Grand Prix Milan 2011 Day 2 Blog

Posted in Event Coverage on October 9, 2011

By Wizards of the Coast


  • by Rich Hagon
    Podcast: Inside Innistrad:
    Green, Artifacts, and Lands
  • by Tim Willoughby
    Sunday, 5:53 p.m.:
    Countdown to Top 8
  • by Tobi Henke
    Round 15: Feature Match
    Samuele Estratti vs. Lukas Blohon
  • by Rich Hagon
    Podcast: The 39 Steps
  • by Tim Willoughby
    Sunday, 3:30 p.m.: Tribal Spotlight
  • by Tobi Henke
    Sunday, 3:11 p.m.:
    3-0 Draft Decks
  • by Tim Willoughby
    Round 14: Feature Match
    Peter Vieren vs. Lucas Florent
  • by Tobi Henke
    Sunday, 2:14 p.m.:
    Drafting with Marcello Calvetto
  • by Tim Willoughby
    Round 13: Gruesome Transformations
    Federico Del Basso vs. Raphael Levy
  • by Tobi Henke
    Sunday, 12:34 p.m.:
    Drafting Innistrad
  • by Tim Willoughby
    Sunday, 11:28 a.m.: Travel Preparations
    The Magic World Tour
  • by Rich Hagon
    Podcast: Everywhere you Look
  • by Tim Willoughby
    Round 11: Feature Match
    Christian Calcano vs. Philippe Venchiarutti
  • by Tim Willoughby
    Sunday, 10:48 a.m.: Drafting Innistrad
    with Lucas Florent
  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Sunday, 9:53 a.m.: Day 2 Country Breakdown
  • by Tobi Henke
    Round 11: Feature Match
    Nico Bohny vs. Matteo Versari
  • by Rich Hagon
    Podcast: Building the Draft

Podcast - Building the Draft

by Rich Hagon

218 players sat down for day two of Grand Prix Milan, and ahead of them lay six rounds of Innistrad draft. We look at some of the key players as they build their first draft deck of the day, knowing that for most of them a single defeat will be enough to end their hopes of lifting the trophy sometime tonight.

Download this podcast in MP3 format (9.17 MB)

Round 11: Feature Match - Nico Bohny vs. Matteo Versari

by Tobi Henke

Yesterday, Nico Bohny was positively on fire. So was his opponent, Matteo Versari. Both the Swiss pro and the Italian enjoying his first breakout performance went 10-0 with their Sealed Decks. Who would continue the undefeated streak in Draft?

Game One

Versari won the die-roll and chose to play first. He had Avacyn's Pilgrim on turn one, followed by Orchard Spirit on turn two, and Ulvenwald Mystics on turn three. In the meantime, Bohny's blue-white deck had given him Stitcher's Apprentice and Silverchase Fox. Versari used Prey Upon to have his Ulvenwald Mystics and Bohny's 2/2 fight, then attacked with the 3/3. Bohny blocked, trading away his Stitcher's Apprentice for the Ulvenwald Mystics that had already taken 2 damage in the fight with Silverchase Fox.

Versari restocked with Villagers of Estwald and continued to beat down with his Orchard Spirit. Bohny summoned Makeshift Mauler and, when Versari didn't make a play on his turn to transform Villagers of Estwald into Howlpack of Estwald, used Slayer of the Wicked to get rid of it. He lost his Makeshift Mauler to an ambush by the aptly-named Ambush Viper.

Nico Bohny

Versari made another Ulvenwald Mystics, Bohny summoned Fortress Crab. Versari cast Grizzled Outcasts and attacked, putting Bohny at 12. Ironically, Bohny's blue-white deck seemed unprepared to deal with Orchard Spirit. At end of turn, he dug for answers via Forbidden Alchemy. He found Dearly Departed and, for his trouble, got a Grasp of Phantoms into his graveyard as well.

He cast the 5/5 flier, then on his next turn returned Grizzled Outcasts to the top of Versari's library and began the beatdown. Versari had another Orchard Spirit, but Bohny's Claustrophobia and Bonds of Faith stopped Versari's offense, while Dearly Departed claimed victory.

Matteo Versari 0 – 1 Nico Bohny

Game Two

Bohny had basically the same start with Silverchase Fox and Stitcher's Apprentice, while his opponent had to make do with Ulvenwald Mystics as his first spell of the game. Bohny returned the Mystics via Grasp of Phantoms and attacked, Versari replayed it.

Silverchase Fox
Stitcher's Apprentice
Ulvenwald Mystics
Grasp of Phantoms

Bohny's offensive (a 1/2 and a 2/2) had not been very impressive in the first place, now it was stuck. He took to the air with Chapel Geist, but Versari's Geistcatcher's Rig put a stop to that as well. A second copy of Ulvenwald Mystics joined its brethren on the battlefield, as did a Darkticket Wolf. Meanwhile, Bohny made a Fortress Crab, and put Bonds of Faith on the Geistcatcher's Rig. Both Ulvenwald Mystics turned into Ulvenwald Primordials, but Bohny clogged up the board further with Skaab Goliath, followed by a second Fortress Crab. There was no getting through, for neither player.

Matteo Versari

As if on cue, both found a possible solution: Bohny had Moorland Haunt, Versari had Orchard Spirit. Bohny used his land and his Stitcher's Apprentice to turn his Fortress Crab into a 2/2 Homunculus token and a 1/1 Spirit token with flying. The second Fortress Crab ended up the same way, and the two fliers began to work on Versari's lifetotal.

It took a while to finally get there, but the combo of Stitcher's Apprentice plus Moorland Haunt did indeed get there.

Matteo Versari 0 – 2 Nico Bohny (now on 11-0)

Sunday, 11:53 a.m. - Day 2 Country Breakdown

by Event Coverage Staff
Country Players
Italy 68
Spain 22
Germany 22
France 18
Switzerland 13
Belgium 7
England 7
Austria 6
Czech Republic 5
Finland 4
Norway 4
Poland 4
Slovenia 4
Sweden 4
Portugal 3
Denmark 2
Estonia 2
Greece 2
Hungary 2
Israel 2
Latvia 2
Netherlands 2
United States 2
Cyprus 1
Japan 1
Luxembourg 1
Peru 1
Romania 1
Russian Federation 1
Serbia and Montenegro 1
Slovak Republic 1
Turkey 1
Venezuela 1
Total players 217

Sunday, 10:48 a.m. - Drafting with Lucas Florent

by Tim Willoughby

As I was circulating the room this morning looking for a good drafter to watch in the first pod of Grand Prix Milan Innistrad draft, I found myself speaking to Christian Calcano, a pro known for his love of 40 card decks, looking for a scoop.

"I like the format a lot, but haven't done all that many drafts just yet. If you want to see some nice Innistrad drafting, you should speak to Lucas Florent. He was destroying yesterday in side drafts, and finished 9-1, yesterday."

Florent definitely seems to be comfortable drafting with the set already, and after a brief morning 'bonjour' to his countryman Raphael Levy, two seats to his right, he was all set to go.

This draft format, with its double faced cards, has some of the most interesting signalling opportunities of any set ever made. While normally one might have a hunch of the colours that anyone else at the table is or isn't drafting, it can be hard to know for sure. With flip cards, the potential for information (or misinformation) about the colours that someone is in is very high indeed.

Florent is very much of the opinion that flip cards have a big impact on the information game being played in a draft. You can use them to signal what your draft plan is, or to hide it, and even if you aren't picking them, you can certainly be influenced by them. For example, if you saw a Reckless Waif opened a few seats to your right in pack one, that might influence you to pick an aggressive red card first, knowing that there would be a good chance of getting the wolf as a third pick.

Reckless Waif

At the start of the first pack, it was clear that most players wouldn't be windmill slamming a flip card as a first pick. However, there were two that stood out as noteworthy – Raph Levy had opened a Ludevic's Test Subject, while opposite him there was a Kruin Outlaw. For Florent, the choice would not be his flip card, as there were far more interesting options. Blue held both Battleground Geist and Stitched Drake, and red offered just one gem; a Brimstone Volley. The burn spell can kill a large amount of the creatures in the format without morbid, but with it there is little that it can't handle. The flip cards did influence Florent though. Seeing that Kruin Outlaw was almost exactly opposite him at the table reinforced his feeling that the red pick would be a good one, as the werewolf player would put people off red on the other side of the table, but he would be far away enough not to be affected. At the end of the first pick it was clear that the lure of both the Test Subject and the Outlaw was enough to make them worthy initial choices. Werewolf sighted.

Ludevic's Test Subject
Kruin Outlaw

A second pick Slayer of the Wicked for Florent was a welcome addition, that had the Frenchman thinking about green/white humans, splashing for the Volley. Removal for the first two picks is a fair start, right? For the third, Florent took an Unburial Rites, still waivering on colours. The thought of getting back a Slayer of the Wicked a few times seemed, frankly, a little bit wicked itself, but it did mean passing an Into the Maw of Hell, and going into a third colour that meant a new plan.

Slayer of the Wicked
Unburial Rites

At the fourth pick, Florent had the choice between Screeching Bat or Chapel Geist. Florent preferred the Geist, not just for its ability to fight well in the air, but for the added value he got from passing the flip card and seeing who snapped it up. When he saw it go the very next pick, he knew that there might be some issues with not getting too many black cards in pack two. This wasn't enough to stop Diregraf Ghoul joining Florent's squad the very next pick.

Chapel Geist
Diregraf Ghoul

Soon after, Lucas played another flip card trick – he picked a Villagers of Estwald from an otherwise unexciting pack. This would either be a move from him to get into green, given that things seemed to be drying up fast for him, or a neat little bluff, depending on how the pack went. As it turns out, at the end of pack one, Florent had a fairly fragmented draft deck, whose colours were yet to be fully hammered down. Was he being cut?

The answer came in pack two. He saw lots of copies of Thraben Sentry, which would be as useful to him as a signal of who was in white as they would be in his deck. Seeing that the player on his right took one, along with one two to his left, he knew that there might be a squeeze going on. That said, Morkrut Banshee was the best card for Florent, who gradually settled into being black/white over the course of the pack. He picked up more Diregraf Ghoul's and Abbey Griffins over the course of the pack, and finally gave a signal to the table in picking a Cloistered Youth.

Diregraf Ghoul
Abbey Griffin

At the end of pack two, Florent's deck was solid, but not exciting. This changed a little when he opened pack three, and a Curse of Death's Hold was looking at him. This was not the time to be worrying about flip cards. Lucas looked at the heart shaped stamp on the card, kissed his fingers and touched them to the stamp mark. This was the gift his deck needed. He picked a couple of Bonds of Faith, along with more Abbey Griffin action, along with a Bitterheart Witch who would be able to find his powerful curse at a moment's notice. Potentially he could even use Altar's Reap for a powerful trick to pick up the curse.

Bonds of Faith
Bitterheart Witch

Black/white, splashing Brimstone Volley, Lucas Florent ended the draft happy both with his deck, and that he had a fair idea of what was going on at the table. He was a little concerned that his deck wasn't super fast for the format (which can have some very quick starts), but overall, the Frenchman was happy with his chances.

Round 11: Feature Match - Christian Calcano vs. Philippe Venchiarutti

by Tim Willoughby
Burning Vengeance

When finding out about the format, one of the first decks I was hoping was a 'real deck' was the Burning Vengeance deck. I've always been a huge fan of build around uncommons, and like Furnace Celebration or Lightning Rift, the Burning Vengeance deck seemed like it could be a real deck.

I was pretty happy when I heard from Lucas Florent that he'd won two side drafts on Saturday with it, and had been spreading the word amongst a few of the other pros at the event. The trick is that right now, if you see one early, you can wait for it to lap the table, and just pick up the good flashback cards early. The flashback cards are good enough that if it doesn't pan out, then you are still in fine shape, and if it works, then you are golden. Golden is an appropriate description, as barring the necessary red, there are quite a few options for flashback, as it is in all colours. Blue is a great pairing, as it enables Desperate Ravings, plus quality bounce spells, but there is also a version that is Naya colours, and has fun with Travel Preparations, and Burning Vengeance support.

One player that took note was Christian Calcano. He managed to pick up a fairly spicy red/white/blue (team America) version of the deck, with a slew of flashback spells, and four(!) copies of the namesake enchantment. Now in round 11 we will see how it goes. His opponent, Philippe Venchiarutti could not know what was about to hit him.

Game One

Calcano took early hits from an Invisible Stalker, but when his Desperate Ravings randomly put a Rolling Temblor into the grumper, it became clear that he'd have a way of dealing with the 1/1 at some point. He cast first a Voiceless Spirit, then a Chapel Geist with which to gum up the board until he had time to extract some vengeance.

A Stitched Drake (fuelled by an earlier Forbidden Alchemy) held off Calcano, but the New Yorker did have a Burning Vengeance to play. Venchiarutti cast a Curiosity on his Invisible Stalker to create a card drawing engine, and followed up with Moan of the Unhallowed. Calcano seemed unconcerned, casting a Rolling Temblor from his hand to leave his opponent with just a Stitched Drake.

Bloodgift Demon

Venchiarutti was not out of gas. He had a Bloodgift Demon, who could in theory turn the game around. I say in theory, because a Geistflame did one point when cast, then three when flashed back, thanks to Burning Vengeance, to off the 5/4 in short order. Could Venchiarutti come back? He had a Disciple of Griselbrand, but as Calcano built up on lands to be able to flash things back, it put Venchiarutti's options on a slimming plan almost as bad for him as Atkins. Calcano used Silent Departure on Stitched Drake, forcing Venchiarutti to keep eating his graveyard to play creatures. After it came down again, Calcano used flashback to bounce the drake and off the disciple. The engine was well and truly rolling.

Sensory Deprivation on Calcano's creatures was a non-issue. A second Burning Vengeance meant that the remaining flashback spells in Calcano's graveyard would deal 4 damage (split two ways if needed). Given that those two flashback cards were both Rolling Temblor, it would be very tough for Venchiarutti to keep any creatures on the battlefield.

Venchiarutti was willing to give it a try, with an Unburial Rites to get back his Bloodgift Demon. This forced a flashback on one of the Temblors, to keep the path clear, and allow Calcano to plink in for 2 with a Chapel Geist. The flashback from Venchiarutti was not nearly as exciting as Calcano's, getting back the Demon for only a very short time before a Feeling of Dread proved aptly named, setting up attacks, plus a huge amount of Burning Vengeance.

Christian Calcano 1 – 0 Phillipe Venchiarutti

Christian Calcano

Game Two

Calcano shuffled fast, clearly itching to play another game with what seemed to be a very fun deck. On the draw, he saw a Village Cannibals as the first creature from his opponent, and didn't have a third land himself, leading him to discard a Battleground Geist.

A Night Terrors saw Geistflame, Feeling of Dread, Rolling Temblor, Chapel Geist and three copies of Burning Vengeance. Venchiarutti took the creature, and hoped to be able to beat down hard enough that he'd not have to see vengeance happen.

With Calcano discarding a Burning Vengeance, still short on land, Venchiarutti went for it with his Bloodgift Demon, and then a Stromkirk Patrol. Calcano looked to be in very rough shape. He used a Feeling of Dread to buy some time, and then finally found a third land to cast a Fiend Hunter to deal with the Demon. When a Moon Heron got all curious, and Calcano still didn't have a fourth land, he packed in his cards, he would have to get it on game three.

Christian Calcano 1 – 1 Philippe Venchiarutti

Game Three

For game three on the play, Calcano was quick to keep his hand. He had a Chapel Geist on turn three, which Venchiarutti answered (after a fashion) with One-Eyed Scarecrow. Calcano had a turn four Burning Vengeance, and was building up mana nicely. He didn't have a spell on turn five, and passed, looking on as Venchiarutti cast an end step Forbidden Alchemy, discarding a land, Invisible Stalker and Moan of the Unhallowed.

Phillipe Venchiarutti

On his own turn, Venchiarutti cast Night Terrors, to which Calcano responded with a Geistflame, in order to get the instant into his graveyard. This left Silent Departure, Island and Feeling of Dread in his hand. One way or another he would have some flashback fodder. Venchiarutti took the Silent Departure, and when Calcano flashed back Geistflame to kill One-Eyed Scarecrow, he had Altar's Reap ready to draw some cards with.

Venchiarutti rebuilt his board with a Stromkirk Patrol, which got stuck in unimpeded before Stitched Drake came down, and Sensory Deprivation got put on Chapel Geist. Calcano no longer had attacking options, and passed his turn without a play, holding four cards in hand. He used Feeling of Dread to hold off attacks for a turn, but didn't have an answer to Bloodgift Demon. He cast a Rolling Temblor simply to get it into his graveyard for later back-flashing.

When Venchiarutti went for attacks, Calcano flashed back Feeling of Dread to tap everything but Venchiarutti's demon, and did 2 damage to the 5/4. He tried to cast Purify the Grave (with enough mana to flash it back) but was thwarted by a Dissipate from Venchiarutti. Calcano was now in very rough shape, as his opponent had a sizeable air force in the demon and Stitched Drake, along with the continued ability to draw two cards a turn.

Calcano, visibly rattled by the Dissipate, had to flash back his Rolling Temblor to deal with Stromkirk Patrol while it could, but was then left cold to attacks from Venchiarutti's demon. After a powerful first game, it was Venchiarutti who got the final vengeance.

Phillipe Philippe Venchiarutt wins 2-1!

Podcast - Everywhere you Look

by Rich Hagon

...there are great matches. At 8-3, even five straight wins may not be enough. Nonetheless, that path begins for Marijn Lybaert and Christophe Gregoir with an all-Belgia elimination battle. Fighting to lead the Italian charge are Marcello Calvetto and Matteo Versari. One will move to 11-1, the other slipping back into the chasing pack. Also at 10-1 is Matteo Rusconi, the Swiss player who now needs to defeat Raphael Levy, the storied Hall of Famer. Finally, sitting above them all, two players compete at 11-0 to deny their opponent a continued perfect record, as Michael Milis of Belgium faces the Swiss former Team World Champion Nico Bohny. Stand by for some great Magic, as it happened.

Download this podcast in MP3 format (15.6 MB)

Sunday, 11:28 a.m.: Travel Preparations – The World Tour

by Tim Willoughby

Here at Grand Prix Milan, we have more players than have ever before descended upon an Italian Magic event. While the greatest number of them are themselves Italian, there are a fabled few who have come from rather further away, and there seems to be a growing trend of making these long distance Magic trips into more extended periods of travel, or even part of the regular routine.

The poster child for the travelling Magic player is Shuhei Nakamura. The Japanese pro only misses Grand Prix because there are other Grand Prix going on at the same time somewhere else in the world. He's got the bag to show for it, along with a truly epic number of lifetime Planeswalker points, that places him securely at level 50, and realistically probably some fabled level 51 or 52.

One novelty for Shuhei in terms of travel that still remains to happen is bringing his family to a big event. This will be rectified this year when both his father and sister make the trip out to San Francisco, where he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. While there are few people who travel quite as much as Shuhei, it seems that the entire Nakamura clan has a certain wanderlust – his sister is also well travelled, and is apparently looking forward to California in November courtesy of Wizards of the Coast. Who wouldn't?

Martin Juza is the other player who is a reliable fixture on the Grand Prix world tour, and between him and Shuhei the number of air miles racked up per year is frankly terrifying. It is the combination of Juza and Nakamura that has lead to an epic trip for later this month.

When I asked Martin what his current travel schedule was, he laid it out for me in some detail.

Shuhei's travel bag is always packed

'From Prague, I came here to Milan. Then Shuhei and I are going to Brisbane, then on to Lima, where some of the guys from the USA will meet us. Then we're going on to Cusco, Macchu Pichu and GP Santiago. After that I'm heading over to Tokyo to test with Shuhei, then on to Hiroshima.

After that I'll be at home (Prague) for a week, before going to San Francisco for Worlds, then home for Christmas.'

It is a wonder that Juza and Nakamura ever have any idea what time it is, they are changing time zones so often. The secret, as far as I can tell, is that Nakamura at least seems to grab sleep whenever he can, saving up energy for the tournaments that for him are a reality just about every single weekend.

Once we get past 'the regulars' we have the New York crew. For this event, that means Christian Calcano and Gaudenis Vidugiris, each of whom find travel to Europe from the big apple easy enough to warrant a trip. Calcano, a particular fan of limited, was keen to get to as many Grand Prix as possible to give him the best shot at hitting level 6 by the end of the season, and saw Milan as a great opportunity to leverage his skill at limited and turn it into more Pro Points.

We've already heard yesterday about Melissa Detora's travels, but it would certainly be remiss of me not to mention her within the posse of players making their way across the globe, hunting down points, prizes, and places on the Pro Tour. Having spoken to Carrie Oliver from England, who is still doing well on draft day, she has said that depending on her qualification status for Honolulu, she too might find herself travelling more for Grand Prix.

Finally, from China, Wu Tong of the Chinese National squad made the trip to Milan. For him, part of the appeal was the opportunity to do some trading – a lot of players really like cards with Chinese writing on, and that's something that he has plenty of access to, while some of the legacy staples are much harder to find back home. He squeaked into day 2, but has an uphill struggle today if he is to get to the very top, having gone to bed last night on a 7-3 record.

Us coverage guys are relative amateurs when it comes to travel. I only have GP Milan, GP Amsterdam, Worlds in San Francisco and maybe a cheeky trip to New York for New Years left in my travel calendar this year. I know you don't need to be Shuhei Nakamura levels of good to travel as much as he does, but I can't help but think it helps.

Sunday, 12:34 p.m. – Drafting

by Tobi Henke

So, is Innistrad Draft a fast format? What are the best colors and color archetypes? How important is tempo in relation to card advantage? Are there maybe even match-ups you better want to avoid?

Nico Bohny just finished playing in the feature match area for the fourth time in a row. He won all of those matches and was now sitting comfortably atop the standings at 12-0. This guy clearly knows something about Innistrad limited. "My favorite color combinations are blue-white and blue-red. Blue's just so good," he said. Many players argue for blue-black, but he disagrees. "I don't like black. Although it does have quite a lot of bombs, on average I found black rather disappointing. Green-white can be good, when you're really aggressive, but mainly I just like blue."

Nico Bohny

Regarding the speed of the format he opined, "It's not very fast. Sometimes green-white or blue-white come up with superfast aggrodecks. Most other combinations, though, are rather defensive. Which isn't to say, that tempo is not a big issue. It is. You definitely want to play first in Booster Draft. Not necessarily in Sealed Deck, but even there, playing first can be a big advantage."

"I don't really know about match-ups, it seems any color combination can beat every other," Bohny said. "But with the typical Human deck you basically never want to play against another Human deck. Bonds of Faith and Avacynian Priest lose a lot of value in this pairing."

Raphael Levy

Hall of Famer Raphael Levy said about the format's speed, "It's not really fast. I mean, tempo is important but that doesn't mean it's fast."

He added, "Synergy plays a big role in Innistrad limited. In that regard, it's very different from Scars of Mirrodin or M12. You either were drafting infect or you weren't, and in M12 you mainly had to figure out your colors. It's a nice change and a great format. I like it a lot."

"I'm not sure yet about archetypes," Levy said. "Blue-red flashback can be a real monster."

Round 13: Gruesome Transformations – Federico Del Basso vs. Raphael Levy

by Tim Willoughby

It has been a while since Raphael Levy hit top 8 of a Grand Prix. The last time was in 2008 at Grand Prix Birmingham. The Hall of Fame member has won three of them over the years, with the first in 1998, playing a green land destruction deck. Following that his next wins were in Dallas and Singapore on successive weekends with the same five colour zoo deck. These days, Raph's Magic practice schedule is broken up by training in the formidable martial art of jiu-jitsu, for which he trains at least as much as Magic. That doesn't mean to say that the Hall of Fame ring doesn't count these days though. Raph is still a regular of the Magic circuit.

Extended is the format that Raph has won with the most, but with 8 top eights at Grand Prix level at limited events, he is certainly no slouch with 40 card decks. Would Milan provide another trophy for his cabinet?

Federico Del Basso certainly hoped not. He had been sat opposite Raph in the draft, and could see clearly the blue flip cards Levy had taken just as easily as Levy had spotted his red werewolves. Each knew the matchup, it was just a question of who would prevail in it.

Federico Del Basso

Game One

Levy led with a Delver of Secrets, but his blue/black/red deck did not give him the tools he needed to turn it into a 3/2 flyer in the opening turns. Meanwhile, the aggressive red/white build of Del Basso had a turn two Unruly Mob. On turn four, a Forbidden Alchemy ensured that an Insectile Aberration would be going all Brundlefly on Del Basso, for 3 damage in the air.

A Tormented Pariah from Del Basso was stopped by Frightful Delusion, and Raph had a 1/6 Fortress Crab to block the Pitchburn Devils that came after it. Raph seemed well in control of the game when he dropped a Sellhof Occultist and Skirsday High Priest all in one turn. A Reckless Waif from Del Basso didn't seem a worry for Levy, who drew some cards with Think Twice, and looked on as a second Pitchburn Devils entered the battlefield. The reason was simple. He had just enough removal to clear a path and attack for the final points. When all the attacking was done, it was on to game two.

Ralph Levy

Raphael Levy 1 – 0 Federico Del Basso

Game Two

For the second game, Levy again had a turn one Delver of Secrets, but this time his Skirsdag High Priest came on turn two and was followed by a curve of Sellhof Occultist and Moon Heron, while Del Basso was stuck on just two copies of Mountain. Del Basso had been forced to mulligan, and within a small number of turns he was forced to concede to a very aggressive start from the Frenchman.

Raphael Levy 2 – 0 Federico Del Basso

Sunday, 2:14 p.m. - Drafting with Marcello Calvetto

by Tobi Henke

The reigning Italian national champion Marcello Calvetto sat down at his rightful spot, here at the Italian Grand Prix of the season. A 12-1 record had brought him to draft table number one, now he was looking to turn that into what would be the third GP Top 8 of his career.

Pack One

He opened a solid but unspectacular pack with Stitcher's Apprentice, Armored Skaab, Blazing Torch, Midnight Haunting, and Tribute to Hunger. He considered all the options and went with Midnight Haunting.

For his second pick he was given the choice to either turn to blue for Invisible Stalker, Think Twice, or Silent Departure, or to stay in white and take Elder Cathar. He chose white. The third pack was completely devoid of any white cards, though it did have Battleground Geist for some sweet synergy with Midnight Haunting, as well as Stitched Drake (not much of a combo with Midnight Haunting) and Essence of the Wild. Battleground Geist it was.

The next pack had even more green in Villagers of Estwald and Woodland Sleuth, along with Mask of Avacyn, Spectral Flight, and Feeling of Dread. He flicked back and forth between the nongreen cards for a while. In the end, he picked Feeling of Dread. Pick five was an easy choice in comparison: Calvetto took note of the Kessig Wolf Run still in the pack but clearly, at this point in the draft, he took Stitcher's Apprentice.

No white and blue cards again, so he had to make do with Demonmail Hauberk as his sixth pick. Next, he was passed a booster with Makeshift Mauler, Selhoff Occultist, and Moment of Heroism, all at once. He opted for Makeshift Mauler.

Packs like these were beginning to turn into a problem. If a booster had blue or white cards at all, most often it had a lot of them. Sitting left from Calvetto, Nico Bohny picked up the leftovers and was drafting white-blue himself. This would undoubtedly hurt Calvetto in pack two.

The rest of pack one:
Corpse Lunge
Fortress Crab
Stromkirk Patrol
Frightful Delusion
Nightbird's Clutches
Intangible Virtue
Curse of the Bloody Tome

Pack Two

First pick from the second pack came down to a choice between Think Twice and two off-color options: Calvetto had gotten a couple of minorly useful black cards at the tail end of pack one, so Abattoir Ghoul received special consideration. Even more so, Calvetto pondered whether to splash for Heretic's Punishment. He thought twice about it, and went with Think Twice.

Next up, was a second Midnight Haunting over Armored Skaab, then Stitched Drake over Stitcher's Apprentice.

Pick four offered Spectral Rider, Chapel Geist, or Think Twice – quite the selection, considering Nico Bohny had already taken a card out of this booster for his own white-blue deck! Which one? Geist-Honored Monk. Calvetto didn't know this of course, and was fine with Spectral Rider.

Silverchase Fox was the only white or blue card in the next booster, whereas the one after that once again had three: Thraben Sentry, Unruly Mob, and Feeling of Dread. Calvetto chose Unruly Mob, possibly in consideration of all the Stitcher's Apprentices he had seen going around the table, one of which he had already drafted.

The rest of pack two:
Rally the Peasants
Sensory Deprivation
Moment of Heroism
Inquisitor's Flail
Traitorous Blood
Hysterical Blindness
Night Revelers
Maw of the Mire

Pack Three

Calvetto opened a number of great cards, Bloodline Keeper, Falkenrath Marauders, Moan of the Unhallowed, none of which he could take. All he got for himself was Rebuke. Then he drafted Deranged Assistant over Divine Reckoning and Blazing Torch and followed it up with Spectral Rider over Elder Cathar.

Pick four was Spectral Flight out of a weak booster, while afterwards he picked Chapel Geist and had to pass Silent Departure. Considering the development of the draft, Thraben Sentry seemed a fine sixth pick, and Claustrophobia seventh was an interesting surprise.

The rest of pack three:
Sharpened Pitchfork
Spare from Evil
Rally the Peasants
Thraben Purebloods
Nightbird's Clutches
Night Terrors
Graveyard Shovel

Round 14: Feature Match – Peter Vieren vs. Lucas Florent

by Tim Willoughby

Lucas Florent is still riding high on the standings, having come out of the first draft with a 2-1 record that could have been 3-0 had he not made a slight mistake in one of his game 3's. That puts him on 33 points, and has found him matched up against top Belgian player Peter Vieren. With just two losses thus far, Florent had just a small amount further to go to secure a spot in the top eight.

Game One

On the draw, Vieren had a mulligan, and his red/green decks started out with a pair of Cobbled Wings, followed by a Villagers of Estwald to give them to. Florent didn't need to give his Moon Heron wings, it could quite happily do the job with its own. The wings in fact went to a Gatstaf Shepherd, who fell to a Flaming Torch, while Florent also had a Vampire Interloper for his side of the board.

Peter Vieren

Vieren, short on lands, simply equipped his Villagers and let them transform on his opponent's turn. He had a Ranger's Guile to protect them from a Silent Departure, and soon followed up with a Kruin Outlaw. While the Howlpack of Estwald was bounced by the flashback on Silent Departure, they were soon back on the battlefield (albeit in human form).

Kruin Outlaw
Terror of Kruin Pass

Florent was trying to race the werewolves, knowing that while Vieren was stuck on lands, he would have a shot at getting enough flying damage in. That two of his flyers were Vampire Interloper rather forced the issue. Vieren again had no play for the turn beyond equipping his Villagers, meaning that on Florent's turn he ended up with a Howlpack of Estwald and a Terror of Kruin Pass. Florent could not afford to take hits from them, but had to pass with both players on 10 life.

Vieren swung in, and somewhat surprisingly Florent had to scoop up his cards. He flashed two copies of Victim of Night in his hand with a smile. Those were not the answers he needed when there were werewolves on the hunt.

Peter Vieren 1 – 0 Lucas Florent

Game Two

Florent led with Typhoid Rats, who died to Vieren's first play; a Geistflame. Those Cobbled Wings came back for Vieren, and then the game hit turn three – werewolf turn. Equipment was proving a good combination with werewolves, as it provides some activity for the turn, but not enough to stop the wolves from flipping out and getting big.

After a little thought, Vieren attacked with his 2/3, and cast a Village Ironsmith, before equipping his villagers. Moon Heron cracked back, before Walking Corpse joined Florent's team.

Vieren ran in with his team, and when Florent blocked, he had the Moonmist ready for a swift transformation. The life totals went to 14 each, and Vieren's board suddenly looked a little scary. Florent had a Silent Departure for the Howlpack of Estwald, and then when Vieren tried for a One-Eyed Scarecrow, he had Lost in the Mist to both counter the spell, and clear Vieren's side of the board.

Lucas Florent

Vieren was having trouble sticking creatures for any length of time. He landed Villagers of Estwald, but lost Village Ironsmith to Frightful Delusion, which took another werewolf with it. Vieren's Howlpack flipped again, and Prey Upon allowed it to fight Moon Heron, making it the only creature left on the board. The life totals were 8 to 7 in Florent's favour, but without any creatures, and facing a 4/6 with some Cobbled Wings, that was little comfort. Lucas Tried a flashback Silent Departure, but was met with Ranger's Guile. He had to make do with casting Vampire Interloper to force the flip.

Come on topdeck! Florent needed something and got it in Tribute to Hunger. He lost his 2/1 vampire to the flashed back Geistflame, but had at least got rid of the big threat. He cast a Fortress Crab with a chuckle, hoping the 1/6 would be a big enough blocker.

Vieren still had threats. He cast first Reckless Waif, then Village Ironsmith, and finally Kruin Outlaw. That crab didn't look quite good enough. Just a few short attack steps later it was all over.

Peter Vieren wins 2-0!

Sunday, 3:11 p.m.: 3-0 Draft Decks

by Tobi Henke

You want to know how to win an Innistrad draft? Of course, you do. Maybe you can find some inspiration by looking at the decks of some of the world's best players who achieved this feat among the world's fiercest competition.

Lukas Blohon, 3-0 Draft #1

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Marcello Calvetto, 3-0 Draft #1

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Samuele Estratti, 3-0 Draft #1

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Raphael Levy, 3-0 Draft #1

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Marijn Lybaert, 3-0 Draft #1

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Yves Sele, 3-0 Draft #1

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Jörg Unfried, 3-0 Draft #1

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Klaus Jöns, 3-0 Draft #1

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Sunday, 3:30 p.m.: Tribal Spotlight – Humans

by Tim Willoughby

Oh humans. Every morning I wake up, and there's one staring at me in the mirror. Well, most of the time. Some of the time it's a zombie, but on those occasions I sometimes just forgo the mirror entirely.

There are a lot of good things to say about humans in Innistrad draft, and I specially chose to hold them back until draft day to talk about, because many of the human cards fit together rather nicely as a draft archetype. When I asked Shuhei Nakamura about how he likes to draft Innistrad, he confessed that he is happiest when being aggressive, and unlike many other formats, that doesn't tend to mean being black or red. In this format, Nakaura favours white as the best colour, followed by green or blue to apply a tempo-oriented beatdown plan.

Fiend Hunter
Slayer of the Wicked

Avacynian Priest is a great place to start this conversation. He's unashamedly pro human, and anti anything else. Species-ist he may be, but he is among the very top commons in Innistrad, where there are plenty of other kinds of monsters than homo sapiens. Bonds of Faith is another card that does double duty between pumping up the good guys, and bringing down the bad. With quality removal in Fiend Hunter and Slayer of the Wicked, the white humans can handily beat down while dealing with opposing threats.

Travel Preparations
Spidery Grasp

Where things get interesting is with one of Nakamura's picks for another top common in the set. Travel Preparations really does it all, and is one of the big cards in the green white strategy. Green/White is traditionally a fairly horrible draft archetype, but it is seeing something of a renaissance in Innistrad, where Prey Upon and Spidery Grasp join forces with various quality sources of removal in white to back up what is already an excellent array of creatures with evasion, and in many cases the power to beat down.

With quality creatures starting at the 1 drop, green/white can certainly present a fast clock, and that clock only accelerates thanks to Timely Reinforcements. Making two creatures bigger once is fine, but doing so a second time often makes them board-dominating, and in a world full of werewolves, it is exactly the kind of one-two punch that can ensure that the dogs are well trained and learn to obey their masters.

Geist-Honored Monk
Mayor of Avabruck
Elder Cathar
Gavony Township

If some of the other tribes are all about their splashy rares, humans is more about the commons, and this is what tends to make them strong in draft. They have good rares, no doubt (my personal favourite being human/spirit crossover Geist-Honored Monk, with honourable mentions to Mayor of Avabruck and Gavony Township), but can quite happily beat with Elder Cathars who, upon death, simply make other humans into a special kind of monster.

Avacyn's Pilgrim
Sharpened Pitchfork
Butcher's Cleaver

Many of the human creatures that are best are role-players. Avacyn's Pilgrim is a solid addition to a deck rather than its focus, but with enough cogs together, humans make quite the machine. They are also often best placed to use equipment well, with Butcher's Cleaver or Sharpened Pitchfork proving far more effective in the right hands.

While Innistrad is full of monsters, watch out for the people too. Push them around and they just might fight back. With appropriate Travel Preparations they can deploy quite the force.

Podcast - The 39 Steps

by Rich Hagon

39 points. It's a lot. It's an awful lot, equivalent to 13 wins. It might not be enough. With two rounds to go, all the eight players in the feature match area know that a win will take them to 39. From there, an Intentional Draw might see them home. While the permutations are many, one thing is clear - losing is not a good idea. Hear Samuele Estratti battle Lucas Blohon. Can Raphael Levy get the point he needs against Finland's Sami Tuomi? Klaus Jons of Germany has an Italian to face in Davide Vergoni, while Denmark's Allen Christensen is in the same position, looking to knock out a home hope in the form of Federico del Basso. There's some terrific stuff in this one, and a nailbiter that goes right to the wire.

Download this podcast in MP3 format (15.6 MB)

Round 15: Feature Match - Samuele Estratti vs. Lukas Blohon

by Tobi Henke

The match started off with Lukas Blohon taking a mulligan. And another. And another. Usually, this would almost be the end of game one, but this time it really was just the beginning ...

Game One

Because, as it turned out, Samuele Estratti had his own share of bad luck. On his turn five, he still had just two Plains and an Inquisitor's Flail on the battlefield. Meanwhile, Bohon had played Moan of the Unhallowed on turn four, followed by Undead Alchemist on turn five. The Zombie tokens went unimpeded and put the top four cards of Estratti's library into his graveyard. Three creature cards among them meant Blohon received another three 2/2 Zombie tokens. The army of undead continued to grow, and it was over as soon as one would have expected from a game including a mulligan to four. Only with an entirely unexpected result.

Samuele Estratti 0 – 1 Lukas Blohon

Lukas Blohon

Game Two

This time Estratti's deck was much more cooperative and gave him Spectral Rider on turn two, Avacynian Priest on turn three. Blohon had Stitcher's Apprentice, then decided to take a look at Estratti's hand via Night Terrors. He saw Angel of Flight Alabaster, Dead Weight, Abbey Griffin, and Galvanic Juggernaut, but no land that would allow Estratti to cast either of the four-drops or the Angel. Blohon made Estratti discard Galvanic Juggernaut.

Estratti topdecked Vampire Interloper adding to the evasion theme started with Spectral Rider. Blohon summoned Armored Skaab. The four cards he put into his graveyard? A Swamp, Reaper of the Abyss, Undead Alchemist, and Undead Alchemist!

Estratti's evasive creatures continued to beat down. Blohon cast Stitched Drake to at least stop Vampire Interloper, but of course Estratti still had Avacynian Priest to keep the sky clear. He also found a fourth land to cast Abbey Griffin. Blohon summoned a second flier, Battleground Geist, but that fell victim to Urgent Exorcism, while Avacynian Priest once again tapped down Stitched Drake. Blohon went from 10 to 4, looked at his next card, and conceded.

Samuele Estratti 1 – 1 Lukas Blohon

Samuele Estratti

Game Three

Both players kept their opening seven and didn't miss a beat for the first couple of turns. Blohon had Stitcher's Apprentice, then traded away his Lantern Spirit for Estratti's Vampire Interloper, who immediately replaced it with Spectral Rider. This exchange allowed Blohon to cast Makeshift Mauler on turn four, whereas Estratti made Mausoleum Guard and got in for 2 damage with his Spectral Rider.

Blohon made Armored Skaab, cast Silent Departure on Mausoleum Guard, and attacked for 5 with Makeshift Mauler and Stitcher's Apprentice. Esttratti got rid of the 4/5 via Smite the Monstrous, then decided to stay back with his Spectral Rider.

His aggressive start and an apparently never-ending stream of lands had left Blohon with just one card in hand by now. He passed the turn without play and simply used Stitcher's Apprentice to turn his Armored Skaab into a 2/2 Homunculus. Estratti replayed his Mausoleum Guard and attacked with Spectral Rider.

Blohon cast Grasp of Phantoms, Estratti replayed Mausoleum Guard, Blohon replayed Grasp of Phantoms. Estratti replayed Mausoleum Guard, Blohon replayed Silent Departure. But when all was said and done Estratti still had his Mausoleum Guard as well as his Spectral Rider, whereas Blohon still only had a 2/2 token and Stitcher's Apprentice. Another Spectral Rider showed up on Estratti's side, then Chapel Geist, and at this point, Angel of Flight Alabaster wasn't even necessary anymore but was thrown in for good measure anyway.

Samuele Estratti 2 – 1 Lukas Blohon

Sunday, 5:53 p.m. - Countdown to Top 8

by Tim Willoughby

In the final round of Grand Prix Milan prior to the top 8 being announced, there were a number of pivotal games on which the final top 8 composition would hang.

Lukas Jaklovsky

Sami Tuomi of Sweden was against Jorg Unfried from Germany, Lukas Jaklovsky of the Czech Republic played Marco Picci from Italy, and Marcello Calvetto of Italy squared off against Guillaume Peret from France. From this collection of players, the one closest to being locked in was Calvetto, though even he had to be a little careful, as last round calculations could leave him just missing depending on how some results would go.

When the clock started at 50 minutes, everyone was in contention. As time ticked away though, so did some players' tournament life.

Jorg Unfried

Marcello Calvetto was the first to draw blood in the feature match area. His aggressive red/white/blue deck focused on spirits had the 'flyer' draw, while the more werewolf themed version of the deck across the table wasn't able to race on the ground. With 42 minutes left to go, Peret was already a game down.

With 39 minutes left Jorg Unfried also went a game up. He'd been attacked down pretty hard by a succession of copies of Orchard Spirit, pumped by Travel Preparations. The green/white deck from Tuomi was able to swing in for lots of unblockable damage, but as Tuomi fell behind on lands, Unfried was able to simply play bigger creatures and race. While Essence of the Wild didn't dominate the game from Unfried, the last fattie did manage to kill Tuomi.

Marco Picci

At 36 minutes, Marco Picci got his first game win, though to be honest, the game had been locked up for a while. Picci had drafted a red/blue Burning Vengeance deck, and with three copies of the enchantment in play, it seemed only a matter of time before he'd burn his opponent out. It took a few copies of Dream Twist to fill Picci's graveyard, but when he did, it scored him a win in decisive fashion.

Sami Tuomi

At 31 minutes we saw some vengeance from Tuomi against Jorg Unfried. His Orchard Spirit plan worked better with more lands, and the Travel Preparations this time proved ample support. It was 1-1 there, and on to a decider.

At 28 minutes Guillaume Peret managed to tie up his game too. His deck, sporting two copies of Kruin Outlaw, managed to stick one, along with Rakish Heir and some vampire friends for the ground and pound.

Guillaume Peret

Picci didn't like the sound of this game three nonsense. He took down his game two with 26 minutes left on the clock, again with multiple copies of Burning Vengeance, again with plenty of back flashery. Winner.

The decider between Sami Tuomi and Jorg Unfried took a little time, ending with 18 minutes left on the clock, but in many regards was dominated by Jorg's turn two play. Mayor of Avabruck stayed in play until the game ended, and spent much of that time as a werewolf beckoning more wolves to join him. While there was a supporting cast of Ambush Vipers, it was the wolves that stole the show.

Marcello Calvetto

The final deciding game was looking tight for a while, as both Calvetto and Peret had solid draws. It looked like there would be something of a race, and Battleground Geist plus a host of spirits was just ahead. As Calvetto went in for what would be a lethal attack, Peret asked if Calvetto would consider an intentional draw. The one point should be sufficient for Calvetto to be in top eight, and the extra point for Peret would give him a chance at top 16 and all that comes with it. After a little thought, Calvetto extended his hand. Now there were just 12 minutes to wait until the end of the round, and announcement of the top 8.

Podcast - Inside Innistrad: Green, Artifacts, and Lands

by Rich Hagon

Rounding out our series on some of the most interesting cards in Innistrad, Marijn Lybaert casts his eye over the Green spells, including the mighty Garruk Relentless, while 2010 Grand Prix Lyon champion Florian Koch takes us through the artifacts and lands. As always, there's plenty more to think about and discover in the game that keeps on re-inventing itself.

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