Day One Coverage -- 2009 Germany National Championship

Posted in Event Coverage on August 14, 2009

After seven rounds of Magic, two convenient truths stand out: 5-color Control is still the most popular deck, and mana consistency is still the deciding factor in Alara/ Reborn/ Conflux draft. Twelve players heeded these truths and finished the day with just one loss or less. One of them managed a clean break: Thomas Steeger will start off Nationals Saturday with a 7-0 record.

Steeger will sit down at table one for another three rounds of draft, feeling the hot breath of his competitors left and right. Those rounds will determine the position of the field for the final four-match stretch of Standard. The eventual champion has to master both formats and navigate the treacherous fields of Baneslayer Angels, Great Sable Stags, Kithkin and Cruel Ultimatums.

Join us tomorrow when the action heats up here on and on (in German). We will bring you the countdown to the Top 8 and take a look at everything else that is going on in Aschaffenburg.


Friday, 11:26 a.m. – Ze Germans, zey are comink!

by Hanno Terbuyken

Here you rule. Or at least one of you...German Magic used to be the dominating force in the Magical kingdom during the heighdays of the Phoenix Foundation, a team of three Magic heavyweights who crushed their competition and heard the lamentations of their women (presumably). They were Kai Budde, Dirk Baberowski and Marco Blume. Budde and Baberowski were already voted into the Pro Tour Hall of fame, Blume missed his chance this year by a wide margin.

But that was more than five years ago. Today, the top names present here at Nationals are hardly known to anyone outside of Germany. Among the coverage reporters, we figured that Jan Ruess off his PT Kyoto Top 8 and former Rookie Sebastian Thaler with his consistent PT performances would be the most prolific spearheads for ze German national team. We think they will be accompanied to Worlds in Rome by one of the following: Simon Görtzen, Denis Sinner, Klaus Jöns, Raul Porojan, Reinhold Kohl, Fabio Reinhard, Florian Pils or Alex Fanghaenel. Those are the players with regular PT appearances that stand out against the crowd, and they are our picks for those most likely to reach the Top 8.

That being said, the best German in the Player of the Year Race is Jan Ruess with 16 points, 4 points ahead of GP Hanover sensation Lino Burgold, who failed to follow up with results. A win this weekend could propel Ruess to 26 points. It’s a fact that the pro points given out at Nationals are very relevant to the PoY race, as Shuuhei Nakamura – for example – was able to close up to race leader Louis Scott-Vargas by winning Japanese Nationals. To give you a sense of scale: Nakamura has 38 points, LSV leads with 45.

So ze Germans are nowhere near a relevant position in the PoY race. And the pool is not very deep. Besides the two handfuls of hopefuls we consider candidates for ze German National team, a number of old hands may rise as they are wont to do. Former National champs Bodo Rösner and Hannes Scholz or Germany’s mad deckbuilding genius Michael Diezel, have had their time and are always capable of surprising us. Others include Rosario Maij and Aaron Brackmann, who showed up unexpectedly on Thursday night to register for Nationals. One old hand will definitely not join the ranks of the possible winners: André “TrashT” Müller is not here, held captive like oh so many of his fellow pros by the snares of a tropical island.

Is it all bad, then? Probably not. There is a swath of PTQ warriors who have found their way to the big show, but missed the proverbial gravy train so far. Any one of those can deliver a break-out performance here, among them the Gräfensteiner brothers, the infamous Ashraf and many more.

But all predictions are moot once the players sit down in the morning to play four rounds of Standard, three rounds of draft, three more rounds of draft, and four final rounds of Standard. Nationals is a tournament where everything can happen, and usually does. It is the one tournament in the year where stories are bred, history is made, and bowling balls will inevitably be thrown along a bowling alley on Saturday night at the Players’ Party.

Round One: Aaron Brackmann vs. Raul Porojan

by Tobias Henke

Aaron Brackmann That’s the beauty of national championships: the battlefield is literally littered with high-calibre players from all over the country and unlike a Grand Prix everyone starts off in round one. No byes, no calm before the storm... just the storm.

Porojan led with two Mountains but no play, while Brackmann had Knight of Meadowgrain on turn two. Porojan came back with Boggart Ram-Gang. Up next, three spirit tokens entered the battlefield in everyone’s favorite conga line a.k.a. Spectral Procession. Porojan now had Figure of Destiny and Blightning, but despite the loss of a land and Goldmeadow Stalwart, Brackmann had more in store: Spectral Procession #2 and Windbrisk Heights led to some serious frowning by Porojan. Finally, he decided to have his revenge, more specifically Demigod of Revenge.

Sadly, even the big mean flyer couldn’t help him. When Brackmann opted for “no blocks”, it was almost too obvious that hidden away under the Windbrisk Heights there was Honor of the Pure. On his next turn Brackmann attacked with Knight of Meadowgrain and six tokens, flipped Honor of the Pure (surprise!), coming in for a whopping 15 damage and setting the score to...

Aaron Brackmann 1 - 0 Raul Porojan

Raul PorojanThis time around, Porojan had early drops with Figure of Destiny, followed by Figure of Destiny. Brackmann, though, had Burrenton Forge-Tender, followed by Burrenton Forge-Tender...

While Porojan could only ramp up his otherwise inactive figurines, Brackmann had Knight of Meadowgrain, then Spectral Procession, then Honor of the Pure. Porojan tried for Volcanic Fallout to stop the bleeding, but Burrenton Forge-Tender bravely stood in the line of fire.

Figure of Destiny (4/4) blocked Knight of Meadowgrain (3/3) but to no avail: Harm’s Way was a further setback for Porojan, and next turn he drew his card, shrugged and passed right back to Brackmann, who cast another Honor of the Pure as well as Celestial Purge and ended the game and match right there and then.

Aaron Brackmann 2 - 0 Raul Porojan

Feature match round 2: Michael Diezel vs Sebastian Thaler

by Hanno Terbuyken

Michael Diezel

Game 1:

Both players took just seconds to decide on their mulligans. Thaler, playing first, even shipped his second set. It did not help matters that Diezel had brought discard to the table: Duress, Duress, Mind Shatter for 1 – Thaler soon had nothing. But his Merfolk deck had little trouble putting at least some men on the table, and Stonybrook Banneret, Merfolk Souvereign, and Merrow Reejerey found no resistance on Diezel’s side of the board.

When Diezel hit five mana and had no Baneslayer Angel coming forth, the Stillmoon Cavalier he played instead was insignificant in the face of Thaler’s aquatic teen hunger ground force. Wake Thrasher finished an unexciting Game 1.

Diezel: “He tricked me! He mulliganed twice to invalidate my discard!”

Michael Diezel 0 – 1 Sebastian Thaler

Game 2:

Like in Game 1, but on the play this time, Thaler led with a beautiful Beta Island. When Diezel had seen that in Game 1 and replied with Duress, he quipped: “Feels like 20 years ago!” That’s M10 for you.

Sebastian ThalerDiezel had Signed in Blood, put Kitchen Finks out there and then removed Thaler’s board of Merrow Reejerey and Silvergill Adept with Infest. Kitchen Finks went on the offense and Thaler had to rebuild with Mutavault and Sygg, River Guide. He had to have something else, too, chosing to protect his hand from Diezel’s Thoughtseize with Sage’s Dousing, but of course Diezel payed the mana and saw: Cryptic Command, Sygg, River Guide, Reveillark and Meddling Mage.

The Command went away. With the life totals at 18 (Diezel) to 13 (Thaler), the former Rookie of the Year put Reveillark onto the battlefield. Diezel’s Mind Shatter for three, killing Thaler’s entire hand of Path to Exile, Sygg and Pikula, didn’t help against the flier. ‘Lark, Sygg, and Mutavault took Diezel to 10, then Thaler had a second Mutavault. With his Sygg protecting both Mutavaults from Diezel’s white blockers, Thaler looked good.

But Diezel clawed his way back with Profane Command, returning his Kitchen Finks, killing the Sygg and evening out the life totals at 10 each. Still, Thaler had Reveillark and his two Mutavaults. Leaving the lands on defense, Reveillark took Diezel to 6, and Thaler had Wakethrasher, with a potential +7/+7 bonus from Thaler’s untapped lands

Diezel: “That thing is so good,” and put Oblivion Ring on it.

A flying Stillmoon Cavalier brought Thaler to 6, and on the backswing, Diezel had Path to Exile to prevent his eventual death and remove enough of Thaler’s board that his opponent saw no out but to scoop.

Michael Diezel 1 – 1 Sebastian Thaler

Players like these two draw what crowd is there.Game 3:

On the draw, a first-turn Thoughtseize gave Diezel a glimpse at two Mutavault, Path to Exile, Plains, and double Meddling Mage. One of the Mages went away but Thaler predictably added the Plains to his Island on the battlefield, played Meddling Mage and named Stillmoon Cavalier.

Sygg, River Guide, came in, too, and fell victim to Infest. Thaler rebounded with Glen-Elendra Archmage. Diezel fell to 12 from Archmage and Mutavault beats, then to 10 with Sign in Blood. Kitchen Finks returned the two life but remained a mere second on the battlefield before Thaler pointed Path to Exile at them.

Attacking with Archmage and playing Reveillark was all Thaler did, but Diezel finally executed his gameplan for the first time in the match: Baneslayer Angel, after Pathing away the Archmage. Thaler knew how to deal with the powerful Mythic Rare though Sower of Temptation and attacked. Diezel was on 4, but had an ace in Profane Command, giving him his Angel back and dealing 5 to Thaler in the process.

Diezel pondered an attack with the Angel, but ultimately decided against it. He needed the lifelink ability to regain a less fragile life total, so he couldn’t risk running into removal, or Reveillark. Thaler added a second Silvergill Adept and Wake Thrasher to his board.

Diezel attacked. Now it was Thaler’s turn to ponder: How to block? Not at all, as it turned out. Thaler down to 10, Diezel up to 10 and obviously he had something to deal with Wake Thrasher: Infest. Time was called while Thaler decided on his next attack. Both Mutavaults took Diezel to 5, but neither player was in a position to win the match on board within the remaining four extra turns.

Thaler tapped his Mutavaults to pay for Silvergill Adept. The Merfolk drew him a card and yielded Wake Thrasher. Diezel declined to attack and sent Thaler into his last turn with Path to Exile for Wake Thrasher. Thaler attacked with the team, but had no Merfolk lord to make his attack count, and was two points of damage short of killing Diezel after first-strike damage (and lifelink from the Baneslayer Angel) had resolved.

Michael Diezel 1 – 1 Sebastian Thaler

After the match, spectators pointed out that Diezel could have used his Path to Exile in response to his own Infest to remove Reveillark from the game without him finding any relevant targets. That way, Diezel would simply have raced three Mutavaults with Baneslayer Angel, in a much better position to ultimately win the match.

Friday 1:15 p.m. -- Sanity Grinding. No, Not the Card

by Tobias Henke

The infamous single-elimination Last-Chance Qualifiers, affectionately known as “Meatgrinders”, produced ten additional participants yesterday. Eight of those tournaments were Standard Constructed, and here are the winners’ decklists:

Sven Bamberger

Download Arena Decklist

Franz Sauter

Download Arena Decklist

André Luff

Download Arena Decklist

Philipp Materne

Download Arena Decklist

Felix Götze

Download Arena Decklist

Simon Leigh

Download Arena Decklist

Martin Heruth

Download Arena Decklist
Planeswalker (1)
1 Jace Beleren
Enchantment (4)
4 Bitterblossom
Tribal instant (3)
3 Peppersmoke
60 Cards

Michel Drenger

Download Arena Decklist

As you can see: big time for little Kithkin. The other two qualifier tournaments had players ripping up Boosters for two consecutive drafts. The big story there was the surprise victory of former German national champ (in 2005) Hannes Scholz. The limited expert found himself unqualified as of Friday morning, but was rather optimistic about his chances. Afterwards he said: “Last year, I had to play a meatgrinder as well... and I won that too! Now, I’m 10-0 in grinders.”

His draft started in good fashion with a first pick Tower Gargoyle, followed by Tidehollow Strix and then another Tower Gargoyle. “I ended up with two of almost everything: two Tower Gargoyle, two Faerie Mechanist, two Parasitic Strix, and two Esperzoa,” he praised his deck. “You know, I call it the double deck(er).”

Friday 1:30 p.m. -- The table of all tables

by Hanno Terbuyken

Nationals has a lot of tables. Those where the players are seated, those where the dealer offers you some of his wares, those where the deck check team checks decks. One table, however, is special. German coverage reporter Florian Koch, who incidentally is responsible for a lot of the english Wikipedia content about Magic: The Gathering, has compiled a table that encompasses every player at German Nationals ever. Stephan Valkyser had kept the records up to 2001, then Florian took up the slack and updated the excel sheet to get it up to date.

The result can be found on PlanetMTG here (initally sorted by the number of players a player has been better than since 1996). There are some interesting stats in there. For example, Kai Budde has been better than more than a 1000 players in his Nationals career. Four players have racked up 10 attendances: Dennis Johannsen, Wolfgang Eder, Christian Lührs and Peer Kröger. Two of those, Dennis Johannsen and Wolfgang Eder, are here this weekend and will take the lead with 11 Nationals played.

Seven players have reached the Top 8 three times: Stephan Valkyser, Janosch Kühn, Daniel Brickwell, André Konstanczer, Peer Kröger, Jan Brinkmann, Holger Althues. None of them are here today, and their names hark back to a simpler time. German Nationals has grown over time, with 2009 the largest Nationals ever at 190 players.

Of the other stats, one of the more interesting is the average finish of the competitors. Of course, those who had just one appearance can’t be counted there – though Frenchman Amiel Tenenbaum’s performance of runner-up in his first and only German Nationals remains a matter of legend. Among those with more than one Nationals under their belt, Florian Dworak leads the pack with an average finish of 7th – placing 3rd and 10th.

Probably the most interesting fact, however, is that no player has managed a repeat win at Nationals, not even Kai Budde or his Phoenix Foundation colleagues, who all won one. That being said, Kai is by far the most successful Nationals player: Through 9 appearances, he managed an average finish of 19th, never finishing lower than 38th place! On the other side, the most inconsistent finisher is former Champion and Grinder king Hannes Scholz, who has a win in 2005 on his resume, as well as a 165th finish in 2008.

The table is a veritable data mine of information; click through if you’re interested! See how the names you may know did through the years.

Feature match round 3: Bodo Rösner vs Olaf Krzikalla

by Florian Koch

This feature match put Germany’s most recent national champions against each other. Bodo Rösner and Olaf Krzikalla were at three points going into this round, and they will play a mirror-match on Jund. Reigning champ Olaf declared that this match is always decided by the die roll. “The gods of mana and mulligan have some say in there as well”, countered Bodo. Olaf: “They are twins anyway, aren’t they?” Rather unsurprisingly, Olaf declared that the match had been decided when Bodo won the die roll, but Bodo rejected that as nonsense. The god of mulligan seemed to favor Olaf anyway as Bodo had to start with six cards after binning an unsatisfactory seven.

Game 1:

Bodo Roesner Fittingly for a mirror match, both players opened with Putrid Leech. Bodo thought for a moment, then decided to send his Leech into Olaf’s. Both players pumped, and two Putrid Leeches went to the graveyard, but Bodo immediately replaced his loss with another Putrid Leech. Olaf then found a Boggart Ram-Gang to send in whereas Bodo had no play on his turn other than to strike back with Putrid Leech. A Bloodbraid Elf bolstered Olaf’s board and when he revealed Blightning, Bodo dryly commented: “That’s not bad”. In response to the cascaded Blightning, Bodo attempted to shoot the Boggart Ram-Gang and the Bloodbraid Elf with Lightning Bolts, but Olaf pointed out that the Elf was not a legal target, as it wasn’t in play yet. Instead the second Bolt went to Olaf’s head, reducing his life to eleven. After Bodo had discarded his last card, another Lightning Bolt, the Bloodbraid Elf beat him to seven.

After calculating for a while Bodo sent his Putrid Leech in unpumped and then played Anathemancer. Olaf went to six thanks to his three nonbasic lands, did nothing on his turn and scooped immediately when Bodo tapped all his creatures.

Bodo Rösner 1 – 0 Olaf Krzikalla

Interestingly, despite playing the mirror match Olaf and Bodo had different sideboard plans. Bodo replaced two Maelstrom Pulses and two Jund Charms with three Kitchen Finks and a Thought Hemorrhage. Olaf just exchanged three Maelstrom Pulses with three Deathmarks. While shuffling, Olaf complained that the gods of mana seem to be not very fond of him as he drew lands only during the first game.

Game 2:

The second game started with Bodo taking another mulligan, making him quite unhappy. “The manabase is the weak point of this deck”, he explained. Both players had a slow start and the first non-land play was Wren’s Vanquisher in Bodo’s third turn, but that one took its leave immediately thanks to Nameless Inversion. Olaf was then able to draw first blood with a Boggart Ram-Gang. Bodo answered with a haste creature of his own, playing Bloodbraid Elf. The Elf found Anathemancer and suddenly Olaf was down to fourteen. On the other side of the table, the Ram-Gang struck again and Anathemancer from Olaf reduces Bodo’s life to ten.

Olaf KrzikallaWhen Bodo tapped his men his Bloodbraif Elf and his opponent’s Anathemancer killed each other. After this trading of blows Bodo finally decided to build a defense, playing Chamaeleon Colossus. Olaf thus found himself on the back burner as the powerful Colossus threatened to do tremendous damage should he not have a nonblack creature to block. As he only had an Anathemancer, attacks got suspended until further notice. His opponent was in a tight spot, too, being on six life against an opponent who can draw into double Lightning Bolt any time. Calculating, he asked Bodo how many cards he had in hand. Lost in thought Olaf asked “Me?” “Yes”, answered Bodo and Olaf untapped, clearly puzzled when Bodo points out that it was not his turn and he only wanted to know about the cards in his hand. There were four cards and after some further thinking, Bodo decided to kill the Boggart Ram-Gang and then moved his Chamaeleon Colossus to the red zone. Though unblocked, he decided not to double the size of the changeling, instead targeting his opponent with Blightning. After binning Deathmark and Putrid Leech Olaf played another Boggart Ram-Gang on his turn. Apparently he didn’t have an easy kill with double Lightning Bolt.

Bodo had no kill either and thought for a while. Then he decided to play Anathemancer and attacked with Chamaeleon Colossus. Forced to block or die, Olaf had no choice but to let his Ram-Gang receive the thrashing. On his turn Olaf presented Chamaeleon Colossus, but a Lightning Bolt from Bodo quickly ended all thoughts of a comeback in this match.

Bodo Rösner 2 – 0 Olaf Krzikalla

After the match Bodo commented on his choice of adding Thought Hemorrhage to the main deck in this matchup. “It was not a good choice. I misevaluated the tempo of this matchup and games just don’t take long enough. I don’t think I will use this in the mirror again.”

Friday, 2:10 – Putting Damage On the Stag

by Tobias Henke

The best-seller list is always a reliable tool to gather information about new and popular decks, metagame changes and sometimes brand new tech. We sat down with Jens Kessel at the trader’s booth to find out which cards are particularly hot.

“So, what’s the best-selling card this weekend?”
“And else...?”

Apparently, everyone’s favorite sideboard card is quite in high demand, especially since lots of players will be prepared to splash Great Sable Stag, no matter what. After a few more repititions of the word “Stag” (uttered in what seemed like a blissful trance), more card names turned up, reluctantly. Baneslayer Angel is second on the list of hottest cards from M10, followed by all of the new dual lands.

“Overall, the cards players have been asking for varied a lot,” Jens said. “Especially some older cards like Cryptic Command and Figure of Destiny went well. Also, I would watch out for burn decks. We’ve sold about 30 copies of Flame Javelin.”

Feature match round 4: Artie Heinrich vs Denis Sinner

by Hanno Terbuyken

Game 1:

Artie Heinrich“Borderpost, go”, was Denis Sinner’s kick-off. A start less than speedy, but one that turned out to be quite fast indeed when Sinner played Meddling Mage naming Lightning Bolt and Knight of the White Orchid for Plains. His opponent knew what to expect from there: U/W Reveillark.

Heinrich had at that point shown just Mountain, Swamp, and Sinner had no read on his opponent’s deck until Heinrich brought Flamekin Harbinger onto the battlefield and searched for Shriekmaw, evoking the Elemental and killing a Knight of the White Orchid. So, Elementals, then?

Sinner was way ahead with Cryptic Command to counter Fulminator Mage and draw a card. Vendilion Clique revealed Maelstrom Pulse, Makeshift Mannequin, double Bloodbraid Elf and Cloudthresher. Now Heinrich’s deck choice became clear: Jund Mannequin, adapted for Flamekin Harbinger to suit the Elementals which are in the deck anyway.

However, as Heinrich was stuck on three lands, neither of which produced green, none of those cards were relevant. Sinner removed Maelstrom Pulse, a minor mistake, as Heinrich had no way to produce green. Then Heinrich topdecked Volcanic Fallout to clear Sinner’s board and played Vivid Crag to fully activate his Reflecting Pool, getting access to green. Life totals: 6 to 20 in Sinner’s favor.

With Makeshift Mannequin, Heinrich returned his Shriekmaw to play and destroyed Sinner’s fresh Wall of Reverence. Heinrich got into gear now, cascading Bloodbraid Elf into Flamekin Harbinger, searching for Shriekmaw, and going on the offense. But he had fallen behind too far too early: With a left-right-punch combination of Path to Exile and Sower of Temptation on Bloodbraid Elf, Sinner got ready to deliver the killing blow.

Heinrich tapped his four lands and put Bloodbraid Elf onto the battlefield. He had to find an out somehow... and the first card he flipped up: Volcanic Fallout! That cleared the board, though Sinner didn’t let go just like that. Cryptic Command countered Heinrich’s Elf and returned Sinner’s Mulldrifter to his hand, and the 2/2 Elemental was enough to deal the last two damage to Heinrich.

Artie Heinrich 0 – 1 Denis Sinner

Game 2:

Denis SinnerBoth players went “Land, go” for the first three turns, and the first play of the game was Bloodbraid Elf from Heinrich. Cascade turned up a useless Maelstrom Pulse, so Sinner saw his chance to erect a near impenetrable wall against Volcanic Fallout: Knight of the White Orchid for Plains, Burrenton Forge-Tender, and Burrenton Forge-Tender. Heinrich had Shriekmaw for the Knight, but not for Sinner’s Glen-Elendra Archmage.

With Cloudthresher, Heinrich planned on putting Sinner on a big clock, but the Reveillark player had Cryptic Command at the ready. However, Shriekmaw pounded away at Sinner’s life total, and Heinrich fielded a steady stream of threats. Sinner, at 8, faced down Bloodbraid Elf, Shriekmaw, Mulldrifter, and Fulminator Mage, with two Burrenton Forge-Tender and two Glen-Elendra Archmage in play.

The Archmages blocked and persisted once each, but at 5 life, Sinner had to be cautious not to run into any traps from Heinrich’s homebrew. Reveillark gave him a safe blocker to hide behind, and one Archmage gave her life to deal with Makeshift Mannequin.

Then Heinrich tapped four to Cascade with Bloodbraid Elf, hoping for Maelstrom Pulse. He got Volcanic Fallout instead, which he denied to play, as the powerful Instant would have killed his own board and left Sinner with a Reveillark. Following up the Elf with Puppeteer Cliquem, however, was enough to make Sinner scoop, as he saw no way to open a passage through Heinrich’s manifold blockers while staying alive.

Artie Heinrich 1 – 1 Denis Sinner

Game 3:

Sinner opened with Burrenton Forge-Tender, Heinrich chose to evoke Shriekmaw to kill it, hinting at a recursion spell in his hand. Sinner slow-rolled a landdrop to get more value out of a potential Knight of the White Orchid, but Heinrich foiled that plan by missing his third and fourth land drop. With just Reflecting Pool and Graven Cairns in play, Heinrich had nothing to defend against Sinner’s Knight and Glen-Elendra Archmage.

At 13 life, Heinrich felt forced to play Volcanic Fallout, as Sinner had put Reveillark onto the battlefield. He then dropped a land and played Thought Hemorrhage, targeting Reveillark. Sinner held one, but more importantly, also held two Cryptic Command that he could cast!

Heinrich looked for something with Bloodbraid Elf and again revealed a Volcanic Fallout he could not use. Attack with Elf brought Sinner to 12, but the counterattack took Heinrich to 1. With two Cryptic Command in Sinner’s hand, Heinrich had no way of winning this lopsided game.

Artie Heinrich 1 – 2 Denis Sinner

Friday, 3:30 p.m.: Shoot ‘em up

by Hanno Terbuyken

First-person Nerf!Every player at Nationals has a shot at a very special price offered by Wizards of the Coast. It is an uncut sheet of M10 Rares and Mythic Rares – in foil. To get it, players have to take careful aim. It works like this: The winner and runner-up of yesterday’s meatgrinder and the winner of every side event get handed a Nerf gun. The Rare sheet is behind a glass pane, and they shoot at the cards. Which ever card they hit with the suction-cup foam arrows they get to keep – but not from the sheet itself, but from a pile of the same foils administrated by a Wizards employee.

It's truly hit or miss.Every card that is taken is marked on the glass pane and cannot be hit again. Once all but one card is gone, the player to shoot and hit the last card will take home the entire sheet, glass pane, frame and all. Since the last person to win an event at Nationals will be the actual champion, there is a good chance that he will be the one to take that last shot. If he should miss, then the fun begins: players will get to take shots one by one until someone gets his suction-cup arrow to stick in the right place.

Either way, the entire sheet will have a new owner come Sunday afternoon.

Nerf, Magic, Foils -- what's there not to like?

Friday, 5:10 p.m. : Drafting With Florian Pils

by Tobias Henke

Florian PilsFlorian Pils has had several Pro Tour appearances and made Top 8 at Grand Prix twice. Now he’s trying to get his first Nationals Top 8 and indeed is well on his way, sitting at a perfect score of 4-0. We joined him at draft pod #1 to take a look at his draft choices.

Florian opened a pack with lots of shiny, shiny gold. Branching Bolt, Sprouting Thrinax as well as Agony Warp and Tidehollow Strix were the best cards, but sadly no single-color option presented itself. After some deliberation, he opted for Agony Warp, unfortunately passing Tidehollow Strix in the exact same colors.

Next up, was Grixis Charm (passing Blightning and Hissing Iguanar) and then two Grixis Panoramas. The draft was deteriorating quickly: his fifth pick had nothing better to offer than Ridge Rannet; then Volcanic Submersion. Florian did get Dregscape Zombie and Kederekt Creeper later on, but overall Shards of Alara had not been too good on him.

He persevered and was rewarded in Conflux:

Fiery Fall
Parasitic Strix
Grixis Slavedriver
Zombie Outlander
Frontline Sage
Sphinx Summoner
Faerie Mechanist
Zombie Outlander
Parasitic Strix
Vectis Agents
Brackwater Elemental

Alara Reborn‘s first was Soul Manipulation, second was Lightning Reaver, third Terminate. Certainly a good start! Then he took Mistvein Borderpost (although he seemed to be tempted by Lord of Extinction), then another, and a third. Next he considered Veinfire Borderpost, but went for Drastic Revelation instead. Deny Reality, Soul Manipulation, and Grixis Sojourners rounded out his draft. Afterwards, Florian was a little uncertain about the quality of his deck. Sure, he had good cards, but all in all not quite enough of them...

Quick questions: Alara draft or M10 draft?

by Hanno Terbuyken

Which draft format do you like better – Shards/ Conflux/ Reborn or M10?

Christian von Kalkstein “I like Alara more because it requires more skill. Obviously, that means I lose a lot in Alara and win in M10... M10 is just about wo has the more stupid bomb, or the cheaper one.” Thomas “Teardrop” Jungmann “That’s really hard. But I have to be honest, I like M10 more. Drafts cannot fizzle like they can with Alara. On the other hand, with Alara the power level of all decks in a draft pod is closer together.”
Simon Görtzen “That’s a question you can’t answer, really. At the moment, I find M10 to be more fun, but it is not deep enough to be played at this level of competition. Alara draft is all about the mana, so aggro decks are really good. M10 is exactly the opposite.” Raul Porojan “Alara. People are far too greedy in that format, so you can easily get a good two-color deck. M10 is nice, too, but Alara is better because you can get a far bigger edge in that draft format.”

Friday, 6:15 p.m. – Standard Metagame

by Tobias Henke
Deck Count Percent
5-Color Control 43 22.63%
Faeries 23 12.11%
Jund Aggro 22 11.58%
Kithkin 18 9.47%
Blightning 17 8.95%
Merfolk 11 5.79%
Time Sieve 11 5.79%
Mannequin Jund 9 4.74%
Doran 6 3.16%
Combo Elves 5 2.63%
U/W Lark 5 2.63%
B/G Elves 4 2.11%
U/W/R Swans 3 1.58%
Rogue 13 6.84%
Total 190 100.00%

All 190 decks are now checked and categorized, and here, for your viewing pleasure, is the complete breakdown:

In yesterday’s grinders Kithkin was the big winner. As always, the beatdown deck of choice couldn’t quite get the same numbers in the main event. Control strategies traditionally are much more popular with Nationals competitors, which explains the large percentage of 5-Color Control and Fae. A large portion of the latter are splashing red for Lightning Bolt and, in some cases, Firespout to handle Fae’s arch-enemy, the ubiquitous Great Sable Stag. 5-Color Control decks have a new/old trick up their sleeve as well. Recently, they have rediscovered Makeshift Mannequin (through its new-found popularity in Jund decks) and use that to revive Mulldrifters, Shriekmaws, and nowadays even Caldera Hellion.

Round 6 Feature Match – Thomas Steeger vs Thomas Jungmann

by Hanno Terbuyken

Thomas SteegerThese two players came through the Standard rounds undefeated and found themselves with yet another win after the first draft match. Thomas Jungmann is one of the prominent voices of the German Magic blogging community and also a proponent of aggressive draft decks in the Alara/ Conflux/ Reborn format.

Game 1:

A lost die roll and two mulligans on Steeger’s side later, both players led with Forests. Jungmann missed his third land drop but found land #3 a turn later, dropping Godtracker of Jund onto the battlefield. Steeger had Wild Leotau, which dealt the first damage in the match. Jungmann 15, Steeger 20. Cascade in the form of Violent Outburst did nothing for Jungmann. His Ember Weaver got crystallized. The next turn, Gorger Wurm gave him an out to Wild Leotau, but Steeger had Fiery Fall for that one, and the lonely Wild Leotau dished out another 5 damage. Jungmann 5, Steeger 15.

Quasali Pridemage for Jungmann, but Steeger had yet another removal in the form of Bloodpyre Elemental, killing Jungmann’s Godtracker. The next attack saw Jungmann throwing his Pridemage in the way of the Leotau, freeing his Spider from the Crystallization. Jungmann tried to stabilize with Spore Burst. Steeger did not care: Colossal Might enabled his Wild Leotau to waltz over everything Jungmann had.

Thomas Steeger 1 – 0 Thomas Jungmann

Game 2:

Thomas JungmannAgain, Jungmann chose to play first, and again, both players led with Forest. Godtracker of Jund showed up again on Jungmann’s side of the battlefield, who promptly Cascaded Violent Outburst into Rip-Clan Crasher.

Steeger had Cylian Elf and Druid of the Anima, but Jungmann picked up steam: Gluttonous Slime and Hellkite Hatchling came to his side directly after each other, and the dragon cub wasted no time devouring the Slime.

Fat men started to appear. Steeger played Mosstodon, Jungmann had Gorger Wurm. But Steeger had the bigger men: Rakeclaw Gargantuan promised to make life hard for Jungmann, who promptly dispatched it with Branching Bolt.

Life totals stood at 9 to 13 in favor of Jungmann, but Steeger crashed in with Cylian Elf and Mosstodon. Jungmann blocked the Elf, trading with Godtracker, and went to 8. Fiery Fall killed his big Wurm, preventing a quick kill on the back swing. Still, Steeger went to 4. On the next attack, Jungmann knew he wouldn’t be able to block Steeger’s Mosstodon, but at 8, he was willing to take the risk.

As it turned out, Steeger had one of his two Colossal Mights, so Jungmann had no option but to die.

Thomas Steeger 2 – 0 Thomas Jungmann

“You have the deck I wanted”, said Jungmann after the match. He and Steeger had sat directly next to each other in their draft pod, and Steeger had grabbed all the good green-red cards that Jungmann wanted to force. “You have only what you took”, lamented Jungmann, who had expected more from the draft when he sat down to crack his boosters. He had kicked off with Branching Bolt, but after that his plan of red-green aggro fell through the cracks of the draft pod.

Friday, 6:55 p.m. – Don’t!

by Hanno Terbuyken

Pics or it didn't happen -- head judge Michael Wiese watching from afar.It is an inevitable occurrence at any major tournament: The head judge comes over to the coverage table, you see his red shirt approaching from the corner of your eye, and he says: “I just had to DQ someone.” DQ, the two letters of doom, disqualification, a short drop and a sudden stop, whatever you want to call it: Someone always gets it.

This time, a player was caught knowingly playing with an illegal deck. In the Limited portion of the tournament, his opponent had shuffled his deck and found that the player had 41 cards. The opponent asked: “41? Really?” To which the player replied: “Er... uh... yes.”

His hesitation cast doubt on his answer, so the judges checked. His deck had just 40 cards on the list, but his failure to acknowledge so when asked led to far worse consequences than if he had just said “No, I have 40. Judge!” The lesson, as always: If anything goes amiss, awry or wrong, raise objections and your hand and call, holler or shout for a judge.

The black shirts are there to help you. Use them!

Friday, 7:26 p.m. – Here it is, your moment of Zen

by Hanno Terbuyken

Let's check in with our good friends at the draft tables!Five colors and a random selection from a limited card pool: Putrid Leech with Wall of Reverence, Kitchen Finks with Anathemancer, Wall of Reverence with Anathemancer, Plumeveil with Putrid Imp, all of them plus Kitchen Finks, four Baneslayer Angels, no Baneslayer Angels, red or no red – however you slice and dice it, the variety among the 5-Color Control decks is enourmous.

Almost a fourth of the field chose to run a deck powered by Vivid lands and Reflecting Pools, but there is next to no consensus as to how the deck should be built. Variety is the spice of life and apparently also the nature of 5cC. If there is a non-standardized Standard deck, this is it.

Today held no surprises. Players lounged in the lounge, drafted in the drafts and dealt with the dealers. They bought and traded for Baneslayer Angels and the most brokenest sideboard card ever, Great Sable Stag. They played Duels of the Planeswalkers and dueled with Planeswalkers. It was a relaxed Friday in Aschaffenburg. Tomorrow, Azami’s Familiar will be much more tense, when the cut-off for Top 8 comes closer.

For tonight, a handful of players can rest assured in the knowledge that they will be the ones we keep an eye on tomorrow. Only one of them stands on top of the heap with a perfect 21 points: Thomas Steeger has bested his competition, at least today. Hot on his heels are 11 players at 6-1, among them Florian Pils, Florian Gräfensteiner, Christian Hüttenberger and Lino Burgold, semi-pros who have earned the odd Pro Point here and there.

At 13 points, Michael Diezel and Sebastian Thaler retain a long shot at Top 8 tomorrow. Both are capable of producing the 7-0 run they’d need tomorrow. Many others will join the side events once they are through the three draft rounds in the morning. Most well-known Germans find themselves in the 12 point range, and maybe one or two can do what Bodo Rösner (also at 12 points, by the way) did two years ago: 10-0 for the championship.

We’ll bring you plenty of coverage tomorrow, from the side-event PTQ to the race to the Top 8.

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