Grand Prix Milan 2011 Day 1 Blog

Posted in Event Coverage on October 8, 2011

By Wizards of the Coast



Saturday, 11:03 a.m.: Statistics from the GPT Winning Deck Lists

by Tobi Henke

Yesterday saw about twenty Grand Prix Trials, the last chance for players to earn three byes for today's main event. The decks whose players actually finished in first place at one of those tournaments and walked away with the coveted prize – what did they have in common? Can you guess what the most-played card among those decks was?

Brimstone Volley
Bonds of Faith

It's probably a removal spell, right? Something like Brimstone Volley or Bonds of Faith. In fact, both of these were among the most-played cards in the winning deck lists, but they only shared fourth place with Shimmering Grotto and Think Twice.

Dead Weight
Elder Cathar

There were even more copies of Dead Weight and Elder Cathar, tied for third place. Blazing Torch and, interestingly, Rebuke put up higher numbers still. But by far the most-played card among the winning decks, even more than the seemingly ubiquitous Blazing Torch, was Chapel Geist. Surprised? So was I. Apparently, white-based aggressive decks were out in full force yesterday. It will be interesting to see whether this trend continues today.

Forbidden Alchemy
Unburial Rites

Apropos, the color combination that put most players in first place was red-white. Close behind was some combination of Esper (white-blue-black), largely white-blue splashing black for the flashback cost of Forbidden Alchemy or blue-black splashing for the flashback cost of Unburial Rites, although white and black removal also made a splash appearance. Straight white-blue came in third, but after that there was a variety of color combinations.

Instigator Gang
Devil's Play

Bombs did play a role, albeit a rather small one. The winning decks included: Instigator Gang and Devil's Play, tied for most-played rare, followed by Geist-Honored Monk. Angelic Overseer was the most-played mythic rare.

Geist-Honored Monk
Angelic Overseer

So, in conclusion, red and especially white started the weekend as the clear frontrunners, with blue and black trailing close behind. Now, we're off to see how conclusive that conclusion actually is.

Saturday, 12:23 p.m.: Saturday Morning Swap Shop

by Tim Willoughby

Limited GPs are always kind of fun, and all the more so when a set is still quite new, as there are still all sorts of card interactions to get used to. I'm sure there are plenty of players that are here this weekend who are as excited about the ability to trade for a Snapcaster Mage, or the last card they need for their Commander deck. There is one kind of swap though, that only happens once on the weekend.

At the very start of the day, each player registers one deck (notes down all the cards in the card pool), and then it gets passed on to another player to play with. That way the judges can be sure that everyone is working with random cards from boosters, and nobody is sneakily cheatily playing with cards they brought themselves.

The moment where that swap happens is kind of fun, as every arm in the room raises in some magical Mexican wave, as if the head judge had just asked everyone if they wanted to win here in Milan.

Put your left hand in, your left hand out, do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around...

Saturday, 12:44 p.m.: Sealed Deck Building with a Mystery Pro

by Tobi Henke

It's back to Sealed Deck Building with the Mystery Pro. We'll give you all the details of his Sealed pool and his deck building process, as well as show you his final deck. But we won't tell you his name, as to not harm his chances in the competition. Let's go ahead then, shall we?

While sorting his cards, was there a twitch on his face when he came across Mentor of the Meek? Why, yes I think there was. He began by laying out some green cards, looked unhappy with the result and quickly put them away. Next, he went through his artifacts, which yielded one Galvanic Juggernaut.

A quick sift through red revealed Devil's Play as well as a couple of Pitchburn Devils, Harvest Pyre, and Scourge of Geier Reach. White showed promise with Elite Inquisitor, Mentor of the Meek, and two copies of Avacynian Priest. The mystery pro nodded his approval. He added the white cards to his artifact creature, sorted by mana cost.

Our featured mystery pro lays out his cards and makes the hard choices...

He laid out black, blue, and red in a similar fashion. Black didn't offer much, but it did include the flashback of two Forbidden Alchemy, and the possibility to play Grimgrin, Corpse-Born. Blue had Silent Departure, Grasp of Phantoms, and Claustrophobia among other things, but was dangerously light on creatures. Red helped with that, with a total of eight creatures, and even a Rally the Peasants for additional offense. He was not satisfied with white-red, though, and tried to make a blue-white deck with a splash of red for Devil's Play, Harvest Pyre, and the two Pitchburn Devils. Would his one Shimmering Grotto be enough to support red as well as the flashback cost of Forbidden Alchemy? He went back to blue-white with black for Grimgrin, Dead Weight, Tribute to Hunger, and the aforementioned flashback costs.

While counting creatures, and working on his mana, he constantly muttered under his breath. His brow furrowed and he sighed repeatedly. This pool, clearly, was no easy task to build correctly. All of it was only further complicated by Moorland Haunt and Nephalia Drownyard, which would certainly put even more strain on a shaky mana base. He removed the black splash and went back to red, then changed his mind and took another look at black. Rinse and repeat. He even tried a four-color version with two splashes, going for a maximum of power. He went through the pile he had previously set aside and got all of his red cards out, then put them away again.

He pondered the four-color option, took out Spectral Rider, and put it back in. Finally, he settled on blue-white with a splash of back. The last two cards he cut from his deck were Silverchase Fox and Doomed Traveler, despite possible interactions with Mentor of the Meek and Grimgrin, Corpse-Born. He started to register his deck ...

Then, with only three minutes left on the clock, he frantically went through his pile of cards one last time, and decided to go the four-color route after all! Just as the clock ticked down to zero he managed to hand in his deck list. A real thriller from start to finish, it's not often that deck building is this close and this exciting. His comment: "That was way too complicated. I'm not at all sure, whether this is correct. Possibly not."

Here is what he ended up with:

Mystery Pro Sealed Deck

Download Arena Decklist

Mystery Pro Sealed Deck (Sideboard)

Download Arena Decklist

Podcast - The Big Build

by Rich Hagon

Almost 1,800 players have come to Milan for this Innistrad Sealed Deck and Draft extravaganza. As they build their Sealed pools, we go behind the ropes to check in with Richard Bland, Louis Deltour, Lucas Florent, Lukas Jaklovsky, Martin Juza, Florina Koch, Jonas Kostler, Marijn Lybaert, Marco Orsini-Jones, and Gaudenis Vidugiris. What sort of format will Innistrad be? How can you get an edge at your next Innistrad PTQ, with the prize of Honolulu beckoning? All the inside track, all weekend long, here at

Download this podcast in MP3 format (10.6 MB)

Saturday, 1:00 p.m. - Zombie Machinations

by Tim Willoughby

With a whole new sealed deck format, it would just be wrong for us not to show you a deck build or two. However, it would be just as wrong for us to give you a complete decklist for a player on the internet, only to then have them lose to players with internet access and the wherewithal to use it. As such, I sat down with Zombie, the pseudonym of a mystery pro player who for now shall remain nameless.

"I asked the guy on my left if his deck was any good... he said not really. This could get a little ugly"

"A little ugly," indeed.

"That's a good start" A Gavony Township stared Zombie in the face. He was disappointed to find though, that he didn't have quite the suite of white cards to go with it.

The first run through for Zombie was all about stripping out the cards that were definitely not going to get played. This included Bump in the Night, Sensory Deprivation, and a variety of curses. Having spotted a Gavony Township right at the top of his pile, Human was quick to pick Green as an opening colour. With a good curve of creatures, including a couple of Avacyn's Pilgrim, it would allow him to accelerate nicely, and activate his Township even if white didn't work out deep enough to play as a main colour.

As a first pass, it was only a Slayer of the Wicked, Smite the Monstrous, Ghostly Warden and the flashback on Travel Preparations that would require any white at all.

"My only good colour is green" lamented Zombie, having piled out a solid selection of green cards, supported by small amounts of blue and white. "I don't have a single Caravan Vigil. This might be too greedy."

Looking at Stitched Drake, Saab Ruinator, Makeshift Mauler and Skaab Goliath, it did seem that Zombie's graveyard might be gobbled up pretty fast, which isn't the greatest of combos with a Kessig Cagebreakers that sat at his five drop slot. Between Avacyn's Pilgrim and a pair of copies of Deranged Assistant, there seemed little doubt that he could power into his higher drops fast though, and there was a Murder of Crows to make sure that he would be able to draw interesting spells to cast.

Human checked his array of werewolves carefully. A Gatstaf Shepherd, Villagers of Estwald and Ulvenwald Mystics would each allow him to beat down, and even in un-flipped state they can provide a reasonable clock, with some help from a Hamlet Captain. The Gavony Township would be particularly good with his werewolves, as it would give him ample things to do even while not casting spells.

Of the zombies in Zombie's pool, Skaab Goliath was the one he tagged as not being worth the investment in dead bodies. Stitched Drake isn't too costly in dead creatures, and Skaab Ruinator is simply colossal, making the six drop look a little pricy for his deck.

In terms of spells, things were a little quiet. Just five non-creatures were making the cut; Blazing Torch, Prey Upon, Travel Preparations, Claustrophobia and Frightful Delusion. The counterspell, which has the potential for a nice little two-for-one, was a concession to the fact that there would be bombs in the format. Given all the Skaab creatures Zombie was running, having lots of non-creatures seemed to be a bad idea, so he just stuck with the best.

"Wow... I'm so stupid... my deck just got better."

It took Zombie a couple of passes through his cuts to realise that there was a Battleground Geist in there. It swiftly took the place of Hamlet Captain, and left him looking at splashing Gallows Warden, in spite of having cut back his white commitment to just Slayer of the Wicked, Gavony Township and flashing back his Travel Preparations.

"I think I'm just going to be casting big guys and swinging." Zombie declared ruefully. He split his deck by colour and started listing it on his sheet, ready to think about how to build his mana base, which only required a single Plains.

Predictions? "I'm going to say an easy 10-0" smiled Zombie. "I just hope I don't flip Gavony Township too many times with my Deranged Assistant."

Here's the final list:

Zombie Machinations

Download Arena Decklist

Stay tuned to see if the dead rise to the top today at Grand Prix Milan.

Round 2: Racing De Rosa - Antonino de Rosa vs. Marco Pandino

by Tim Willoughby

Normally we don't do feature matches in round 2, but for Antonino de Rosa, now living in Palermo and making the most of a local Grand Prix, we were more than happy to make an exception. De Rosa is an old time pro who, having lived in such far flung corners of the world as Curacao and the Philippines, but he is now much closer to home. To see the long-time pro with just one bye is a testament to quite how long he's been out of the Pro Tour spotlight. He still knows what's what though, being one of the principle forces behind the Puresteel Paladin deck, and having got back on the tour for Philadephia.

Game One

Marco won the roll, and led with a Forest, while Ant had a turn one Silver-Inlaid Dagger. A Walking Corpse from Marco was soon outclassed when De Rosa cast a Cloistered Youth, who flipped out and became an Unholy Fiend at the first opportunity. The 3/3 didn't get equipped, as de Rosa was wary that Marco had not played a spell on his third turn. His instincts were correct. An Ambush Viper jumped in the way and left Ant to cast an Ashmouth Hound and a Blazing Torch.

Marco had a big game ready, in Garruk Relentless, who swiftly became Veil-Cursed as he fought with de Rosa's only creature.

"What am I going to do about that one?" De Rosa asked a substantial crowd who were checking out his match. He tried another creature, but soon lost it to a Corpse Lunge. Things were looking ugly for Ant. A Geistflame, plus its flashback dealt with Garruk, but when Olivia Voldaren replaced it, he declared that he wasn't quite sure how he was meant to win.

"I think those might be the best two rares in the set. At least that's what I've been told." Ant was not about to drag out a game where he was unlikely to come back. He scooped up his cards, and went to his sideboard for game two.

Marco Pandino 1 – 0 Antonino De Rosa

Antonino De Rosa

Game Two

Still smiling, De Rosa wasn't going to let the game one beating bring him down. A rocky run at Pro Tour Philadelphia had left De Rosa with just a single bye, and he seemed happy to play.

"I got to play my rare too, right? My white/red land?" It was fair to say that De Rosa's rare had created less impact on the game than either of his opponent's.

A Bloodcrazed Neonate from De Rosa was the first play of game two, and the Slith-alike was able to get in for two uncontested before being joined by an Elder Cathar. Marco was stuck on two lands, and forced to discard a Morkrut Banshee on his third turn, looking on as Ant continued to get stuck in. Pitchburn Devils was his next discard, and when the following turn didn't bring Marco a land either, he was soon scooping up his cards.

"Oh Magic, how we love you. Some unbeatable rares, some land light draws, we've got it all here." One of the top commenters on the game, Mr Antonino De Rosa.

Marco Pandino 1 – 1 Antonino De Rosa

Marco Pandino

Game Three

For game three, Ant again had a turn two Bloodcrazed Neonate, but this time Marco was not short on lands. He was short on a blocker for the 2/1 though, meaning it got to grow at least once. Ant had an Elder Cahar for the third turn, mirroring the second game exactly.

A Brimstone Volley killed off the Neonate before it got too big, but Ant kept rumbling in, and followed with an Ashmouth Hound. A Woodland Sleuth came from Marco, who used Prey Upon to kill Ant's hound. De Rosa didn't seem impressed, and finished off the Sleuth with Geistflame.

Ant had a Pitchburn Devils, while Marco was on Somberwald Spider. This looked a fairly large roadblock until Ant played his sixth land and a Butcher's Cleaver, before equipping it to Elder Cathar. He was now swinging for quite a bit, and gaining life into the bargain.

Marco simply equipped his spiders with Mask of Avacyn and passed. His road-block was now quite a bit better. A second Elder Cathar showed up for Ant, whose creatures more or less lived in the red zone. Marco was on just 9 life, and had to be careful. He flashed in Ambush Viper, and blocked both creatures. When the devils died, Marco was on 6, and Elder Cathar #2 became a 4/4. With a cleaver, that 4/4 became a lethal 7/4 lifelinker.

Marco might have had the rares, but he was in a very rough spot. Ant cast another Pitchburn Devils, and attacked, forcing a block from Marco. The following turn he had a Walking Corpse to block, but still went to 3, with De Rosa at 44. Being at 3 life with Pitchburn Devils in play is a tough proposition, and Marco scooped up his cards.

Antonino de Rosa wins 2-1!

After the match, Antonino let us in on his new mission in Magic.

"Now that I'm living somewhere with a lot of opportunities to play, I'm going to take them. They announced Planeswalker Points, and I'm in 12th place of anyone in lifetime points. Kai [Budde] is 13th. I'm level 48 now, and there are only five level 50's."

"Gerard Fabaino is ranked 6th, at level 49. If Gerard gets to level 50, then I have to get to level 50. Right now I'm not sure who's in 11th on Planeswalker Points, but let it be known, I'm out to get you!"

It turns out that it's Hall of Fame member Frank Karsten who is above Antonino on the list in 11th place. There's only 1,266 points between them. The race is on.

Podcast - Inside Innistrad: White and Blue

by Rich Hagon

All the way from New York City, Christian Calcano picks out ten of his favorite white cards to get the ball rolling, while Sweden's Joel Larssen is ready to use as many Blue cards as possible in his pursuit of another Grand Prix top 8, following his success at Pittsburgh. Want to do well at your next PTQ? Here's the inside track on some of the cards you'll be using.

Download this podcast in MP3 format (17.7 MB)

Saturday, 4:00 p.m. - The Beats to Beat Down To

by Tim Willoughby

As a coverage reporter here at GP Milan, one of the few challenges that I face (beyond being able to type fast enough to cover the likes of Shuhei Nakamura in the feature match area) is that the traditional writers' garb of black coverage shirt leaves me looking surprisingly like a judge. While I know the rules pretty well, I'm not allowed to be handing out game losses, even when I really want to.

Because of this, I've made something of a game at events to wear my coverage shirt, but be definitively un-judgy. For this event, that means having my big headphones around my neck, jeans and a bright Union Flag belt on. Given that I have big headphones on, I've also been working on the perfect playlist for the inaugural limited GP with Innistrad. With the help of those following @magicprotour over on Twitter (hashtag #GPMilan) I've come up with a pretty awesome spooky playlist for thems of you looking to get some tunes going while you play with the new set. If you need a few tunes for your Halloween party, you might find something here too.

Wait, this is my camera! Why are you pointing it at me? Is that thing on?

Thanks for all the Twitter followers for all the great suggestions! There were plenty of other suggestions – please let me know if I've made some egregious omissions on the @magicprotour twitter account, with the #innplaylist tag – I'll be sure to retweet the best!

The GP Milan Innistrad Playlist

Thriller – Michael Jackson
Werewolves of London – Warren Zefon (easily the most requested song for this playlist)
Vampire – The Blakes
A Song for the Dead – Queens of the Stone Age
Little Red Riding Hood – Sam Sham and the Pharoah
Dr Heckle and Mr Jive – Men at Work
Re: Your Brains – Jonathan Coulton
Is There a Ghost – Band of Horses
Spirit in the Sky – Norman Greenbaum
Don't Fear the Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
Human – The Killers

Saturday, 4:30 p.m. - The Scale of the Beast

by Tobi Henke

Previously, the largest Grand Prix ever to be held in Italy had 1,291 players. That was in Florence, a little less than a year ago. Now there's a new record, and 1,790 is definitely not mucking about. That's close to 500 players more than ever showed up for an Italian Grand Prix before.

1,790 ... That's a whoppin' 10,740 booster packs which were opened at the beginning of deck construction. Can you imagine the sound of 10,740 booster packs being opened at about the same time? The rustle is not exactly deafening but, wow, it is impressive.

"...a whoppin' 10,740 booster packs..."

Now, 10,740 booster packs ... All in all, including checklist cards, basic lands, and tokens, that's 171,840 cards. Can you imagine an amount like that? Well, of course you can't. It's pretty hard to really grasp the idea of such large numbers.

Let's look at it a different way. Mikaeus, the Lunarch is, along with its fellow mythic rares, one of the rarest cards in Innistrad. After all, Mikaeus, the Lunarch leads the Church of Avacyn and, by definition, there can be only one leader. Of course he's legendary as well as mythic. He's not one of the common folk, but a pretty elusive person. But in a field of 1,790 players with 10,740 booster packs openend, we estimate that there might be as many of 90 copies in the tournament. This Grand Prix has really reached Mythic Proportions!

Round 4: Top Trumps - Marijn Lybaert vs. Adrian Rosada

by Tim Willoughby

"The last time we played, I had a demon guy who pretty much owned both games"

"How do you like your deck now?"

"I don't like it... how is yours?"

"I like my deck a lot"

Belgian pro Marijn Lybaert with a good deck is a fairly formidable opponent, and he seemed quite pleased with himself as he sat down for his first match after his three byes. With a cheery whistle he shuffled up Rosada's deck. Rosada won Grand Prix Paris in 2009, still the largest GP ever. Marijn has had far more success at a Pro Tour level though, meaning that Rosada would not have it easy.

Game One

The first play of the match was a turn two Village Ironsmith from Rosada, who transformed it into Ironfang at the earliest opportunity, as unlike Rosada, Lybaert had no early plays. Rosada followed up with a Crossway Vampire, which was hit with Bonds of Faith from Lybaert who still did not have a creature.

Tormented Pariah came down for Rosada, and soon transformed, only to be hit by Smite the Monstrous in Lybaert's upkeep. Festerhide Boar followed, which thanks to morbid would be the full 5/5 in size. Lybaert was on the back foot, and cast a Geistcatcher's Rig without any geists around to catch. The 4/5 was big enough to slow Rosada's offence though, for which Lybaert must have been grateful.

Adrian Rosada

Rosada had a Villagers of Estwald, forcing Lybaert to find something. The Belgian had a Divine Reckoning, to leave Rosada with just Festerhide Boar. On six life, Marijn was still in a lot of trouble, and had to chump block with Geistcatcher's Rig. Rosada played and equipped an Inquisitor's Flail, but never got a chance to swing with it, as Lybaert simply scooped up his cards.

Adrian Rosada 1 – 0 Marijn Lybaert

Game Two

Both players kept their hands for game two, and Rosada led with a Blazing Torch. His aggressive red/green deck even had a Kressig Wolf Run to complement its werewolves, though they weren't coming quite so quickly in game two. A Deranged Assistant for Lybaert accelerated him into a turn three Abbey Griffin, while Rosada managed his first creature of the game on turn four in a Crossway Vampire, which was pushed to the top of Rosada's deck by Grasp of Phantasms. The Grasp was particularly brutal in that it meant Rosada was kept off drawing a Forest for another turn, giving Lybaert time to cast a Selhoff Ocultist.

Rosada was not about to be able to build up much in the way of tempo. He could not find a Forest, and his Vampire simply could not stay in play, as Lybaert had a Silent Departure to bounce it. Lybaert cast a Bonds of Faith on his Occultist, and had a Mindshrieker to further present an aggressive clock. Claustrophobia shut down Rosada's only blocker, and allowed Lybaert to finally swing for the remaining points to force a game three.

Adrian Rosada 1 – 1 Marijn Lybaert

Marijn Lybaert

Game Three

Neither player had a quick start for game three, with Marijn using a Traveler's Amulet to fix his mana a little, and Rosada simply not having a play before turn three. By the time that Rosada had his Village Ironsmight, there was already a Sellhoff Occultist in play, and Marijn wasn't about to let there be a 'free' transformation this game. He cast an Abbey Griffin and passed, as if daring Rosada to not play a spell.

Adrian Rosada seemed ok with this idea, passing and letting Lybaert attack with his 2/2 flyer. A Spidery Grasp meant that the 2/2 was handily dealt with, leaving Marijn to follow up with a Gallows Warden.

Scourge of Geier Reach appeared a sizeable threat, but was stopped in its tracks by Bonds of Faith. A Civilized Scholar then made sure that Ironfang transformed back into a comparatively un-scary Village Ironsmith.

Rosada used Prey Upon to get some value out of his Scourge of Geist Ridge, and then Harvest Pyre on Lybaert's looter. Things appeared to be going from bad to worse for Lybaert as a Naturalize came from Rosada, looking to remove Bonds of Faith. The Belgian had Frightful Delusion to stop this though, and force Rosada to discard a Forest.

Lybaert cast a Makeshift Mauler, and looked on as Rosada chose not to play spells on his turn such that his werewolves could get big. He had a Feeling of Dread to get into the red zone unimpeded, and Rosada was the one really feeling dread, as he now knew that Lybaert could not be stopped on his next attack.

As Rosada scooped up his cards, Lybaert declared his Frightful Delusion a good sideboard card. Rosada pointed out that his Naturalize was a sideboard card too – and that Marijn having the trump had won him the match.

Marijn Lybaert wins 2 – 1.

Podcast - Head Judging at a Grand Prix

by Rich Hagon

All the way from New York City, Christian Calcano picks out ten of his favorite white cards to get the ball rolling, while Sweden's Joel Larssen is ready to use as many Blue cards as possible in his pursuit of another Grand Prix top 8, following his success at Pittsburgh. Want to do well at your next PTQ? Here's the inside track on some of the cards you'll be using.

Download this podcast in MP3 format (18.3 MB)

Saturday, 5:47 p.m. – Juuudge!

by Tobi Henke

It's always worthwile to check with the judge team for insight into card interactions and tricky rules questions. They're busy people here in Milan, but still took the time to help out with this piece to educate all of you readers at home. Thanks to them, here are the three most interesting interactions we've seen so far.

Evil Twin enters the battlefield as a copy of a creature. Now what will it be when it copies a double-faced card? The answer is, it will be a copy of the one side that was face-up at the time. And since the Splinter Twin isn't double-faced itself, it will never transform. Interestingly enough, Evil Twin's activated ability will only be able to destroy the original creature when it has the same side face-up as it had when it was copied.

Evil Twin
Villagers of Estwald

Let's go with an example on that one. Say, you copy your opponent's Howlpack of Estwald with your Evil Twin. Your Evil Twin will remain a copy of Howlpack of Estwald, even when your opponent casts two spells in one turn. His Howlpack of Estwald, however, will transform back to being Villagers of Estwald and then can't be destroyed by Evil Twin's (a.k.a. Howlpack of Estwald's) ability. When it transforms again, though, it will be a valid target for the activated ability once more.

Another question came up a couple of times already this weekend: Can a Zombie equipped with Blazing Torch use Blazing Torch to shoot Elite Inquisitor? And if it can, will the damage be prevented?

Blazing Torch
Elite Inquisitor

The answer to both questions is no. Blazing Torch grants an ability to the creature it is attached to. Basically, the equipped Zombie has the ability to sacrifice Blazing Torch to have it deal 2 damage to target creature. Since Elite Inquisitor has protection from Zombies it can't be the target of a Zombie's ability. If it could, the damage wouldn't be prevented because it's actually Blazing Torch dealing the damage. But a Zombie can't torch Elite Inquisitor anyway, so that doesn't really matter.

Mikaeus, the Lunarch is a very very rare creature, mythically rare even. But in a field of 1,790 players it already came to pass that one Mikaeus, the Lunarch met another Mikaeus, the Lunarch. Now, player B wanted to know what would happen if he were to cast Mikaeus, the Lunarch for just one mana (with X=0, that is). Obviously, it dies by way of being 0/0. However, would his opponent's Mikaeus, the Lunarch also die because of the legend rule?

Mikaeus, the Lunarch
Mikaeus, the Lunarch

The answer is yes. There are two state-based effects which would kill the second Mikaeus, the Lunarch (having zero toughness and being one of two legendary permanents with the same name), while there's only one to kill the first Mikaeus, the Lunarch (being one of two legendary permanents with the same name). But all state-based effects are checked at the same time, so both are put into their owners' graveyards.

However, the biggest "troublemaker" so far was Bonds of Faith. Quite a lot of people forgot to retrieve the card after a match when they had enchanted an opposing creature. The judges try to return every card to their rightful owner. Still, their collection of Bonds of Faith is ever-growing.

Saturday, 6:22 p.m.: Tribal Spotlight – Vampires

by Tim Willoughby

We've already seen vampires be quite the constructed player with Zendikar's wave of blood-suckers. Now that Innistradhas arrived, the pointy fanged menaces are dressed a little smarter. Do they behave greatly differently though?

Vampire Interloper
Rakish Heir

First indications here in Milan suggest that the level of aggression of vampires has not changed greatly. Split across black and red, it is a little hard for them to really start building substantial tribal synergies, but there is definitely potential there. One of the more feared starts in the format is Vampire Interloper followed by Rakish Heir, and if an opponent is on a slow opener then Bloodcrazed Neonate can be even scarier.

Olivia Voldaren
Bloodline Keeper

The Vampire tribe is one that gets really exciting though when it comes to its rares. Between Bloodline Keeper and Olivia Voldaren, vampires have two of the most powerful rares to open in Innistrad, and even Stromkirk Noble and Falkenrath Marauders are very solid additions to most decks that can play them. It probably makes sense that with the vampires in Innistrad being a noble class that they are typically most exciting as a rares than a full tribe, but we'll see what happens tomorrow once draft gets going. There, the power of Vampiric Fury might yet get tested.

Saturday, 6:50 p.m.: Tribal Spotlight – Zombies

by Tim Willoughby

I'm quite unabashed in my love of zombies. They are without doubt my favourite horror movie monsters. My preference is more for the slow shambly ones a la the original Dawn of the Dead, rather than the lightning fast ones in the newer Dawn of the Dead, but any zombies are good zombies as far as I'm concerned.

In Innistrad, we have both kinds of zombies, along with the sorts of creations that Frankenstein would have been proud of. I want to start with the slow zombies, eating your brains. Their poster child is Undead Alchemist. What could be more flavourful than sending your team after all the cards left in an opponent's deck rather than just going for damage. Milling is a fairly dangerous strategy for sealed deck in this format, as there are simply so many ways that it can backfire. Flashback is just the start, while opposing Skaab creatures, along with green creatures counting graveyards make things even worse.

Dawn of the Dead
Undead Alchemist

If you are going to feed zombies on brains, I would recommend feeding them your own brains. Martin Juza, who if pressed would select flashback as his favourite tribe, classes Armored Skaab as one of his preferred role-player zombies. Remember all those bad things that can happen to you if you mill your opponent? He'd much rather make the bad things happen to his opponent by playing mill effects on himself.

Armored Skaab
Skaab Goliath

A tricky balance to strike when it comes to all the kibbles and brains required to support a large number of 'stitched together' blue zombies. Stitched Drake, Skaab Goliath, Makeshift Mauler and Skaab Ruinator are all fine additions to any deck that can cast them – it's just that if you have a lot of them, you are going to need a great deal of food for them. For sealed deck, there will be an upper limit to how much of this sort of zombification one can achieve. Fortunately, if almost any of these monsters hits the board, they have the potential to dominate it. If Skaab Goliath is hard to kill then Skaab Ruinator is just beastly.

Makeshift Mauler
Skaab Ruinator

Given Juza's affection for the 'flashback' tribe, he's probably also happy to be running various of the black Zombie cards. While not many players will have Army of the Damned in their decks (it is mythic after all), there will be plenty building a makeshift army with Moan of the Unhallowed. For those that do get to put 13 zombies into play in one go, it allows for them to have the perfect flavourful zombie deck to my mind; slow but inevitably deadly.

I'll leave you with my favourite zombie play of the day thus far. Watching Carrie Oliver vs Florian Pils in the feature match area, there were plenty of zombies all around. Florian got his from Moan of the Unhallowed, while Carrie was working an Undead Alchemist / Selhoff Occultist / Stitcher's Apprentice engine to create hers. Ultimately, the Selhoff Occultist won her the game via milling (brain eating), as it reached a point where even with Bloodline Keeper and Wildblood Pack in play, Pils simply couldn't attack, because the resulting bloodbath would eat the entire remainder of his deck.

Subtly synergistic, and more powerful than some have given credit. Zombies.

Podcast - Round 6 As It Happens

by Rich Hagon

Into the feature match area for the first time today, and everyone here is undefeated, looking to extend their tally to 6-0. England's Lewis McLeod takes on Joel Larsson of Sweden. Japan's Shuuhei Nakamura faces Luca Rinaldi of Italy. Belgium's Ben Possemiers faces the Frenchman Lucas Florent, and Jorge Pinazo of Spain has to get past Gaudenis Vidugiris of the United States. The more we see of Innistrad, the more interesting it becomes, and there's plenty to learn for those Honolulu PTQs, too.

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Saturday, 7:14 p.m.: - Tribal Spotlight: Werewolves

by Tim Willoughby

Here at Grand Prix Milan there are a whole new set of incentives to play low cost cards in the format; namely werewolves. Already we are seeing that this is a format where aggressive starts are definitely possible, and few are quite as aggressive as those coming from werewolves. Many of the green werewolf creatures would be considered efficient while still humans, making their hairier counterparts rather too much for some decks to deal with.

One of the interesting things for me in watching the aggressive werewolf starts comes from looking at what these decks need to do to ensure that their wolves are flipped out at the right moment. A couple of the most powerful answers to this question come in the form of rare lands. Both Gavony Township and Kessig Wolf Run are excellent in and of themselves, but become all the better when they are functioning as 'spells', in every sense but the fact that your werewolves don't notice them.

Gavony Township
Kessig Wolf Run

The Wolf Run with Village Ironsmith/Ironfang seems particularly brutal, as first strike combined with a hefty power boost is very difficult for many decks to deal with.

Where players are dealing with werewolves, it normally means some use of flashback spells. Casting and flashing back a Geistflame or Travel Preparations in one turn is eminently doable, and if it changes werewolves into their human forms, it is likely worth it.

Travel Preparations

More or less every werewolf is playable, but because of the fact that they are flip cards, it is impossible for anyone to have more than six in one sealed deck, meaning that by definition decks will be defined by individual werewolves rather than being a 'werewolf deck' in sealed. Tomorrow in draft though, will be a different story. Not only will there be plenty of wolves to choose from, this will also be the draft strategy with the clearest signals of all, as every player in the draft will be able to see who is picking a lot of double-faced cards highly. This is a strategy that favours the bold, but given the raw power of some of the transformed werewolves, especially the larger green ones, it could be a winner.

Saturday, 7:30 p.m.: Tribal Spotlight – Homunculi

by Tim Willoughby

Plenty of tribes will be getting the spotlight over the course of the weekend, but one of them that I am rather fond of has sneakily dodged the spotlight in Innistrad thus far. The humble homunculus only has 7 representatives in the whole of Magic, and the latest one, Stitcher's Apprentice is tricksier than most.

Stitcher's Apprentice
Pitchburn Devils

While this 1/2 is quite unassuming looking, one really doesn't have to look too far to find synergies. There are the creatures that don't mind too much about being sacrificed, like Pitchburn Devils or Mausoleum Guard. There are creatures that like to see other creatures die, like Murder of Crows. There are those that like to see graveyards filling, like Skaab Goliath or Boneyard Wurm.

Mausoleum Guard
Murder of Crows

Stitcher's Apprentice single-handedly means that morbid will always trigger when you want it to, making Brimstone Volley a consistent five point burn spell, and Morkrut Banshee a consistent removal spell.

Stitcher's Apprentice
Morkrut Banshee

I think that my favourite thing about Stitcher's Apprentice though, is what he does to the board while active. If your opponent has a removal spell, then the best it's going to do is change that spell's target into a 2/2. If your opponent is attacking with a human holding a Butcher's Cleaver, then the lifelink can be stopped by blocking and then sacrificing the blocker (who would likely have died anyway) before damage. There's even a 2/2 left behind to block with (and sacrifice) the following turn.

While he might seem unassuming, the homunculus argument is a strong one when it comes for working out which cards to play in Innistrad sealed.

Round 6: Feature Match - Gaudenis Vidugiris vs. Jorge Pinazo

by Tobi Henke

With one Pro Tour Top 8 on his résumé as well as five Grand Prix Top 8s, Gaudenis Vidugiris was clearly the favorite going into this round. Spaniard Jorge Pinazo was still looking to leave his mark on Magic history. First step: defeating Gaudenis Vidugiris.

Game One

Vidugiris won the die-roll, chose to play first, and kept his opening seven, while Pinazo went down to six. The game had only just begun, and already Vidugiris was pulling ahead. Vidugiris's led with Village Ironsmith, Voiceless Spirit, and Butcher's Cleaver. Meanwhile, Pinazo made an Ashmouth Hound, then missed his third land-drop. Uh-oh. When he drew a third land, Hanweir Watchkeep put a rather definite stop to Village Ironsmith's offensive ambitions, but Voiceless Spirit continued the beatdown. Vidugiris summoned Geist-Honored Monk, now a 5/5 creature, and appeared to be in total control.

Pinazo played a Plains to go along with his Forest and two Mountains, but passed his turn without further action. Pinazo's Hanweir Watchkeep turned into Bane of Hanweir, and Vidugiris's Village Ironsmith turned into Ironfang.

Jorge Pinaz

Vidugiris attacked with his two Spirit tokens and Voiceless Spirit. Pinazo had Rebuke for the latter. Unfazed, Vidugiris cast Manor Gargoyle, then double-blocked Bane of Hanweir, losing his Ironfang. Pinazo replaced his 5/5 with another: Galvanic Juggernaut. Vidugiris sealed the deal with Crossway Vampire to put the score at ...

Gaudenis Vidugiris 1 – 0 Jorge Pinazo

Game Two

After sideboarding, Pinazo was in for a big surprise when Vidugiris first played Swamp, then Island, and on turn three cast Liliana of the Veil to kill Pinazo's Ashmouth Hound. To make matters worse, Pinazo was stuck on lands again, this time on three Mountains. He passed without play.

Vidugiris made both players discard a card, courtesy of Liliana Vess, and cast Markov Patrician. No play for Pinazo. Discard and attack for Vidugiris. No play for Pinazo. Discard and attack for Vidugiris. Blazing Torch for Pinazo. Discard and attack for Vidugiris. Bloodcrazed Neonate for Pinazo. Liliana of the Veil made Pinazo sacrifice it, then Vidugiris attacked.

Gaudenis Vidugiris

Two attempts to kill Markov Patrician followed: Slayer of the Wicked met Dissipate, Rolling Temblor got Lost in the Mist. While Vidugiris was still deciding on the Lost in Mist's second target, Pinazo extended his hand in concession.

Gaudenis Vidugiris 2 – 0 Jorge Pinazo

"I have two good decks, apparently," Vidugiris said after the match. Does he always make the switch for game two? "According to Martin [Juza] the blue-black is just strictly better than the red-white, though I quite like the red-white as well. Right now, I'm inclined to simply switch as my default, but it depends on the match-up. Against control, I like blue-black because I think I can out-control any deck, but against fairly aggressive decks I might stick to red-white."

Podcast - Inside Innistrad: Black and Red

by Rich Hagon

Former Team World Champion Nico Bohny takes a look at ten of his favorite black cards from the set. While competitive players will learn plenty, Nico also selects a couple of cards that he loves because of the artwork. Which would you pick? Then Martin Juza, who is currently going to every event that matters, takes us through some of the red cards, and begins by focusing on Constructed play. Does the end of Goblin Guide mean that red is in trouble? Clue: He thinks not.

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Saturday, 9:33 p.m. – Crazy, But in a Good Way

by Tobi Henke

Melissa DeTora has had quite a career on the Pro Tour, with a number of money finishes, but hasn't been seen for a while now. With the advent of Planeswalker Points she's determined to make it back to the big stage. "For the next two months, my boyfriend and I are going to travel to every event, all over the world. Next up is GP Brisbane, then Chile, then Hiroshima, and then we're going to Worlds for the side events," Melissa said. "None of that would have been possible without Planeswalker Points."

"Even if you're not doing great at an event," she explained, and interrupted herself, laughing, "like I'm actually doing right now – you still get a fair amount of points. Our goal is of course the invitation to Pro Tour Honolulu."

She has it all figured out. "My target is an average of 300 points per GP weekend. Then there's also a couple of PTQs and the StarCityGames Invitational." At this point, the aforementioned boyfriend, James Searles, finished his round, and joined the discussion. "Basically we've been getting two reactions when telling people about our plan. Either: 'You're crazy!' Or: 'I wish I was you.'"

James Searles and Melissa Detora

Both sounds perfectly reasonable to this reporter. It is a pretty crazy schedule, after all. "Next week we're in Australia, the week after in South America, and then on to Japan," James said. "On our way back, we're actually making a stop in Honolulu, and guess what: There's a PTQ in Honolulu on that weekend which we're going to play in!"

James owns a game store (quick shout out to that runs everything from Friday Night Magic all the way to State Championships. "I don't play in my own events," James said, "though I think Melissa went 5-0 at a couple of FNMs." "That's 48 points!" Melissa chimed in. "It may not be as much as a Grand Prix, but it does add up."

Best of luck to Melissa and James! My guess is you'll probably get to read more about their exploits in the coverage of the next couple of Grand Prix.

Round 8: Back on Fire - Nicolai Herzog vs. Thomas Schmalfeld

by Tim Willoughby

When I bumped into Nicolai Herzog at the end of round four, he seemed a little down in the dumps. Coming off the three byes that come with his Hall of Fame membership, he'd lost his first round, and felt that he hadn't built his deck very well. It seems that since then the fire has come back though, as he hasn't lost since, and is now playing for day 2 here in Milan. The Norwegian was always known for limited, winning back to back limited Pro Tours, and in this fresh Innistrad sealed deck format, he was showing the whippersnappers how it is done.

Game One

On the play Schmalfeld led with a Plains, while Herzog had Mountain. An Island meant that the first creature that Herzog had to face was an Avacynian Priest. Herzog played a Deranged Assistant, and just looked on as a Voiceless Spirit came from his opponent. The Priest on Schmalfeld's side of the battlefield looked to be a little frustrating for Herzog, especially when he laid out Ludevic's Test Subject. The Priest also seemed a good answer to Falkenrath Marauders. Was there nothing that Nico's deck could do about it?

Brad Nelson tried to take this face from me, but I'm taking it back - Nicolai Herzog

A Cloistered Youth came from Schmalfeld, who was happy to keep up mana to keep Herzog's vampire in check. Unfortunately for him, Herzog had two vampires, and the second was far more vicious than the first. Olivia Voldaren came out to play, and immediately shot Cloistered Youth, killing it, and making her a 4/4 flyer.

Herzog pointed at his mythic rare and declared "This is how I have been winning. I am very proud."

Olivia Voldaren
"This is how I have been winning..."

Olivia got tapped by Avacynian Priest, and Falkenrath Marauders was killed off by a Brimstone Volley. It didn't seem to matter too much though. Nico could still shoot down Schmalfeld's team, and level up his monster. A Forbidden Alchemy also came at the end of turn, which found Herzog a second Swamp to potentially start stealing monsters.

Schmalfeld wasn't about to start letting any of that nonsense happen. He scooped up his cards, hoping to have a better chance in game two.

Nicolai Herzog 1 – 0 Thomas Schmalfeld

Game Two

Game two started out with a Mentor of the Meek from Schmalfeld, while Herzog had nothing but three different lands for the first three turns. Herzog did have a Forbidden Alchemy though, giving him a great chance to draw his bombs. He had a Harvest Pyre to kill off Mentor of the Meek before it drew Schmalfeld any extra cards, and a Dead Weight to deal with the Stitcher's Apprentice that followed.

With the board now clear, Herzog cast a Moon Heron, to which Schmalfeld had nothing. Herzog took pause and thought, looking at the five cards in Schmalfeld's hand warily. He attacked and then cast a Geistcatcher's Rig, which got hit by a Dissipate. Had Herzog read the counter? Did he have another threat in hand? Schmalfeld tapped out of blue to cast Claustrophobia on Moon Heron, only to find himself on the wrong side of Falkenrath Marauders, who swung in and grew to 4/4 in size.

A Fiend Hunter got rid of the vampires, and Schmalfeld also had a Geistflame to kill off a Civilized Scholar from Herzog. Voiceless Spirit came next from Schmalfeld, who seemed to be back in the game. A Sensory Deprivation from Herzog slowed Schmalfeld's offence, but at least Herzog wasn't on a bombing run. Schmalfeld cast an Armored Skaab, and at the end of turn Herzog flashed back Forbidden Alchemy, digging for something.

Death stare or starstruck, you decide - Thomas Schmalfeld

He discarded a Dead Weight, Silent Departure and Galvanic Juggernaut, which lead Schmaldeld to sigh. What did Herzog have? Night Revelers and One-Eyed Scarecrow came from Herzog, who was down to just one card in hand. He slumped a little when Skaab Ruinator came from his opponent. While it was a 4/6 thanks to Herzog's Scarecrow, that as still plenty big enough to be a problem.

Herzog flashed back Silent Departure on the Ruinator, hopeful that recasting it would prove problematic. He then played Ludevic's Test Subject, hoping to have the time to flip it. Schmalfeld could not recast Skaab Ruinator, instead playing a Stitched Drake which would render recasting a virtual impossibility. A Claustrophobia on the flyer allowed Night Revelers to continue their assault on Schmalfeld's life total, and brought a slump from him that suggested he might be running out of gas.

Nico, meanwhile, had a chance to flip Ludevic's Test Subject into Ludevic's Abomination. You don't need much gas when you have a 13/13 trampler, and less than 13 damage to deal. Schmalfeld extended his hand. He was done.

Nicolai Herzog wins 2-0!

Quick Question - Top Commons for Sealed

by Tobi Henke

What are the Top 5 common cards you most like to find in your Sealed Pool?

Martin Juza

Avacynian Priest, Forbidden Alchemy, Brimstone Volley, Dead Weight, and ... I'm not sure about the fifth. Maybe Armored Skaab, if you have enough flashback cards and Zombies. I really like blue and black cards. Basically, what Gaudenis [Vidugiris] has got in his sideboard. Silent Departure can be really good if you have an aggressive deck. Green, I don't like at all.

Shuhei Nakamura

Ummm ... that's hard. Most commons are kind of weak. I think, Avacynian Priest, Bonds of Faith ... Brimstone Volley. Let me see. Two more, yes? Ah, I know. Shimmering Grotto and Traveler's Amulet. Mana is important.

Nico Bohny

Brimstone Volley, Bonds of Faith, Forbidden Alchemy, Calustrophobia, and the black removal. Which one? Oh, yeah. No, I think I like Dead Weight better than Victim of Night. I don't really know about Avacynian Priest. White seems to be the best color by far, so everyone's got lots of Humans anyway.

Joel Larsson

Silent Departure, Chapel Geist, Thraben Sentry, Stitched Drake, and Claustrophobia. Of course I'm not going strictly by powerlevel here, or else Forbidden Alchemy would probably belong. I really like fliers and card draw and blue and ... well, mostly just blue, really. And tempo cards, especially Silent Departure. A friend of mine opened a very good blue deck and left two Silent Departures in his sideboard. I told him, 'If you don't board these in every match, I won't be your friend anymore.'

Florian Pils

Forbidden Alchemy, definitely. Then probably Brimstone Volley, Victim of Night, and Claustrophobia. I prefer blue-black, possibly with a splash of red. As for the fifth one ... I guess Shimmering Grotto. You have to work for your splash, after all. Err, actually I forgot Stitched Drake. Cut – no, not Shimmering Grotto, that card's great – cut Victim of Night.

Podcast - The Undefeated

by Rich Hagon

Round nine, and eight players enter the feature match area with zero defeats. Marcello Calvetto heads the home challenge, needing to beat Switzerland's Florian Krauer, playing in only his third Grand Prix. A second Swiss player, Nico Bohny, has Christian Seibold of Germany in the way of a 9-0 start. Yet a third Swiss player is Matteo Rusconi, facing the stiff task of knocking Lukas Jaklovsky off his perch, while the proverbial Battle of Britain sees the 8-0 Richard Bland take on Marco Orsini-Jones, who has one draw to blemish his perfect record. With a tenth round of Swiss late tonight, avoiding defeat is even more critical, as the field bunches up. Hear it all unfold, just a click away.

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Saturday, 11:40 p.m. - Breaking Through the Bubble

by Tim Willoughby

Going into round 9, there were a whole host of big names whose tournament life was in their hands. While Shuhei Nakamura had raced off to a fantastic start in the tournament, he had faltered for a couple of rounds, causing him to be walking the room repeating, 'please, just one more' to anyone who would care to listen. His deck, chock full of quality black removal, and a pair of demons, it would seem was listening to him, and after a worrying couple of rounds, Nakamura locked up his day two place.

Christian Calcano was another player who had travelled a long way to not make day two, but found himself perilously close to just that series of events. His blue/green deck had some powerful cards, but he had ultimately found Skaab Ruinator a little too greedy and difficult to cast, siding it out in most matches. In spite of this, he too saw fortune smile on him, winning fast, and declaring this an 'easy game' now that a day of drafting on Sunday was locked up.

Christophe Gregoir and Yves Sele

For Christophe Gregoir, the red/white route was his chosen path, and in spite of a little scare in one game, he was able to get the win he needed. Both players were tired, but it was his opponent who blinked first, with a crucial Geistflame on a Spirit token failing due to the on-board Gallows Warden being the final straw that left the game in Gregoir's hands.

Then, we had Yves Sele. He took the path less travelled to day two, by winning game one with white creatures, backed up by Garruk Relentless (who ultimately fetched an Elder of Laurels to close out the game), and then completely changing up for game two. In the second game, facing down Ludevic's Test Subject and a host of other blue/white threats, Sele was a blue/white/black deck himself. He didn't even need the Grimgrin, Corpse Born in his deck to win the second game, instead winning a tempo war to make day two.

Kenny Oberg

Things didn't go so well for Kenny Oberg. His dream was crushed in a very close game three, as his blue/white deck fell to a blue/black deck splashing for Devil's Play and Heretic's Punishment. It was the latter that finally killed off the Swede, who on three life was in fine shape to be shot down by the powerful enchantment.

There is still a round of play here in Milan, but for those still playing the pressure is off – everyone still battling has qualified for draft day.

Saturday, 11:40 p.m. - Day One Undefeated Decklists

by Event Coverage Staff

Michael Milis

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Lukas Jaklovsky

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Alexandru Dimitriu

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Florian Krauer

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Nico Bohny

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