Grand-Prix Hanover: Day 2 Blog

Posted in Event Coverage on February 21, 2009


Podcast: At The Halfway Mark

by Rich Hagon

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.

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Feature Match: Round 10 – Pascal Vieren vs. William Cavaglieri

by Tobias Henke

This is round one of day two, both players are currently sitting at 8-1, and both players incidentally are their respective countries' National Champion. Pascal Vieren of Belgium made it this far with Elves!, William Cavaglieri of Italy is running his very own Jund token deck.

William Cavaglieri

Cavaglieri on the play had a turn-two Bitterblossom, followed by Sprouting Thrinax, while Vieren went for Birchlore Rangers, followed by Heritage Druid and Scattershot Archers, eliciting a “Wow, that was unexpected” from the Italian. “Well, Faeries is my worst match-up,” replied Vieren, to which Cavaglieri said, “Yeah, that makes sense, then, I guess.”

Vieren had Wirewood Symbiote and Wirewood Hivemaster for his turn three, but it was turn four that the ElfBall really got rolling: Glimpse of Nature kicked off the combo, Nettle Sentinel and Elvish Visionary made sure that Vieren wouldn't run out of mana and cards anytime soon, especially with Symbiote on bouncing duty. When Vieren went to cast Summoner's Pact, Cavaglieri decided to save time and conceded.

Pascal Vieren 1 – 0 William Cavaglieri

“I really wasn't expecting tokens,” Vieren told his opponent, who had heard that remark before and said as much. The pre-game procedures ended with Cavaglieri at five cards in hand to Vieren's full grip of seven wonders.

Birchlore Rangers and Elvish Visionary were the first nonland permanents to enter the board, but Cavaglieri responded with Smother on the Rangers, untapped, and took a second Elvish Visionary as well as Wirewood Hivemaster out of his opponent's hand by means of a well-placed Rise.

Pascal Vieren

Vieren summoned Mirror Entity, Cavglieri made Sprouting Thrinax. Both the Entity and Visionary went to attack and when Thrinax blocked the changeling, Vieren turned his team into 4/4s. Cavaglieri, unfazed, produced three Saprolings, untapped, and dropped the potentially bomb-ish Goblin Sharpshooter.

Vieren on the other side was happy to top that with Umezawa's Jitte. He equipped his Elvish Visionary and subsequently lost it in combat, but Umezawa's evil weapon of mass destruction in return got rid of the Sharpshooter. Cavaglieri was out of gas now. He simply played Mogg War Marshal and passed the turn right back.

Vieren had Heritage Druid, which he equipped, and when Cavaglieri passed without play, had Chord of Calling for Essence Warden. On his turn, Vieren made a Summoner's Pact for Regal Force.

“Just make it quick,” Cavaglieri pleaded. “I'm trying to,” said Vieren, but he was nowhere near a possibility to combo. Still, with Mirror Entity, Regal Force, a small team of elves, and Umezawa's Jitte, Vieren certainly wouldn't be able to lose this, would he?

He wouldn't. As soon as Vieren had paid his Summoner's Pact upkeep cost, Cavaglieri conceded.

Pascal Vieren 2 – 0 William Cavaglieri


by Tim Willoughby

Check ch check check check ch check it out, what wha what what what's it all about?

These were the words uttered by those modern beat poets The Beastie Boys in their delightful ditty ‘Ch-check it out'. The story here in Hannover is one that I'm sure those boys could easily have found something to rhyme about. Of the 128 players to make day two, a full sixteen are from the Czech Republic. A young country, the Czech Republic is still really establishing itself on the international Magic scene, but doing so in impressive fashion with Martin Juza having followed up his top 8 in Berlin with a near miss in Kyoto, and Adam Koska getting a virtual top 8 in Kyoto following an impressive 7-0 run on day 2.

I spoke briefly with Martin Juza about the success of the Czech contingent here.

“Extended is definitely the most popular format in the Czech Republic right now. Limited is not as popular at the moment because people like to be able to play with their cards and view drafting as expensive.”

He further indicated that there is a good group of Czech players who test together and are building up a very solid experience base.

“Adam (Koska) couldn't make it this weekend, but Lucas Blohon is another who I test with a lot. He started out 8-0 this weekend, playing the same deck as me. He really knows all the tricks with the deck, and that definitely gives you an edge on the competition.”

Everyone loves Magic tricks, so let me share one of these plays that offers an edge right now, courtesy of Martin Juza.

Umezawa's Jitte is one of the most powerful cards in the format, and if there is anything you can do to blunt its potency, that can mean the difference between winning and losing. What many players don't realise is that Mutavault has the ability to do just that. Imagine a Faeries player with Mutavault and Riptide Laboratory facing down Tarmogoyf with a Jitte that has counters. The Tarmogoyf attacks in, as it is wont to do. Mutavault gets all animated to block. While the player with the Jitte might want to kill the Mutavault prior to blocks, they could have some trouble. If they remove counters to shrink the Mutavault, the controller of the land can let one shrink resolve, then just activate their Mutavault again to turn it into a 2/2 once more. When the second shrink resolves, they can do it again. Because the power/toughness changing all occurs on the same sub-layer, Mutavault's power/toughness setting ability can effectively be used to negate the shrinking. So with enough mana, and a Riptide Lab, Mutavault can be a perma-blocker for a Jitte wielding monster, regardless of what the pesky equipment can do.

With tricks like this up their collective sleeves it no surprise that there are so many Czech players fighting for their right to party in the top 8!

Feature Match Round 11 -- Elvish Eruptions: Shuhei Nakamura vs Christophe Gregoir

by Tim Willoughby

Shuhei NakamuraShuhei Nakamura looked confident as he surveyed Gregoir's reaction to his opening hand. Nakamura has every reason to feel confident in general, as the reigning Player of the Year, he has proven himself to have an edge on most competition. In this particular matchup his edge began with a mulligan from his opponent.

Gregoir was playing Elves, and led with Llanowar Elves, but didn't have the luxury of untapping with them in play, thanks to a Mogg Fanatic from Shuhei. The Belgian team had been one of the many groups in Berlin with a lot of testing hours playing Elves so it was little surprise to see it out again being played by Gregoir. If anything it was more surprising that Nakamura had chosen a different path, being notable for his affection for Elves normally. While there was no turn two play from Gregoir, Nakamura had an early Tarmogoyf with which to start the beats.

Gregoir's plan against Zoo seemed solid though, with an Essence Warden potentially representing a healthy life buffer for the Belgian pro. A Kird Ape followed for Shuhei, compared with a Viridian Shaman for Gregoir. There were no targets for the Shaman, but it was a threat simply due to the potential for it to be replayed using Wirewood Symbiote. Shuhei didn't like that idea one bit, and had a quick Incinerate for the 3 drop. The very next turn he showed quite why he was so against the idea of artifcat destruction. An Umezawa's Jitte came down and got active, killing the last of Gregoir's team. With an active Umezawa's Jitte on the other side of the board, and a team of monsters to carry it, Gregoir was well behind, and quickly packed in his cards, looking to the sideboard for a better answer to the terrifyingly aggressive Naya Zoo deck.

Shuhei Nakamura 1 – 0 Christophe Gregoir

Christophe GregoirGame 2 started similarly to game 1 for Gregoir. He had a Llanowar Elves, but all too quickly found it in the graveyard courtesy of Mogg Fanatic. A Wirewood Symbiote was the next green creature with a big target on its head, but all Nakamura had for turn two was a basic Plains and a Wild Nacatl that was 3/3 thanks to his other land being Stomping Ground.

In the face of so much removal, Gregoir played a Fecundity, and duly took his lumps from Wild Nacatl, which was followed up by Tarmogoyf. Wirewood Hivemaster came from Gregoir, followed by Nettle Sentinel. Was Gregoir going off? Nakamura felt it better to be safe than sorry, and played a Path to Exile on Wirewood Symbiote, neatly avoiding Fecundity, but still giving Gregoir a land in the exchange.

Wirewood Hivemaster gradually gave Gregoir a mass of tokens, and with Fecundity out, whatever Nakamura did there was the potential for him to get cards back. Nakamura had to do something, and elected on Umezawa's Jitte, but no attacks. Each player built up their force, but it seemed likely that the Elf deck was doing so more efficiently. The life totals were 11 to 12 in Gregoir's favour after a few small attacks in with insects. Nakamura continued to drop monsters onto the board, but avoided the red zone, looking for more red spells to try and win through burn rather than getting into messy combat that would only draw his opponent cards.

A Glimpse of Nature from Gregoir resolved. This looked likely to be it. He had a Wirewood Symbiote as his first creature, and Nettle Sentinel number 3 as his second. Birchlore Rangers meant that mana wouldn't be an issue. However, Gregoir was hesitant to do much about over-committing. He didn't have the win, and found himself coldly staring down the barrel of a Volcanic Fallout at the end of turn. He responded with Chord of Calling for Mirror Entity, and activated it in order to make his team sufficiently large to survive the red spell. Nakamura had a Path to Exile for the awkward changeling. Nakamura was still in bad shape, but still had a draw step to save him.

Another Volcanic Fallout came from the top of Nakamura, and this time there was no response from Gregoir. With all of Nakamura's team surviving, and Gregoir's team dying those cards of Fecundity wouldn't matter, Nakamura simply attacked for the lot before Gregoir could cast them.

Shuhei Nakamura wins 2 – 0!

Feature Match Round 12: Olivier Ruel vs Robert van Medevoort

by Tim Willoughby

Olivier RuelAt the start of the round I asked Olivier Ruel how he was doing.

“Well, I don't like my deck, the format, my matchup... but I like you so it's all ok.” That Olivier, what a charmer...

He didn't like his opening seven either, going down to six. There was a Ponder on the first turn for the Frenchman, and it turned out that Ruel didn't like the top of his deck too much either. He shuffled and drew.

Robert van Medevoort started with a Chrome Mox, and each player went for draw, go for a number of turns. The first action of the game was Olivier tapping out hopefully for Swans of Bryn Argoll. This met a Mana Leak, which resolved significantly better than the namesake card of Olivier's deck. A Pentad Prism did work for Olivier, but was soon bounced by Venser, Shaper Savant, making the point of pain from City of Brass paid for it all the more stinging.

The next play from van Medevoort was a Glen Elendra Archmage, which would make it tough for Ruel to go off. He did resolve a Swans of Bryn Argoll, but it was for nothing when Sower of Temptation lured it over to van Medevoort's side.

It did not take much longer for the Dutchy to finish things off, and soon Olivier was looking to his sideboard, declaring the matchup to be his worst. Given the field, it looked that Olivier might have a long day ahead of him.

Olivier Ruel 0 – 1 Robert van Medevoort

Robert van MedevoortOn the play, Ruel kept his seven for game 2. He started with City of Brass and Lotus Bloom. A land plus Chrome Mox was the play from van Medevoort, who was happy to remain reactive in the early turns.

He had an end step Vendilion Clique and saw the following; 2 Chain of Plasma, Lightning Storm, Swans of Bryn Argoll, Simian Spirit Guide, Chrome Mox. The Swans went away, and when there was a Spellstutter Sprite to counter Lotus Bloom Ruel extended his hand.

“I've had enough” remarked a disconsolate Ruel, “this deck can't beat faeries or loam, but can't lose to anything else. Bring on the zoo!”

Robert van Medevoort wins a quick 2 – 0!

Podcast: Let's Go Rounds Again

by Rich Hagon

As we open up here for Sunday action, 128 players still have chances, but for more than half of them a single defeat will be all they can allow themselves across the six remaining Rounds of Swiss action. Meanwhile, the outstanding trio who start the day on 9-0 know that the finish line is in sight. Can anyone continue a march towards an astonishing undefeated record? Prime candidate would be Swede Kenny Oberg, the infamous 'Tezzerator' from Pro Tour Berlin, who has ressurrected his creation to awesome effect. Great feature matches start out our Sunday coverage with a bang.

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Feature Match: Round 12 – Pascal Vieren vs. Shuuhei Nakamura

by Tobias Henke

Pascal VierenThe match-up this round is Elves! (Vieren) against Naya Burn (Nakamura). That means the smell of burned elf is in the air, creatures are dying left and right and in between, maximum carnage, and either the elf deck can get away from the inferno with the ridiculous card advantage engine that's Glimpse of Nature or will come to a fiery end.

The ancient trade-off of Llanowar Elves versus Mogg Fanatic happened on turn one, but Vieren soon reloaded with Elvish Visionary and Birchlore Rangers, followed by Thoughtseize to get rid of Shuuhei's Umezawa's Jitte.

Next Gaddock Teeg traded with Nettle Sentinel in combat, while Incinerate took care of Wirewood Symbiote; another Mogg Fanatic took out Wirewood Hivemaster, and after some more well-applied fire the board was one Wild Nacatl against two Birchlore Rangers.

The Nacatl was happily charging into the red zone, was joined by Woolly Thoctar, then another Nacatl, and it wasn't long until the players were shuffling for Game 2.

Shuuhei Nakamura 1 – 0 Pascal Vieren

Vieren, after a little deliberation, decided to keep his seven, whereas Shuuhei received a real puzzler as his opening hand, a grip full of goodness, from multiple Lightning Helixes to Path to Exile to Wild Nacatl. Only one land was included, though, and that meant mulligan down to six. A quick mulligan brought him to the following five cards: two Tarmogoyfs, two Mogg Fanatics, and a Wild Nacatl. With one land, that might yet have been the best draw of the whole lot, but still, the usually silent Nakamura let out a groan, as he shuffled to draw four cards.... That is, FOUR cards.

His opponent opened with turn-one Nettle Sentinel, followed by Essence Warden. Shuuhei had Umezawa's Jitte on turn two, but still no creature by turn three, when Vieren had already deployed Wirewood Symbiote as well as Burrenton Forge-Tender. Shuuhei did have two Volcanic Fallout, though, but when the first was effectively countered by Burrenton Forge-Tender and Vieren searched up another one with Chord of Calling, Shuuhei quickly nodded and shuffled up his cards.

Pascal Vieren 1 – 1 Shuuhei Nakamura

Shuhei NakamuraAn unexpected move, kicked off Game 3. “You play first, said Shuuhei Nakamura, to have an edge in this war of attrition.

Vieren had Birchlore Rangers on turn one, followed by Heritage Druid... Shuuhei did not sacrifice his Mogg Fanatic in response, so Vieren got access to white mana, and that meant... Burrenton Forge-Tender.

Shuuhei had no second land and passed without play. When Vieren tried to add Fecundity to his board as well, things started to look dim for the Japanese. But he was not to be defeated that easily: Burrenton Forge-Tender had to walk the Path to Exile and Mogg Fanatic shot down Heritage Druid; all done in response to Fecundity, so no one would draw any cards.

Next, Shuuhei had a 1/1 Kird Ape (still no land) and Vieren had Jitte, although only one creature left. He attacked and traded with the Ape. Now finally, Shuuhei had a second land and immediately played Umezawa's Jitte, to even the board.

Vieren, however, went for Glimpse of Nature, Nettle Sentinel, Nettle Sentinel, Wirewood Symbiote, bounce Nettle Sentinel and replay it, and once again Shuuhei was in deep trouble. He added Rule of Law to his board to prevent further combo attempts.

Vieren sunmmoned yet another Burrenton Forge-Tender and began attacking, gradually dropping Shuuhei to eight, but finally the Japanese found some lands and made a pair of Wild Nacatl to stop his opponent's offenses. Rule of Law proved to be more of a factor than one might have expected. When both decks play one spell each turn (and Naya does have lots of instants to circumvent that restriction, whereas Elves! doesn't have nearly as many), it soon becomes apparent that on its own every single one of the Naya deck's spells is much more impressive. As a bonus, Rule of Law negates Fecundity, in a way. Drawing tons of cards isn't quite as fun when you just can't play them, after all.

Things turned against Shuuhei, though, when Vieren dropped the bomb that is Mirror Entity. He charged in with his team and boosted everyone to 4/4, a formidable and fearsome force for furthering ferocious fighting.

Shuuhei barely survived, with three chump-blocks and one Path to Exile, on four life. However, he did draw three cards off Fecundity! Vieren was now completely tapped out and had just lost his Burrenton Forge-Tender... if only Shuuhei could get Volcanic Fallout now, out of his next four cards...

Sadly, he didn't and that was it.

Pascal Vieren 2 – 1 Shuuhei Nakamura

Sunday, 12:05 p.m. – Metagame Breakdown

by Tobias Henke

Yesterday we asked Magic luminaries Marijn Lybaert, Robert van Meedevort, and Raphael Levy what they thought would be the most-played deck archetype this weekend. Their answers?

“I don't think it will be Faeries. Zoo, I'd say.”
“Faeries or Zoo.”
“Naya Burn.”

Take a look at the metagame breakdown of day two. These pros were dead on with their prediction: a close race between Zoo and Naya variants on the one hand and Faeries on the other, won not by Faeries, but Zoo.

Zoo / Naya Burn 26 20.3
Faeries 24 18.8
Loam 14 10.9
TEPS 13 10.2
Elves! 13 10.2
Bant Aggro 11 8.6
Doran Rock 7 5.5
Swans 4 3.1
Affinity 3 2.3
Tezzerator 3 2.3
Slide 2 1.6
R/G AggroLoam 2 1.6
All-In Red 1 0.8
Sullivan Red 1 0.8
Jund Token 1 0.8
R/G/U Aggro 1 0.8
Merfolk 1 0.8
Ancient Ziggurat.dec 1 0.8
Total: 128 100

Apparently, the metagame has come full circle now. At PT Berlin Zoo was the most popular deck, GP Los Angeles last month saw lots of Faeries and not much Zoo, and now it's back again in full force.

One word on the grouping together of Zoo and Naya Burn, because that led to much discussion among coverage staff. Of course there are pure Naya decks and dedicated Domain Zoos, but then there also is a vast number of players who are running some sort of mixture. It felt quite arbitrary to make a distinction based on a difference of one or two cards.

Day 1 Undefeated Deck Lists

by Tobias Henke

Kenny Öberg, Grand Prix Hannover Day One 9-0

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Jan Sudmann, Grand Prix Hannover Day One 9-0

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Lino Burgold, Grand Prix Hannover Day One 9-0

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Steffen Van De Veen, Grand Prix Hannover Day One 8-0-1

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Feature Match Round 13: Pitching the Perfect Game? -- Gaudenis Vidugiris vs Kenny Öberg

by Tim Willoughby

Gaudenis VidugirisI've decided to start referring to Kenny Öberg as Kenny ‘X and' Öberg. He just seems to steadfastly refuse to lose. Thus far in the tournament he has won every match, and is safe for top 8 with his Tezzerator deck. His opponent, Gaudenis Vidugiris of Madison, Wisconsin has travelled further and is slightly less secure, but is a formidable opponent for anyone on the Grand Prix circuit, and with some level of blue control (not Faeries, no Spellstutter Sprite), he would be dangerous for Kenny.

The first action of the game was a Pithing Needle from Kenny naming Umezawa's Jitte. This left him tapped out and open to swings from a Tarmogoyf, but while there were only fetchlands in the graveyard he was unconcerned. Kenny tried an end of turn Vendilion Clique which was hit by Mana Leak, but this left him open to resolve Vedalken Shackles.

Öberg was a little short on land, so there was a turn before Shackles became active, and they weren't as effective as they could be. With one of his lands a Seat of the Synod, they weren't good enough to get hold of Tarmogoyf the way the game stood. Gaudenis used his time to crack in and play a second Tarmogoyf.

Kenny was hurting for land. He cast Chalice of the Void for zero, followed by Condescend for zero, simply to be able to scry, and had no further plays. He didn't pay the zero, and the Chalice went in the bin. That made the Tarmogoyfs bigger, and made it clear to Öberg that his draw was exactly as bad as he'd feared. It was only a turn later that he was scooping up his cards.

“Not drawing a single land is pretty rough” he murmured to himself as he reached for his sideboard.

Gaudenis Vidugiris 1 – 0 Kenny Öberg

Kenny ÖbergOn the play in game 2, Öberg had a mulligan. Could this be the Swede's first loss on the weekend? His six was better, and Öberg was quick to play and crack a fetchland to fetch Steam Vents, wary of random Stifle action making his second game as light on lands as the first. A Great Furnace followed from the Swede, who didn't have an answer to turn 2 Tarmogoyf from Vidugiris. On turn 3, a Trinket Mage found one though, in Engineered Explosives. While there was only land in the graveyard, that 2/2 was also big enough to get in a fight withTarmogoyf.

Gaudenis played Vedalken Shackles and passed. Kenny's plan for his turn was bigger. With Vidugiris tapped out, he cast Chrome Mox, to accelerate him into Future Sight, which revealed an Island on the top of his deck.

Gaudenis looked concerned as he shuffled the cards in his hand. He simply played a land and passed. Öberg had a Thirst for Knowledge on top of his deck, and cast it, which met a Cryptic Command to counter the spell and bounce Future Sight. Gaudenis also knew now about Vendilion Clique on top of Öberg's deck, and seemed to be building up from a slow start nicely. Öberg played Engineered Explosives for 2, tapping out, while Gaudenis suspended Ancestral Vision, and attacked in with a now 2/3 Tarmogoyf. Trinket Mage attacked back from Öberg, who passed with a lot of mana up. Gaudenis activated his Veddalken Shackles, which prompted Vendilion Clique revealing Ancient Grudge, Cryptic Command and a Spell Snare which might very well not have natural targets in Kenny's deck. The Cryptic Command went, and Kenny popped his Explosives.

Miren, the Moaning Well joined Gaudenis' side, meaning that he could always sacrifice any creatures that were dying anyway, and stay ahead on life. He attacked with Trinket Mage to take Öberg to 13 and passed, again with a lot of mana up, and with 3 cards to match Öberg's hand. Öberg tried for Future Sight again, but this time it met Mana Leak. Gaudenis sacrificed Trinket Mage to Miren, the Moaning Well, and used his Shackles to steal Vendilion Clique. This left him clear to swing with Mutavault, further getting ahead in the race.

Öberg rubbed his head in thought on his turn, eventually passing without a play. He went to 5 on the next set of attacks. At the end of turn, Academy Ruins got back Engineered Explosives, which Öberg resolved on 3 counters. It would be able to kill off Vendilion Clique and Shackles, but Öberg was still not in good shape. It only took a few attacks to end the match.

Gaudenis Vidugiris wins 2-0, bringing the 12 round streak of Kenny Öberg's to an end.

Feature Match: Round 14 – Manuel Bucher vs. Andreas Roessler

by Tobias Henke

Manuel BucherThe first couple of turns were filled with Bucher slowly turning the die down on his Ancestral Vision, while Roessler was doing the reverse with his Dreadship Reef. First real action took place on Roessler's end step, when Bucher summoned Vendilion Clique. In response to its triggered ability, Roessler killed it with Electrolyze, but only one turn later Bucher had another one.

Bucher drew three extra cards off his Vision, and now, he had a solid seven-turn clock, a grip full of cards, and had just double-cliqued Roessler's hand. Things were looking good.

Or weren't they? Despite everything Roessler went for it. <Rite of Flame, Rite of Flame, Rite of Flame, that's a storm count of four and seven mana just like that. Next was Manamorphose, but at that point Bucher interrupted with a second <Vendilion Clique only to see two Tendrils of Agony in his opponent's hand. Manamorphose resolved, found Electrolyze, which he cast. Still, one Tendrils of Agony was not quite enough. The turn ended with Bucher at precarious three life to Roessler's 26.

Also, both the Vendilion Cliques had died due to legendary status, so Bucher was without any offense at all. Venser, Shaper Savant and Spellstutter Sprite came down to take up the beatdown, while Roessler was still low on cards, but it is a long way to get to the bottom of that lifetotal.

Roessler tried once again with Ponder into Sleight of Hand, but Bucher responded with yet another Vendilion Clique to reveal Roessler's hand of Tendrils of Agony and Mind's Desire. Bucher took away Tendrils of Agony. Still Roessler managed to get two more Ponder, then Seething Song, and finally a total of seven copies of Mind's Desire. Those revealed no immediate win but, among other goodness, another Mind's Desire and Remand, which would certainly be able to get him through.

Manuel Bucher 0 – 1 Andreas Roessler

Andreas RoesslerThe first action once again came in the form of Vendilion Clique, which revealed Gigadrowse, Pact of Negation, Peer Through Depths, Rite of Flame, and two Manamorphose... not too bad with the two Dreadship Reefs Roessler already had in play.

Bucher took the Peer Through Depths, opting to not even try and fight the Gigadrowse, possibly intending to end this game before Roessler would be able to assemble his combo. Spellstutter Sprite came down as well, and next turn the two fliers and Mutavault started attacking.

Two turns later with Roessler at six life (due to some fetch action and Steam Vents), it was either combo or death. In Bucher's turn Roessler cast Gigadrowse for six on all of Bucher's blue mana sources and his Riptide Laboratory. Bucher used those lands to return Vendilion Clique and replay it. That left Roessler without any immediate combo option, but with three Manamorphose, a Ponder, and lots of mana rituals.

It's not quite hard to imagine how that played out. The card draw from Vendilion Clique, the draw step, and the triplet of Manamorphose... it all adds up. Ponder led to Peer Through Depths, Peer Through Depths led to Mind's Desire, and Mind's Desire, as always, leads to the dark side of the Force.

Manuel Bucher 0 – 1 Andreas Roessler

Feature Match Round 15 – On the Edge: Shuhei Nakamura vs Michal Hebky

by Tim Willoughby

Shuhei Nakamura Round 15 pairings have played out rather in Shuhei Nakamura's favour. As the highest positioned player on his record, he is upagainst Michal Hebky, who has draws, and whose points record is enough to force various players elsewhere in the pairings out of taking intentional draws. Long story short, if Shuhei Nakamura wins, he has a fair mathematical shot at playing in the top 8 of GP Hannover. If Hebky wins, he is in. Never one to balk at a pressure match, Shuhei was ready to go out fighting in what could easily be his final round of the day.

Shuhei led with a quick pair of Wild Nacatl, and while they got offed by Engineered Explosives, he soon had his opponent knocked down to 8 regardless. He tried a Wooly Thoctar, which was countered, but had a second that resolved just fine. Hebky traded in a card in his own hand using Vendilion Clique and tried to claw his way back into the game, but got knocked to 4 on one attack, and had to use faeries to chump block from then on. A Seal of Fire and Isamaru, Hound of Konda more or less sealed game 1, and while Hebky had a Spell Snare for Umezawa's Jitte, he was not in a position to come back from a blazingly fast start.

Shuhei Nakamura 1 – 0 Michal Hebky

Each player went to their sideboard in silence prior to Game 2. Shuhei is not known as being the loudest player on the tour, though the Player of the Year would definitely have something to shout about if he won here.

Both players kept their opener, and Hebky quickly played an Engineered Explosives for one to kick off game 2, keen not to get stuck facing down a pair of Nacatls in the same way as Game 1. Nakamura's plan was different for the second though – he led with Temple garden, for Isamaru, Hound of Konda, which was enough for Hebky to use his bomb. Nakamura did not have a second land, but did have a Wild Nacatl following the explosives, managing to look like a master in spite of being short on mana.

Michal HebkyA draw step Vendilion Clique from Hebky revealed Volcanic Fallout, 2 Lightning Helix, <Sulfuric Vortex, Isamaru, Hound of Konda, Wooly Thoctar and Wooded Foothills. The 2/2 for one was the choice to leave, and that Clique got hit by Lightning Helix to allow Wild Nacatl to keep barrelling in. When Shuhei tried for his Sulfuric Vortex the following turn, Venser held it off, and the time this bought allowed Hebky to play Glen Elendra Archmage with a mana up. In the face of the Archmage, Nakamura went with the Wooly Thoctar plan. This huge beast could happily commence beatings to make sure the game didn't get too stable.

An Umezawa's Jitte equipped to that Archmage suddenly put Hebky in fine shape. He swung in, and got some counters going on his Umezawa's Jitte. Attacks from Nakamura put him to 8, but allowed him to trade Venser and some Umezawa's Jitte counters for Wooly Thoctar.

Nakamura used his Volcanic Fallout to put Hebky on just 6, and get Glen Elendra Archmage persisted and unequipped. When Hebky tried for a Vendilion Clique, he let the trigger get on the stack, and played a second Fallout, killing off both creatures.

Only once Hebky's team was dead did Shuhei reveal his hand of Lightning Helix, Kird Ape, Incinerate, Vortex and land. The Helix went, and suddenly Hebky was in a lot of trouble. It seemed hard to believe that Shuhei had been moaning about not liking his deck just hours before the tournament had begun. Shuhei played Kird Ape on his turn and passed.

A Seal of Fire to kill off the Sower was enough to seal the deal. Now Shuhei's fate would be reliant on how the various matches around him worked out. He had done everything he could to squeak in. All he could do was wait.

Shuhei Nakamura wins 2 – 0!

Podcast: The Ex Factor

by Rich Hagon

The knockout Rounds approach, but before we can get there, sixty-two players in contention have to be whittled down to just eight. Three more sets of head-to-head bone-crunching action across the red zone will determine the outcome. Join us for four David v Goliath clashes in the feature match area, plus top chat with US Pro Sam Black.

Click Here to Download

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