by Tobi HenkeSaturday, 10:17 p.m.Day One Undefeated
by Frank KarstenSaturday, 9:54 p.m.An Amazing Comeback
by Frank KarstenSaturday, 9:42 p.m.Czech Combos
by Frank KarstenSaturday, 9:27 p.m.Following up on some of the World Magic Cup participants
by Tobi HenkiSaturday, 8:58 p.m.Quick Question: What are the Two Most Important Cards in Your Sealed Deck?
by Frank KarstenSaturday, 8:31 p.m.Sealed Deckbuilding Exercise: The Reveal
by Tobi HenkiRound 8 Feature MatchMartin Jůza vs. Rivkat Vahitov
by Frank KarstenSaturday, 8:15 p.m.Cloning for Fun and Profit
by Tobi HenkeSaturday, 7:20 p.m.Quick Questions: What Guild Are You?
by Frank KarstenSaturday, 7:17 p.m.Decisions, Decisions: Mulligan or Keep?
by Frank KarstenRound 6 Feature MatchNicolai Potovin vs. Alex Ivlev
by Event Coverage StaffSaturday, 6:13 p.m.Country Meta Breakdown
by Frank KarstenSaturday, 5:00 p.m.The Russian Magic Community Is Brimming With Excitement
by Tobi HenkeSaturday, 4:31 p.m.Card Interactions, M13 Edition
by Frank KarstenSaturday, 4:12 p.m.Sealed Deckbuilding Exercise: The Build
by Tobi HenkeRound 4 Feature MatchRaphaël Lévy vs. Peter Nazatityan
by Frank KarstenSaturday, 1:34 p.m.A Tour Around Moscow
by Tobi HenkeSaturday, 1:11 p.m.What Guild Are You, Raphaël Lévy
by Frank KarstenSaturday, 12:13 p.m.Sealed Deckbuilding Exercise: The Pool
by Frank KarstenSaturday, 12:03 p.m.Spotlight on Russian Players
by Tobi HenkeSaturday, 11:14 a.m.Speak русский?
by Tobi HenkeSaturday, 10:13 a.m.The Honeymoon Grand Prix
by Event Coverage StaffInfo: Fact Sheet
Saturday, 10:13 a.m. - The Honeymoon Grand Prix
Yesterday, at the Grand Prix Trials, one couldn't help but notice a woman in full wedding dress. Grand Prix tend to draw quite a diverse crowd, but still this was an unusual sight to say the least.
Turns out, yesterday was actually the wedding of Maria and her husband Vasily, which obviously left more questions to be answered. Did they plan their wedding specifically to coincide with the GP? "Well, not originally," Maria said. "But when we heard there would be a Grand Prix in Moscow, and we'd be getting married around the same time, we thought that was a cool coincidence '—Fate maybe?—' and we went for it."
And it even does have practical advantages: "We have a lot of friends who play Magic, scattered all over the country. And they're all here this weekend for the Grand Prix anyway, so we didn't have to send out extra invitations," Maria explained, then smiled and added, "I got so many congratulations."
About their Friday so far: "We had a civil wedding this morning, which was rather a boring affair, as civil weddings tend to be, and afterwards we came here directly to play in some Grand Prix Trials, which is a lot more fun," said Maria who had just won the first two rounds of a GPT. "Later this evening we'll go out with friends and celebrate some more."
"We won't have the traditional honeymoon trip directly. I live in France and my husband is going to move to France with me, so we still have to take care of a lot of stuff, signing documents and so on. But we have this GP which is simply awesome!" Talking about traditions, the throwing of the wedding bouquet had also been altered slightly for this occasion. Who caught the flowers would not be next in line for marriage, but was obviously destined to win the Grand Prix.
"It's amazing to have a wedding day full of Magic," said Maria, beaming. Normally, one's wedding day is supposed to be magic, but not exactly this kind of magic ... Maria would have none of that though: "I've simply decided to give new meaning to the word."
Congratulations to Maria and Vasily, and good luck in the Grand Prix!
Saturday, 11:14 a.m. - Speak русский?
Most Grand Prix, at least all in the US and in Western/Central Europe, exclusively use English cards. In Asia that's different, and in Russia it apparently is as well. Here, players were given the choice to either play with English or Russian cards for today's Sealed Deck rounds (tomorrow's drafts however will be English-only).
And Russian cards proved to be extremely popular. Only 243 players opted for English, compared to 627 who chose Russian. It's not only Russian players either. For most people who came here from Europe, Russian cards still are a rarity, with the more sought-after cards being coveted collector's items at home.
When I asked outsiders for their reasons to "go native", the most common response was: "Russian cards are pretty."
And they are, aren't they. Much like Asian cards, the unusual symbols have a certain exotic appeal to everyone who grew up with the simple Latin alphabet. The fact that one cannot read any of it only makes them more interesting.
Others mentioned the fact that they already knew all of the cards by heart and could tell them apart by artwork, casting cost, and power/toughness, whereas having cards in the local language might make it easier to communicate with some of the less experienced Russian opponents they'd be facing. Language barrier always can be an issue at the big international tournaments, but mostly players can get by with pointing and gesturing. All the better if one can point at a card the other player actually is able to read.
Of course everyone here will have to deal with Russian cards sooner or later. Thankfully nowadays smart phones help with that: Take a picture of a Russian card and Google Goggles will immediately come up with a link to the English version. Sweet.
Saturday, 12:03 p.m. - Spotlight on Russian Players
As the previous Grand Prix in Russia was 11 years ago, we don't get to see the Russian players very often. That is a pity, as the country is harboring lots of excellent players. We selected five top Russian players in attendance today that you may want to keep an eye out for, and asked them about their Sealed decks. (Many thanks go out Valeriy Shunkov, who was kind enough to provide a detailed overview of the big names in the Russian Magic community.)
Considered by many to be the best Russian player of all time. He won Grand Prix Stockholm 2007 and has accumulated 79 pro points over the course of his Magic career. He currently lives in Belarus and even represented Belarus in this year's World Magic Cup. Nevertheless, he is still an icon of the Russian Magic community, so he is certainly a player to watch.
Today, he registered a pool with 2 Door to Nothingness, but had to pass it. He was satisfied with the pool he got to play with. It contained good green cards and a couple of bombs, although he had to fill out his deck with mediocre creatures. Nevertheless, Potovin felt that he would be able to make Day 2 with his deck.
He was the 2008 National Champion, was a member of this year's World Magic Cup Team, and has been touted as one of the most talented players and deckbuilders in Russia. Alex had about twelve PTQ Top-8's during the last two years, but never won one. He's hoping to break the curse here at the Grand Prix.
Privalov received a Sealed pool with two Door to Nothingness -- in fact, the one opened by Potovin. Although it may have been hard to resist the temptation to build a crazy deck, he instead opted for a Green-Red deck with plenty of solid cards. "I think I can make Day 2 with this deck," Privalov said.
He was the 2009 National Champion and has 29 lifetime pro points. As Kuchurov and Privalov are the only two consistently playing National champions, there's a healthy rivalry between the two of them. Kochurov leads Team Sputnik, a team of young, accomplished Russian players that have been streaming Magic Online drafts with Russian commentary to prepare their country for the M13 Limited format that is played today.
Kochurov didn't receive many bombs today, so he built a very aggressive Black-Red deck, opting to close out the game as quickly as possible. "There are better pools, but this might work," Kochurov mentioned.
He is the reigning National champion in Russia, is a member of Team Sputnik, and he finished 18th at Pro Tour Philadelphia last year. He gathered 14 pro points last year, so he's definitely on top of his game.
Today, Khodasevich built a Green-Black deck with a splash for red removal spells. His deck features a lot of black creatures and two Ring of Xathrid. His alternative game plan is grinding out his opponent with Roaring Primadox and Ravenous Rats. Overall, his deck looked quite decent.
He is one of the better "old school" players: Bakirov made the Top 8 of GP Moscow 2001 and became the first Russian to win a major event when he won Grand Prix Leipzig 2005.
Bakirov explained that the deck he is playing today has potential as it contains a couple of bombs. He doesn't have any byes today, but his experience may still carry him. At least he is dressed like a champion!
Saturday, 12:13 p.m. - Sealed Deck Building Exercise: The Pool
Were you unable to make it to Moscow this weekend, but you still want to test out your Sealed Deck skills just like the players at the Grand Prix? Then put yourself in the shoes of an unnamed (male) pro player, and check out the pool of cards that he was presented with today. We won't tell you his name until the end of the day, so as to not harm his chances in the competition today.
So, build your deck and share it on the forums to see how your Sealed Deck skills stack up against one of the game's best. Later today, we'll put up the mystery pro's build and his explanation for card/color choices, and at the end of the day we'll reveal his name and final record.
Saturday, 1:11 p.m. - What Guild Are You, Raphaël Lévy?
Unless you've spent the last couple of weeks with your head buried in the sand under a rock on the far side of the moon you've probably heard about the upcoming Return to Ravnica, this year's fall set which hits the stores October 5. All of the goodies from the original Ravnica: City of Guilds will make a comeback as well as all of the original ten guilds, the two-color-aligned organizations which dominate the plane of Ravnica. At the prereleases (September 29–30) you will be able to choose your guild. So what guild are you?
Luckily, you don't have to guess. Wizards devised a fun personality test, which will tell you the answer. Take the quiz here!
I sat down with multiple GP champion, multiple PT Top 8er, and Hall of Famer Raphaël Lévy as he answered ten questions to find out what guild he belonged to.
Question #1: What's the best way to resolve a dispute?
- Drive a spike through the forehead of whoever disagrees with you.
- Disputes tend to work themselves out as long as everyone is open and honest. Live and let live.
- Whoever wants it more is probably correct.
- Engage in a reasoned debate where each side gets to exhaustively present all the details of their argument.
- Seek harmony among all parties, so that all can join together as one.
"Definitely not the first one!" Lévy said, clearly shocked. "I think it's number four for me."
Question #2: What's the most powerful force in the city?
- Conflict. The guilds will forever clash—meaning you have to believe in your own creed the most passionately of all.
- Nature. It's not just pretty trees and flowers along the curbs—it's the force that can come trampling over all that opposes it.
- Gossip. It's not what you know—it's what you know about who you know.
- Ambition. Everyone has strange whims and dark urges, but history is made by those who turn them into reality.
- Money. It creates the tiers of society that define who's who in the city.
Here Lévy's competitive nature came through, as he chose ambition.
Question #3: Some believe that nothing is more important than pursuing knowledge, whatever the risks. What's your take?
- Knowledge is indeed valuable, but only insofar as it benefits the harmony of society.
- That sounds about right. Risks are just problems we haven't figured out yet. Let's get out there and find out what's possible!
- You should be wary of those who call themselves bearers of truth—they're usually out to manipulate, deceive, or rule you.
- Knowing all the answers only makes you miserable. Live a little. It's the ability to feel that makes us who we are.
- Every secret is precious, yes. But the ultimate prize is the ability to use those secrets to control your own destiny.
He chuckled at the answers given and after a little deliberation picked number five.
Question #4: What are the trappings of a truly excellent guild?
- A laboratory filled with brilliant researchers and unhatched bio-pods.
- Gilded uniforms, ostentatious ceremonies, and dutiful servant creatures.
- Circus tents where you can get piercings. Or give them.
- A really big club. That's all I need. It should be really, really big, though.
- A standard-issue suit of armor and a position among the ranks of people just as zealous as you.
This one got a laugh, especially the third and fourth options. "Uhm, the first one?" said Lévy. "The others don't make any sense!"
Question #5: If you had to inspire a crowd, how would you do it?
- I'd show the results of my research and let each living being come to its own conclusion.
- I try to keep clear of crowds—I prefer to lurk among the trees and the tunnels.
- Rumors, misinformation, and threats make great motivators.
- The principles of virtue and glory are all you need to stir the heart to action.
- It's all about showmanship! Human cannonballs, lava fountains, and a chorus line of demonic fire-jugglers. The more the casualties, the better the show.
Another laugh, but also another hard question apparently. "None of the above?" Forced to choose, "the principles of virtue and glory [were] all [Lévy needed] to stir the heart to action."
Question #6: If you had a grand vision of the future of society, what would it be like?
- In my vision, the natural world spreads into the city, and new varieties of life awaken, enriching the living web.
- An enlightened civilization based on wisdom, observation, and prudence.
- An all-encompassing faith where everyone could feel like they belong.
- Perhaps in the future, all people will overcome their fear of death and recognize its crucial role in the natural cycle of the world.
- The future of society is a charred husk, if I have anything to do with it.
Not a perfect fit either, but Lévy chose the fourth option again.
Question #7: What three things do you need to get by?
- A judicial branch, an executive branch, and a legislative branch.
- An undisclosed location, a password, and a blade.
- An appreciation for nature, a keen archery skill, and a really cool wolf mount.
- A bit of conductive metal, an abundant source of elemental power, and a reckless disregard for personal safety.
- A map of the sewer systems, a strong stomach, and a suit of armor made from a former buddy.
This was an easy one for Lévy who made up his mind at lightning speed. A wolf mount? "Definitely."
Question #8: Ravnica has hundreds of markets, shops, and bazaars. What does your ideal day of shopping look like?
- A brick through a store window and a riot in the streets!
- I would ignore all their wares—instead I would browse all the delicious secrets they whisper.
- I'm always interested in seeing unusual creatures and exotic pets.
- You don't have to go to the markets to find treasures—just scavenge through what other people throw away.
- I'm always interested in new armor or weapons—but I'd keep my eye out for pickpockets or other shady characters.
After all the spikes through foreheads, wolf mounts, and grand visions of the future, shopping finally appeared to be more familiar territory—with Lévy generally in favor. Number five it was.
Question #9: In your opinion, how should an army be organized?
- I don't know—organize it somewhere else. I have experiments to perform.
- The structure is not as important as who holds the reins—and who decides the punishment for treachery.
- In a precisely ordered ranks, with a strong leader at the forefront—like a warrior angel.
- You can't go wrong with a loose gang of warrior clans.
- Whether it's in packs, swarms, flocks, or schools, what you call an "army" is just a community of social animals that organizes by instinct.
"The second one."
Question #10: Down below the streets is the undercity, Ravnica's network of tunnels, sewers, and gloomy chambers. What do you believe is down there?
- How should I know? Out of sight, out of mind.
- I think it's mainly for the city's infrastructure—access tunnels, turbines, and underground pipelines.
- I know exactly what's down here—this benighted underworld is my natural home.
- It's probably a hideout for criminals, law-evaders, and other such low-lifes.
- It must be awful down there, cut off from all growth and life-giving sunlight.
He went with the "hideout for criminals, law-evaders, and other such low-lifes."
With that taken care of it was time for the big reveal. Raphaël Lévy, you are ... Orzhov!
"Interesting," he commented. While most people seem to end up in one of the blue guilds—Izzet seems to be the current favorite—Lévy knew he wasn't blue. "I expected to be white, but I'd put myself in Selesnya originally. Now I'll have to change my guild affiliation." He quickly went over to the Planeswalker Points page, renounced his Selesnyan faith, and joined the Orzhov Syndicate instead. And whatever your guild, you should join too!
Saturday, 1:34 p.m. - A Tour Around Moscow
One of the great things about Magic is the opportunity it has given me to travel as both a player and reporter. I was able to see some great places that I wouldn't have gone to without a little help from the Magic Grand Prix schedule.
This was my first visit to Russia, and I wasn't sure what to expect from Moscow. Looking at the stereotypes portrayed in some movies and news stories, I was wondering whether I would be in for a dangerous place. Would the streets be littered with depressed people chugging bottles of vodka? Would I be overwhelmed with bears playing musical instruments?
None of all that, as it turned out. Moscow is just a modern metropolis with normal people living there. While I've only seen the richer areas of Moscow and there may still be economic and political problems in Russia, the city of Moscow made a very good impression on me. The Russian people that I got to know are friendly, and all the monuments in the city convincingly showcased Moscow's history and power.
I visited the city's main attractions yesterday, together with fellow Dutch players Roel van Heeswijk, Menno Dolstra, and Jasper Blaas -- who had effectively come out of their Magic retirement for this Grand Prix. I was surprised to see that the Red Square is actually quite small, although it did offer amazing sights such as St. Basil's Cathedral. The Kremlin, on the other hand, was much bigger than I had imagined. The subway system was very effective with beautiful stations. And the Grand Prix site is located in an amazing exhibition center that is filled with monuments from the communist era.
The only real difficulty was language-related. It is hard to find anyone who speaks English in Moscow. The Magic players at the Grand Prix here are a bit more comfortable with English, but I've had no luck with the older people on the streets. And not only did I have to cope with a new language but also with a new alphabet. Russia uses the Cyrillic script rather than the Latin alphabet. This makes it very difficult to read the metro signs, restaurant menus, etcetera. Of course, with great challenge comes great payoff once the script is deciphered to reveal that restaurant does indeed offer pizza.
While seeing the sights yesterday, I also made a short video of Moscow's highlights. This is the first time I've tried this, so don't expect great production values, but I do hope that that it can give you a good impression of the city in 2-3 minutes. Enjoy!
So the next time there's a Grand Prix nearby, make sure to find a way to get there! Not only will you be able to meet old and new friends and play some great Magic, but you also get to visit some of the world's beautiful cities.
Round 4 Feature Match - Raphaël Lévy vs. Peter Nazatityan
This was the first round of actual play for Hall of Famer Raphaël Lévy. Before he sat down in the feature match area I got a chance to take a look at his deck, a veritable monster in green and red. Sitting on the other side of the table, his Russian opponent, Peter Nazatityan, had brought a black-and-white Exalted deck.
"Hey, that's me!" Lévy said, pointing at Nazatityan. "Oh yeah, Raphael indeed," said Nazatityan who was wearing a T-shirt prominently featuring the Ninja Turtle with the red mask.
Lévy won the die-roll, chose to go first, and did so with Timberpack Wolf and Rummaging Goblin, while Nazatityan had Tormented Soul on turn one, then used Evolving Wilds to search up Plains for his Attended Knight. The Knight met Searing Spear and Lévy's Wolf got in for another 2 damage to put Nazatityan at 16. Meanwhile, Rummaging Goblin cycled a Sentinel Spider.
Nazatityan summoned War Falcon and played Cathedral of War. Lévy once again attacked with Timberpack Wolf, then summoned Spiked Baloth. Nazatityan cast Rise from the Grave to grab Lévy's Sentinel Spider and traded that for the Baloth. Meanwhile War Falcon began to work on Lévy's lifetotal, 3 points at a time.
Acidic Slime destroyed Nazatityan's only Plains, but he had another and cast Sands of Delirium. When Lévy attacked with all of his creatures—Acidic Slime, Timberpack Wolf, and Rummaging Goblin—the latter traded with a Soldier token, potentially ending War Falcon's offensive. Nazatityan did have a replacement Soldier in Guardians of Akrasa, but his War Falcon died to another Searing Spear.
Lévy drew and cast a second Sentinel Spider, which was immediately relegated to the sidelines by Pacifism. Now it was a race between Lévy's Acidic Slime (his Wolf only managed to repeatedly run into Guardians of Akrasa) and Nazatityan's Sands of Delirium. A well-timed Volcanic Geyser made sure Lévy came out ahead.
Raphaël Lévy 1-0 Peter Nazatityan
A first-turn Duress from Nazatityan revealed two Forests, Flinthoof Boar, Goblin Battle Jester, Elvish Visionary, Plummet, and a Searing Spear which went to Lévy's graveyard. Nazatityan had no follow-up, whereas Lévy's turn-two Elvish Visionary did indeed manage to find a Mountain, so his Flinthoof Boar could attack come turn three.
Nazatityan finally found a creature on turn four, or rather two, in the form of Attended Knight. However, Lévy wasn't out of gas either, played a Hellion Crucible and Goblin Battle Jester, after attacking for another 3 with his Boar.
Nazatityan added Duskmantle Prowler to his defense and chose to hold back with all three of his creatures. Facing two 2/2s, Flinthoof Boar ceased attacks for the time being, while Lévy made a Sentinel Spider. Again, the Spider was immediately taken out by Pacifism and Nazatityan also added Guardians of Akrasa to his board
Lévy summoned Rummaging Goblin and used Goblin Battle Jester's ability to prevent blocks by Guardians of Akrasa, then cast Searing Spear on Attended Knight, keeping Duskmantle Prowler from blocking as well. His Boar and Jester got through for another 5, putting Nazatityan at 10.
All the Russian could add to his team was Griffin Protector, itself unfortunately without any protection from Lévy's Plummet. To make matters worse Lévy now summoned Firewing Phoenix, once again keeping Duskmantle Prowler from blocking, once again allowing him to get in some damage.
When Lévy cast Mwonvuli Beast Tracker to search up Acidic Slime, it was almost over. And when he cast Acidic Slime freeing his Sentinel Spider from Pacifism, it finally was.
Raphaël Lévy 2-0 Peter Nazatityan
Saturday, 4:12 p.m. - Sealed Deckbuilding Exercise: The Build
A couple of hours ago, a sealed deck building exercise went up for you to try at home. Our mystery pro who received this pool ended up registering the following 40 cards:
I sat down with our mystery pro – who shall remain nameless for the time being as the other competitors in the hall have internet access as well – to get his thoughts on this sealed deck.
The first thing that our mystery pro did after sorting out his unplayable cards was to set aside Staff of Nin and 2 Primal Clay. "Okay, just 20 more cards to go", he said. Next, he quickly discarded the green and the black. "Green only has about 6 playable cards, and not a single good card. Black's highlights are Essence Drain and Bloodhunter Bat, but then I have just a lot of mediocre cards. There's nothing really drawing me to black; the other colors are just more interesting," he explained.
The best color in his pool appeared to be blue. Talrand's Invocation and Sphinx of Uthuun made blue very attractive indeed. Faerie Invaders and double Welkin Tern were also very nice. But which color to pair the blue with?
He pondered the red cards for a bit. "Red has a couple of good cards in Searing Spear and Arms Dealer. It also provides a nice combo in Slumbering Dragon plus Ring of Valkas. The color is also quite deep, containing a bunch of reasonable cards such as Krenko's Command, Furnace Whelp, and Goblin Arsonist. But, overall, red just provides a bunch of 1/1s. It's a lot of mediocre cards thrown together, and that's not going to work in Sealed where everyone is playing good cards. Furthermore, the blue-red deck has a bad mana curve."
Pairing the blue with the white offered a better curve, so the first deck that our mystery pro put together was White-Blue. "White has a bunch of OK cards and a couple of really good cards," he said, pointing at Planar Cleansing in particular. "I expect that Planar Cleansing can catch some of the less experienced Russian players off guard. " The white also offered more synergy and an actual game plan: Guardians of Akrasa can help hold the fort while the flyers attack for the win, and don't forget the combo of Tricks of the Trade plus Ajani's Sunstriker.
So White-Blue it was. Looking at potential 23rd cards, our mystery pro considered Pillarfield Ox, Captain's Call, and Healer of the Pride. But eventually Negate and Encrust made the cut because he didn't want too many 4-drop creatures. He wasn't really happy about playing maindeck Negate, but the second Encrust was fine. "It can get rid of annoying artifacts such as Sands of Delirium, and that's as a big plus."
When asked about potential splashes, he said that it would be too hard on the mana. This made sense, as he already had several double-white cards and several double-blue cards.
Overall, his deck looked decent, but not super exciting. "Basically, my plan is to stay alive until I hit 6-7 mana and can cast any of my three rare bombs: Staff of Nin, Planar Cleansing, or Sphinx of Uthuun," our mystery pro concluded. "I just hope I'm making Day 2 with this deck."
At the end of day 1, we'll reveal his name and his record.
Saturday, 4:31 p.m. - Card Interactions, M13 Edition
Former US national champion and recent GP champion Antonino DeRosa is always one for fun stories: "You know how I just won? My opponent's deck was sooo good, I simply had to deal 20 damage with Stuffy Doll!" How did that work? "Arms Dealer. But I really had to draw all three of my Goblin cards, including Krenko's Command."
Now that seems rather good too.
One of the wackiest cards in M13 surely is Spelltwine. One of the potentially coolest interactions with it, however, unfortunately doesn't work. When you target Reverberate (and another instant or sorcery) with Spelltwine and then target the Spelltwine with the copy of Reverberate, the result is not another Spelltwine. The Reverberate copy is created during the resolution of Spelltwine, but it won't resolve until Spelltwine has left the stack, becoming an illegal target for Reverberate, which will then be countered upon resolution.
Meanwhile, Frank van Rijn, a Dutch player who has some previous Pro Tour experience, also had a fun story to tell. With his opponent at 4 life and without flying blockers, Rijn attacked with Arctic Aven and two tokens from Talrand's Invocation.
His opponent aimed Public Execution at the Aven, Dolstra responded with Divine Verdict, killing the Aven—and his opponent, as the tokens were no longer going to be subjected to the -2/- 0—nearly literally killing to birds with one stone.
"Throw enough goblins at any problem and it should go away. At the very least, there'll be fewer goblins." These famous words of wisdom come courtesy of Goblin Piledriver, but they still ring true today. Today, more than one player faced an opening of Krenko's Command and another Goblin (of the Goblin Arsonist or Rummaging Goblin kind mostly) followed by Krenko, Mob Boss. That's four Goblins, soon to be eight, soon to be sixteen ... Krenko had already proven itself to be one of the most dangerous cards in M13 Limited when it appeared in both the champion's and the finalist's deck at Grand Prix Shanghai, and it finished quite a lot of games here as well.
Saturday, 5:00 p.m. - The Russian Magic Community Is Brimming With Excitement
Grand Prix tournaments are world-wide open events that allow all Magic players to participate and experience the thrill of a large-scale competition. But the Grand Prix schedule visits some places more often than others. There has not been a Grand Prix in Moscow for the last 11 years. So the Russian Magic community was very excited to discover that another Russian Grand Prix was planned this year.
Many Russian players hoped that lots of players from all parts of the world would join for an unforgettable event, and several volunteers set out to spread the word. You may remember seeing Russian players sporting some rather fancy T-shirts at the European Grand Prix circuit to show just how pumped about the event they were. Maria Zuyeva, a Magic judge currently living in Moscow, had also co-written a very useful guide with travel tips, a Russian vocabulary, and maps that helped me get around the city. Indeed, everyone seemed to be doing all they can to make this event as good as possible.
I caught up with Maria to thank her for the travel guide and asked her how she felt when the Grand Prix in Moscow was announced. "I was overwhelmed," Maria said. I used to fly to European cities as a judge, but a Grand Prix in Moscow was really unexpected. It's an amazing opportunity for both local and foreign players. The local store, Edinorog, supported it by setting up a Facebook group and by designing the Grand Prix Moscow T-shirts. A lot of players purchased such a T-shirt to show that the community really supports this event."
Maria's expectations for the Grand Prix had been surpassed. "There are more players than I was hoping for," she explained. "We expected around 600 players, but I'm very happy to see that several hundred more have decided to come." She also looked towards the future: "I dream about having a Grand Prix in Kiev, my home town." (Kiev is the capitol of Ukraine , but it's still very close to Russia, and the Ukrainian Magic community also has a lot of good players, as evidenced by Ukraine's 16th place finish at the World Magic Cup this year.)
I also caught up with Valeriy Shunkov, a research engineer and 146% surely an Izzet guild member. He knows the Russian Magic community very well and frequently writes about the Russian players in his Starcitygames column.
"We have wanted this event for many years," Valeriy said. "We understand the visa problems and logistics problems, but the Russian Magic community has grown in the last couple of years and is very friendly to new players. So, we are very excited to see this event become reality. It is also a great replacement for Nationals, as many friends from different cities that I see only once per year are all here."
In fact, many Russian players have come to a big Magic tournament for the first time in their lives in order to experience the thrill of such an event. "I had a phone call today from a friend who is a casual Magic player," Valeriy mentioned. "He never plays tournaments, but he still asked me to register him for the Grand Prix today."
Many players had also traveled from far away to attend this Grand Prix. Valeriy gave a good example: "I just played against a player who had traveled all the way from Kamchatka!"
Valeriy was also impressed with the monumental event hall. "It's amazing. We usually play in smaller, darker rooms, so this place is a big step up for the Russian Magic community. I hope this amazing site can help foster its future growth."
Speaking of growth, Valeriy expressed the hope to see more Russian players on the Pro Tour and for the Russian Magic scene to incorporate into global Magic. "In previous years, we've often had 10-15 Russian players at European Grand Prixs and 3-4 at Pro Tours. The whole community really supports them, with news forum threads going to 50 or 100 pages for just one tournament," he explained. "But it would be nice for those numbers to grow. I really hope that if this Grand Prix is successful, we can get another one," he concluded. "Maybe not in Moscow, but perhaps in Sint-Petersburg?"
All in all, this Grand Prix already was a great event before Round 1 even started, and I think I can safely conclude that the Russian Magic community is very happy to take be able to take a shot at Grand Prix glory in their home country.
Saturday, 6:13 p.m. - Country Meta Breakdown
Round 6 Feature Match - Nicolai Potovin vs. Alex Ivlev
This all-Russian feature match threw together two players at 4-1: the experienced Nicolai Potivin, touted by many to be the best Russian player of all time, and the underdog Alex Ivlev, playing in his first Grand Prix. Potovin brought a Red-Green deck, while Ivlev came with a White-Black deck.
Potovin had the first play in Torch Fiend, but it quickly bit the dust due to a Crippling Blight from Ivlev. Potovin then lacked any new creatures, while he was stuck with Rancor and Titanic Growth in his hand. These are great creature enhancers, but they are useless when there are no creatures to be seen.
Ivlev, in the meantime, quickly added Giant Scorpion and Griffin Protector to his board. On his fifth turn, he had Silvercoat Lion and Dark Favor in his hand, but since Potovin hadn't played any spell on his third, fourth, and fifth turn, he had reason to be suspicious. Maybe Potovin was holding Searing Spear? So, Ivlev first played Silvercoat Lion, and Potivin allowed it to grow into a 3/4. Afterwards, Ivlev felt safe enough to enchant his Giant Scorpion with Dark Favor.
Elvish Visionary was a welcome draw for Potovin as it provided a target for Rancor, but a Pacifism from Ivlev quickly stopped that plan.
Shortly after, Ivlev added a planeswalker to his board: Ajani, Caller of the Pride. It only took two Ajani activations to convince Potovin to move on to the second game.
Alex Ivlev 1 - Nicolai Potovin 0
Potovin came out of the gates quickly with Arbor Elf, Krenko's Command, and a turn 3 Canyon Minotaur. When he discarded Thundermaw Hellkite to Ivlev's Ravenous Rats, I was surprised. Why discard an amazing 5/5 flyer? A brief peek at his hand revealed the reason: Potivin lacked a second red source, and instead he wanted to keep his Prey Upon and Rancor.
When Ivlev spent Pacifism on Canyon Minotaur, the coast was clear for Rancor, which enhanced a 1/1 Goblin token. The Prey Upon next took out Ivlev's Giant Scorpion (sending the Pacified Canyon Minotaur to the graveyard), allowing Potovin to keep on attacking for loads of damage.
But then Ivlev put a stop to this with Vampire Nighthawk and Dark Favor, not unlike a home-grown Baneslayer Angel.
Potivin drew a card for his turn and went into the tank. At this point in the game, the board state looked like this:
Potovin (20 life, Chandra's Fury in hand)
Arbor Elf, Mogg Flunkies, 1/1 Goblin with Rancor, Deadly Recluse, 2 Forest, 1 Mountain.
Ivlev (6 life, 2 cards in hand)
Vampire Nighthawk with Divine Favor, 2 Plains, 3 Swamp.
Potovin spent some time doing the math and eventually decided to pass the turn, as attacking into the huge, lifelinking Vampire Nighthawk would not allow him to put his opponent any lower. After all, attacking his 3/3 Mogg Flunkies into the 5/4 lifelinking Vampire Nighthawk would not make any sense, and the Deadly Recluse preferred to stay on defense.
Ivlev next added Griffin Protector and Servant of Nefarox to his board. He also started attacking with his Griffin Protector, while keeping the Vampire Nighthawk back to block.
In the meantime, Privalov drew Vastwood Gorger and Predatory Rampage, neither of which he could cast as he was still stuck on 4 mana.
When Ivlev played Sign in Blood and went down to 4 life, Privalov looked at the Chandra's Fury still lurking in his hand. He prayed for a land and his deck rewarded him. He immediately cast Chandra's Fury for the win.
Alex Ivlev 1 - Nicolai Potovin 1
Potovin mulliganed down to 5 cards and had to go down an additional card because of Ravenous Rats. Potovin discarded Torch Fiend, opting to keep lands, Canyon Minotaur, and Primal Huntbeast. This made sense as the Torch Fiend would only trade against the Ravenous Rats anyway.
Ivlev then started adding a lot of creatures to his board: Servant of Nefarox, Silvercoat Lion, and Tormented Soul all came down before Potovin had even made a single play. A Bloodhunter Bat was up next.
Potovin's pair of 3/3s could not deal with Ivlev's unblockable creatures. A few short swings later, Potovin extended his hand in defeat.
Alex Ivlev 2 - Nicolai Potovin 1
Saturday, 7:17 p.m. - Decisions, Decisions: Mulligan or Keep?
In today's Round 6 Feature Match, Nicolai Potovin had just lost game 1 to an aggressive Black-White deck, after which he was immediately faced with a difficult mulligan decision. On the draw, he looked at the following 6 cards: 3 Forest, Acidic Slime, Spiked Baloth, and Mogg Flunkies.
This opening hand had several good cards and a decent mix of spells and land, but it was a bit slow and did not contain any red mana yet. Potovin certainly spent some time on this decision.
What would you do in his situation: mulligan or keep?
In the end, Potovin chose to take a mulligan. After the match, I asked him about his decision. He explained that it was already like a 5-card hand, because he lacked the red mana to play Mogg Flunkies. But that was not the only reason to mulligan. "Since my opponent's deck was aggressive and I was on the draw, I wasn't confident that a turn 4 Spiked Baloth as my first play would cut it," Potovin said. "It was certainly close, and if I would have had a Mountain or a play before turn 4, I would have kept, but this hand was not good enough."
All too often, players try to find excuses for keeping a questionable hand. It takes a great player to find excuses to mulligan a reasonable hand.
Saturday, 7:20 p.m. - Quick Question: What Guild Are You?
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. - Cloning for Fun and Profit
Three-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Menno Dolstra is currently sitting at a 5-2 record and has been very happy with one card in particular from his deck: Clone. Now this is really a prime example of a card that opens up all kinds of surprising possibilities, and Menno has already had two opportunities to use Clone in a cool way today.
In Round 3, Menno was facing down a Vampire Nighthawk and was struggling to claw back into the game. Menno had a Thundermaw Hellkite that could tap down the Nighthawk for a turn and swing for five, but his opponent was not too worried about that, expecting that his Nighthawk could trade for the Hellkite on the next turn. But he didn't expect the Clone. It turned into a second Thundermaw Hellkite, which allowed Menno to tap down the Vampire Nighthawk again and attack for lethal damage with two hasty Dragons.
Later on, in Round 6, Menno and his opponent were both growing a Chronomaton. His opponent, however, had an Intrepid Hero in play, discouraging Menno from pumping his Chronomaton beyond 3/3. His opponent did not see any reason to stop at 3/3 and kept ticking up his Chronomaton. This was understandable, as there are hardly any reasons to stop growing a Chronomaton in this format beyond Intrepid Hero. And Menno was Blue-Red, so he couldn't have an Intrepid Hero. Right? See, no one expects the Clone! Menno gleefully smashed his opponent's Chronomaton to smithereens and went on to take the match.
Round 8 Feature Match - Martin Jůza vs. Rivkat Vahitov
"5-2 now," Czech super pro Martin Jůza announced when he came back from his previous round. "Need to start winning." We were obviously interested whether he would be able to do so. The number of players in the tournament meant that day 2 was not going to be limited to players with scores of 7-2 or better (but to the top 128 instead), still another loss here might spell trouble.
Jůza went off to quick start with Welkin Tern followed by Talrand's Invocation. His Russian opponent, Rivkat Vahitov, meanwhile had Ravenous Rats, but even with one each of Swamp, Island, and Plains didn't have a turn-three play. He had Void Stalker on turn four, but Jůza's next attack already brought him down to 10. The next one, with Void Stalker taking care of a token, changed that to 6.
Arctic Aven for Vahitov looked like a veritable roadblock, but not for long. Unsummon took care of the blocker and Tricks of the Trade provided an additional 2 points of damage for a total of 6. And that was that.
Martin Jůza 1-0 Rivkat Vahitov
Not quite trusting his three-color build, Vahitov chose to draw first, and Jůza led with Aven Squire, Watercourser, and Primal Clay (3/3) to Vahitov's Ravenous Rats (discarding Encrust) and Wind Drake. Vahitov cast Ring of Evos Isle and suspiciously left two mana up instead of equipping.
Jůza may have been expecting Essence Scatter or not—in any case the only creature left in his hand was Faerie Invaders and that certainly wouldn't be scattered quite as easily. Jůza attacked, pumping Watercourser, and passed the turn. Vahitov was falling further and further behind, simply put his Ring on Wind Drake, and passed right back to Jůza, who got in for yet more damage.
Essence Drain on Primal Clay managed to recoup some life but Jůza had the perfect replacement in the aforementioned Faerie Invaders, which traded against the Ring-boosted Wind Drake. Next, Jůza's own Essence Scatter took care of Xathrid Gorgon, while Watercourser with the help of Aven Squire brought Vahitov down to 2.
In a last-ditch effort, Vahitov summoned Sphinx of Uthuun. However, even the mighty 5/6 flier would at best be able to trade off against the Exalted-powered Watercourser, and when Jůza revealed Unsummon, not even that ...
Martin Jůza 2-0 Rivkat Vahitov
Saturday, 8:31 p.m. - Sealed Deckbuilding Exercise: The Reveal
Day 1 of Grand Prix Moscow 2012 is now almost over, and it's time to reveal who our mystery pro was with the Blue-White deck: It's Martin Juza!
I caught up with him at the end of Round 8, when he just defeated his opponent in a Feature Match.
"So far my record is 6-2, so I need to win the last match to make Day 2," Juza said. "My deck is fine. I didn't sideboard much all day. I boarded in the second Healer of the Pride twice, since it's good against decks that can't kill it, but overall I am happy with the way I built my deck."
Good luck to Juza in his last round!
Saturday, 8:58 p.m. - Quick Question: What are the Two Most Important Cards in Your Sealed Deck?
Saturday, 9:27 p.m. - Following up on some of the World Magic Cup participants
There are several World Magic Cup participants from countries near Russia in attendance today. I caught up with two of them: Mike Krasnitski, a member of the Ukranian National team, and Hannes Kerem, a member of the Estonian National team.
When asked how their experience was, both Hannes and Mike mentioned that they loved the team portion. "Playing in teams is so much better than playing individually at Pro Tours," Mike mentioned. "It's the team spirit: you're not just playing yourself, but for the team. And when the team wins, it feels incredible." Hannes agreed and added: "The team sealed was the best part. They should do that more often!"
When asked how their local community responded to the event, Mike mentioned the huge Ukrainian forum thread, which filled up with many, many pages of comments like "Go Ukraine!" Hannes also highlighted the excitement of the (relatively small) Estonian Magic community, whose players also put up a huge comment thread.
The two players would love to come back next time. "And then not just for two days. Two days of Magic is not enough," Mike laughed. Hannes was already looking ahead and said that he hoped to be to win pro points here this weekend, as that might allow him to lead the Estonian team next year.
The 2008 Worlds semifinalist is just entering the final round with an excellent 7-1 record, so good luck to Hannes this weekend!
Saturday, 9:42 p.m. - Czech Combos
As the sun sets here in Moscow, we wanted to pass along a message from the Czech pros: Big creatures are good! Especially when they are unmanageably huge, keep on growing, and have some sort of evasion or trample.
Martin Juza had opened a sealed deck pool containing Slumbering Dragon and Ring of Valkas. Yup, that works. He opted to go for a blue-white deck instead, but I could still feel that he was eager to utterly dominate a game with this combo.
And Lukas Jaklovsky has been beating opponents with Rancor-powered Hamletback Goliaths. The big issue with Hamletback Goliath used to be that it is just a big guy that can still be chumpblocked by a 1/1 token. But Rancor can come to the rescue. Hurrah for trample!
Saturday, 9:54 p.m. - An Amazing Comback
Mykola Chepkyi from Ukraine was entering Round 9 with a 6-2 record today and needed a win to make Day 2. In the final game, he had to mulligan down to 4 and didn't even have a land to play on turn 1. Not a good way to end the day, it seemed.
But luck was still on his side. He drew a Forest on his second turn, which allowed him to play Arbor Elf. He next drew a Mountain, allowing him to cast Elvish Archdruid. The Elves allowed him to ramp into Spiked Baloth, and he started attacking. His opponent, also a victim of mulligans, was missing land drops in the meantime. When Mykola was able to play Chandra's Fury for the win a couple turns later, he was beaming with excitement about his comeback.
The lesson: never despair. Anything can happen in a game of Magic, and coming back from a horrible mulligan to 4 is always possible!
Saturday, 10:17 p.m. - Day 1 Undefeated Decklists
After nine grueling rounds of Sealed Deck play, three competitors emerged from the carnage with unblemished records of 9-0. Congratulations to Russians Vitaly Grechishkin, Anatoly Chuhwichev, and Vladimir Votintsev!
Taking a closer look at the decks they used to achieve this, there are some things they have in common, others on which they differ. The most obvious similarity is the color white. It only was a secondary color in Anatoly Chuhwichev's deck, where Mutilate, Liliana's Shade, and Vampire Nocturnus dictated a more Swamp-heavy mana base. But white took centerstage in both Vitaly Grechishkin's and Vladimir Votintsev's Sealed build. Lots of small aggressive creatures, some Exalted, some flying, some both (Aven Squire), combined with solid removal in Oblivion Ring and Pacifism, topped up with amazing bombs such as Odric, Master Tactician, Sublime Archangel, Ajani, Caller of the Pride, or Captain of the Watch made white the go-to color for the overnight champions.
Tomorrow, we'll take a look at how white and all the rest of the colors fare in Booster Draft. And of course we'll also take a close look at how these players do when it's time to draft.