain.
The first game went by in a blurred flurry of Sliver claws. Szoke threw down a pair of Sentinel Slivers, upped the ante with a Steelform Sliver then sealed the deal with a Bonescythe Sliver! Raoul Zimmerman's best defense had been a Capashen Knight with Divine Favor but the Knight was just one man against a Sliver swarm and the game was done inside four minutes!
"I guess there are worse curves than that" commented Zimmerman, wryly, as he shuffled up for the second game.
The Hare had won the first game but the second game went to the Tortoise. Szoke's mana misfired, leaving the Hungarian with two Forests and a Mountain and a hand of white Slivers and expensive green Slivers – none of which he could cast! Zimmerman's U/W deck went onto the offensive but Windstorm and Plummet destroyed his flyers leaving a lone Phantom Warrior to do the heavy lifting. Enchanted with Divine Favor the Phantom Warrior devoured Szoke's lifetotal over many turns and not even the late arrival of a Megantic Sliver could save the Hungarian... 14...11...8...5...2... done.
The decisive game was deciding by the opening hands, with Zimmerman mulliganing away his original 7 cards to keep 6 then stalling on two lands. Across the table Zoltan Szoke was only on two lands as well, but those two lands had enabled him to cast a Sentinel Sliver and Predatory Sliver, with a Hive Stirrings added as Szoke found a third land. Unable to defend himself Raoul Zimmerman quickly accepted his fate and conceded defeat.
"My opening hand was all my big expensive cards and I knew that would be too slow against you so I had to mulligan", Zimmerman explained after the match. "Then my six cards were basically the same but with a 3-drop and only two lands. I needed my draws to be really good or I couldn't beat you."
Sunday, 12:55 p.m. – Drafting with Felipe Tapia Becerra
He opened a strong first pack including Mutavault, Water Servant, Deadly Recluse, Essence Scatter, Young Pyromancer, Chandra's Outrage, and a little surprise in the form of a second foil copy of Chandra's Outrage. Outrage was arguably the best card here, but should he risk taking it and having his neighbor to the left take the other copy? A difficult decision, to be sure, but in the end he did take the Outrage (as did the player to his left).
Felipe Tapia Becerra
For his second pick, Tapia Becerra chose Undead Minotaur over Claustrophobia and a host of white cards like Celestial Flare and Fiendslayer Paladin. Clearly, black-red was a preference of his. Next he took Wring Flesh over Deadly Recluse, Charging Griffin, and Illusionary Armor.
His colors made a remarkable recovery, however. For his seventh pick, he was given the choice between Dragon Hatchling, Molten Birth, and Blood Bairn, and took the latter. Then came Canyon Minotaur over Nightwing Shade and Cyclops Tyrant. Ninth he took Essence Scatter rather than settle for Minotaur Abomination, so, with now two blue cards and four black, a switch of colors was at least still possible. Then again, the tenth-pick Accursed Spirit almost put a stop to those considerations. Wild Guess, some Staffs, and a Strionic Resonator rounded out pack one.
Now, if the Accursed Spirit hadn't settle Tapia Becerra firmly into black, Shadowborn Demon, his first pick from the second pack certainly did. Next up was Shock out of an empty booster, followed by Doom Blade out of a booster which still held Deathgaze Cockatrice and Quag Sickness.
His fourth pick was Liliana's Reaver over Sengir Vampire, his fifth was Liturgy of Blood over Child of Night. Another Child and another Liturgy followed. The rest of the pack gave him a Corpse Hauler, an Altar's Reap, another Undead Minotaur, and he even received an unexpected present for his tenth pick, when Quag Sickness made it all the way around the table back to Tapia Becerra. Black was definitely the color he was supposed to draft.
Pack three started with a couple of 2/1 two-drops. Young Pyromancer and Corpse Hauler were a bit of a letdown from the second round of picks, but nothing to worry about. Sure enough the black and red cards started flowing soon enough: Pick three was Pitchburn Devils over Gnawing Zombie, followed by Dragon Egg over Wring Flesh.
Pick five may have been the most interesting choice in the draft. The pack had Quag Sickness, Undead Minotaur, and Accursed Spirit, but instead of taking any of these three black cards, Tapia Becerra chose Lightning Talons. Apparently, he was attempting to get one of these black cards back around the table. Gambling on a 13th pick seemed somewhat ambitious, but to be fair, he had been passed a tenth-pick Quag Sickness before already.
His sixth pick was Pitchburn Devils, his seventh was Deathgaze Cockatrice, and in between a string of off-color cards he simply took for lack of options Tapia Becerra was able to scoop up a Gnawing Zombie. And finally, his 13th pick was indeed the Undead Minotaur he'd seen earlier.
All in all, the draft went extremely well and Tapia Becerra's deck looked amazing. He ended up with quite a number of removal spells; not the most spectacular body of creatures, though, but with a few highlights—Shadowborn Demon, Liliana's Reaver—nevertheless. A couple of wins should definitely be in the cards here.
Sunday, 3:15 p.m. – Look at That!
The famous mono-black deck, this time featuring double Quag Sickness and double Corrupt, as well as double Blightcaster with three enchantments
The not-so-famous mono-green deck, including a surprising amount of removal with Plummet, Enlarge, and triple Hunt the Weak
If Tome Scours and Millstones don't kill the opponent, then maybe Sanguine Bond and Angelic Accord will be able to get there with the help of Trading Post, Corrupt, and Elixir of Immortality
The best version of the sacrifice deck I've seen so far, featuring Blood Bairn, Gnawing Zombie, Vampire Warlord, Bubbling Cauldron, Molten Birth, two Tenacious Deads, two Act of Treason, Dragon Egg, Pitchburn Devils, and Dark Prophecy
Round 13 Feature Match – Tamas Nagy vs. Tamas Glied
Nagy's powerful mono-black deck simply contained too much control for Glied's U/G deck, with Nagy's suite of Swamps making his Nightmare and triple Quag Sickness all the more powerful. While Tamas Nagy channelled Swamps Tamas Glied was channeling Forests, unfortunately his Howl of the Night Pack came up just one or two Wolves short in the final analysis as it was diluted by a couple of fateful Islands.
"Come on Tamas!" shouted the Hungarian spectators, enjoying the sight of two of their own in the feature match area so late in the Grand Prix, the support applied equally to both men, and the match was underway...
Glied took to the front foot in the first game, his Seacoast Drake being gifted a Trollhide then joined by a Woodborn Behemoth, sending Nagy onto the defensive. The Hungarian champion's Undead Minotaur did little to stem the tide but a Quag Sickness and Liturgy of Blood followed to finally stabilise the game. Nagy braced himself for a second wave of offense but it never came, with the last two cards in Glied's hand being a Lay of the Land and Darksteel Ingot. That gave Nagy the initiative, and with a Vampire Warlord and Nightmare hitting play it didn't take long for victory to come.
Nagy began the second game in a much more aggressive fashion with a pair of Child of Night, and Undead Minotaur and a Blightcaster putting him onto the offensive while Glied struggling to defend himself with an Elvish Mystic. The arrival of a Kalonian Tusker stalled Nagy's attack then on the next turn Glied powered out an impressive Howl of the Night Pack to summon six Wolf tokens! The game turned on its head at this point then a Frost Breath further tied down Nagy's creatures and opened the way for Glied to attack. When Nagy was hit with the Frost Breath he was 26-14 ahead on life, but by the time his Blightcaller and Undead Minotaur untapped he was 10-14 down. Another turn later and Nagy was 1-14 down and conceding defeat, revealing a hand of Swamps to Glied as he did so.
A slow start to the deciding game saw Nagy first out of the blocks with a Blightcaster but he was joined immediately by Glied, who used Flash to cast Briarpack Alpha and start attacking. The Alpha was too big for Blightcaster and Glied followed it with an even-bigger Woodborn Behemoth. Although it didn't seem it at the time, the Behemoth became the critical play as it had tapped Glied out and left him unable to cast Negate. Nagy enchanted his Blightcaster with Mark of the Vampire, giving the Briarpack Alpha -2/-2 then finishing it off with Wring Flesh. The 4/5 LifelinkBlightcaster was now the biggest show in town and Glied's Behemoth was immediately outclassed.
Nagy followed up with a Nightmare, calling on the power of his Swamps, and Glied called on his Forests with Howl of the Night Pack to create four Wolf tokens! The Wolves finally stopped Nagy's Blightcaller but the Nightmare flew overhead and struck Glied down to 5 life. Reeling onto the ropes Tamas Glied pulled a great card for this situation - the Frost Breath. Glied tapped down both Nagy's Blightcaller and Nightmare and went to work with his Wolves and Woodborn Behemoth. It was a combination that had won the first game, but the difference between six Wolf tokens and only four proved crucial, with Glied unable to win the game before Nagy's Nightmare untapped and dealt the final blow.
"I made Top 4 at the last Grand Prix I played in," Nagy told me, "but that was about five years ago, in Brussels. I only play Pro Tours and World Magic Cup because it's too expensive to travel for Grand Prix"
With Nagy's record it's a shame we don't see more of the Hungarian pro on the Grand Prix circuit because he would sure of success.
Sunday, 3:45 p.m. – Drafting with Tamas Nagy
We followed Nagy in the second draft, and after a rocky start the Hungarian champ ended up with what appears to be a powerful pool. Let's see how that happened.
With just two picks gone it seemed like Nagy had made a strong color commitment already – the Kalonian Tusker required GG to cast, while he would also need a lot of Swamps to make use of the Quag Sickness. He seemed like a man who knew he wanted to play G/B.
P1P3: Nagy spent a while evaluating Into The Wilds before settling for a modest Wring Flesh.
P1P7: Accursed Spirit
P1P8: Vampire Warlord
P1P10: Spell Blast
P1P11: Sanctum Offering
P1P12: Essence Scatter
P1P14: Artificer's Hex
The first pick Kalonian Tusker seemed a long time ago, with Nagy avoiding several playable green cards along the way (Advocate of the Beast, Windstorm). What Tamas Nagy had after the first booster was a collection of black spells, but few that really set the world alight. As the Hungarian champ looked at his Essence Scatter and Spell Blast as a potential blue splash he had to hope that the second booster would bring more reward for putting his faith in the dark side.
The dark lords were quick in responding to Nagy's plight, sending him the fearsome Nightmare in return for his loyalty.
By this stage Nagy seemed settled in his U/B deck, but aside from the Nightmare his first few picks were low on the sort of staples that you would expect to see. He needed bodies and he needed them badly.
P2P6: Undead Minotaur
P2P7: Deathgaze Cockatrice
P2P9: Time Ebb
P2P10: Mind Rot
P2P11: Shadowborn Apostle
P2P12: Child of Night
P2P13: Staff of the Flame Magus
P2P14: Act of Treason
Tamas Nagy picked up a few solid picks there, with Undead Minotaur and Deathgaze Cockatrice staple creatures in any Black deck. The last pick Act of Treason was a real eyebrow-raiser, though, and surely indicated that there were no R/B sacrifice decks on the table!
Four decent picks, but then Nagy hit a real seam of good picks and the quality of the Hungarian's deck was suddenly transformed!
P3P6: Undead Minotaur
P3P7: Quag Sickness
P3P8: Quag Sickness
Wowzers. How to draft a deck in five cards.
P3P10: Vial of Poison
P3P11: Child of Night
P3P12: Wring Flesh
P3P13: Vile Rebirth
P3P14: Zephyr Charge
With playable black cards coming all the way down to 13th pick the last booster had done Nagy's chances of making Top 8 a world of good. The biggest question the Hungarian would face was whether it was worth going mono-black or if the pull of his blue splash was too strong. Either way, Tamas Nagy was well-placed to lead the Hungarian charge towards winning Grand Prix Rimini!
Sunday, 4:30 p.m. – Meet Miguel Gatica
This joint effort between Canada and Costa Rica has come about, partly, because the captains of the two nations are friends from the Pro Tour circuit. Having met Canadian champ Jon Stern already I sat down with the Costa Rican national champion Miguel Gatica, currently on 11-3 in the Grand Prix with a round to play, to find out more about this unlikely international alliance and what the World Magic Cup means for Latin America.
"I travel a lot for Magic, but if it wasn't for the World Magic Cup I would be in Calgary not Rimini. I came to Verona and Utrecht last year, though, so it's not my first time in Europe. I started last season really well and that made me go to more events to see how many Pro Points I could get in the year. The season didn't end so well for me but I finished 12th at Pro Tour Return To Ravnica and that means I've been able to make the step up to playing full time and I've been on the Pro Tour train full time since September. It's very hard to get onto the Pro Tour for players from many Latin American countries, for instance in Costa Rica we maybe get one PTQ per year. That's not per PTQ season, that's per year. In Costa Rica if you want to play Magic competitively you have to leave Costa Rica – I qualified for Pro Tour Return To Ravnica by winning a PTQ in El Salvador, for instance".
Does the final of last year's World Magic Cup, between Chinese Taipei and Puerto Rico, give you hope that you can do the same?
"Definitely. I think Costa Rica have a chance of making the Top 8 at least. I knew that Tzu-Ching was a very good player for Chinese Taipei, but when I saw that Puerto Rico were in the final... if Puerto Rico can do that then Costa Rica can definitely do it too. It wasn't just Puerto Rico, though, I think Uruguay also did well last year? The World Magic Cup is actually a really important event for Latin America because it's a chance for us to compete on a level playing field – it's a really good platform for Latin American players to prove they can play Magic at the top level."
"It's not easy to practice a lot for Pro Tours in Costa Rica, there is really only myself and Carlos Pal who can practice for the Pro Tour, but now we work with ManaDeprived to test for Pro Tours, and I've just started writing for MTGMadness as well. I run my own business and that gives me enough time to play Magic Online a lot and that is a good way to practice for the Pro Tours. Between my business, playing Magic Online, travelling to Grand Prix and Pro Tours and now writing articles I'm very busy, but I see Magic as fun not work, so it's not so bad!"
What has Grand Prix Rimini taught you about Magic 2014 Limited, ahead of the World Magic Cup? Has anything been surprisingly good?
"The format is definitely slower than I thought it would be. I've got a deck that is almost mono-blue in the second draft, with just two black spells. I think U/B is the best color combination – I drafted a really strong U/B deck with three Archaeomancers in the first draft and went 3-0. I tried to get the same deck this time but the guy to my right cut me out of Black so I'm all blue, it's hopefully still good, though. I think Archaeomancer is one of the best cards in the format, especially combined with black removal like Doom Blade. What has surprised me? Intimidate has. The creatures with Intimidate are really difficult to stop. Flyers are always flyers and you have cards like Plummet to kill them, but Intimidate is really powerful in Magic 2014 ."
Miguel Gatica makes a powerful case for not discounting the players from Latin America at next week's World Magic Cup. Under his stewardships, and working with the Canadian contingent, Costa Rica are going to be as well prepared as possible for whatever challenges the Magic World Cup will bring. We wish him luck!
Round 14 Feature Match – Emanuele Giusti vs. Alberto Mattioli
The all-Italian feature match pinned two-time Grand Prix champion Emanuele Giusti, winner of the previous GP in Rimini, against newcomer Alberto Mattioli. Giusti was piloting red-black aggro with a small sacrifice theme, while Mattioli entered the fray with blue-black fliers.
In the first game, Giusti's Tenacious Dead teamed up with Blood Bairn for some potentially lethal combination, and the Bairn was indeed chumpblocked a couple of times, but in fact it were Giusti's Canyon Minotaurs that did most of the work. The board was soon cluttered with various 3-thoughness creatures (Gnawing Zombie, Undead Minotaur) but the 3/3s marched on.
When Mattioli tried to put a stop to that, summoning Water Servant for help, Giustio was already able to simply turn all of his creatures sideways, then all of his lands, for a game-ending Volcanic Geyser.
In the second game, Blood Bairn again played a crucial role, when it prevented Mattioli's Time Ebb from pushing through any damage. (The Time Ebbed creature was sacrificed to turn the Bairn a temporary 4/4, enough of a deterrent to prevent any attacks at all.)
Still, for a while it looked as if Mattioli was too far ahead. His Wall of Frost stabilized the ground and his Messenger Drake started to apply some pressure. Even Giusti's Cyclops Tyrant was safely tucked away under Sensory Deprivation, and to make matters worse Mattioli had just added Colossal Whale to his side of the battlefield. But with Giusti's Altar's Reap things started to turn. Liturgy of Blood got rid off the Whale and Shiv's Embrace suddenly provided Giusti with a veritable clock, ticking much faster than his opponent's Messenger Drake.
Soon the Drake chumped, was retrieved via Corpse Hauler, and chumped again, all the while drawing several extra cards ... but all to no avail. Mattioli couldn't find an answer to the flying, firebreathing 5/5, and soon extended his hand in concession.
So, Mr. Giusti, yet another Grand Prix win? "Well, maybe," said Giusti ... and smiled.