Blog: Sunday, 12.13a.m. - Can we go to bed, now? by David Sutcliffe
Feature Match: Round 9 - Sebastian Thaler (GER) vs Alex Yatsenko (RUS) by Daniel Ullenius
Podcast: Saturday, 11:30 p.m.: Big Sealed becomes Big Draft by Rich Hagon
Blog: Round 9 round-up - Blue half by Hanno Terbuyken
Feature Match: Round 8 - Henk van der Vaart (NLD) vs Wim Vanrie (BEL) by Hanno Terbuyken
Feature Match: Round 8 - Teddy Puaud (FRA) vs Tomoharu Saitou (JPN) by David Sutcliffe
Feature Match: Round 7 - Olivier Ruel (FRA) vs Jean-Michel Obly (FRA) by Daniel Ullenius
Blog: Saturday, 7:27 p.m.: “Yeah, we’ll wait” by Hanno Terbuyken
Podcast: Saturday, 5:30 p.m.: Big Gets A Bit Smaller by Rich Hagon
Feature Match: Round 5 – Fried Meulders (BEL) vs Antoine Menard (FRA) by Hanno Terbuyken
Feature Match: Round 4 – Marijn Lybaert (BEL) vs Mathieu Jolly (FRA) by Daniel Ullenius
Blog: Saturday, 4:43 p.m.: Quick questions: Ooooooobelisk! by Hanno Terbuyken
Feature Match: Round 4 - Romain Lisciandro (FRA) vs Kenji Tsumura (JPN) by David Sutcliffe
Podcast: Saturday, 1:52 p.m.: Big Gets Bigger by Rich Hagon
Blog: Saturday, 2:41 p.m.: Two in one by Hanno Terbuyken
Blog: Saturday, 1:20 p.m.: Sealed stories, and itineraries by Hanno Terbuyken
Blog: Saturday, 1:11 p.m.: Judge The Game, See The World by David Sutcliffe
Podcast: Saturday, 12:20 p.m.: Big by Rich Hagon
Blog: Saturday, 12:07 p.m.: A Herald of things to come by Hanno Terbuyken
Blog: Saturday, 11:52 a.m.: X-Box: The Gathering by David Sutcliffe
Blog: Saturday, 10:47 a.m.: Sealed Deck with Olivier Ruel by David Sutcliffe
Blog: Saturday, 10:46 a.m.: GP Preview by Hanno Terbuyken
Blog - Saturday, 10:46 a.m.: GP Preview
The biggest tournament ever -- and this is just the top half.Shards of Alara is a brand new experience. Grand Prix: Paris – or should we say GP: Disneyland? -- is the first time that a premier event gets his Shard on. Of course, GP Kansas City is on this very same weekend, too. But Paris is hours ahead, so technically, we’re first. We’re also biggest. With 1839 players, GP Paris is officially the biggest Magic tournament ever held on the surface of the planet – and below, as half of the tournament is located in the basement of the hall.
So, what can you expect from the GP right under the nose of Mickey Mouse? A rollercoaster ride of multicolor goodness, that’s what. Shards of Alara has been a hit so far with players all over the world. For the pros, the challenge will be how to delve into that rainbow world.
Alara Sealed is a generally slow format, but don’t let that fool you. Where Mythic rares and 7-mana all-color bombs lumber slowly in the general direction of your life total, some decks swirl ahead in mind-blowing speedruns. These are the aggressive decks, and they often are deadly. It will be interesting to see if that particular strategy, focusing on the more nimble beaters from Grixis or Bant, will be a last resort or if the pros think it is a viable – and winning – strategy.
Of course, a good part of a good Sealed deck is chance. Even the best players in the world lose their fizz if fate deals them a bad hand, or an unplayable Sealed pool. Then again, color-fixing commons are abundant in Alara. How many of those do you need, you ask? We’ll make sure to get the professional’s answer to that. However, everybody should be able to cobble something together.
In that vein, we will also try to uncover the Obelisk/ Panorama problem. Do you tie up your second and third turn by fixing or accelerating your mana while your opponent plays actual spells? Or will it help you cast Grixis Charm and Woolly Thoctar all in one go?
For the answers to all these questions, stay tuned to David Sutcliffe and Hanno Terbuyken on the text side and Rich Hagon and Ben Coleman, who will conduct your audio journey into the depths of the biggest Magic tournament ever held on the planet.
Blog - Saturday, 10:47 a.m.: Sealed Deck with Olivier Ruel
Olivier RuelGood things come in threes, it seems. As the players completed their deck construction periods I was watching Olivier Ruel finish up his mana base. Suddenly on my right shoulder appeared the Ranger of Eos himself, Antoine Ruel, eager to show off the deck he had built. Three rares – Knight of the White Orchid, Knight of the White Orchid, Battlegrace Angel. Three commons – Oblivion Ring, Oblivion Ring, Oblivion Ring.
Olivier nodded sagely and fanned out his own deck, highlighting his own set of three rares – Vein Drinker, Predator Dragon, Caldera Hellion. It seems that at their home Grand Prix, fortune has favoured the Ruel brothers! I pulled Olivier aside to look through his deck further and discuss a few choices.
The first thing to note is Olivier’s mana base, with two Esper Panorama and a Naya Panorama, a Savage Lands, and then one Island, one Plains, three Swamps, three Forests, and 5 Mountains backed up by a pair of Jund and Naya Obelisks. That’s a very diverse but robust five-coloured mana base, and a hint at the route Olivier has taken with his deck.
“I think in this format, you really want to play five colours if the fixing is there. You can’t make a very efficient aggro deck in this format because you must use three colours so the mana won’t work. It may work one round, two rounds... but for nine rounds? No, it will let you down. So you play five colours and powerful cards – all the fixing, all the flyers, all the removal.”
And ‘all the removal’ is a good summary of Olivier’s deck, showing off a bank of spells that do unkind things to ‘target creature’. Resounding Silence, Resounding Thunder, Bant Charm, Agony Warp, Blister Beetle, Soul’s Fire all sitting on top of the two standout rares, Vein Drinker and Caldera Hellion.
“I was opening my cards and was really unhappy, I only had one booster left and while I had a Vein Drinker the other rares were nothing special. But that last booster had a Predator Dragon and a foil Caldera Hellion and my deck got much better. I think rares are really important in Alara. Normally you can try to compensate for a bad pool by playing a very efficient mana curve but I don’t think that will work in Alara because of the mana.”
I also noticed Olivier spent a long while pondering over a solitary Swamp before settling on his finished list. It turned out that was the fabled 41st card that is becoming a cult favourite in Shards of Alara sealed, eventually Olivier benched the Swamp but I thought it worth asking about.
“When I worked out my mana I really needed that extra Swamp to have the right amount of mana of each colour. But I don’t like playing 41 cards so I decided not to play it. I think my deck should be good enough to make day two but who knows. I’ve not played this format much, and every prediction I’ve had so far has been wrong. I guess there has to be a first time for me to be right!”
Looking forwards, when I spoke to Olivier at Grand Prix Rimini he had just secured a place on the French team for Worlds, and now that Shuuhei Nakamura has failed to get onto the Japanese team, does that open up an extra chance for Olivier to steal the Player of the Year race?
“Maybe. I’m also now traveling to a couple more GP, in Okayama and Taipei. It turns out the winner of Team Worlds get 6 points, so I’m looking at picking up four there, maybe and I still need to catch up ten points on Shuuhei by Worlds. Winning this weekend would be a good start, but I think it’s more likely I will make them up in Okayama.”
Blog - Saturday, 11:52 a.m.: X-Box: The Gathering
Against one wall of this huge Grand Prix you will find something unexpected. Stood there is one man, named Alan, with a shiny new high-definition TV and an X-Box 360 controller. Oh, and a demo copy of the brand new Magic: The Gathering X-Box game, Duels of the Planeswalkers! Top secret until just a few weeks ago, it’s being proudly unveiled here at Grand Prix-Paris and there is a constant a huddle of players around Alan, stopped in their tracks by the sight of this game.Duels of the Planeswalkers unveiled!
It’s not easy to walk past because as you can see, it looks absolutely drop dead gorgeous. Imagine if Magic Online had married Keira Knightley and this was their baby and you’re getting close to just how fantastic this game looks. Your cards are rendered in glorious high-definition, they swing across the table at each other, highlight themselves when they’re useful, and everything runs so smoothly and beautifully that I don’t think I’ve ever seen Magic looking so good.
Aimed largely at bringing new players into Magic the game rules are interface is streamlined and helpful, and unlike Magic Online the games are untimed for either player. To keep games from dragging on the game keeps things happening - if you can respond to an effect a brief timer ticks down to give you a chance to press X and respond, but if you can’t respond it just gets on with things and makes the next play.
So it looks nice, and it’s streamlined. That means it’s terrible at playing Magic, right? Well wrong, because this game knows how to play. And how to play. Taking advantage of the X-Box’s unique six CPU’s Duels of the Planeswalkers has five separate AI’s running simultaneously, each trying to find the best way to beat you! It’s no surprise that legend has it that Duels of the Planeswalkers has already made several members of R&D cry for their mother.
The game comes with ten pre-constructed decks containing 300 unique cards chosen from sets ranging all the way from Tenth Edition up to Shards of Alara, and there are already expansion patches in the pipeline, bringing you new decks and cards. It’s playable in a single person campaign mode against the AI, where you battle to unlock more preconstructed decks and win sideboard cards for your own deck, but it’s also fully playable across X-Box Live against other players – including Two-Headed Giant matches!
Duels of the Planeswalkers release is scheduled for Spring 2009 on X-Box and PC, and I know that I’m excited!Beautiful Hi-Def graphics and a solid AI? MTG Heaven.
Blog - Saturday, 12:07 p.m.: A Herald of things to come
Would these 40 cards carry Aaron Nicastri into day 2?Seeing Japanese players on the floors of European Grand Prix has become a common sight by now. But there’s one player here who calls a country even further away his home: Australia. The reigning champion of Down Under, Aaron Nicastri, has chosen to join us here in the Newport Bay hotel ballroom simply because he picked up a couple of pro points at Nationals.
Of course, Aaron also finished 35th at Pro Tour: Hollywood. And now he is on his way to climb the pinnacle of the Magic world. But to get there, he has to prove himself in the biggest field of Magic players he – like everybody else – has ever seen.
His weapon of choice: Godsire. That’s right, the biggest creature in the format is on Aaron’s side, and he has the Behemoth’s Herald to go right with it. When the Australian opened his Sealed pool, besides the big monster he also found a pair of Sigiled Paladin, along with four other Exalted creatures. Only that was a commitment Aaron was not willing to make: “Typically, you are playing wars of attrition.” To combat the 5/5 creature beatdown that is so typical of Alara Sealed, a theme deck like Exalted needs to be really consistent, Aaron explained. And consistency also means a solid mana base.
So what Aaron did was to drop the Knights and their Exalted brethren, and instead played only cards with a single colored mana in their cost. Of course, goodies like Bant Charm, Rhox War Monk and the aforementioned Godsire were far too good to pass up. Aaron: “The Charm and the Rhox are the two hardest cards for me to play.”
Play the game, see the world, and make the girls swoon with your cute Australian accent.The Behemoth’s Herald was a card that garnered a little controversy. In general, players here do not like giving up a board position to put all their eggs in one basket, even if that basket is Godsire. But Aaron justified his choice. He has three Dragon Fodder to provide sacrificial Goblins. In addition, he plays Akrasan Squire and Ranger of Eos to get it. With three Dragon Fodders, he should always have a red creature to throw into the Herald. That way, Ranger of Eos becomes “instant Godsire”! Also, the Dragon Fodder goblins are the perfect complement to his three Devour creatures.
And if that plan fails, Aaron also has Magma Spray, Oblivion Ring, Resounding Silence, three cycling fatties and Feral Hydra to mop up. He certainly seemed happy with his deck, especially since he is used to smaller dimensions.
“At the end of the year, I will play GP New Zealand. With three byes, I am almost guaranteed day two. Compared to this, it’s not really fair.” The easygoing Australian was in awe of the tournament. “This is the way you want it to be!” Then again, Aaron noted that this is a really tough tournament. Because only the top 64 players from each half advance to day 2, totaling 128, a 7-1-1 record on day one may not even be enough. “And that’s a pretty good record, actually!”
We’ll keep an eye on Aaron to see if he makes it. If not, he has a full Sunday in Disneyland – a good place to go drafting with Kenji Tsumura...
Podcast - Saturday, 12:20 p.m.: Big
It really is quite large. Looking at a veritable sea of humanity, it turns out that the 500 tables in front of me are only half the story of Day One here at GP Paris. With 1829 players (yes, that's one thousand eight hundred and twenty nine, you read it right) this Grand Prix has smashed all attendance records, not only for European GPs, but for any Magic event anywhere on planet Earth. Astonishing. Join us as we set the scene, talk Player of the Year, and Shards Sealed chat.
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Blog - Saturday, 1:11 p.m.: Judge The Game, See The World
Paul Yale: International Judge of Mystery“Play the game, see the world”, that’s one of the taglines for the Pro Tour and it’s certainly accurate. Another, less well known, tagline would be “Judge the game, see the world”. The judge programme is keen to have the European and American judges sharing experiences with each other, and as Grand Prix-Paris is a little larger than the average Magic tournament I thought it would be worth seeing it through the eyes of somebody for whom such a huge tournament is a new experience - an American judge.
So, who are you?
I’m Paul Yale from California. By day I’m an Assistant Manager at a sporting goods retailer, but come Friday night I’m a judge running FNMs at the Epic Adventure Games store in Scott Valley, California. We’ve had a lot of success recently with players from that store winning big events, we’re growing a great community of players there and I’m proud of that.
It’s a long way from Scott Valley to Disneyland Paris
It is! This is my first time in Europe, actually. I asked my work if I could move my vacation forward a week so I came out early and went to visit my brother in Germany. He joined the army out of high school and he’s been stationed in Frankfurt. It’s been only the second time that I’ve seen him in seven years. My grandmother died last April and we saw each other then, but otherwise... seven years.
One of the things I learnt from my grandmother was to take the opportunities that come your way. I tried to get sponsored for Pro Tour-Berlin, but was denied. I saw Paris on the list and tried for that, and here I am. I’ve been able to do some traveling around Europe as well seeing my brother, away from the tourist hotspots, and there’s so much great history. I loved downtown Dresden, for instance - they rebuilt it after the war and it’s such a great place, full of history.
This is officially the biggest Magic tournament ever, what’s been your biggest event you’ve judged before this?
It’s actually only my second Grand Prix. I judged at San Francisco last year and that’s been my biggest event. I’ve actually been judging for as long as the judge programme has existed, but only casually or at a PTQ level. I’m enjoying it, a little tired after a 10-hour train journey to get here, but yeah... it’s fun!
It’s a huge tournament though. Sat up here on the stage you can see that we’re in a massive hall – and this is still only half the tournament! It’s the first time I’ve ever had a split tournament as well, but that didn’t seem to change much. There was a little confusion at the start with players not being sure if they were in the green half or the blue half, but once that was out of the way it’s been fine.
Are the players here different to American players?
Not really. I was expecting maybe some resistance from players, partly because I’m American, and an authority figure, but that hasn’t happened. They’re all really cool about it. Not all of the players speak English, of course, which is a bit difficult sometimes but there is always a way to make yourself understood. I had to give a ruling to a player who spoke no English, earlier, and the player next to him translated for me. There’s a sense of community here and helping each other out, and that gets you over the language barrier.
Blog - Saturday, 1:20 p.m.: Sealed stories, and itineraries
The first three rounds of a GP are bereft of the pros. Through their rating and pro points, they get three free wins and a lot of extra time to thoroughly test their decks against each other. Some will certainly formulate elaborate sideboard plans to alleviate any mistakes they may have made, but others are supremely confident. Among them is Germany’s Andre Müller. He was the first player to come up to the coverage stage to tell us about his deck.
“This was a Five-Minute Sealed,” quipped Andre, who opened two Knight of the Skyward Eye and two Oblivion Ring and never looked back. He has a fast Bant Exalted deck, topping out at Spearbreaker Behemoth, and running a straight mana base of 7 Plains, 7 Forest and 4 Island, no fixing added. With two Bant Charm, two Sigil Blessing and a nearly perfect curve, he felt confident to make day two, with a deck he literally built in five minutes. His two Obelisks of Grixis and Naya will stay on the sidelines forever.
Kenji Tsumura (right) and Masami Kaneko sparring before they enter the tournament for keeps.Likewise Quentin Martin, who took a little longer to decide on his build. The deck made the English forerunner quite happy, featuring three dragons, a bunch of burn spells and a good curve. Resounding Thunder and Resounding Roar made should leave a resounding impact on his opponents.
While most of the pros spent their three byes testing their decks, like Kenji and the other Japanese contestants, German pro Jan Ruess chose a different path. He trekked back to the hotel and spent the first three rounds in the sauna and whirlpool. His opinion. “The best way to slack off three rounds.”
From the other side of the ocean, Japanese master Shuuhei Nakamura and Australian champion Aaron Nicastri have come here to try their luck at Sealed, too. Shuuhei used the opportunity to visit and enjoy Disneyland Paris. He and the other Japanese players here – among them Kenji Tsumura – will remain in Europe until Pro Tour: Berlin and test the new Shards of Alara Extended. Aaron Nicastri will to likewise, but not with the Japanese. Together with Sylvain Lauriol and Pierre Canali, he will try to get a handle on the new format.
Aaron enjoys the pro lifestyle immensely. “Just getting linked to the people makes it affordable,” says the 23-year old who quit his job to go on a world tour of Magic. His plan is to play each and every premier event between now and Worlds in Memphis, and to return to his Australian home not earlier than Christmas. “Right now, I’m staying in a room with seven French guys, three of whom speak a little English. It’s great!” His goal, besides getting to level six with a determined ascent up the Dionysian hill of professional Magic, is to inspire others to do the same: “If an Australian can do it, anyone can do it!”
Blog - Saturday, 2:41 p.m.: Two in one
Nick Sephton, green headjudge, and Riccardo Tessitori, blue headjudge, celebrate the attendance record.This Grand Prix is big enough to have been split in three instead of two. The sheer number of players already makes it a tough tournament, but what about each half? Where are the players who have the full nine points after round three more likely to meet a formidable opponent coming fresh from playtesting or the whirlpool (like Jan Ruess)?
Let’s take a look.
In the green half, players will meet the likes of Frank Karsten, Joel Calafel, Hall of Famer Raphael Levy, the Belgians Marijn Lybaert and Fried Meulders, Ruud Warmenhoven and a bunch of Germans: Daniel Gräfensteiner, Andre Müller, Sebastian Thaler and Simon Görtzen, among others.
In the blue half, players face off against Italy’s David Besso, Bernardo de Costa Cabral, William Cavaglieri, Klaus Jöns, Quentin Martin, the Ruel brothers, Jan Ruess, Roel van Heeswijk, Robert van Meedevort, Aaron Nicastri and from Japan Shuuhei Nakamura and Kenji Tsumura. While Kenji is not having the best of years (check out the podcast for the full story), he is still a force to reckon with.
Looking at the list, I have to give it to blue. While Raphael Levy weighs in heavily with his umpteenth premier event in a row and his Hall of Fame status on the green side, the assorted GP winners and National champions in the blue half tip the scales.
On the other hand, how big is the chance to meet one of these in a GP of this massive size? Quite likely, it turns out, if you have won all your matches so far. 81 players with three byes enter the blue half after round three (which is almost over), 79 of those players lower themselves in the green shark pool. If you are an amateur and you have held a clean slate so far, brace yourself for the shock of 160 professional Magic players hitting the ground running.
Podcast - Saturday, 1:52 p.m.: Big Gets Bigger
During the first three rounds of this largest of all tournaments, the pairings list just gets longer and longer as precious byes become a thing of the past, and it's time for action. We follow Belgian former Pro Bernardo da Costa Cabral into action, and also bring you a very special feature on a multimedia version of the game that looks, quite frankly, stunning. XBox and X-Pros, here at magicthegathering.com.
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Feature Match: Round 4 - Romain Lisciandro (FRA) vs Kenji Tsumura (JPN)
Round four of any Grand Prix is a real test of mettle. It’s the round where the best players in the world put their three byes aside and have to use their decks in anger for the first time, while the players without those byes may find themselves pitted against one of the legends of the game. When that happens it’s nervous for both players - the Pro knows that the player sitting opposite him has a good deck because they have been winning, while his opponent knows that the Pro is a very good player, but may not have a great sealed deck so he could be in with a chance.
This Round Four feature match was a little different, however. Facing off in the feature match area were two players with three byes each – in the blue corner was the traveling Japanese phenom, Kenji Tsumura, and his opponent for this match was the French player Romain Lisciandro. Both players would put it on the line without really knowing how good their own decks were, or the decks of their opponents!
While it was Lisciandro who started the match, it was Kenji who took to the offense. His Goblin Deathraiders tore into the attack past a Steward of Valeron to deal first blood. On the following turn a Druid of the Anima took the Deathraiders down, but Tsumura added a Viscera Dragger. As a 3/3 that was the biggest thing on the table, but for only a brief second as Lisciandro’s Woolly Thoctar arrived and loomed menacingly over the board.
Kenji cycled away a Ridge Rannet digging for answers to the Woolly Thoctar. He found nothing immediately and had to soak a turn’s damage from the 5/4, and when Lisciandro added a Naya Battlemage that would tap down anything Tsumura could beckon to his defence, it began to look shaky for the Japanese superstar. But shaky is a long way from what it was. An Infest and a Magma Spray swept away the whole of the Frenchman’s board, but left the Tsumura’s own Viscera Dragger standing! Lisciandro hit back, nuking the Viscera Dragger with a Branching Bolt, and the board was clear with Tsumura slightly ahead by 11 life to 9.
Romain Lisciandro brings death from above.Romain Lisciandro began a second assault with a Knight Captain of Eos, which threatened to trump the Goblin Deathraiders that Tsumura found. Kenji had an Executioner’s Capsule for a Rakeclaw Gargantuan that followed, and when the Knight Captain traded with the Deathraiders the table was clear of creatures yet again, this time at 8 life apiece. This was proving to be a real war of attrition, with no card remaining in play for very long between these two well-matched decks, and every point of damage hard-earned.
Hellkite Overlord, GG. It was as simple as that. Romain Lisciandro dropped the mythic rare with the big numbers 8/8 in the lower right corner into play, and Kenji had no answer to firepower of that magnitude. In a flash the first game had gone from carefully poised possibilities to a distant memory!
Romain Lisciandro 1 – 0 Kenji Tsumura
Both players began Game 2 with a Druid of the Anima, but Romain took an early lead when his Blister Beetle devoured Tsumura’s Elf before he could use it to accelerate his curve. The Frenchman extended that lead with a Sprouting Thrinax and it was rapidly becoming obvious that he had the cards to power on from his 3-0 opening record.
For his part, Kenji Tsumura was attempting to stabilise his position with removal. An Executioner's Capsule sat ready for use in play, an Oblivion Ring excised the Sprouting Thrinax without any of those thorny Saproling-generation issues, and finally a Magma Spray took care of the Frenchman’s Druid of the Anima. Goblin Deathraiders attacked and traded away with Lisciandro’s remaining Blister Beetle and again the board was clear of creatures, just as it had been so often during the first game. This time Kenji Tsumura was ahead by 17 life to 15, and he still had his Executioner’s Capsule on hand.
Can Grixis Panorama get me a Maze of Ith? No?In the first game whenever the board had cleared Romain Lisciandro had been ready with his next wave of attackers, but this time he made no play, despite having seven mana, and passed the turn! Tsumura wasted little time in rushing to take the advantage, playing a pair of Goblin Deathraiders. Although fragile they would quickly eat up his opponent’s lifetotal given the chance!
Unfortunately for Kenji it turned out that the only reason Lisciandro had made no play at seven mana was that he was holding his eight mana play. The Hellkite Overlord swept down once again in Romain’s next turn, halving Kenji’s lifetotal in one hasty attack, and a turn later eliminating him in exactly the same way that it had won the first game – in a nightmare vision of death-black wings and teeth, wreathed in flames.
Romain Lisciandro 2 – 0 Kenji Tsumura
“Sorry about that”, Romain seemed a little embarrassed by just how easily his mythic rare had carried him to the match win. Kenji smiled and tried to shrug it off, but he knew that in such a large field an early loss had made a huge dent in his hopes of making Day Two here in Paris. For Romain Lisciandro, though, his Grand Prix has got off to flying (and hasty, and firebreathing) start!
Saturday, 4:43 p.m.: Quick questions: Ooooooobelisk!
Did you know that Obelisks were stony representations of the rays of the sun god in ancient Egypt, erected to be a link between our world and the world of the gods? Neither did the players I asked how many of them they would play in Shards of Alara Limited.
How many Obelisks and Panoramas do you want in your Limited deck?
Bram SnepvangersBram Snepvangers: “A lot, in Sealed. You just play them. I haven’t had too many yet, but they need to be on-color, of course.”
Klaus JonsKlaus Jöns: “If I draft black-red Unearth, I’ll play one. If I draft five-color goodness, I’ll want three Obelisks. I try to play as few Obelisks as possible. I like the accelerating creatures better. In general, the Obelisks are card disadvantage.”
Robert van MeedevortRobert van Meedevort: “I really like five-color specials. The amount of Obelisks depends on your number of big creatures. When you draft a “small” deck, you want mostly Panoramas, though. The Druid of the Anima is good, too. I’d pick it over Obelisks any time, but not over Panoramas. Mana bases matter a lot in this format. I draft the lands really high, much like in Ravnica block.”
The Ruel BrothersAntoine & Olivier Ruel: “If you play control, you can play four, maybe five. In aggro, you play one or two. [Antoine:] The Panoramas, I can play for in any deck. [Olivier:] In aggro, if you waste your tempo on Obelisks or Panoramas, you lose. The triple lands, Crumbling Necropolis etc., are in the first five picks, Obelisks go late. [Antoine:] In the last pack we pick the Obelisks higher, since by then you know what you need. It’s all dependent on your deck.”
Feature Match: Round 4 – Marijn Lybaert (BEL) vs Mathieu Jolly (FRA)
The Belgian rising star Marijn Lybaert was to face the French stalwart Jolly. Marijn had chosen not to sleeve his cards, while Mathieu Jolly matched that with... a mulligan.
The match started off with a three lands from both players. Jolly drew the first blood with a Rip-Clan Crasher, matched with Incurable Ogre from Marijn. The Clan bashed and was soon followed by a Fleshbag Marauder, which was essentially a 3 mana Cruel Edict.
Marijn added evasion to his team with Cloudheath Drake, who was however killed by Resounding Thunder. Jolly added Goblin Deathraider to his team and passed. Marijn played nothing, but Skeletonized Rip-Clan Crasher. The Drudge Skeleton blocked the Deathraiders and regenerated. Marijn did the only right thing and charged in with the skeleton and a fresh Kederekt Creeper. Jolly, however, still had lots of game, much thanks to a Skullmulcher, which devoured a Dregscape Zombie and drew Jolly a card.
Marijn played a Bloodpyre Elemental, who immediately killed his opponents 4/4. An unearth Dregscape Zombie charged in and got a front-row seat for some nice devouring action featuring Thorn-Thrash Shaman.
The two teams stared each other down for a couple of turns, until Jolly broke the standstill with a Knight of the Skyward Eye, who was met with Hissing Iguanar. The Creeper took 2 to 14, and was followed by a Ridge Rannet.
Creeper and Rannet came in for potentially 8 points of damage, but Thorn-thrash got to block the Rannet. With damage on the stack, a cycled Resounding Wave bounced the Ridge Rannet and the Knight, AND drew it’s owner a card. Jolly went to 11 while Marijn was at 10. On his turn, Jolly replayed the knight and added another Rip-Clan Crasher to his team.
Once again, Kederekt Creeper struck yet again, though this time he was accompanied by the Hissing Iguanar. Dregscape blocked Iguanar, but Agony Warp killed Rip-Clan and made the Dregscape Zombie a 0/1. The turn after that, a Grixis Charm from Marijn made Jolly scoop up.
Marijn Lybaert 1 – Mathieu Jolly 0
Jolly kept his seven while Marijn laughed a little at his hand and chose to take a mulligan (though he sighted a lot when he peeked at his top card).
Dregscape Zombie was played and died pretty much directly thanks to Blister Beetle, which, the turn after, was followed by a Naya Battlemage. Marijn frowned and played an Incurable Ogre. Jolly attacked with the Beetle and curved out with an Obelisk of Naya into a Dregscape Zombie. The Ogre was allowed to attack, even though Jolly had a Naya Battlemage and a Plains untapped, and was blocked by the Zombie. Down again came Agony Warp, which took out both the Dregscape Zombie and the Battlemage. Quite the blow for Jolly, who only unearthed the Zombie, attacked and passed.
Both players passed for a while again, until Caldera Hellion from 1 came down as a 5/5, thanks to an unearthed Dregscape Zombie, and blew up the table. A cycled Resounding Thunder killed it off, but a Steelclad Serpent on defense together with some friends made sure that Marijn was not out of gas. The board, only a couple of turns after the Hellion made a smoking crater out of it, was Kederekt Creeper, Steelclad Serpent and a Hissing Iguanar for Marijn versus Jund Battlemage and Wild Nacatl for Jolly.
However, both of Jolly’s creatures was bounced by a cycled Resounding Wave, and in came Hissing Iguanar and Kederekt Creeper. Resounding Silence removed the Creeper from the game, and on his turn, Marijn restored his team.
Grixis Charm gave Jund Battlemage -4/-4 before it became a semi-Imperious Perfect. Oblivion Ring from Jolly took out the Steelclad Serpent, and Wild Nacatl traded with Iguanar. A Ridge Rannet for Marijn was a threat to Jolly, but a Marauding Fleshbag fixed that. Jolly played a Thorn-Thrash Viashino, and Marijn played a Oblivion Ring of his own which took care of it. Rip-clan Crasher from Jolly was met with one more Kederekt Creeper.
Only soon after, the teams was Kederekt Creeper and a Bloodpyre Elemental for Marijn against a Rip-clan Crasher and a Knight of the Skywards eye in Jolly’s corner, and life totals were 13 – 14 in favour for Marijn.
Once Again, Skullmulcher came down, but this time it drew it’s owner 2 cards and was a 5/5. Kederekt Creeper attacked for two, and Skullmulcher did the same for five. Marijn, however, was not to be worse and charged in with the team. A Resounding Thunder killed the Creeper, and Jolly continued to build with a Rip-clan Crasher and a black Scavenger Drake. Guardians of Akrasa from Marijn was at least a blocker, but not much more. The next attack took Marijn to 1, and after drawing his card for the turn, it was on to game 3.
Marijn Lybaert 1 – Mathieu Jolly 1
With ten minutes left, the players started. The situation got wore for Jolly though, as he had to take a quick trip to Paris not twice, but thrice.
Both players led off with lands, and you could tell by the speed the players, drew, tapped, played and shuffled, it was obvious that the time was running out.
A Kederekt Creeper from Marijn was killed by a Resounding Thunder from his opponent, but Marijn rebuilt with Bloodpyre Elemental and a Blood Cultist, together with a Cloudheath Drake. The 8-power team was almost matched by a Rip-Clan Crasher, which was Agony Warp-ed to death. Marijn came in with the team, which took Jolly to 6, but Jolly was not going to let go, as he played a Dregscape Zombie and a Court Archers. Marijn killed both the blockers with 2 different killing spells, and the game was over.
Marijn Lybaert 2 – Mathieu Jolly 1
Saturday, 5:15 p.m.: Feature match round 5: Fried Meulders (BEL) vs Antoine Menard (FRA)
Fried won the die roll and was up a Topan Ascetic on turn three, and both players had already cycled away a high-power creature. Drumhunter for Fried met a quick Resounding Thunder from Antoine, but the French had no other play. Fried attacked and added Wild Nacatl to his side. Antoine went to 14 and still had no play.
Akrasan Squire helped Topan Ascetic and Wild Nacatl to take Antoine to 8. Antoine had – who’d have thought it – no play. The next attack against his empty board brought Antoine to 2 life, and now he had to basically scoop a miracle from his library. “Nice,” said Antoine and scooped up his cards. Ouch.
Fried Meulders 1 – 0 Antoine Menard
Two Topan Ascetics faced off in the first couple of turns, but Antoine was ahead by a mana through Druid of the Anima. Antoine was determined to use this initial advantage and Excommunicated Fried’s Ascetic to push three damage through. Mosstodon for Antoine and Wild Nacatl plus Drumhunter for Fried upped the stakes. Antoine declared his Mosstodon for attack, and used Branching Bolt to fry Fried’s blocking Wil Nacatl and taking the Belgian to 13.
But Fried wasn’t done. Rockcaster Platoon manned his defensive ramparts and Excommunicated Antoine’s Mosstodon, who then shuffled it away with Jund Panorama. Sanctum Gargoyle came down instead to join Woolly Thoctar and an assortment of ground creatures. Fried then played Battlegrace Angel, and now Antoine was severely threatened.
This was especially apparent as the French was stuck on five lands and a Druid. It was enough for Mycoloth to Devour the useless Sanctum Gargoyle. Fried made Court Archers and threw six Exalted flying power at Antoine, taking him to 14.
Fried was drawing a card a turn with Drumhunter, and it seemed just a matter of time until Antoine would succumb. He added Mosstodon to an already full table. Again, Battlegrace Angel flew over for six, and Antoine – at 8 life now – faced death next turn, as Fried could simply hit him for another six and then activate the Rockcaster Platoon to kill his opponent. The Angel also had gained Fried a bunch of life by then, taking him up to 25. The game seemed all but over. Even Antoine’s attack with Topan Ascetic, backed up by a lot of untapped creatures, came to nothing, because Fried had Resounding Silence to remove the pesky attacker.
Antoine now was dead to one hit with the Angel, and one rock-throw from Rockcaster Platoon. But Naya Charm came to his rescue, tapping all of Fried’s creatures in his attack step. Uh-uh! Fried wasn’t dead yet, though. Antoine attacked with 21 power to Fried’s 25 life. On the backswing, Fried eliminated one of Antoine’s two remaining blockers with Magma Spray and attacked for lethal. But Antoine had Angelsong!
Fried Meulders 1 – 1 Antoine Menard
Eleven minutes left on the clock, and both players sped up their game considerably. Within 30 seconds, Fried had Woolly Thoctar and Antoine had... Court Archers. Yeah, not exactly a match. Rhox Charger provided Antoine with a defense, while Drumhunter provided Fried with card draw. Excommunicate on the Thoctar cleared the way for a five-point Exalted attack. Fried went to 15. Instead of replaying the Thoctar, he made Incurable Ogre to trade with Antoine’s Court Archers.
Antoine killed Drumhunter with Branching Bolt, leaving Fried without a board. The Belgian’s new Mosstodon fell victim to Naya Charm. Fried turned the board around again by killing Court Archers with Resounding Thunder and then finally replaying the Woolly Thoctar. Fried’s own Court Archers Exalted the Thoctar, which took Antoine to 14. The French Excommunicated it, but now Fried was gaining momentum. Woolly Thoctar came back, attacked Exaltedly and forced Antoine to double-block and try to kill it with his Topan Ascetic. When Fried had Magma Spray to keep his big guy alive (killing the second blocker), Antoine had to start chump-blocking, and went to 6 life regardless.
Even Mosstodon couldn’t save him. It traded with Thoctar, but Antoine was at 3 life and this time, he had no miraculous turn-around. Band Battlemage as his last line of defense died to Branching Bolt from Fried, and with just 50 seconds left on the clock, Fried dealt the final three damage with Court Archers.
Fried Meulders 2 – 1 Antoine Menard
Podcast - Saturday, 5:30 p.m.: Big Gets A Bit Smaller
The high point has been reached. Round Four saw the largest number of players participating in a single round anywhere, ever. Since then, they've been dropping like the proverbial, and now, at the end of Round Six, the field just looks, well, huge. With this many players, making the Top 64 in each segment of the draw is a really tough task, and has already proven beyond plenty of the best in the game, including at least one famous name from Japan. Find out who in our penultimate installment on Day One.
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Blog - Saturday, 7:27 p.m.: “Yeah, we’ll wait”
Sometimes, following the advice of a judge to the very letter can lead to unfortunate consequences. On table 235, two players who shall remain unnamed sat down and began to play round 7 immediately. Only the round hadn’t officially begun! So a judge told them to stop playing and wait.
And wait they did.
No, even more.
While all around them, the tournament continued to proceed, the two players felt they had to wait for a judge to actually permit them to begin their match. When somebody finally noticed that particular problem, the two had accrued 33 extra minutes, for no actual reason.
Still, they finished their match even before Arnand Guyon and Kenny Oberg on table 36, who also had received extra time, but for a different reason, and less of it. It just goes to show that even a single game of Magic can be a pretty prolonged affair.
Saturday, 8:14 p.m.: Feature match round 7: Olivier Ruel (FRA) vs Jean-Michel Obly (FRA)
Ruel and Obly sat down knowing that they were playing with a knife to their throats. Since both of them were X-1, whoever lost would not be playing tomorrow. This was especially hard for Ruel, since he, currently in second place in the Player of the Year race, would be dealt a serious blow. Especially with leader Shuuhei Nakamura still in contention for day two in the other half of the tournament...
Both players started of with lands into lands, but Ruel started out a little more aggressively with a Dregscape Zombie, who got in for 2 and was followed by a Hissing Iguanar. His opponent, however, stopped the charge with a first-striking Rockslide Elemental, who was followed by a Court Archer.
Blister beetle from Ruel killed the Elemental, and Ruel added a Guardians of Akrasa, who made sure that Iguanar could go in for 4. Elvish Visionary drew Obly a card, but not he did not have much business spells.
Ruel drew a Flameblast Dragon with Gift of the Gargatuan, and he proceeded with bashing for 3 with Dregscape Zombie, which met double block from Obly , which killed the Court Archers. A Mycoloth ate the Elvish Visionary and suddenly the game looked better for Obly. Then, everyone remembered Flameblast Dragon, and it was on to game 2.
Olivier Ruel 1 - 0 Jean-Michael Obly
Ruel started off with double mulligan, but still managed to produce a Incurable Ogre in round 4.
Meanwhile, Obly had a Jund Battlemage, and continued with Hissing Iguanar and a Knight of The Skyward Eye on consecutive turns. Ruel, however, had a Caldera Hellion which did its thing with the table. From five cards to a 5/5 with an empty table is not all that bad. Too bad his opponent had an Oblivion Ring to take care of it! That's how you break the basket with all the eggs in. Gift of the Gargantuan gave Obly a Rockslide Elemental and a land.
Court Archers from Obly was met with a Rhox Charger, who certainly was a potent threat. Ruel, who still had five cards despite two mulligans, chose not to attack, and his opponent safely added a Carrion Thrash to his board. The Thrash attacked, only to get removed from the game with a Resounding Silence. A Scourge Devil from Obly put Oli in a tight spot. Bloodpyre Elemental saved the current leader in the Player of the Year race.
Then, Rhox Charger charged in to the red zone, which put the life totals at 16 for Obly versus 15 for Ruel. Blister Beetle tried to kill the Rockslide Elemental, but a Sigil Blessing made sure that it would stay in play. Rhox took Obly to 12, and Ruel passed after playing a Dregscape Zombie. Rockslide Elemental attacked back, putting Oli to 11.
An Exalted Dregscape got Obly down to one digit, and he returned the favor with an all-out attack. When Rhox blocked Court archers, Obly played Sigil Blessing, and in response, Ruel wreaked havoc with Agony Warp. Ruel also had Resounding Thunder to cancel at least part of the effect of Obly's follow-up: Caldera Hellion. That way, it became just a 5-mana Wrath of God.
Obly added a Druid of the Anima to his team, and on the following turn, made a Steward of Valeron, and unearthed Scourge Devil. Druid of the Anima and the Devil attacked into Olis Capsule and a Hissing Iguanar. Olivier went to 8, spending his Capsule on the mana making Druid. Bant Charm from Ruel then put the Steward of Valeron on the bottom of Obly's library, and Hissing Iguanar came in once, twice, and thrice for the victory.
Olivier Ruel 2 - 0 Jean-Micheal Obly
Feature Match: Round 8 - Teddy Puaud (FRA) vs Tomoharu Saitou (JPN)
Hey, Tomoharu... why so serious?This Grand Prix has been characterised by how quickly the big names have fallen by the wayside. In a format where the cards are so powerful it's hard to makeup for a poor card pool, or even a poor draw. And with SO many players cutting down to a Top-64 by the end of the day a single match loss can quickly send a top players into the also-rans. Normally by now we're featuring Goliath vs Goliath matchups in a Grand Prix, but here in Paris the David's are felling the Goliaths so quickly there's not many of them left! This round one top player attempting to avoid falling behind is Tomoharu Saitou, who found himself squaring up to local boy Teddy Puaud, who had battled his way through from no byes at all.
Puaud began the more aggressively, with a pair of the Naya staples - Wild Nacatl - and a Vithian Stinger. Saitou attempted to shore up his position with a Viscera Dragger but a Resounding Roar ensured it didn't survive blocking. The only blessing that Saitou could really depend on at the beginning of the first game was that Puaud hadn't drawn a Plains, so the Wild Nacatl were only 2/2s.
Activating the Unearth on his Dragger, Saitou attacked back and then sacrificed his Zombie to a Bone Splinters that killed one of the cat warriors. Finishing off his turn, Saitou added a Deft Duelist whose Shroud and First Strike were the perfect foil to Puaud's board position of a pinger and a 2/2. Even so, Saitou was rightly worried that as soon as Puaud drew a Plains the Wild Nacatl would be a problem he couldn't solve, and he used an Infest to clear the board of all creatures on the following turn.
It was becoming obvious now that Puaud had a problem, as he was still stuck with only two colours of mana. Saitou seemed in a hurry to end the game and played a pair of Steelclad Serpents. Desperately Puaud struck one of them down with a Branching Bolt and two Vithian Stingers - one in play, one unearthed. That shut down the second Serpent as well! But only for a second, as Saitou played a Sanctum Gargoyle which was not only the artifact creature the surviving Serpent needed, but also returned that dead Serpent to hand!
Puaud finally pulled a Plains and cast his Knight Captain of Eos, but it was too late and Saitou simply barged past the tokens with his 4/5 Serpents, and a turn later Puaud was done.
Teddy Puaud 0 - 1 Tomoharu Saitou
Let's put a smile on that face!What was very interesting about that game was that both players were playing a single Shard - Puaud seemed to be Naya, and Saitou has a strong Esper deck of artifact interactions. With so many of the Pro players swearing by playing 5-colour decks of everything that was good, was it in fact the players who had been able to build strong Shard decks that were rising to the top?
Saitou began aggressively, with a second turn Deft Duelist followed by a Blister Beetle that removed Puaud's Vithian Stinger and cleared the way for the Duelist to slash her way into the red zone. Undeterred, Puaud's next turn saw him play a Vithian Stinger and 3/3 Wild Nacatl, but even that wouldn't stop the Japanese superstar's initial offense. Saitou played a Dawnray Archer, whose Exalted status boosted the Deft Duelist to a critical 3/2 First Strike, and in she came again.
Puaud found a Ranger of Eos, and that in turn found a Wild Nacatl while his Vithian Stinger laid waste to Saitou's creatures that weren't Shrouded. With all three colours of mana to call on Puaud wasn't going down as easily as he did in the first game, and Saitou's Deft Duelist finally met it's match in a Resounding Roar. Saitou was suddenly creatureless and defenceless. He could only laugh as Puaud played a third Vithian Stinger, added a Bull Cerodon, and wrapped the game up quickly to level the match.
Teddy Puaud 1 - 1 Tomoharu Saitou
Saitou spent a long time sideboarding after his Game 2 defeat but what had changed wasn't immediately clear as Game 3 began in a familiar fashion. Puaud began with a Steward of Valeron as the first creature into play, and then an Oblivion Ring to remove Saitou's Viscera Dragger before it could become a problem, or a blocker. Undeterred, Saitou simply played a second Viscera Dragger the next turn, and Puaud's offense was stalled and he could only add a Rockslide Elemental. Like all the cards which get larger as creatures die, the Rockslide is on paper an innocuous 1/1 creature for 2R which, in practice, can become a game winner quite rapidly if it's allowed to grow.
Saitou allowed it grow only the once - he played a Sanctum Gargoyle and when that had drawn out a Branching Bolt the Japanese star cast an Oblivion Ring of his own to remove the Rockslide before it buried him, and then followed up with another Sanctum Gargoyle that returned the first! This was the Esper deck as it was supposed to function, drawing great synergies from it's artifact nature.
Mosstodon from Puaud, and then a Bull Cerodon! This was the Naya deck as it was supposed to function - hideously large, brutal, and dangerous. Saitou played his first Sanctum Gargoyle for the second time, picking up his second Sanctum Gargoyle for the first time (are you keeping up with this?) then immediately sacrificed it to a Bone Splinter to kill the Mosstodon, before playing his second Sanctum Gargoyle for the second time and returning his first Sanctum Gargoyle for the third time!
Teddy Puad - a man who knows he has 3 Bull CerodonPuaud thought this was all very cute, but simply played more angry Naya beatdown and attacked. After speed-bumping the Bull Cerodon with his second Sanctum Gargoyle Tomoharu Saitou was forced to play his first Sanctum Gargoyle for the third time, and then return his second Sanctum Gargoyle for the second time and casting it for the third time.
You could almost see the Bull Cerodon snort contemptuously at the desperate thrashings of the Esper deck. The Naya deck surged into the red zone once again, Saitou desperately hurled his gargoyles under the hooves of the Cerodon but that was the Japanese player all out of options, all out of Gargoyles, and a turn later he was all out of lifepoints.
Teddy Puaud 2 - 1 Tomoharu Saitou
"Your deck is crazy!" was the best that Tomoharu Saitou could come up with to describe the brutal mauling he had just received. Puaud could only agree, beaming with obvious pride at having had the chance to play against, and beat, one of the best players in the world.
"I know! I have three... three Vithian Stinger. And three Bull Cerodon!" he said, riffling through his deck, "I'm so glad I got to play against you"
Saitou's summary sounds like an accurate call - Puaud's deck really IS crazy, and that's carried him undefeated through eight rounds and into Day Two, while Tomoharu Saitou must fight on and hope his chance hasn't just been left in the dust under the Cerodon's hooves.
Saturday, 8:23 p.m.: Feature match round 8: Henk van der Vaart (NLD) vs Wim Vanrie (BEL)
You wouldn't necessarily recognize these two names, but they have played themselves to table one of this massive affair. And that's an achievement one simply has to acknowledge. Of note is that Wim Vanrie has not dropped a single game all tournament yet!
But maybe this would be the one. Both players developed their mana bases without any trouble, but Henk came out ahead after the first couple of turns, curving into a Rakeclaw Gargantuan and showing both Resounding Silence and Branching Bolt to diminish Wim's defense, mainly consisting of a quickly deceased Mosstodon.
Wim struck back with Branching Bolt of his own, and the big Rakeclaw had to bite the Jund dust it came from. Soul's Fire destroyed Henk's Knight of the Skyward Eye, and he was left with just a Vithian Stinger. Wim added Rakeclaw Gargantuan to his Drumhunter. While Henk had Algae Gharial, it was no threat yet.
Resounding Roar traded with Resounding Roar, and both players continued to play at breakneck pace. Henk made Woolly Thoctar, Wim had Oblivion Ring for it. While Henks's Gharial had grown to 5/5, he was no match against Wim's overwhelming offense bolstered by Exuberant Firestoker.
Henk van der Vaart 0 - 1 Wim Vanrie
That win put Wim Vanrie at a 15-0 games won in a row. With another one, he'd be the first player to secure a day two appearance, as an 8-0 record would provide just the ticket he'd need.
Both players kept their hands and set off at the same pace where they had left off. Henk opened with Vithian Stinger, Wim had Gift of the Gargantuan to get Qasali Ambusher. Algae Gharial promised to go well with Henk's Stinger, but he just shrugged when Wim presented Welkin Guide to attack him for six flying damage, and three more from an Unearthed Viscera Dagger. Resounding Thunder took care of the flier, and Henk's Gharial grew by one.
Henk played one of the more popular cards this weekend, a Mosstodon. All Wim had was the Qasali Ambusher, but he also drew Branching Bolt against the Mosstodon. His only problem was that Henk's Gharial kept growing, and he would eventually have to kill it before it became to big to handle.
Henk van der Vaart 1 - 1 Wim Vanrie
Wim had cycled a handful of cards in that last game, the first one that he had lost all day, but it didn't help him in the end. It was a certain indicator, though, that he wouldn't have to worry about the consistency of his deck's performance. And sure enough, he began game 3 by cycling Ridge Rannet.
Henk had the better opening, with a turn 3 Woolly Thoctar. Wim answered impressively, bringing in two Qasali Ambushers via their special ability to block the Thoctar dead.
Both players were stable on their mana bases, neither one having shown an Obelisk yet, by the way. Henk got his fixing through Panoramas, Wim relied on massive amounts of cycling. Rakeclaw Gargantuan took five from Wim's life total, to 13, and Exuberant Firestoker kept helping. Resounding Silence from Henk removed Wim's leftover Qasali Ambusher.
A defense of just Drumhunter and Akrasan Squire left Wim no choice but to chump block with the Squire, while Henk had Rakeclaw Gargantuan, Woolly Thoctar, Exuberant Firestoker and Hissing Iguanar. Wim was under pressure. He tried Mosstodon to at least draw a card from Drumhunter. But Henk pointed Soul's Fire on it before Wim's end of turn, and he realized that he was dead, and his win streak ended.
Henk van der Vaart 2 - 1 Wim Vanrie
Saturday, 10:44 p.m.: Round 9 round-up - Blue half
We're right in front of Disneyland, so it's only appropriate that a Micky is on top!"Congrats to those who'll make it, I guess!" Aaron Nicastri summed it up perfectly when he slunk through the hall. The amicable Australian finished his tournament in 74th place on 21 points, one win or even a draw shy of actually getting into day two. He had already acknowledged that the tournament was really tough on the players, with a 7-2 record carrying just 19 players of 64 through to the next day. 40 others on 21 points didn't make it.
Due to sheer numbers, players couldn't afford to slip. As Englishman Quentin Martin so elaborately put it, "People do not realize how critical just one mistake in Magic is." Obviously, he did realize that himself, for 24 points brought him safely to a Sunday appearance. He was joined after round 9 by a handful of known names - Robert van Meedevort, Nico Bohny, Antoine Ruel, Amiel Tenenbaum, and Olivier Ruel to name most of them. Olivier got in as 62nd place on tiebreakers. This was crucial, because his closest adversary in the Player of the Year race, Shuuhei Nakamura, also made it.
The Japanese master delivered Klaus Jöns a Cruel Ultimatum.Shuuhei brutalized Klaus Jöns in round 9, in three games that you can relive for yourself through listening to the audio coverage from the last three rounds. Suffice to say that Shuuhei did, in fact, cast Cruel Ultimatum and showed off the devastating power that thing oozes in spades. Still, both Shuuhei and Klaus Jöns made day two. For Shuuhei, the three points may make the difference tomorrow, when he and Olivier run their own personal race to the top.
One last thing to mention here: Menno Dolstra of the Netherlands has a "PGW" - that's percentage of games won" - of 100.0000 %. Of course, he was aided by his one bye, but still: He racked up 16 game wins in a row, a perfect record on all counts.
We'll kick off tomorrow with the new Shards of Alara draft format. Until then, here are the undefeated decklists for you to peruse.
Podcast - Saturday, 11:30 p.m.: Big Sealed becomes Big Draft
With the largest tournament in Magic history, it figures that the final Day One standings represent the largest player cull in Magic history too, and from 1839 we drop to 128 for Sunday Draft action. With big names jockeying for position in the final rounds, we bring you commentary on a tremendous match between German Klaus Joens and Japan's Shuuhei Nakamura, plus all the news from the frantic final rounds. Join us tomorrow for Shards Of Alara in Draft action.
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Saturday, 11:00 p.m.: Round 9 feature match: Sebastian Thaler (GER) vs Alex Yatsenko (RUS)
This one was an elimination match for Top 64. The winner would go on to play in day two, the loser would go home with 19 points to his name and nothing else to show.
Thaler started off with a mulligan to five, while his opponent started off a little better with Executioner's Capsule into Druid of the Anima. Thaler had a Druid of his own, but it got killed by the Capsule. On his turn, Yatsenko made a Courier's Capsule, which he sacrificed on the following turn. He made a Court Archers and passed.
Archers attacked, and Yatsenko played a Sanctum Gargoyle, which gave him back the Executioner's Capsule. Thaler Branching Bolted the Gargoyle and the Court Archers, only to find out that the Archers were 2/4, thanks to Exalted. Yatsenko made Rafiq of the Many and attacked for 4. Thaler drew his card and scooped up.
Sebastian Thaler 0 - 1 Alex Yatsenko
Yatsenko once again kicked off with a Capsule on turn one. After that, the players only drew and played lands, until Thaler made a big bad Sprouting Thrinax, which immediately got Resounding Thunder'ed by Yatsenko. Thaler attacker with his three tokens on consecutive turns, and made a Cloudheath Drake, which got Executed.
On his turn, Thaler scryed some with Gift of the Gargatuan for, unfortunately, just a Forest. He then played Hissing Iguanar, but at the end of the turn, Yatsenko played a Jund Charm which took out Thaler's team. Thaler shrugged and brought forth Spearbreaker Behemoth, which drew a long sigh from Yatsenko. Things did not get exactly better for him when Thaler attacked and added a basically indestructible Cavern Thoctar. This time it was Yatsenko's turn to draw his card and pack up his cards.
Sebastian Thaler 1 - 1 Alex Yatsenko
Thaler led off game 3 with turn two Druid of the Anima and turn three Sprouting Thrinax. Thaler then curved out nicely with an Obelisk of Grixis into a Gift of the Gargantuan, which gave him a Plains and a Vithian Stinger. Yatsenko would however not go down without a fight, and played Rafiq of the Many.
Yatsenko charged with Thrinax, and curved out again with another Obelisk of Grixis into Cloudheath Drake. Rafiq went in for 8, and Yatsenko proceeded with playing a Knight of the Skyward Eye and a Skeletonize.... which he didn't have mana for. So that play had to be reversed, and Yatsenko shipped the turn.
On his turn, Thaler adjusted the life totals at 10 for Yatsenko and 12 for himself by attacking with Cloudheath Drake. He then hat both Vithian Stinger and Cavern Thoctar, which gave him a strong board, but no cards in hand, and left him tapped out.
Yatsenko had no fear of any tricks - very justified in this situation - and charged in with the 3/3 double-striking Knight of the Skyward Eye, which got blocked by the Sprouting Thrinax. He then Skeletonized the Drake (this time with all the mana available), and passed the turn.
Yatsenko thought for a long while and played Obelisk of Grixis for himself, without attacking. Thaler took out the Druid of the Anima on his turn with Vithian Stinger, and attacked with Cavern Thoctar. That got blocked by Knight of the Skyward Eye, which Thaler killed with Branching Bolt before it could get any bigger.
Yatsenko played a mainphase three-mana Pyroclasm in Jund Charm,which took out Thaler's table save the lone Cavern Thoctar. That one got subsequently slaughtered by Agony Warp. Rafiq went in for 8, and on his turn, Thaler could not do much but play a Drumhunter. Rafiq attacked, Drumhunter chumped, but that was not enough for former Rookie of the Year Sebastian Thaler to get him a day two slot.
Sebastian Thaler 1 - 2 Alex Yatsenko
Sunday, 12.13a.m.: Can we go to bed, now?
Can we go to bed now? Now? How about now?At 11.24 p.m., the final game of the first day of Grand Prix-Paris was finished, in the fifth extra turn, under the watchful eye of four judges and three coverage reporters who all wanted to go home to bed. For all concerned, this has been a long and tough, tough day.
Hanno has summed up the blue half of the tournament for you already, and although it wound up running nearly an hour behind the green half of the tournament has been very little different. It's a story of the few players you would know who are still in the event, rather than the few who were knocked out. Still standing is Andre Mueller, Thomas Didierjean, Christophe Huber, Gaetan Lefebvre, Marijn Lybaert, Raphael Levy, and Matthias Kunzler. That would make for a fantastic Top-8, but in truth those 8 players are lost amid a horde of relative newcomers who have carved up the field with their sealed decks.
I lost hours ago, can I go to bed now?The final battles of the players 'on the bubble' in round nine were punctuated by the cheers and high-fives of the winners, and the scowls and cries of despair of the losers. For one winner, moving to an 8-1 record, his win was greeted by a kiss from the judge who picked up his results slip- because it was his girlfriend, here as part of the judge staff. For one loser, it was disgust that his deck had failed at the final hurdle.
Particularly striking was the sight of four of the greatest players in the world, all Japanese, stood disconsolately in a circle - none of them having made it as far as day two. Kenji Tsumura had fallen as early as round four with his sealed pool simply not proving good enough, while Tomoharu Saitou had been in contention until as late as 3 minutes from the end of the final round. At 1-1 in games, Saitou kept a hand that he hoped would give him a chance of a quick win and stalled on two land, while his opponent exploded with a Deft Duelist, and Exalted creature, and then Rafiq of the Many to sweep the Japanese star up in one of the quickest games we've seen all day.
I think I just lost. NOW we can go to bed.So, who do we have? Undefeated, on 9-0, are Pierre Rensonnet and Niels Noorlander from the Netherlands, and Simon Gortzen from Germany. Although none of these players are household names they all began the tournament with three byes, which makes the performance of Teddy Puaud, fourth, all the more amazing. Puaud began the day with NO byes, and has won eight of his rounds, and drawn one. Undefeated, having played in all nine rounds, Teddy Puaud's record is the most astonishing in the green half of the tournament.
That's what it takes to go undefeated in a 1,839 player field!
And now I'm going to bed. Night!