Welcome to Grand Prix Hannover 2009!
Here in Hannover, Germany we have 923 players ready to compete in a well-tested Extended format. The last time we were in Germany for Extended was Pro Tour Berlin, and while the Big Green Menace of Elves which emerged at that Pro Tour has proven smaller and less menacing than first looks suggested, there are a lot of exciting decks in the format.
While a lot of players have been seen shuffling up variations on the faerie wizards deck, which has secured many a blue envelope in the PTQ Honolulu season, there is definitely variation to be had. Player of Year Shuhei Nakamura was in the unorthodox position of rolling a dice to pick between two good options for the day, and master deck builder Manuel Bucher could be heard proclaiming the merits of the Elf deck given current metagame swings.
One thing is for certain – at the end of a PTQ season we can expect to see a lot of highly tuned decks and highly skilled play this weekend. Stay tuned for all the action here in Hannover with Tobi Henke, Rich Hagon, and Tim Willoughby, right here on magicthegathering.com!
We are still in the early stages of
by Rich HagonPodcast:At The Halfway Mark
by Tim WilloughbyFeature Match: Round 9: Make Space on the FridgeMatteo Orsini-Jones vs Marco Orsini-Jones
by Tobias HenkeFeature Match: Round 9Olivier Ruel vs. Carsten Schäfer
by Tim WilloughbyFeature Match: Round 8: Big FinishesWilliam Cavaglieri vs Remi Fortier
by Tobias HenkeSaturday, 6:40 p.m.The Dark Knight Returns
by Tobias HenkeFeature Match: Round 7Kenny Öberg vs. Robert van Meedevort
by Rich HagonPodcast:Extending, and Contracting
by Tim WilloughbyFeature Match: Round 6: Monkey, Monkey, Monkey, Monkey, Stop That!Tomoharu Saito vs Robert van Medevoort
by Tobias HenkeFeature Match Round 5:Manuel Bucher vs. Brian Kowal
by Tim WilloughbySaturday, 1:00 p.m.A Thousand 'Thank You's
by Tim WilloughbyFeature Match Round 4: Engines of DestructionMartin Juza vs Florian Pils
by Tobias HenkeFeature Match Round 4:Kenny Öberg vs. Philipp Summereder
by Rich HagonPodcast:Germany Extends A Welcome
by Tim WilloughbySaturday, 12:45 p.m.The Men (and Women) In Black
by Tim WilloughbySaturday, 12:25 p.m.Single card strategies
by Tobias HenkeSaturday, 11:20 a.m.Quick Questions
by Tim WilloughbySaturday, 9:57 a.m.'So what city are we in?'
by Tim WilloughbySaturday, 9:45 a.m.Rumours of Tim's gangsterhood are greatly exaggerated
by Wizards of the CoastSaturday, 9:00 a.m.Important Notice about Prizes
by Event Coverage StaffInfo: Fact Sheet
Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – Important Notice about Prizes
Local authorities in Hanover requested that Wizards of the Coast cease paying cash prizes at Grand Prix-Hanover, and we are complying with this request. The top 64 competitors will instead receive credit for goods from Wizards of the Coast and/or our partners. In addition, we are reducing the entry fee to €15. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by this change.
Saturday, 9:45 a.m. – Rumours of Tim's gangsterhood are greatly exaggerated
Play the game, see the world they said. Between various coverage gigs, I've definitely had my fair share of travel. My passport is now hilariously devoid of markings on the outside, which proves a constant source of amusement to me, as customs officials play the game of trying to work out where I'm from as I walk up to have my passport checked. On top of that I tend to have more currencies in my wallet at any given time than just about anyone I'm talking to.
Thinking of currency, this GP I am running entirely off coinage. Between Grand Prix, Pro Tours and even the occasional entirely non-Magical jaunt into Europe, I had gradually accumulated quite a hefty pile of coins which couldn't easily be changed upon my return. For this event, they are all in my pocket, and they are all going to be spent. If you see my jeans hanging low in any coverage photos, it's not because I'm a gangster yo.
Saturday, 9:57 a.m. – 'So what city are we in?'
Last night I went out for food with fellow European event coverage luminaries Tobi Henke, Rich Hagon and Hanno Terbuyken. Between us we have a dickety of events under our belts (exactly what dickety means has yet to be worked out in raw numbers), and we somehow ended up in an American diner (with staff trained to act 'in an American fashion') , celebrating St Patrick's Day week, while talking all things Germany.
For example, did you know that German escalators go both ways, and when nobody's on them they just stop? If you happened to be out on the town in Germany looking for ways to game this, you could jump over the sensor at the bottom of the escalator, run up it, then trigger the sensor at the top, and watch your hapless colleagues trying to get up an escalator that was suddenly going in the wrong direction. I didn't do this at all... honest.
One area that I want to pre-emptively address to cover our collective backs for the weekend. Most German cities have a different spelling in German to that which is used outside of Germany. Cologne is called Köln, which is different enough to be easy to remember. Hanover though, is Hannover. Somewhere, while travelling across the border, we dropped an 'n', presumably due to weight concerns.
In coverage of this event, you might find that we refer to the city we are in with slightly different spellings, reflecting our own heritages. Additionally, I'll still be spelling colour in the way that Queen Victoria would have sanctioned. She, incidentally, was of the house of Hanover. Somehow we have come full circle.
Saturday, 11:20 a.m. – Quick Questions
Name: Marijn Lybaert
What do you think will be the most played deck this weekend?
No, I don't think it will be Faeries. Zoo, I'd say.
What is the best deck?
How do you feel about your chances?
Name: Robert van Meedevort
What do you think will be the most played deck this weekend?
Faeries or Zoo.
What is the best deck?
How do you feel about your chances?
Yeah, I'm confident. I really like my deck.
Name: Raphael Levy
What do you think will be the most played deck this weekend?
Naya Burn... No, really I don't know.
What is the best deck?
How do you feel about your chances?
Seeing as I can only either win or not win the tournament, chances for that should be about fifty-fifty, eh?
Saturday, 12:25 p.m. – Single card strategies
We are still in the early stages of GP Hannover, with players furiously battling at the end of round one, but we've already seen a few interesting card choices that we just couldn't wait to tell you about. Conveniently, the judges doing deck checks have to run right past my coverage cubby hole to be able to check out some of the wackier cards that have shown up on Gatherer – the best possible resource for all single card information.
The first of these is Brooding Saurian. A 4/4 for four, the Saurion was never a standout of Coldsnap, but its ability proves to be a helpful addition against the very popular Faeries decks. Their classic response to monsters is theft. Between Vedalken Shackles, Sower of Temptation and Threads of Disloyalty, blue decks have a good chance of being able to blunt many an attack by appropriating the attackers to the other side of the board. Brooding Saurion though, does not tolerate theft. He is a monster ready to tackle any blue deck that is looking to pull anything sneaky.
Tobi Henke has already tracked down another Coldsnap rare that is doing the rounds – Haakon, Stromgald Scourge. The number of synergies going on in that Loam deck variant are so expansive that we'll have a full write up later, but rest assured it is pretty exciting.
Another notable at this point is Proclamation of Rebirth getting wider outings than just in mono-white control. There are some more zoo like decks that are trying it out as a long game threat if they can't quite get in the damage they need early.
After having shown its worth in Kyoto two weeks ago, Ancient Ziggurat is powering its way into Extended too, being played in all sorts of aggro decks, including one plucky player bashing with Slivers.
Finally, looking to get the 'I got killed by Progenitus' club numbers up, I also saw a very intriguing blue white control deck, sporting Proteus Staff along with various token generators in order to be able to sneak the game ender into play by virtue of the fact it is the only creature in the deck. By only having one creature in there, the control player also gets the opportunity to stack their deck. None too shabby!
Saturday, 12:45 p.m. – The Men (and Women) In Black
You have probably seen the new judge shirt before, on the coverage of Pro Tour Kyoto, for example. Still, this weekend the black shirt has finally made it to Grand Prix action. Also, it so cool, I'm going to use any excuse I can get away with, to show it once again...
Judging from all the smiling faces, these judges sure are happy about the new dress code.
Attached to that picture there are some funny stories as well. Like the one about the player who apparently got used to having Sensei's Divining Top's ability at his disposal so much that in a game today he dreamily paid one mana and looked at the top three cards of his library... although, of course, there was no Sensei's Divining Top in play, or in his deck, or even in the whole tournament!
Also, there has been more trouble than usual with dredge: When you have two cards with the dredge ability in your graveyard, you should communicate clearly which card you want to get back before starting to mill yourself. Just proclaiming "dredge", luckily putting three lands from the top of your library into your graveyard, and then deciding whether you want to get back Darkblast or, let's say, Life from the Loam... well, that's not actually a good idea.
And here's the story of a player who wanted to kill one of his opponent's elfs really badly... and managed to do it badly, too. First, he played Darkblast on the poor Heritage Druid. When his opponent responded with Pendelhaven's ability, he then wanted to get back the Darkblast by means of cycling Tranquil Thicket, and still replay it in response to the impending +1/+2. Alas, that is not possible. Unperturbed, the player went on to do it anyway, leaving his opponent with a 0/1 Heritage Druid...
Podcast: Germany Extends A Welcome
The latest stop on the Grand Prix circuit finds us in Hannover, with Extended the Format for the 925 players looking to navigate their way through a sea of Zoo, TEPS, Tezzerator, Faeries and more. We preview all the weekend action, go online with Manuel Bucher as he shows us his deck in action, and meet up with a first-time Top 8er from Pro Tour Kyoto.
Feature Match: Round 4 – Kenny Öberg vs. Philipp Summereder
“Did you have any time to test?” Philipp Summereder inquired. “No, not really. Last week I didn’t even know I was going,” said Kenny Öberg and shrugged. This Swedish top player is best known for the creation of Tezzerator.
“Yeah, me neither,” replied the Austrian Summereder who was known to Öberg as an advocate of the Dredge deck. “So I guess, we know what each other is playing, don’t we?”
Turns out, Summereder was bluffing and switched to Storm Combo, while Öberg did indeed stick to his trademark deck. Summereder started off with Ponder and a suspended Lotus Bloom, but Öberg dropped Chalice of the Void without charge counters, but nevertheless well in charge of countering Lotuses.
Not much else happened over the next turns. Öberg played Trinket Mage and attacked a few times, while Summereder was stuck on three lands. Around turn nine Summereder made one attempt at his combo, with Rite of Flame and Seething Song, but Öberg stopped it dead with Cryptic Command. The Trinket Mage attacked some more, and a second Chalice of the Void ended the game.
Kenny Öberg 1 – 0 Philipp Summereder
The between-game procedure was filled with Summereder lamenting his misfortune: “Chalice of the Void maindeck, and now probably even Trinisphere. No, for my first round of the tournament I really didn’t want to get this match-up of all decks.”
This time Summereder had lands, and even Dreadship Reef, to be able to surpass Öberg’s countermagic, but Öberg had more in store:
Summereder just shook his head... then shook his opponent’s hand. “No, I probably cannot ever win this match-up.”
Kenny Öberg 2 – 0 Philipp Summereder
Feature Match: Round 4 – Engines of Destruction: Martin Juza vs Florian Pils
Juza and Pils eased into the feature match area in round 4 ready to partake in their first match of the day – the joy of having 3 byes not lost on either player.
Juza led with a suspended Ancestral Vision, and was met by a Treetop Village on the other side of the board from Pils, who soon had a rather unexciting Tarmogoyf hit by Spell Snare from Juza, who is experiencing a very hot streak of play of late. Knight of the Reliquary was the next try from Pils, but a Mana Leak continued the stream of counterspells from Juza. A draw step Vendilion Clique gave Pils his first opportunity to resolve a spell in the match, but not before he had had a stripped Life FFrom the Loam from a hand of 2 Slaughter Pact, 2 Darkblast, Life From the Loam and Putrefy.
The new card that Pils got was an Umezawa’s Jitte, which immediately got played, potentially a threat if he could start equipping it. Threats kept coming off the top for Pils, who had a second Knight of the Reliquary, which successfully made it into play. All the while Juza was reloading with first his Ancestral Vision and then a Thirst for Knowledge, which finally afforded him his 4th land.
At 3/3 Knight of the Reliquary looked pretty hefty, and that was before it began wielding a Jitte, prompting Juza to off the powerful equipment with a copy of his own. Pils shrugged, he still had plenty of game, and used his turn to play another Knight, before swinging with the first. Juza had an end of turn Spellstutter Sprite, but little more.
The race wasn’t working for Juza, who was well down on threats on board, and had seemingly little action in spite of being up on cards. That full grip of seven got hit by a Raven’s Crime, forcing a Spell Snare into Juza’s graveyard. The retrace on Raven’s Crime had the potential to make those knights dangerously big at speed, and Juza looked on passively, as he took more hits.
Vendilion Clique number 2 from Juza just had to go to work on the Czech’s own hand at end of turn, while Pils traded in a Plains for a rather more exciting Bloodstained Mire into Godless Shrine. In one activation, his knights had gone up to 5/5, and he had the black mana he required to be able to Darkblast the Clique before Juza could untap.
A dredge on Darkblast from Pils made those knights still bigger, putting a pair of cycling lands in the graveyard. Juza was on 12, and facing a pair of 7/7 monsters he was forced to block the inevitable attacks with his Spellstutter Sprite. Vendilion Clique tried to help out Juza’s hand and did so in finding the Breeding Pool to allow an Engineered Explosives for 3, clearing the board.
Juza was at just 3 thanks to damage from Breeding Pool, and while he got to crack back with Mutavault, he remained in bad shape. A Path to Exile took the Mutavault out of the game, netting an Island in return. When Pils tried a Tarmogoyf on his turn, an animated Mutavault plus Spellstutter Sprite forced a Slaughter Pact from Pils, in a desperate effort to land a monster. Pils looked on at the one mana untapped, clearly worrying about Spell Snare.
What Pils hadn’t an answer to though was a Venser, Shaper Savant, who came down the following turn to bounce one of only 3 land on Pils’ side of the board, making that Slaughter Pact lethal. In slightly irregular fashion, Juza had taken the first game.
Martin Juza 1 – 0 Florian Pils
Pils started in the second game, but it was Juza who had the first action, suspending Ancestral Vision on turn one with a smirk.
“Always!” he remarked with a nod to the amused crowd.
A Jitte inconspicuously made its way onto the board for Pils, who had been able to do a little early cycling, and had the potential to manage even more with a Life From the Loam. It was hit by Spell Snare on the first occasion, but would assuredly be back for future mischief. When it got dredged soon after, it took a Spellstutter Sprite plus Mutavault to stop it. Juza had not the mana to be able to stop the second.
Juza’s card drawing engine only had two gears, stopped and roaring at speed. Ancestral Vision kept him in the card drawing race, and with Pils tapped out, a Relic of Progenitus was good to keep Life From the Loam from being too much of a concern. Vendilion Clique came out, and got hit by Darkblast, but still took a Raven’s Crime from a hand also containing Putrefy, Treetop Village and 3 cycling lands. The Darkblast was soon dredged back with one of those cycling lands, before Pils revealed that he had drawn into another Raven’s Crime! The sorcery soon went to work on Juza’s hand, aided by all the lands in Pils’ grip.
Remember that engine of Juza’s though, with Future Sight it was plenty fast enough, and safe from discard up to a point. A third Life From the Loam kept Pils hand stocked and soon meant that Juza’s was reduced to the Spellstutter Sprite on top of his deck. Following a draw, Venser showed his face on Juza’s deck – an exciting development given that Riptide Lab was around for Juza. At the end of Pils’ turn, Juza flipped Venser into play. He drew the Island underneath it for his turn, before playing Mutavault off the top, and seeing Glen Elendra Archmage. The Archmage too got played, and Juza resigned himself to being the beatdown, knocking Pils to 10. There was an Ancestral Vision on top of Juza’s deck, sat waiting to be suspended the following turn, and the Czech player left it there with a smirk.
Pils had a lot of damage to deal to stay in the race, but a colossal Knight of the Reliquary looked apt to do it. A Ghost Quarter from Pils took out Riptide lab, and only made the knight larger – 10/10 before any shenanigans. Juza used a Jitte to clear out his opponent’s one, and chuckled as he saw a second on top of his deck. He swung Pils down to two with his army and passed. Juza’s Mutavaults and Future Sight had been quietly doing the job while Pils Life From the Loam plan had been resulting in lots of operations, but little in the way of actually delivering the beatdown.
Juza had plenty of blockers for Knight of the Reliquary, and with time running tight, things looked tough for Pils who really needed to break through. Frantic dredging didn’t help Pils, and as soon as he heard time called, he extended his hand.
Martin Juza wins 2 – 0!
A Thousand ‘Thank You’s
Antoine Ruel is a happy fellow this weekend. His Invitational card, Ranger of Eos, while initially looking a marginal card choice for many players, has proven itself in almost every format. There are players here today using ‘Antoine’ to improve either their Elves decks or their Zoo decks, and he has also been an integral part of Boat Brew and even an innovative Legacy creation merging blue control and zoo beatdown.
“I feel like I got really lucky that Figure of Destiny got printed. I was also lucky that Figure of Destiny is red, and helped make red good, meaning that Burrenton Forge-Tender is being played in maindecks.”
Antoine’s luck didn’t end there though. This weekend, the artist who immortalised him on a card, Volkan Baga is in attendance signing cards and doing sketches. Volkan has proven popular with the crowds here in Germany, signing a fair number of copies of Ranger of Eos, but also such hits as Elspeth, Knight Errant.
While Antoine had been painted in oils by Volkan, the talented German artist who had worked in Donato Giancola’s studio before starting on Magic cards of his own, Ruel had never met the artist, instead having provided a whole range of photos for Baga to work from. Clearly a photo opportunity had to be set up, and Antoine seemed very happy to be able to thank Baga in person for having done such a good job. While the original artwork had already been sold, Antoine picked up a print, suggesting that having had a painting of himself in his house would probably have been a little self indulgent anyway.
There was one other set of people that Antoine wanted to thank for how Ranger of Eos turned out (well, after his parents who he, as tradition dictates, thanks for everything). Antoine was keen to thank the judging community as a whole. In order for Ranger of Eos to be made at all, Antoine had to win the Magic Invitational, and he only got there at all on the vote from the judging community.
Playing a deck that he’d received from no less than Player of the Year Shuhei Nakamura, Ruel is all smiles this weekend, in spite of having to crack packs earlier in the day looking for the commons he needed to complete his deck. Want to know which ones? You’ll have to keep watching the coverage – they were certainly not a card I’d have expected.
Feature Match: Round 5 – Manuel Bucher vs. Brian Kowal
This is the second round of actual play for both players, both players are unedefeated, and both players are running a version of Faeries.
Bucher went first and had the first action with Spellstutter Sprite at the end of Kowal’s second turn. Mighty one-point-of-damage ensued. Meanwhile Bucher missed land drops on turn five an seven.
Bucher tried to further his offenses with Vendilion Clique, which Kowal countered with Spellstutter Sprite (thanks to his two Mutavaults). Kowal then had Vendilion Clique of his own and the two Sprites traded. Next up was Venser, Shaper Savant for Kowal and Vendilion Clique for Bucher. Once again the board was nearly devoid of creatures, except for Kowal’s Venser. Both players did have Mutavault though, so Venser wouldn’t dare to attack, especially since Bucher had the advantage on Riptide Laboratory. He apparently drew all three of them, while Kowal had none at all. But his specialty land, Academy Ruins, proved to be crucial as soon as he drew Umezawa’s Jitte.
The Swiss fought back valiantly, though. Mutavaults traded and finally Bucher’s Sower of Temptation managed to steal away Kowal’s last creature. Kowal now had Riptide Laboratory as well, so the game entered an interesting phase: Kowal would cast Glen Elendra Archmage every turn, while Bucher would bounce and recast his Sower of Temptation, prompting Kowal to return the Archmage with his own Laoboratory. Creature, creature, bounce, bounce over and over again.
Bucher tried to put a stop to that charade with Vedalken Shackles, but Kowal had Engineered Explosives to even out things. All the while, though, while no one was getting ahead on the board, Bucher in fact already was. He had sneaked one Spellstutter Sprite into play which attacked for about ten turns to set the score at...
Manuel Bucher 1 – 0 Brian Kowal
Game 2 started with 16 minutes left on the clock. Kowal played first and had Steam Vents (tapped) as his first land. That left Bucher free to play a first-turn Umezawa’s Jitte off an Chrome Mox. The potential lethal piece of equipment was neutralized by one of Kowal’s own Jittes. Bucher’s turn two saw him summon Vendilion Clique, but Kowal topdecked Vendilion Clique. All legends must die...
Finally, Bucher managed to resolve Vendilion Clique and one Spellstutter Sprite, which gave him an air force, while Kowal was stuck with Venser, Shaper Savant. Under pressure Kowal ambushed the Vendilion Clique with Spellstutter Sprite, but that left an opening for Bucher to resolve Vedalken Shackles. Venser, Shaper Savant was bounced and replayed on Kowal’s side, and temporarily took out the Shackles. Venser made an appearance on Bucher’s side, too, but only briefly.
When Vedalken Shackles made it back to play, things soon went awry for Kowal. With the thieving artifact on the table, he was in no position to muster a defense.
Manuel Bucher 2 – 0 Brian Kowal
Feature Match: Round 6 – Monkey, Monkey, Monkey, Monkey, Stop That!: Tomoharu Saito vs Robert van Medevoort
I really wanted to start the coverage of this match with the line ‘one shall stand, one shall fall’, as both Saito and van Medevoort are currently running undefeated here in Hannover. However, this seems a little harsh as Robert is currently nursing a broken foot, and on crutches, he has to be the more likely one to end up off his feet.
Robert was on the back foot off a turn one fetchland into Mogg Fanatic from Saito, who entered the red zone the very next turn before an Umezawa’s Jitte came along. Van Medevoort had a Spell Snare for the legendary equipment, but no answer to a Wooly Thoctar from Saito, that threatened to make the first game a quick one.
Saitos swings took Robert to 12, but he seemed unconcerned, sitting back on his Island, Mutavault, River of Tears board. He had a Spell Snare for Tarmogoyf, and seemed happy that Saito was down to just 2 cards. Van Medevoort played a second Mutavault and passed.
The action came when Saito tried to swing in again. Venser, Shaper Savant bounced Wooly Thoctar and blocked (to ultimately trade with) Mogg Fanatic. Robert had bought a turn, but soon saw the monster come back down, joined by a Wild Nacatl. Van Medevoort clearly had no plays for his turn, but did have a Vendilion Clique when Saito attacked. It went for Saito’s hand, and saw Isamaru, Hound of Konda and Volcanic Fallout. The uncounterable burn got taken away, and the Clique traded with Wild Nacatl.
Spellstutter Sprite from Robert held off Isamaru, but Saito smiled and just played a second to replace the one countered. Thanks Vendilion Clique! Robert had an Ancestral Vision to suspend on his turn, hoping to have enough time for it to count.
It counted in one way the very next turn. Due to having suspended it, Robert was mana shy of being able to activate both his Mutavaults, and be able to use a Riptide Lab. Saito killed off Spellstutter Sprite with Mogg Fanatic, and forced a double trade of Mutavaults with Wooly Thoctar. Each player was in topdeck mode, and it seemed that Robert had the early advantage, in drawing a Spellstutter Sprite that he could use to block and bounce, before drawing Umezawa’s Jitte. Saito, meanwhile, was stockpiling cards in hand. He attacked van Medevoort down to three, and cast a Seal of Fire. This was stopped by Spellstutter Sprite (the little faerie that could do everything), but with the Sprite on the stack, Saito had Lightning Helix to finish things.
Tomoharu Saito 1 – 0 Robert van Medevoort
Both players kept in the second game, where van Medevoort would be able to better keep up by virtue of going first. He led with a tapped Steam Vents, watching as his opponent started on a rather more painful route with fetchland into Sacred Foundry for Isamaru, Hound of Konda. There wasn’t a turn two play from either player (though Robert did get a Riptide Laboratory out), so the next action wasn’t until turn 3, where Saito tried for a Wooly Thoctar. Mana Leak had something to say about that, and van Medevoort settled in to play land, go. He got nibbled by Isamaru, but had answers to each of Saito’s threats, with a Venser and then Mana Leak to deal with the next Wooly Thoctar. When Venser got returned by Riptide Lab, it looked that Saito might be too low on threats to be able to finish things, with Robert still on 14. A Vendilion Clique from van Medevoort showed two Sulfuric Vortex, two Volcanic Fallout and a Plains in Saito’s hand. A Fallout went away, and van Medevoort chose not to block, suddenly aware that he might need to race. The life totals were 12 to 15 in Saito’s favour, and after a little thought, Saito went with a Sulfuric Vortex, which resolved.
Van Medevoort had a plan though. He cast end of turn Spellstutter Sprite, tapping out. Saito killed the Clique with Lightning Helix (remembering not to gain life!). There was another Vendilion Clique to come though, and it took that Volcanic Fallout number 2. Sulfuric Vortex 2 came out to play, along with Wild Nacatl, before Saito passed. This would be a crazy race.
A Threads of Disloyalty drew a wince from Saito. Van Medevoort was on just 6, the same as Saito when he cracked a fetchland to shuffle his deck, thinning it and increasing his chances of Volcanic Fallout. His draw step didn’t yield any such treasures though. It was Saito who was to be sucked into the fiery vortex first.
Tomoharu Saito 1 – 1 Robert van Medevoort
If ever there were a good time for the Saito slaps it was now. Going into game 3, the Japanese player would again be on the play, and hoping for a fast start. Across the other side of the feature match area, Saito’s travel partner, Player of the Year Shuhei Nakamura was also battling in what looked to be a tight fight. Could team Japan remain undefeated here in Europe?
A fetchland into Stomping Grounds meant that turn one Kird Ape from Saito was good. Van Medevoort played a turn one Engineered Explosives for one, but this didn’t deter Saito from making a second Ape, ready to get stuck into the red zone. Robert held off on popping his explosives, allowing himself to go to 14 on attacks, and just looked on as Saito used his third fetchland to set up mana for Wooly Thoctar. It was much easier for the Dutchy to have the mana he needed for his answer in Mana Leak.
After the explosives finally popped Saito showed himself to have a third Kird Ape, and was vaguely disappointed to spy a Threads of Disloyalty on the other side of the table. All he had for his turn was a Seal of Fire. While Saito was running low on gas, Robert had all the cards in the world, suspending a pair of Ancestral Visions to add insult to injury.
Robert had the Kird Ape swinging in, and Saito wasn’t well set up to deal with it. He played a Mogg Fanatic, and had to use a Path to Exile on Sower of Temptation in order to be able to keep his free on the board damage long enough to threaten the Kird Ape. Flooded on mana, Saito grimaced as van Medevoort drew 7 cards on the turn that both of his Ancestral Visions resolved. Engineered Explosives for 1 was the only card played by Robert, who at the end of turn discarded down to what seemed likely to be a very high quality 7.
Now secure in his cards in hand, Robert was happy to use his Engineered Explosives to virtually wipe the board. When he had a Spellstutter Sprite for Saito’s next spell, that was enough to bring the concession.
Robert van Medevoort wins 2 – 1!
Podcast: Extending, and Contracting
Round Four is as big as this tournament gets. With all the Byes used up, everyone has to play to win points, and for the lucky few who got to 3-0 with no help, there's the added incentive of knowing that 21 points makes it to Day Two come what may. We bring you the story of the middle rounds, including four fantastic feature matches. 60 minutes of mtg, delivered straight between the ears.
Feature Match: Round 7 – Kenny Öberg vs. Robert van Meedevort
We already had both of these players under the spotlights of the feature match area before... but they just keep on winning! One of them has to stop now, though. The winner of the match on the other hand will immediately qualify for day-two play, even if he loses the next two rounds today. Both players came with blue control decks; Dutch GP luminary Robert van Meedevort is running Faeries, while Swedish superstar Kenny Öberg is with his trademark deck from Pro Tour Berlin: Tezzerator.
Early game saw van Meedevort Stifling one of Öberg’s fetch lands and suspending Ancestral Vision. And when Öberg tried for Thirst for Knowledge, van Meedevort had Mana Leak. The Trinket Mage in Öberg’s main phase went uncontested, though, as was his Chalice of the Void. Van Meedevort had Engineered Explosives (played off his Riptide Laboratory) to get rid of the Chalice, Öberg, however, untapped and cast Tezzeret the Seeker and searched up another Chalice of the Void. Next up was Sower of Temptation for van Meedevort and Vedalken Shackles for Öberg, which took control of the Mage. Trinket Mage and Sower of Temptation traded (and funnily had to be handed back over the table, to be put in their respective owners’ graveyards).
Van Meedevort had only three cards left in hand and apparently no business among them. For the remainder of the game he just sat and watched, while Öberg went on to play a second Chalice of the Void (with two charge counters), searched up a second copy of Vedalken Shackles and a Pithing Needle (to turn off Riptide Laboratory, just in case), and played Seat of the Synod and Great Furnace. Twenty minutes into the round, Öberg finally activated Tezzeret’s ultimate ability and attacked for 35 damage.
Kenny Öberg 1 – 0 Robert van Meedevort
Off a mulligan, van Meedevort had the good start of Island, Ancestral Vision. On Öberg’s third turn’s end step van Meedevort summoned Vendilion Clique. In response Öberg summoned one of his own. Both died and both also took a card out of Öberg’s hand.
On turn four van Meedevort cast Engineered Explosives to fend off potential Chalices that might interfere with his Ancestral Vision that was due in his next upkeep. Thus, Öberg’s Trinket Mage could only go for a second Seat of the Synod. Van Meedevort untapped and cast Future Sight, Öberg untapped and didn’t have a play.
Later on the Swedish player resolved a Future Sight as well, after an exchange of Mana Leak vs. Spell Snare, but by then van Meedevort already was too far ahead... on cards, and especially on life. Mutavault and Glen Elendra Archmage were beating down on poor Öberg and soon he scooped up his cards.
Kenny Öberg 1 – 1 Robert van Meedevort
“I have played this deck in Berlin, at Worlds, and now here and I still have to lose a match to Faeries,” Öberg casually mentioned while shuffling. “So, I’m first,” van Meedevort taunted. “That might well be the case,” Öberg agreed. “I have to say your configuartion seems to be the hardest to beat so far.”
The players were moving incredibly fast now, due to the fact that time was running out. The first two turns on both sides took no longer than 10 seconds, combined.
Admittedly, the real action started on turn three, when Öberg’s Vedalken Shackles were countered by Mana Leak, but his next turn’s Future Sight (off a Chrome Mox) went uncontested. Van Meedevort fought as hard as he could with Vendilion Clique and his pair of Mutavaults, to end this game before the massive card advantage gained through Future Sight would.
But in the end Öberg’s Future Sight insurmountable. It gave him free land drops, a Vendilion Clique of his own, Chalice of the Void, Vedalken Shackles, Thirst for Knowledge, and Pyrite Spellbomb. He even had Ancient Grudge to get rid of van Meedevort’s Umezawa’s Jitte.
His deck was operating on overdrive now... only it didn’t give him a winning option, and the clock was relentlessly ticking away. With two minutes left in the round he finally found Trinket Mage. At one minute he got Vendilion Clique, another Trinket Mage at 40 seconds. Öberg let go a sigh of relief. Now van Meedevort wouldn’t be able to stop him anymore.
Van Meedevort agreed and conceded.
Kenny Öberg 2 – 1 Robert van Meedevort
Saturday, 6:40 p.m. – The Dark Knight Returns
The last few days there’s been talk among German players about a really cool new deck that finally manages to get the full potential out of Knight of the Reliquary. Here it is:
“While it looks just like your usual Life from the Loam deck at first glance, the real centerpiece of the deck is Haakon, Stromgald Scourge. Hence the name,” explained Lukas Diekjobst, the deck’s creator. “This card is so amazing. You can easily dump it into the graveyard with Smallpox, Raven’s Crime, or Rotting Rats, and once it’s in play, there’s all kinds of goodness going on, like an infinite amount of Nameless Inversion, virtually unstoppable Knight of the Reliquary...”
“Oh, and Chameleon Colossus, of course” Diekjobst said. “That’s a Knight, too. And it’s really good against other Loam decks. Sure, they might have Path to Exile, but this deck really does have more targets for Path to Exile than any opponent ever has copies of Path to Exile.”
“There are more synergies, still: Knight of the Reliquary can go get Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth or Miren, the Moaning Well. And with Haakon and Knight of the ReliquaryMiren really goes... Crazy,” Diekjobst added, making sure to pronounce the capital C.
While Diekjobst gave the list to a number of German players, he himself is running a different deck. Why is that? “I was really torn between playing an original deck, and something that’s a little more solid,” he explained. “In the end it was very, very close, but I decided against The Dark Knight.”
He shrugged. “That may have been a mistake.”
Feature Match: Round 8 – Big Finishes: William Cavaglieri vs Remi Fortier
“How old are you?”
“18. Since the last 2 months.”
“Man... I feel old”
Neither Remi Fortier nor William Cavaglieri have accrued a great many Pro Points thus far this season, but these two European players are each in good shape to pick up some this weekend. Cavaglieri in particular has a deck that we’ve been waiting for a good moment to feature all day, so there were high hopes from all going into the match.
Remi won the roll, and led with a Wild Nacatl off Stomping Ground. This would mark the first time this writer has ever seen the Pro Tour Valencia player playing aggro in Extended. When a Thoughtseize from Cavaglieri revealed Mogg Fanatic, Incinerate and lands, the Italian remarked that he’d seen better draws. Leaving Fortier with just Incinerate, Cavaglieri, the original designer of the black red tokens deck running Torrent of Souls, had to be feeling good.
Cavaglieri cast a Mogg War-Marshal, and took that Incinerate in the face. Between attacks from Fortier and that Thoughseize he was at 10 in short order. Echo didn’t get paid on the War Marshal, and in the face of a fresh Wooly Thoctar, Cavaglieri cast a Tarmogoyf that was big enough to trade with the Naya monster.
The problem facing the Italian was a dearth of land. With just Blood Crypt and Pendelhaven to play with, William had a little trouble casting as many spells as he might have liked, leaving his hand busy, but little action on the board. A goblin token and Mogg Fanatic from Cavaglieri faced down Wild Nacatl from Fortier. The Nacatl was happy with this fight, and ran in. When Cavaglieri double blocked, a Lightning Helix left the Italian in trouble. He knocked on his deck. A land answered and he was able to find Engineered Explosives to finish off Fortier’s men.
The next attack from Fortier would be tougher to fight. A Sulfuric Vortex would force a swift attack. Cavaglieri tried his best to achieve this, with a Sprouting Thrinax, but when another Vortex came, he simply couldn’t race.
“Your draw wasn’t good, but it turns out that mine was worse!” quipped Cavaglieri. He quickly elected to play first, and went to his sideboard for Game 2.
William Cavaglieri 0 – 1 Remi Fortier
Following a mulligan from Fortier, Cavaglieri led off with a Mogg Fanatic, a play mirrored by his opponent. Cavaglieri had a second though after they traded, while Fortier had Keldon Marauders, who seemed a little unlikely to get to run in and live the dream of dealing the full 5 damage. Pendelhaven from Cavaglieri meant that his Mogg Fanatic was better than ever, and allowed a Sprouting Thrinax from the Italian.
When Path to Exile immediately targeted the Jund monster, Cavaglieri let out a low moan. He got another mountain out of the deal, but would clearly have preferred his monster plus tokens. A Slaughter Pact from Cavaglieri meant revenge for the Thrinax would be taken on Keldon Marauders, and Cavaglieri followed up with a Mogg War-Marshal.
Wooly Thoctar met similar slaughter, meaning that Cavaglieri spent all his mana the following turn on various upkeep costs. He didn’t seem to mind though, as Fortier was building up lands, but losing life rapidly. When Mogg War Marshal got hit by Path to Exile, a tired Cavaglieri forgot to fetch a land, but it didn’t seem to matter. He had a Smother ready for Wooly Thoctar on the other side of the board regardless.
Another Path to Exile came from Fortier, this time on a Mogg Fanatic, and Cavaglieri did search, rather than sacrificing his creature for a point of damage. The reason soon became clear. A Greater Gargadon got suspended, and all that land was suddenly so much Gargles fodder. Remi cast a Wild Nacatl, but would not be in good shape against a 9/7. As it was, Remi’s Nacatl couldn’t even fight Mogg Fanatic + Pendelhaven. Cavaglieri suspended a second Gargadon. There were already 3 Path to Exile in the Graveyard, and in the face of such monsters, Fortier had to just shuffle up for game 3.
“I wish I was a better player” remarked Cavaglieri, “or at least a little less tired...”
William Cavaglieri 1 – 1 Remi Fortier
Asleep or no, Cavaglieri had forced the rubber game in this match, and would be on the draw for the decider, a fact that Fortier took some solace in. Both players kept, and Remi took 3 to be able to play a Wild Nacatl off Stomping Ground (via a fetchland) on turn one. A Greater Gargadon got suspended for Cavaglieri.
On his turn two, Fortier took another three to fetch a Sacred Foundry, allowing two Kird Apes to join the party. While his mana base was attacking him, Fortier was all out in his assault on the red zone. Cavaglieri started hoping for Engineered Explosives. He thought long and hard before playing his second land, and passed without a play. This suited Fortier just fine, and he came rumbling in. Cavaglieri’s only trick was a Smother to kill Wild Nacatl, and he was happy to see no more plays from Fortier, giving him a window to make Pendelhaven and a pair of Mogg Fanatics.
The life totals were 14 to 10 in Fortier’s favour, with all the damage coming from Fortier thus far. The young Frenchman pointed a Path to Exile at Mogg Fanatic at end of turn, and had an Incinerate for the other one, which prompted its sacrifice to Greater Gargadon. Attacks took Cavaglieri to 6. His draw was good though. An Engineered Explosives for 1 was enough to clear Fortier’s side of the board, but Cavaglieri was hesitant about popping it immediately. With the Greater Gargadon on 6 counters, and Remi at 14, it seemed unlikely that there would be too big a swing on this turn, but Cavaglieri’s decks have a history of being a little surprising.
William Cavaglieri wins 2 – 1!
After the match, William explained to me a little bit about the genesis of his latest deck, which certainly bears a passing resemblance to his Torrent of Souls deck. In point of fact it actually began with Greater Gargadon, due to a large amount of Death Cloud in his area, and a dearth of good answers to it in many decks. After a lot of testing of different configurations, he settled on the one he’s playing this weekend. While things changed in the metagame, he didn’t have a chance to change as other commitments meant that there simply wasn’t time for him to build something new. As it turns out, in spite of these changes, his deck remains a good choice.
Feature Match: Round 9 – Olivier Ruel vs. Carsten Schäfer
Both players already have accumulated two losses throughout the tournament. So this is it. The final battle... at least for one of them, as only the winner will be able to compete tomorrow.
Schäfer began with Forest into Birds of Paradise, while Ruel had Steam Vents, followed by Ponder. Glittering Wish, Pact of Negation, and Breeding Pool weren’t too tempting. He got a random card instead and looked in astonishment at his opponent’s second-turn Woolly Thoctar. He laid Reflecting Pool and loaded up on his mana with Pentad Prism, while Schäfer had another beast with Ravenous Baloth. Still, the potential lifegain was of no concern to Ruel, whose Swans of Bryn Argoll deck would either have more than enough damage in time, or wouldn’t be able to deal any at all.
He cast Glittering Wish to get said Swans from his sideboard and fell to one life on next turn’s attack. One life was all he needed, though. He untapped, summoned Swans of Bryn Argoll, and cast Chain of Plasma. Lots of drawing (and a little bit of discarding) ensued, at the end of which stood Lightning Storm for more than enough damage.
Olivier Ruel 1 – 0 Carsten Schäfer
A murmur went through the crowd of spectators while Schäfer sideboarded. “Yes, I really do sideboard ten cards,” Schäfer told the general public. Ruel made a face and said, “I was so much more confident a few seconds ago.”
This time, though, Schäfer had no play on turn one, whereas Ruel had Ponder and went to shuffle once again. While doing so he broke one of his sleeves, had to exchange it, and when all this business finally was done... he got Lotus Bloom from the top. “Woo, nice!”
Schäfer had Pyrostatic Pillar, then Woolly Thoctar, then Ravenous Baloth; Carsten Schäfer seems to be strongly in favor of dealing large amounts of damage. Two attacks later, Ruel was packing his cards to move on to the final game of the day.
Olivier Ruel 1 – 1 Carsten Schäfer
Ruel nodded sadly, while picking up his opening seven and immediately turned them into opening six. Those six, however, held no land. Although they did contain two Lotus Blooms, after much deliberation, he went down to five and grudgingly kept those. Schäfer kept six.
Ruel’s five actually were quite good. Ponder found Chain of Plasma as well as a second land. With that he could play a turn-two Glittering Wish. Both parts of the combo were in his hand, and one turn later he was only missing another land to make day two a reality.
Down came Swans of Bryn Argoll. Now Schäfer was faced with the decision to either play Persecute (on the off-chance that Ruel, with two cards in his hand, already had Chain of Plasma), or to deploy more threats.
He opted for the latter and the rest, as they say, is history...
Olivier Ruel defeats Carsten Schäfer 2-1 and advances to day two.
Feature Match: Round 9 – Make Space on the Fridge: Matteo Orsini-Jones vs Marco Orsini-Jones
“Man... at least it guarantees that one of us is making day 2...”
“We were going to I.D. and just knock each other out, but now I suppose I’ll play.”
“What are you playing again?”
The Orsini-Jones mirror match has happened before, but never in the feature match area. One player would be going through to day 2, while the other would be sitting on the sidelines. Sounds tense right? Not really the way that it actually played. This was one of the friendlier matchups you’ll find at a premier event. Marco and Matteo test together all the time (naturally) so they’re always ready to play each other.
As Matteo mulliganed to five, Marco started pumping the fist. While Matteo has made a Pro Tour top 8 in the last month, Marco is no slouch either, having been a national team member, and a regular on the Pro Tour too. Marco tends to play the more reliable decks, so it’s not really surprising that Matteo is the player between them that chose Storm for the weekend.
“There’s going to be more smack talk this game than there is play!”
“I’ve mulliganed to five and won already today, and that was against a good player!”
Marco had a Vendilion Clique, but it was hit by Remand. In spite of his mull to five, Matteo was very much in the game, with a Lotus Bloom getting in, and a second Remand ready to continue to frustrate Marco’s play. A third Remand on Vendilion Clique met a chuckle from Marco. Clearly Matteo came to game.
Matteo had a fetchland to find Steam Vents, which allowed a Rite of Flame. This was responded to by Vendilion Clique. Remand number 4 was there, but now Marco had the mana to replay it. It saw 2 copies of Tendrils of Agony, Desperate Ritual, Mind’s Desire and Dreadship Reef. Marco went to the tank. The storm was already 4, and Marco looked to be in an awkward spot. With a storm at 4, Marco had to be careful not to get hit by both of those Tendrils, to make it just enough. He took Desperate Ritual. Unfortunately for Marco, Matteo drew Seething Song, and was able to use the Song, plus Lotus Bloom and Dreadship Reef to get to the mana he needed to cast both Tendrils of Agony.
Matteo Orsini-Jones 1 – 0 Marco Orsini-Jones
“Nice five card hand.”
“It was only good because you kept playing spells that I could Remand!”
“I didn’t know you were going to draw all four!”
Marco went to his sideboard disconsolately, moaning about having more cards to take out than he did to put back in again.
His hand for game 2 on the play was a mulligan.
“Come on sideboard cards!”
Marco kept before he’d finished drawing his hand. Clearly a sideboard card had shown up for the elder OJ. Matteo had a fair start, with a turn two Lotus Bloom, while Marco was understandably happy to wait on his Vendilion Clique.
“They’re actually all quite good” remarked Matteo, not one to slowroll his brother. There were no shuffles, and he drew one of them, before passing. Marco had the end of turn Cryptic Command to bounce Vendilion Clique and draw a card. When, at the end of turn, Matteo went to put a counter on his Dreadship Reef, Marco had a response with his Clique. This left Matteo tapped down far enough that he could not Remand, and showed Mind’s Desire, Seething Song, Rite of Flame, Remand, Gigadrowse, and a land.
The Mind’s Desire went. Going off would be a lot tougher for Matteo now. Marco blew his explosives to force a draw step Peer Through Depths, and Gigadrowse, rather than anything more exciting from Matteo. He found a Ponder off Peer Through Depths, and used it to shuffle up. The storm count was already pretty high, and Rite of Flame, Seething Song, Manamorphose somehow got him to another Mind’s Desire!
The Mind’s Desire was for 8, with no mana floating. Obviously off that many copies it was good enough, and a Tendrils came on the 7th flip. There are those that would suggest that after the cruel called shot in Kyoto, Matteo was due a little luck.
“Our mum has all the feature matches from Kyoto stuck up on the fridge... I hope there’s space for this one!” Matteo clearly wanted to make sure this one got remembered.
Matteo Orsini-Jones wins 2-0!
Podcast: At The Halfway Mark
Nine Rounds down, Nine to go, at least for the two finalists. For the rest, six Rounds separate them from a place in the elimination matches tomorrow evening. 925 came in, 128 remain. Find out who as we go inside the crucial matches at the end of the first day of competition.