Grand Prix Paris 2009: Day 1 Coverage Archive

Posted in Event Coverage on November 7, 2009

By Wizards of the Coast


Saturday, 10:50 a.m. – Make a Wish

by Tobias Henke

Just a quick question to while away the time till the actual deck building and playing starts: In theory it is possible to open one particular common card six times, one out of every pack. If you could choose one, what would it be?

Raul Porojan:

"Intriguing... Plated Geopede would be nice. Or Oran-Rief Survivalist, that'd be pretty insane. But in the end I'll probably settle for six Disfigure s."
Bram Snepvangers:

[After thinking long and hard...] "Well, Burst Lightning is probably the safest choice... So yeah, I'm going with Burst Lightning."
Suuhei Nakamura:

" Hideous End."

Sam Black:

"Definitely Burst Lightning. I mean, how are you going to lose with six of them."
Lino Burgold:

"Six? Then it's Umara Raptor for me, please."
Gaudenis Vidugiris:

" Burst Lightning."

Saturday, 12:25 p.m. – Signed, Sealed, Delivered

by Tobias Henke

Gaudenis Vidugiris, right back from his win at Grand Prix Tampa, was one of the first players to finish deckbuilding today. Nine minutes left on the clock and he was already speeding towards the exit. Catching up with him, there was only one question to be asked: Is that a good sign or a bad sign?

“It’s a... Well, it’s a meh sign,” Vidugiris conceded. “There was not much going on with that pool, except for a bunch of black and red cards... so I put them together and called it a deck.” He didn’t sound too happy. “I’m not thrilled about it, it’s certainly not great but probably OK,” said Vidugiris, and then added, “it might just be possible to go X-2 with it.”

Another player that finished early and apparently didn’t have to put a lot of work into his deckbuilding was Switzerland’s Nico Bohny. “Black was the obvious choice. Even at first glance it was abundantly clear that there was no way around it.” And good black he does have: a couple of removal spells, as well as solid creatures, among them three Nimana Sell-Sword s. “I basically spent the rest of the time looking for a second color,” Bohny added, showing his blue and green cards. “Blue did have Roil Elemental and a couple of fliers, but didn’t offer quite enough. Green also provided a very interesting rare, Turntimber Ranger. Sadly, not much quality overall, especially since Nissa’s Chosen isn’t exactly the weapon of choice in a very black-centered deck. Nissa’s Chosen and Gatekeeper of Malakir ? I’ll pass.”

So in the end, despite being tempted by powerful and splashy rares, he too settled for the black and red. “I’m really happy with my deck. There aren’t any bad cards in it, and I even have some really good ones in my sideboard, Guul Draz Vampire and Spire Barrage for example,” said Bohny. “But actually Stonework Puma and Zektar Shrine Expedition were the last two cards to be cut. They would have been an excellent 21st and 22nd card, the problem is: this deck already has a better 21st and 22nd card.”

Commenting on the large number of black/red decks this reporter has seen today, Bohny said: “It’s kind of strange. I have played lots of Sealed online, but I’ve never been black/red. In Sealed, I usually like running a green deck with splashes.”

Saturday, 1:07 p.m. – Thinking Big

by Tim Willoughby

1,961 players. 1,961 players. That is 11,766 boosters that got opened. Over 326 boxes. Over 54 cases of product. To try to put this into perspective, the weight of that many boosters is greater than that of two baby elephants. If you somehow managed to lay those 176,490 cards from end to end, they would stretch for more than 14 kilometres (9 miles). This is a distance about 8 miles further than Rich Hagon would be willing to walk in total for the rest of his life, given the option.

Suffice to say, this was enough to give current Player of the Year Shuhei Nakamura pause for thought. His last GP outing had seen him dropping a 4-3, having only scored a single win after his byes had been used up. With 10 rounds on day one of this huge GP he needed a new plan.

The previous night at dinner, the coverage team had got into quite the debate about power vs consistency in sealed deck. While it would be lovely to open a strong, fast red black deck and power in to day 2, that was not going to be an option for everyone. Zendikar is certainly a faster sealed format than most, but not so fast that there isn’t potential to reap the rewards of smart building to be able to utilise whatever late-game bombs one might have opened.

Shuhei sat waiting for the pool that he would be building with to arrive. As it came to him, he put his head down and crossed his fingers for luck. With a sense of decorum lacking in those around him, when he opened it, he was careful to check every card against the list that came with them. It was fortunate he did, as there was a registration error that others might have missed until it was too late. From there though, he found a pool which was a little tricky.

Shuhei was faced with a classic power vs consistency question. He could build an unspectacular, but consistent, two colour deck, and look to battle through, or risk shakier mana to go into a third colour, opening up an ally theme, and granting the potential for more explosive draws.

Here Nakamura went with the plan that was most likely to take him to the comfort zone of day 2 draft tables. After a good deal of thought, he made some calculations and started laying out a more ambitious mana base. With so many rounds to play, he knew that sooner or later he’d be facing down bombs on the other side of the table, and wanted a few of his own.

Would this more aggressively optimistic build, which had shakier mana work for Shuhei? Time will tell, but he seems confident that he has given himself the best possible shot at taking home gold.

Saturday, 2:16 p.m. – The Race is On!

by Tim Willoughby

“All I need to do is win the biggest Magic tournament of all time, and I can get the lead.”

Martin Juza is here in Paris on a mission. Sat in 2nd place in the Player of the Year race, Juza is one of a very short list of players who can realistically catch former Rookie of the Year Yuuya Watanabe in the player of the year race. Watanabe, who got yet another top 8 last weekend in Tampa, is notable in his absence this weekend, which means that Juza has a great chance this weekend to close the gap on the Japanese player.

Juza, the Czech who has been having a fantastic second half to the season, has been more affected than most by Watanabe’s unprecedented ability to make the top 8 of events as the season reaches its conclusion. In spite of this, he is just 9 points behind, and a win in Paris would be all it would take to set the stage in Rome for an epic showdown.

Juza has picked up the vast majority of his points this season in limited GPs, and will be headed to Minneapolis next weekend to give himself every chance to catch up.

“I just don’t know when I’ll have an opportunity like this again – I have to go for it.”

Given that Watanabe has a spot on the Japanese team, Juza would love to have an edge in points prior to Worlds, as the strong Japanese team has a good shot at securing Watanabe some much needed extra Pro Points that could easily swing things. Current Player of the Year Shuhei Nakamura guessed about 4 extra points would head Watanabe’s way by the end of team day.

“What chance does that give me? Shuhei always guesses low!”

Juza might have an uphill struggle ahead of him, but he is a player who has already this season made top 8 of a GP after an 0-2 start. This is a Czech not afraid of hills.

Podcast - 1961 A-Z

by Rich Hagon

From Aresch Abed to Ander Zurimendi, there are one thousand, nine hundred and sixty one people who begin Grand Prix Paris with a shot at 10 Pro Points and Magic Immortality. Arjan van Leeuwen, your time as the winner of the Largest Grand Prix in Magic History is almost over! With almost a thousand players in each of two rooms, simultaneously battling their way through up to TEN Rounds of Sealed Deck action...suffice to say we aren't going to be short of things to tell you about. The Magic success story continues, and it continues right here on throughout the weekend. In this, our first show, we go through the player list and mark your card. Plus, we have an extensive interview with Martin Juza of the Czech Republic, looking at the Player of the Year Race and ahead to Worlds in Rome.

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Saturday, 3:05 p.m. – Q&A with Head Judge David Vogin

by Tobias Henke

Day one is underway. There are a lot of players, there’s sure to be a lot of fun... and a lot of rounds. Ten to be exact. Yes, that’s right, today one extra round has been added to the tournament. Head Judge David Vogin, who certainly is a busy man this weekend, took the time to explain all about it.

Question: Not everyone might be aware of the more intricate proceedings of a Grand Prix, splits and cuts depending on attendance level, number of rounds and all of that. Could you explain the system?

Answer: Now, this is what we usually do: Whenever more than 800 players show up for a GP, we split the tournament into two halves at the beginning of the day. The blue and the green half then are run as separate tournaments for day one. After nine rounds of Sealed Deck play there is a cut to all players with records of 7-2 or better. Those players are combined back into one tournament and advance to day two of the tournament.

Question: I have heard about a mysterious tenth round. What’s up with that?

Answer: After round nine today, there will also be a cut (same threshold: 21 points). However, we won’t combine the two halves yet. Instead there is indeed going to be another round of Sealed Deck played within each half. Afterwards we combine the two and run day two as usual. Which is two booster drafts, six rounds, followed by top 8.

Question: What is the reasoning behind this round ten?

Answer: Earlier this year at GP Prague a player went 7-2 on day one, 6-0 on day two, and didn’t make top 8... It was a surprise back then, brought about by the ever increasing attendance numbers. This time we came prepared. We want everyone who makes day two be able to go on and win the Grand Prix. One extra round ensures that.

Saturday, 4:16 p.m. – Catching up with Rob Alexander

by Tim Willoughby

Rob Alexander remains one of my favourite Magic artists in what is a pantheon of masters of their craft. From the very first time I saw Spectral Cloak I was hooked, and conveniently for me, Rob has been painting beautiful cards in more or less every set, starting at Alpha, with such hits as Underground Sea.

“I’m really glad you mentioned Spectral Cloak. That is one of the cards that I feel really turned out well, and features on my own top 5.”

While the Legends aura wasn’t one that saw a huge amount of play, Rob has illustrated plenty of cards that have, and as such is a popular fellow here at Grand Prix Paris, with relentless queues of fans looking to get cards signed, and perhaps a sketch or two on top.

It's possible that this man has signed more cards than eaten hot dinners in his lifetime.

What Rob is perhaps best known for is his lands. Born in Toronto, Alexander moved to Calgary at the age of 12, and his love of drawing was forged against a backdrop of the Canadian Rockies.

“If you think that some of those mountains I’ve painted look familiar, that is because they are! The Canadian landscape has really inspired a lot of my art.”

Having learned to draw sketching the land around him, it is perhaps unsurprising that Rob is at his happiest when illustrating lands. For 4 years or so that is almost all that he drew. These days, he quite likes to get his hands on a few character pieces here and there, and has produced a few really standout pieces, including the judge promo version of Exalted Angel.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Rob still primarily works with paint on canvas, in a world where digital artwork is becoming more and more common. While this approach can take more time, it is something that he finds more satisfying.

“I’ve had times [when working digitally] where I really want to just take my brush and be able to paint into the machine. I can see what I want to do, I just sometimes have trouble convincing the technology to do it.”

While some artists will use computer programs to put finishing touches on images, Rob will use them early on, often creating detailed ‘under-paintings’ to work over, when producing more complex offerings. One such example was Breeding Pool, one of the Ravnica dual-lands. Rob provided the artwork for all 12 of these, and started on them after having already seen all the Ravnica basic lands.

“The art director at the time showed me the basic lands from that set and they all looked pretty good. Because I knew how much play these dual lands would get, I knew I wanted to make them look even better.”

While most pieces created by Rob take 4 or 5 days from start to finish, there are a few, like the dual lands, which he puts that much more time into, and all of the Ravnica duals are worthy of more than a second look, with huge amounts of detail in the images coming through even more in the large scale prints that he has available.

Rob is one of the Magic artists who plays the game, and while he isn’t planning a Pro Tour career just yet, he will happily draft, and when events can often be seen in pickup games of E.D.H. when there is a spare deck available. While Rob possibly hasn’t illustrated enough spells to make a killer E.D.H. deck yet, he is certainly in good shape on his mana-base.

When asked about his aspirations for the future, Alexander had a clear goal.

“I’d love to get into the movies.”

Back-painting, where backdrops are altered or created by artists, in lieu of expensive set building, is a new challenge that Rob is keen to try. Right now he has his eyes set on getting involved on the new Hobbit movie. If you’ve seen his artwork for Door of Destinies, I think you’ll agree that it is another magical world that Rob Alexander is more than capable of bringing to life.

Feature Match Round 4 – Jan Schmidt vs. Niels Noorlander

by Tobias Henke

Jan Schmidt of Germany has just had his break-out performance at Grand Prix Prague, defeating GP power-house and current leader in the Player-of-the-Year race Yuuya Watanabe in the finals, while Niels Noorlander from the Netherlands is looking to repeat his performance from GP Paris 2008 when he had finished in fifth place.

Jan Schmidt

Schmidt had won GP Prague on the back of Merfolk Looters, and apparently still likes the card, as well as its distant cousin from Zendikar, Reckless Scholar. He summoned two of those on turn three and four of the game. Meanwhile, Noorlander had a solid (while unspectacular) curve of Highland Berserker, Stonework Puma, and Oran-Rief Survivalist, commenting how much better it would have been to be able to cast the Survivalist first.

The Reckless Scholars went to work on Schmidt’s library, digging for solutions. Oran-Rief Survivalist was taken down by Burst Lightning, Inferno Trap took care of Highland Berserker. For now, Noorlander just had Oran-Rief Recluse as a replacement, at 1/3 hardly a dangerous threat. Schmidt summoned Living Tsunami and for the first time in the game things were looking good for him. He had taken quite a bit of damage earlier, true, but currently Noorlander was in no position to attack and sooner or later two Reckless Scholars would surely allow him to get ahead in card quality, wouldn’t they?

Well, as it turned out, they wouldn’t. Noorlander had different plans. He cast Bala Ged Thief and Tajuru Archer, took the last cards out of Schmidt’s hand, while also killing a freshly summoned Welkin Tern. Next up was Kor Hookmaster for the Dutch, and with Schmidt’s Living Tsunami tapped, Noorlander could attack for another six damage now, and the win on the following turn.

Jan Schmidt 0 – 1 Niels Noorlander

Niels Noorlander

Throughout the course of the first game, Noorlander had shown Plains, Mountain, Forest, and Swamp, obviously running one of those infamous Ally decks that splash for additional tribal synergy. Stumbling on mana was not a thing, though, Noorlander would be willing to do for Game 2. He sideboarded out Bala Ged Thief along with the Swamp, and also got rid of most of his red splash.

Noorlander was rewarded. He went off to an amazingly aggressive start, with Steppe Lynx, followed by Oran-Rief Survivalist, Kor Hookmaster, kicked Kor Sanctifiers, and Kazandu Blademaster. Schmidt’s draw was not exactly bad, with Hedron Scrabbler, Ruinous Minotaur, Bladetusk Boar... but absolutely no match for Noorlander’s. He was never able to trade, at times not even able to block at all, while Noorlander simply turned his team sideways turn after turn. Suffice to say, it did not take a whole lot of those turns.

Jan Schmidt 0 – 2 Niels Noorlander

Saturday, 5:40 p.m. – Quick Hits

by Tobias Henke

Zendikar Limited is a very speedy format, even in Sealed. Take a lot of aggressive two-drops, some evasive like Welkin Tern, Surrakar Marauder, or Cliff Threader, Landfall, especially on Steppe Lynx and Plated Geopede, add some equipments, a couple of tricks, and removal, round it out with Kor Hookmaster and Goblin Shortcutter... well, you have now got yourself a format where sometimes not a lot of blocking is taking place.

Kor Hookmaster

One of our earlier feature matches today actually took ten minutes, including shuffling, hand shakes, and friendly banter. Manuel Bucher is still retelling this story from the Sealed Deck portion of GP Tampa, in which he is holding Sorin Markov but never even gets to have a turn six at all. Nico Bohny, who is 5-0 right now, is already thinking about tomorrow’s draft rounds and says: “There really are some draft decks, in which Mindless Null is better than Giant Scorpion. Hard to believe but true.”

On the plus side, this means that not quite as many games go to time, and rounds are much less delayed than they used to be in the past. Which brings us to the following tale of woe:

Round five saw one player arriving at his table four minutes into the round, so he received a game loss for tardiness. This alone can hardly be considered newsworthy. Surprisingly though, his opponent had not shown up as well. That makes it one game loss apiece. And he didn’t show up for the next six minutes either, so this player was “awarded” a second game loss. Very lucky for the first player, isn’t it? Well, less so for the other one...

Podcast - Bye Byes, and Four to the Floor

by Rich Hagon

While many of the best players in the world have the comparative luxury of three Byes to start things off, there are plenty of top spellslingers who have to begin the assault on the summit earlier in proceedings. We see Liking 'one Bye' Saiyasely of France take on Tine 'two Byes' Rus of Slovenia, chat with the winner, and then take you into Round Four, where Marcio Carvalho faced Christophe Gregoir, and Jan Schmidt faced Niels Noorlander in feature match action.

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Podcast - Five Live

by Rich Hagon

The story of Round five as it happens from the feature match area. Home hope Guillaume Wafo-Tapa faced a stiff challenge in Vincent Lemoine of Belgium. Next door, Richard Parker of Great Britain had taken one Bye to a perfect 4-0 start, but that would be tested in the ultimate fashion - a head-to-head against reigning Player of the Year Shuhei Nakamura. All the fun of the (un)fair, as we reach the halfway point on Day One.

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Round 5 Feature Match – Shuhei Nakamura vs Richard Parker

by Tim Willoughby

Shuhei Nakamura is the reigning Player of the Year, and is doing a good job of making every use of the benefits that come with it, travelling to virtually every Grand Prix that has taken place this year. A little jet-lagged, he confided that he would be flying back to Japan, before flying to Minneapolis, before flying to Japan, before flying to Rome. Some schedule.

Shuhei Nakamura

Richard Parker, an English player on 4-0 after just a single bye, has had his share of success too, just missing top 8 in Valencia, and got all the way to 9-0 at GP Prague earlier in the year, before a poor day 2 stripped him of the chance of glory.

Richard Parker

Richard won the roll, but did not have an aggressive start at all, playing only Plains and Forests in the first four turns. These brought a Kor Cartographer, but all the while Shuhei was busy deploying threats. A turn 2 Surrakar Marauder was followed by Umara Raptor, and on turn 3 Nakamura had a Khalni Gem to allow for Ondu Cleric. This both gained him 2 life, and allowed Umara Raptor to attack as a 3/3.

By the time Parker was attacking for the first time, he was already in big trouble. For his next turn, Nakamura cast Kor Skyfisher to return his Ondu Cleric, which when recast turned his Raptor into a 4/4.

Parker’s slow star finally brought some plays in a Baloth Cage Trap, and Mold Shambler to eat Khalni Gem, but it was far too late. Nakamura was rumbling in with 6 in the air, and Surrakar Marauder who persistently attacked with intimidate each turn. Parker wasn’t about to prolong the game more than he had to, and scooped up his cards.

Shuhei Nakamura 1 – 0 Richard Parker

Before game 2, Parker picked up a whole block of cards from his sideboard, and made some fairly major adjustments to his deck. Had he got a transformational sideboard, or had there been a misbuild on his part about to be corrected? Nakamura gave a quizzical look, and went back to a truly frantic shuffling process.

For the second game Parker elected to play. While in many sealed formats the draw is favoured, Zendikar sealed is just too fast for this to be a good idea. Parker led with a Forest, but had a Swamp to follow up with. There had been a change! This rendered Nakamura’s Surrakar Marauder a small amount worse, and in game 2, Parker had an Oran-Rief Survivalist that meant that there could be some early attacking on his part.

While Parker was casting a Heartstabber Mosquito (unkicked), Nakamura was all about the two drops, playing Ondu Cleric not once but twice, thanks to Kor Skyfisher. His circle of life complete, he looked seemed a little up in the race.

Parker had Nimana Sell-Sword, and lost his Oran-Rief Survivalist in a fight with Kor Skyfisher due to a double block. Nakamura played a Hagra Diabolist, to drain for 2, but then had to do a second double-block to kill off the Sell-Sword when another Oran-Rief Survivalist came downtown.

Parker was wresting control of the game back, and had a Blazing Torch to send Surrakar Marauder to the grumper. It was time for Nakamura to pull out the big guns. He let loose with both barrels, first with a Halo Hunter, and then Sphinx of Lost Truths. There wasn’t enough mana for the kicker from Nakamura, but he didn’t seem too saddened to have to discard down to one card. The reason for this soon became apparent. The very next turn Whiplash Trap bounced all of the Englishman’s blockers, and allowed for a terrifying attack to finish things off.

Shuhei Nakamura wins 2-0!

Round 6 Feature Match – Riccardo Neri vs Joel Calafell

by Tim Willoughby

Both Neri and Calafell have found themselves in a Grand Prix top 8 this season, the Barcelona Standard Grand Prix that Calafell won with Cascade Swans. For this event Calafell, rocking the hoodie that signalled the website he writes for each week, had opened a deck that he was pretty pleased with, even facing 10 rounds of play.

“You like your deck?”

“Yeah I do, but I don’t think I can win against you. Not you or your deck.”

“Ok, cool.”

Neri, the Italian, was uncertain of his chances, though he perked up a little when Calafel was forced to mulligan first to 6, and then to 5.

“This hand is the same as the last one, only with one card less!” remarked Joel.

“If you mulligan to 3 I might have a chance in this one.” Neri didn’t like his chances even in the face of starting up so many cards against the Spaniard.

Calafell had the first threat of the game in Welkin Tern, while Neri was without a play until turn 3, where a pair of Swamps and a Mountain allowed a none to scary Molten Ravager. Nimana Sell-Sword was his follow-up, while Calafell ramped all the way up to five, to allow a Sea Gate Loremaster. That’s one way to get out of a double mulligan.

Card advantage is one thing, but tempo matters too, and Neri looked to close out the game fast with a Tuktuk Grunts, which pumped Nimana Sell-Sword and allowed a swing for 7. Calafell had a Journey to Nowhere for the Sell-Sword, and a Kor Aeronaut. The life totals were 12 each, and the game looked to be anybody’s.

Calafell was blue-white with a red splash suggested by a Mountain. Given sufficient time, his Sea Gate Loremaster looked good to put him into a winning position, but in the short term an attacking Tuktuk Grunts and Molten Ravager threatened 5 damage, and left Calafell pause when considering blocks. A post-combat Torch Slinger showed that it was certainly correct for the Loremaster to hold back, as it killed off Kor Aeronaut. Calafell was on 8.

Attacks from Calafell’s persistent Welkin Tern put Neri to 10, and a Shepherd of the Lost joined Team Spain, as a potent creature on both offence and defence. Neri had seven lands by this point, and still 3 cards in hand. He cast a Stonework Puma to make his Grunts big enough to get over the top of Shepherd of the Lost. After a little thought he cast a Goblin Bushwacker with kicker, and attacked with his team, leaving up two red mana to pump his Molten Ravager.

This was a huge attack. On just 8, Calafell was forced to throw away his Loremaster, and even so, he fell to just one life. Not a lot with 4 creatures on the other side of the board.

Attacks from Joel put Riccardo down to 5. There was no point not getting stuck in, as the Welkin Tern couldn’t block, and Shepherd of the Lost has vigilance. Joel cast a Makandi Shieldmate, and passed with a Mountain, Plains and Island untapped. With just 2 blockers, it didn’t look good for Calafell, but the fact that he’d not conceded suggested something.

Neri put the read on Arrow Volley Trap, but couldn’t afford not to go for it. He cast Goblin Ruinblaster, and sent his whole team in. If Calafell had the trap, it was a truly great piece of slow-rolling. Neri looked pretty worried, and the relief showed on his face as his opponent reached for his sideboard to indicate it was time for game 2.

Riccardo Neri 1 – 0 Joel Calafell

Both players went to their sideboards for game 2 and found a card or two to substitute in. Sideboarding is often a part of the game neglected in sealed deck, but it would not be a trap that either player would fall for. With each having optimised their deck for the matchup, it was on to game 2, which would see Calafell on the play once more.

This time around there were no mulligans from the Spaniard, who got off to a nice start once more with Welkin Tern. This was not the first play of the game though, as a Blade of the Bloodchief had already come down for Neri. Calafell had an Umara Raptor to build his airforce, proudly declaring that his draw was “like last game, only with 2 more cards”. Neri suddenly did not seem happy with his chances.

A Makandi Shieldmate meant that Umara Raptor was that much better, and Neri disconsolately surveyed his hand. It turns out that you don’t need to be red black to be the aggressive deck. A Giant Scorpion from Neri was fine, but would do little about the attackers on Calafell’s side of the board.

Joel knocked Riccardo down to 8, and played a Reckless Scholar. Neri’s comeback was a Goblin Shortcutter with Goblin War Paint. While this did do a little damage to Calafell, he was cracking back for plenty more. A second Makandi Shieldmate was enough to both stall the ground and make the air force very nearly lethal. Joel attacked Riccardo to 2, and all it took was a draw step to confirm that the Italian was not going to win the game. He scooped up his cards and it was on to game 3.

Riccardo Neri 1 – 1 Joel Calafell

For game 3, Neri would be on the play for the first time in the match, and each player sideboarded slightly again, possibly to take into account this change, or maybe just to having seen a few more cards in each other’s decks.

Both players had a turn 1 equipment in the third game. An Adventuring Gear was the play for Neri, while Blazing Torch came for Calafell. The Gear meant that Goblin Shortcutter got to attack in for 4 in the first attack of the game, while Blazing Torch meant that Kor Skyfisher didn’t particularly slow down Calafell, as it proved an admirable target to be bounced.

Calafell replayed his Torch on turn 3, and equipped it to his Kor Skyfisher, but was not quick to pull the trigger with it, preferring to sit back and wait. Neri missed his land drop, leaving him stuck on a trio of Mountains, and played a Stonework Puma. He stayed back, and was forced to take 2 from Kor Skyfisher on attacks. A Makandi Shieldmate came down for Calafell, to again make the ground a quieter place, and it got a Torch to hold.

Neri found a Swamp the following turn, and used it to power out Magma Rift on Makandi Shieldmate. Still the Blazing Torch was left unused, and the 1/4 defender died without revenge. Calafell had a Caravan Hurda to follow up as a great blocker against an aggressive black/red deck. It went the way of the Shieldmate in double quick time though, as a block on a powered up Shortcutter was aided by Burst Lightning. A Nimana Sell-Sword from Neri joined the list of creatures that Calafell didn’t want to kill with his Blazing Torch. It wasn’t until Neri tapped out for a Crypt Ripper that Blazing Torch finally did its thing, but at this point there was a Grim Discovery waiting to get back the Mountain that Neri had sacrificed to Magma Rift, and the shade itself.

Calafell seemed to be drawing a lot of land, and while he had some blockers, including a Kor Aeronaut, he couldn’t ever get a grasp on the game. Some double blocks got the board down to just Makandi Shieldmate on one side of the board compared to Stonework Puma on the other. With Adventuring gear things looked like they might remain close. From there though, Neri seemed to build up a formidable force of creatures, where Calafell’s lands off the top of his deck were no match.

Riccardo Neri 2 – 1 Joel Calafell

Round 6 Feature Match – Sebastian Thaler vs. Olivier Ruel

by Tobias Henke

These two players have a total of 26 Grand Prix top eights and seven Pro Tour top eights between them, though admittedly, only two PT top eights (and zero GP) are accounted for by Sebastian Thaler. And while that makes Thaler an accomplished pro, it arguably makes Olivier Ruel the most accomplished player in the room.

Once again we were off to a quick game. Ruel had Guul Draz Vampire on the play, then Blood Seeker, then... well, he started missing land drops, so let’s take a look at the other side of the board, shall we?

Olivier Ruel

Thaler started with Adventuring Gear on turn one, had a Blood Seeker of his own, then equipped it, and played Piranha Marsh to bring Ruel down to 19, then 16 after attacking. Next up was another land and Nimana Sell-Sword. Ruel, increasingly frustrated, went to 13.

Ruel finally did find a third land on his fifth turn, but had no play anyway, passing the turn right back to Thaler, who made yet another land, then Kazandu Blademaster, then Makindi Shieldmate. Ruel took eight damage on the attack, Nimana Sell-Sword being 5/5 and Blood Seeker 3/3.

Ruel had Hideous End, though, to get rid of the Blademaster, and followed it up with Vampire Nighthawk on his turn (going down to four). Thaler’s next attack had Nighthawk trade with Sell-Sword, while Blood Seeker once again came over for three damage to put Ruel at three life (two points recovered with the help of Vampire Nighhawk). Ruel cast Bladetusk Boar (down to two), but Thaler easily trumped that with World Queller. The very next turn saw World Queller first killing Guul Draz Vampire (as well as Thaler’s own Makindi Shieldmate) in the upkeep, then Bladetusk Boar and Blood Seeker in combat. Ruel drew his next card and conceded.

Sebastian Thaler 1 – 0 Olivier Ruel

Both players again kept their opening seven, but had less aggressive starts this time. The first play was Thaler’s Ondu Cleric, which Ruel killed by means of a Disfigure with the cleric’s ability still on the stack. On turn three Thaler cast Kor Skyfisher and replayed Piranha Marsh. Ruel kicked Goblin Ruinblaster. Thaler made Vampire Lacerator, which Ruel killed with another Disfigure.

Sebastian Thaler

Thaler summoned Nimana Sell-Sword, Ruel had Gatekeeper of Malakir, which Thaler appeased by sacrificing his Kor Skyfisher. Next up, Thaler’s Surrakar Marauder traded with Gatekeeper of Malakir, and once again World Queller made an appearance on Thaler’s side. Ruel didn’t have another play (except more and more lands) for the rest of the game, while Thaler happily summoned Hagra Diabolist which burned Ruel for two and also boosted Nimana Sell-Sword up to 4/4.

Two 4/4 creatures on one side of the board, a grand total of zero on the other side... In fact, that’s exactly the final score of this match.

Sebastian Thaler 2 – 0 Olivier Ruel

Round 7 Feature Match – Martin Juza vs. Alexandre Dos Santos

by Tobias Henke

In case you haven’t already heard, Martin Juza is currently second in the Player of the Year race, and the leader, Yuuya Watanabe, is not present here in Paris this weekend. So Juza is the one guy who has most to win out of this tournament... or not to win. He is currently sitting at 15 points (5-1), as is his opponent from France Alexandre Dos Santos

Martin Juza

The most important decision of the duel came right at the very start: Juza thought about mulliganing. He didn’t and was stuck on two lands for most of the game. Actually he could keep up quite nicely, though. His Disfigure killed Cliff Threader, while Dos Santos killed Vampire Lacerator with Punishing Fire. Despite the fact that Dos Santos refrained from attacking with his Goblin Guide (or maybe because of it?), Juza made it to three lands and was able to cast Hideous End on Dos Santos’s Kor Sanctifiers. However, at the end of the game Juza still was stuck on three Swamps (with lots of red cards in hand). A combination of Kor Hookmaster and Slaughter Cry finished him off, when finally Goblin Guide dared venture into the red zone.

Martin Juza 0 – 1 Alexandre Dos Santos

Juza chose to draw, and had to think long and hard about his opening hand once again, finally deciding to keep a very land-heavy seven. At least, he did have a nice curve:

Turn one: Guul Draz Vampire (immediately killed by Punishing Fire)
Turn two: Vampire Lacerator, Piranha Marsh
Turn three: Vampire Lacerator and Disfigure (on Plated Geopede)
Turn four: Inferno Trap (to remove another blocker)

Alexandre Dos Santos

But now Dos Santos, still at 13 life, made Kor Hookmaster and went down to 11, while Juza went without play. Dos Santos added Kor Sanctifiers to his board and Juza had no play again. The two Vampire Lacerators began to turn on their master. Not for long, though, as Conqueror’s Pledge from Dos Santos sealed the deal soon after.

“I should mulligan more aggressively,” Juza grumbled, obviously angry with himself. Hopefully, this realization will help him in the coming rounds. He now needs two straight wins to make day two.

Martin Juza 0 – 2 Alexandre Dos Santos

Saturday, 8:50 p.m. – Making Magic

by Tobias Henke

With this event the Grand Prix circuit returned to Disneyland Paris, a location that once again proved extremely popular. 1,961 players in the room (or rather, in two)... a new world record... the largest tournament in the history of Magic...

And Disneyland, conveniently also known as “the magic kingdom”, really forms a spectacular backdrop for a Magic event. However, we’re not inside the actual park, but rather in one of Disney’s adjacent hotels, the Newport Bay Club.

People here have gone to great lengths to create the perfect illusion of a 19th century seaside hotel, complete with hidden speakers outside standing in for circling seagulls and some very nifty interior design. For example, take a look at the magnificent ballroom, that houses one half of the tournament:

From the decoration on the walls to the carpet, there’s so much detail. It is kind of reminiscent of Magic cards, actually. Among the cards of our favorite game, flavor text, art, names, and flavorful top-down designs like Blazing Torch combine to build a rich and coherent fantasy world. Whether the setting is fantasy or a real-world references from the past, whether it’s on cards or interior design, the magic (or the Magic) is always in the detail.

Talking about the past, here is one more magical picture, a shot of the trophy ceremony taken at last year’s GP Paris:

Left to Right: Champion Arjan van Leeuwen, head judge Riccardo Tessitori, runner-up Pierre Rensonnet

Podcast - Round Seven, and Round Seven

by Rich Hagon

Something appears to have happened to the space/time continuum here at Grand Prix Paris, but in a really good way. First, we check in on the progress of Shuhei Nakamura and fellow Player of the Year hopeful Martin Juza, as the blue feature match takes center stage. Then, mysteriously, it's time for Round Seven all over again, as the green tournament gets rolling, and we get to see a cracking game of Magic between Dennis Stone of Belgium and Adam Koska of the Czech Republic, while Britain's Mark Pinder takes his Grand Prix Trial win into the feature match against Frenchman Quentin Guerrero. Upstairs, downstairs, Soul Stairs, it's all here.

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Feature Match Round 9 – Nico Bohny vs. Gilles Durand

by Tobias Henke

This is it. The last round of...-- Err. Wait, actually it’s not the final round for today, as a bonus round has been added to the schedule for this Grand Prix. However, it is the final round before the cut. Everyone with a score of 7-2 and better will make it into day two and these two players have already secured their spot with a perfect record of eight wins and zero losses.

Gilles Durand

Bohny went first and had Surrakar Marauder on turn two, Durand had Blazing Torch and a Surrakar Marauder of his own. Both players traded beats on turn three but apart from land drops and a Soul Stair Expedition for Bohny, went without plays. Bohny had Nimana Sell-Sword on turn four, then sacrificed Surrakar Marauder to Durand’s Gatekeeper of Malakir. The latter was in turn killed by Bohny’s Torch Slinger. Not a moment too soon, as on his turn Durand summoned Kor Skyfisher. Bohny returned Surrakar Marauder and Torch Slinger from his graveyard with Soul Stair Expedition, Durand returned Gatekeeper of Malakir with Grim Discovery.

Nimana Sell-Swords traded, and now Bohny had Gatekeeper of Malakir, which killed a freshly-cast Hagra Crocodile. The Gatekeeper went on a Journey to Nowhere, but Bohny still had more, when Durand was long out of gas. Disfigure and Torch Slinger took down Durand’s defense, Plated Geopede upped Bohny’s offense.

Nico Bohny 1 – 0 Gilles Durand

After the game, Bohny turned to me. “Well, who would’ve guessed the deck really is that good?” he asked. And winked.

Durand, going first, shipped back his opening seven, Bohny kept. Once again Durand started with equipment, Blazing Torch, on turn one, and this time Bohny mirrored that with Adventuring Gear. Durand did not have a play on turn two, though. Neither had Bohny, but Durand even missed his land drop number three, instead drawing, casting, and equipping Vampire Lacerator. Bohny had a Vampire of his own, one a little more impressive, one Vampire Nighthawk. Vampire Lacerator stayed back and started to work on Durand’s life total.

Nico Bohny

(Yes, that’s right, Vampire Lacerator equipped with Blazing Torch did not attack for fear of being blocked by Vampire Nighthawk. Yes, Vampire Nighthawk can’t actually do that. Yes, no one reads the first two lines of text on Blazing Torch. Yes, if you don’t know what we’re talking about, you really should check out Blazing Torch.)

Bohny increased pressure, made another three-toughness creature in Nimana Sell-Sword. Durand finally got a third land, but Bohny already had Torch Slinger ready for his opponent’s Kor Hookmaster, then Disfigure to finish off a blocking Kor Skyfisher. Durand made one more attempt to get back into the game, placing Nimbus Wings on Kor Aeronaut to hopefully fend off Vampire Nighthawk. Bohny gave it (appropriately) a Hideous End.

Nico Bohny 2 – 0 Gilles Durand

Round 9 – Elric Guillot vs Martin Juza

by Tim Willoughby

Martin Juza of the Czech Republic might be riding high on the Player of the Year race, but he is in hot water here in Paris, in order to make day 2, he has to win this ninth round. If not, he’ll be watching from the sidelines on Sunday, leaving the event having missed out on a rare opportunity to catch up with Yuuya Watanabe.

“I never win in feature matches”

“Neither do I!”

One way or another someone would be breaking their streak here, and Juza dearly hoped it would be him. He wasn’t lucky on the die roll, but did have the first spell of the game, in Blazing Torch. While Guillot had a Soul Stair Expedition, he was slower on creatures than Juza, who on turn two played Vampire Lacerator and equipped it.

A Stonework Puma came down for Guillot, which was hit by Punishing Fire from the Czech, allowing Vampire Lacerator to get stuck in. Those sort of shenanigans soon stopped though when Shatterskull Giant joined Guillot’s side of the board.

Martin Juza

Having missed land drops, Juza’s Mindless Null was a little late to the party, but at least with the Lacerator around it was able to block. Juza was not about the blocking though, and rumbled in following an attack from Guillot’s Giant. The very next turn, Guillot punished that plan though, with the devastating play of Hagra Crocodile, followed by a land to pay the kicker on Goblin Bushwacker. From nowhere, Guillot was swinging for lethal, and there was nothing that Juza could do about it.

Elric Guillot 1 – 0 Martin Juza

Juza chose to draw in game 2, which is in contrast to what many players had been opting for all day, especially in the face of red/black aggression. After a little though, Juza chose to mulligan his opening 7. Perhaps his choice to draw was prompted by a premonition about ending up a card behind.

A turn one Vampire Lacerator on the play from Guillot made for an aggressive start. Juza’s was a Piranha Marsh. A Soul Stair Expedition was the turn 2 play from Guillot, which was matched by Juza. While red/black decks are typically good at killing creatures, it looked likely that creatures would not be staying dead in this match. Juza also had a Surrakar Marauder, which he soon equipped with a Blazing Torch.

Elric Guillot

Vampire Lacerator continued to run in, being responsible for much of the damage in the match, and eventually traded with the Lacerator. Juza was playing at being a mono black deck, and didn’t seem super happy about it, even though he managed to get a Crypt Ripper in play twice (thanks to his Exploration). A pair of copies of Disfigure from Guillot put paid to it twice.

In this back and forth game 2, Juza used a Seismic Shudder to kill an opposing Surrakar Marauder, before playing one of his own. He had a Punishing Fire to kill Heartstabber Mosquito, but looked a little more concerned by the Geyser Glider that followed it. Guillot had not yet been forced to pull the trigger on his own Soul-Stair Expedition, and sooner or later he knew his opponent would be able to reload on threats. Juza was at 10, and gradually whittling down his opponent to just 6.

Guillot played a Murasa Pyromancer to kill the Surrakar Marauder that was Juza’s primary strike team. Martin for his turn just played a land and passed with a lot of mana open, 1 card in hand, and the meagre team of Vampire Lacerator with a Blazing Torch.

A land for Guillot gave his Geyser Glider flying, allowing an attack to knock Juza to 6. Guillot used Soul Stair Expedition to get back his Heartstabber Mosquito, and aimed it at Juza’s lone creature. Juza in response got the Vampire to throw his torch at Guillot’s head.

“One time! I have six outs I can draw here to win me the game!” declared Juza as he knocked on his deck. With a trio of Mountains in play, it looked like he was digging for one more to Spire Barrage his opponent out. He flipped the top card of his deck.

A Swamp.

Game over.

Elric Guillot 2 – 0 Martin Juza

Round 10 – Bonus Round!

by Tim Willoughby

Round 10 – Bonus Round!
Tim Willoughby

With 9 rounds out of the way today, and the cut to day 2 having already been made, we have one more round before the end of the day here at Grand Prix Paris. This round is there to ensure that there aren’t awkward situations of being in day 2 without a shot at top 8, regardless of record.

The $64,000 question at this point is, how did the players that got to day 2 get there. What is it that makes the good decks tick, and what should you be looking out for being able to beat at top tables in PTQs near you?

With a spirit of adventure, I ventured over to the top tables to see what it was that was winning. In order to do well, you clearly need to play your cards right. It was no great surprise to see a number of pro players on 8-1 or better, including Olivier Ruel and Nico Bohny, Shi Tian Lee, the Hong Kong champion, and Marcio Carvalho.

What was more of a surprise was the split of colours being played. Of the 16 tables featuring players on X-1 and better in the blue side of the tournament, 21 of 32 players were running red cards. Red has powerful commons, and great removal, which has made it a popular choice here in Paris. Red also has power by virtue of its threats being cheap to cast. When red’s aggressors can rumble with green’s creatures on a more or less even footing, and are backed up with solid removal, the price is right for aggressive decks to do well, and wipe out anyone whose draw stumbles at all.

Behind red, came both white and black, in equal numbers with 18 players of the 32 choosing one or other of them (and in one case both!). White has a lot of great aggressive options like Steppe Lynx and Kor Hookmaster, along with Kor Skyfisher, whose toughness of 3 is a thorn in the side of many other aggressive creatures, and Journey to Nowhere, a premium removal spell. Speaking of premium removal, black’s access to great removal is likely what has put it so widely on the high tables. Between good removal and solid aggressive creatures, black, coupled with red is a terrifying aggressive combination that puts opponents in double jeopardy.

What was a little more interesting was looking for the other two colours. Many pros have already expressed that its not easy being green in Zendikar draft, and it seems the same holds true in sealed deck. While sealed is a modicum slower, that is barely reflected at the top tables where aggression is where it’s at. What green was working seemed focused on using it as a colour with great support fatties to go alongside otherwise aggressive decks, making the most of the ability to get card advantage with good kicker creatures to get 2 for 1’s.

Finally we have blue. Poor old blue has some nifty flyers in Welkin Tern and Umara Raptor, but equally suffers from a few stinkers in the common slot and a distinct lack of permanent removal which rendered it the least potent of the colours at the top tables. Only 4 of 32 players were running blue, and at least 2 of them had Sphinx of Jwar Isle to top their curve. Untargetable flying fatties aside, it looked like blue was having a rough time of it in the blue side of the tournament.

One telling thing was that it seemed very few matchups were being dominated by rares too much. While it is easy to gravitate towards rare cards when building a sealed deck, in this format it seems that efficiently costed commons and uncommons frequently end games before many powerful rares are able to get going. About the only rares that I saw active at the top tables and winning games were Sphinx of Jwar Isle and Luminarch Ascension. Two Luminarch Ascensions were churning out 4/4s for their contented owners. The format being quick means that getting them going can need a solid supporting draw, but once that draw comes together, all those red/black decks show one of their key historic weaknesses, a vulnerability to enchantments.

Round 10 has had its winners and its losers. I think the only fitting conclusion would be to leave you with the undefeated 9-0 decks the tournament. Enjoy!

Nico Bohny

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Herbert Engleitner

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Jonas Wallendorf

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Alessandro Lippi

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Andreas Schraut

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Rodrigo Borba

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Guilherme Alexandrino

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Guilherme Alexandrino

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Joris Müller

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Podcast - Red-Hot Late Night Bonus Action!

by Rich Hagon

Yes, it's time for sleeping bags and cocoa, as you snuggle up with your favorite teddy bear and lie back and listen to late night Magic from the biggest tournament ever. Round Ten of sixteen is right here, as we find out which four players will start Day Two undefeated at a prodigious 10-0. In total, 242 players will come back to turn lightning-quick Sealed into lightning-quick Draft, and you can follow all the action as it happens.

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