Grand Prix Prague - Complete Day 1 Coverage

Posted in Event Coverage on May 21, 2011

By Wizards of the Coast


Saturday, 11:30 a.m. – Trials and Tribulations

by Tobi Henke

Today, it's all about Sealed Deck. Actually, yesterday was already all about Sealed Deck. 13 last-chance Trials fitted 13 lucky winners each with three free wins in the main event. To get there, they had two win five rounds in a row, besting 31 other players. We have collected a sample of trial-winning deck lists to get a first impression of the Sealed format with New Phyrexia.

Apparently, this is what your Sealed Deck should look like ideally: 16-17 lands, strictly two colors, about 13 creatures (or up to 17 when counting all the assorted token production) and ... well, that's about it. Obviouly one is looking for a reasonable mana curve and tries to play one's best cards, but apart from that succesful decks vary greatly.

The go-to archetype seems to be more control oriented, but if your pool allows it you certainly can go aggro. Just look at Anze Avsec's list featuring lots of creatures and Ruthless Invasion. Meanwhile Tomas Langer was shy one more creature, to carry his Batterskull for instance, and made do with Screeching Silcaw. Also, while Steve Kempe's deck had Sheoldred, Whispering One and Black Sun's Zenith, it's not so much about the rares as one might think. Take a look at all the goodies these players left in their sideboards: Phyrexian Rebirth, True Conviction, Platinum Emperion ...

No two Sealed pools are ever the same and each and every one poses a new challenge to build correctly. Here are the complete card pools. How would you have build your deck from this material?

Anze Avsec, Winner

Steve Kempe, Winner

Tomas Langer, Winner

Saturday, 12:09 p.m. – Same Faces, New Phyrexia

by David Sutcliffe

"With great power comes great responsibility".

A great man wrote that once (it was Stan Lee, true believers), and if you allow me some creative license I'll bend that slightly and apply it to the two finalists of Grand Prix London – Daniel Royde of England, and Frenchman Louis Deltour. For these two, with great success comes great fame, and the spotlight of watching them build their sealed pool for the first day of Grand Prix Prague.

Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer

"This is embarassing!" Royde told me, as he took his seat on the feature match table for the build, "it's so much better when people can't see what you're building".

The two players spent a few minutes carefully checking through their pools to ensure that they had been correctly registered, but once they had started to actually build their decks it took very little time for Daniel Royde to settle on the basic shape of his deck – after all, Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer requires two colors of mana...

"I haven't played Sealed with New Phyrexian yet, but in drafts I've had my entire team lose to this guy so I know he's really good. He fits my other good cards though, I mean there's not much good in my blue, but the red has lots of really good removal; Red Sun's Zenith, Turn to Slag, Galvanic Blast - I've got five or six cards that I really want to play in red. And the white has a few good creatures, and Remember the Fallen is obviously really good".

So what was with all the other colors he had laid out?

Pith Driller

"I usually work by just throwing everything in to the pile then taking out what I don't want, so I'm not sure how much of this I'll actually play. But Pith Driller isn't really black, he's colorless because I'm pretty much always happen to pay 2 life for him. I've got a Thundering Tanadon as well, but I'm not so sure about that guy – 4 life is a lot to pay if I'm not using Forests! And there's a lot of bounce effects around, so paying 4 life just to have your opponent bounce him is unpleasant. But obviously I don't mind so much if they bounce Pith Driller".

Leaving Daniel to finish up I turned my attention to the losing finalist from Grand Prix London, Louis Deltour. As coverage staff we're supposed to remain neutral, but by the end of GP London I was really rooting for Louis Deltour because it had seemed as though the fates were conspiring to destroy his chances. On Saturday Louis only lost one match – that was to the unstoppable German juggernaut Raul Porojan, who finished the swiss rounds unbeaten. On Sunday Louis lost three more times, which was once more to Raul Porojan and twice to Daniel Royde – once in the Swiss, and once in the Final of the Grand Prix. 18 rounds of Magic, and Louis Deltour had only lost to two people, versus the other 700-odd players in the room he went 14-0.

"I was really happy to make the Top-8", he told me, "there was only one player on X-3 who made it, and it was me – after I had played against Daniel, and Raul twice, my tiebreakers were insane!"

So had he felt extra pressure in the last round, to make it into the Top-8 despite the cruelty of the pairings?

"I don't think of the 15th round as any more important, more pressure, than the 3rd round", he told me, "what matters is that you sit and play the game. You can work out the big picture at the end of the day, you don't want that on your mind when you play. Gerry T wrote a great article for Starcity a few months back that was about this, and I think it's a great article that everyone should read if they get the chance. (Ed - and here's your chance! ) It's really important, I think. Whenever I do best at a tournament it's when I can finish a round, go away and take 10 minutes with my friends, then come back to the next round, get my headphones on, focus, and really immerse myself back into the tournament".

Sword of War and Peace

Turning to his build here today, Louis was looking quite happy.

"It could be better, but my sealed pool in London was so good that I think I'll never be happy with another sealed pool ever again!"

He fanned out his cards, which were in three colors, so that I could see what he had built.

"The first thing I did was sort everything by quality, and that meant I could rule out Infect very quickly because the Infect cards I had were quite poor. I then sorted the good cards by color – I had some good cards in blue that I'd love to play with, but no removal... but the other colors: Black has a real bomb rare, removal and a flyer; Green has Fangren Marauder who is always an MVP and some removal, and White has more removal and more flyers. There are lots of artifacts as well, I mean Sword of War and Peace has to be good!"

But like Daniel Royde, Louis had his doubts.

Shrine of Loyal Legions

"I haven't played much New Phyrexia, which means I'm finding it hard to judge how good cards are. I have a Hex Parasite, and I can't work out if that's really good or not. And Shrine of Burning Rage, without any red cards? It's probably too slow. Shrine of Loyal Legions is bonkers though, so I'm playing that. I'm three colors, but a lot of them are artifacts or Phyrexian mana, and I have a Horizon Spellbomb and Mycosynth Wellspring to fix my mana so I should be fine".

Deltour was happy, Royde was less so. His deck had started well, and certainly had plenty of powerful cards, but it had a problem.

"I only have 10 creatures. And two of those are Clone Shell. That can't be right. Like, I have some vanilla guys I could play – Ogre Resistor and Flameborn Viron – but I don't like vanilla guys. I always feel like I should be able to find something better", he pauses, "maybe I'm undervaluing them".

With time pressing at the end of the build I left the two Grand Prix London finalists to complete their decks. While Louis Deltour looked set for success, Daniel Royde was possibly in need of a healthy dose of luck, although a few rounds of byes would give the reigning champ the opportunity to iron out any wrinkles. But it was clear that the arrival of New Phyrexia, and Phyrexian mana, had already thrown up a wildcard in deckbuilding – and that was a theme we would return to later in the Grand Prix.

Podcast – New Phyrexia, Old Prague

by Rich Hagon

New is awesome, and so is New Phyrexia. Old can be awesome too, especially when it's the old that is historic Prague. We're in a truly wondrous venue for this Grand Prix, and in our opening show we look at some of the players who could be making a name for themselves. The New? That includes Lukas Jaklovsky, Jonas Kostler, Lucas Florent, and Louis Deltour, all players who might take a big leap forward this weekend. The Old? There's Shuhei Nakamura, Martin Juza, Raphael Levy, and Craig 'Lightning Helix' Jones among the 1200+ looking to get the job done. Time to get started. GP Prague, where the fun could be Infectious.

Download this podcast in MP3 format (9.5 MB)

Saturday, 1:10 p.m. – Sealed Deck Musings with Martin Juza

by Tobi Henke
Uh-oh. Just look at that face: Martin Juza during deck construction

Juza was clearly unhappy with his pool. He had to build a red-white deck with, as he put it, "four good cards and lots of bad ones." He sighed. "These four will have to win me a lot of games today. And if I didn't have them, there'd be absolutely no chance for me to make day two."

But let's not talk about the bad stuff and move on to the good. Certified as such is Juza's ability to excel at Limited. So we'll leave the specifics of today's Sealed pool aside and concentrate on his general approach to Sealed Deck building.

"First of all, I always look for cards that can actually win games ... whether it's a Planeswalker or, say, a Decimator Web." About the influx of New Phyrexia in Sealed he said, "It doesn't change the format very much. You still take your bombs and build around them, with cards that stall the game until the bombs take over. I don't think there's a good way to build an aggressive deck in Sealed. Sometimes you have to go that way, but you're probably never ever happy about it." With Infect now in all five colors, will we see more Infect decks or less? "About the same as before. It will still be the exception."

"There's more change in draft and I really like the new format," Juza told me. "Shuhei has been staying with me since GP London, and together with the other Czeck players we got a lot of drafts in."

Back to Sealed: Any color preferences? "Definitely not Boros!" Juza grimaced. "In all seriousness, though, I don't mind playing anything. I'll play whatever color has the bombs. Maybe red because it has the most two-for-one cards with Into the Core, Oxidda Scrapmelter, Blisterstick Shaman ..."

Splashing or no splashing? "I'm the type of player who goes for consistency over power, but sometimes that cost me. I think, for the most part splashing is incorrect in this format, but if you have to do it, you obviously have to do it. Me, I splash maybe one out of ten times which I realize is an extremely low percentage. This might be what I'm doing wrong though," Juza said with a little smile. Well, we certainly won't question his authority, especially when he does it all by himself already. In fact, that might just be what makes Martin Juza one of the game's greatest: constantly re-evaluating his own opinions.

Saturday, 3:05 p.m. – Traveller From A Distant World

by David Sutcliffe

If you've ever seen the movie K-Pax, you'll recall how Kevin Spacey's travelling alien, Prot, arrives suddenly in New York's Grand Central Station having been transported to Earth on a beam of light. It was rather like the sudden and unexpected arrival of the Grand Prix champion, Pro Tour finalist, and Lightning Helix windmiller, Craig 'Prof' Jones – one minute there was an empty space, and then a second later there was Prof: a strange being from a faraway place.

If you've come to the game in the past few years you may not know who Craig is, and to bring you up to speed gives you a great opportunity to relive one of the greatest moments in Magic Pro Tour history – from the semi final of Pro Tour Honolulu 2006:

"Thinking that my whole Magic career is eclipsed by that moment is kind of depressing", Craig mused, as he recalled his Helix topdeck, "but it really was a great moment. And I think it was great that it was two players who were playing it up, like Olivier played a big part in it as well, in making it a special moment".

Craig has been away from the Grand Prix and Pro Tour circuit for many years after his Magic know-how and computing skills (including a PhD spent writing AI software) led to him being headhunted to join the motley crew of Magic greats who live on the Caribbean island of Curacao and bury their heads into the dark and murky world of sports statistics. Craig and I go way back, to distant memories of battling over Mirage and Visions cards 15 years ago, when the Pro Tour was just a hazy dream for either of us (it remains a hazy dream for me!) and it would have been amiss of us not to catch up on his adventures...

So you live on a tropical island now?

"Yeah... although technically I think it's a desert island. We have a few palm trees and things like that. Magic leads you to some strange places - it was through Magic that I met Ted Knutson and it was he who offered me the job in Curacao."

We've often joked that the Curacao National Championships must be one of the hardest tournaments in the world. Who lives on the island now?

"Actually, not that many players live on the island these days – we're kind of scattered around a bit. A lot of the guys can work where they like, they aren't really tied down. I work on the IT side, though, which means I have to be central so that everybody can send stuff to me when they need to. I'm one of the few guys who works a proper 9-to-5 I think. There's no Curacao National Championship, though we do get together for board games once a week – I'm used to winning at board games, but on the island I pretty much only ever win if I get lucky. We've got Eugene Harvey there - he must be one of the smartest guys I've ever met, and he's really good at board games. When we get a new game you only ever get one chance to beat Eugene because he might not get the strategy right straight away. But after that first game he works it out and you've got no chance".

And you mentioned cricket...

"Haha, yes I'm now an international cricketer – which to anybody who knows me is really funny because I'm not very good. Curacao is a baseball island, really, and they have a few players in the MLB so if anybody is any good at sports on the island they sort of naturally drift into baseball, not cricket. But there are some ex-pats, and people from other islands in the Caribbean, and we got enough together to form a Curacao team. The standard isn't exactly what you'd call 'high', though – being able to hold the bat the right way up pretty much gets you a place in the team. I've played against Surinam, and Aruba, and we also had a game against the crew of the HMS Manchester, a Royal Navy Destroyer that had come to dock in Curacao. It wasn't sailors, I think it was the engineers. We won the coin toss and put them in to field in the Caribbean sun for a few hours. The poor guys just melted!"

Ok, back to Magic, what brought you here to the Grand Prix?

"Well I really like Prague, it's got lots to do, so the city is a big attraction. But Curacao is a really small island, so it's good to get away when you can. Last year I made the mistake of taking a week off work and just staying on the island and this year I'm determined that when I take a vacation I'm actually going to go somewhere, and Prague seemed like a good place to go to".

And finally... how's your deck?

"Awful! It was like 'Welcome back to the Grand Prix, here's a complete pile'! I've got a bunch of not much good and a Steel Hellkite, which is pretty much the only card I think I can beat people with. Any time you're playing Forests and Plains you know you've done something wrong", then he grins, "Unless you're playing Glare of Subdual. Then it's ok!"

Podcast – Hall of Fame in Hall of Prague

by Rich Hagon

Raphael Levy has an amazing track record over many, many years. Chances are, he was making the Top 8 of Grand Prix before some of you reading this were born. Exactly. Here in Round Four he goes up against Czech player Jakub Hruska, and it's fair to say there are some surprises in this one. Martin Juza opens with a tough opponent in Helmut Summersberger, while Ivan Floch, Lucas Florent, Adam Koska, and Janos Csomos round out the top table attractions.

Download this podcast in MP3 format (13.6 MB)

Feature Match: Round 4 – Helmut Summersberger vs. Martin Juza

by Tobi Henke

Two-time Grand Prix champion Helmut Summersberger from Austria is back after he took a break from Magic for a couple of years. Czech super star Martin Juza, of course, has never left and is currently at the top of his game. His deck on the other hand is rather mediocre. Both players brought red and white cards to the table here.

Game 1

Juza won the die-roll and chose to draw first. Summersberger capitalized on that with a quick start involving Perilous Myr, Copper Carapace, and an attack for 3 on turn three. Juza meanwhile had only cast Shrine of Loyal Legions and was clearly aiming for the late game here. He stopped Summersberger's offense with a Perilous Myr of his own.

Martin Juza

Summersberger however expanded on his early board advantage with Indomitable Archangel. Juza made Tumble Magnet and passed the turn. Summersberger cast Pristine Talisman (artifact number three) and Spin Engine. The 4/4 Angel was stopped by Tumble Magnet, but it still gave shroud to Summersberger's Copper Carapace-equipped Perilous Myr, so Juza couldn't trade it in for his own Myr anymore.

Juza only had Ichor Wellspring and Summersberger increased the pressure with Chrome Steed. Juza's Gremlin Mine was not exactly what he was hoping for, being completely useless unless he could get rid of Indomitable Archangel. He was soon forced to crack his Shrine of Loyal Legions for four tokens and start the chump-blocking ...

Helmut Summersberger 1 – 0 Martin Juza

Game 2

Game two began in similar fashion. Juza again chose to draw first and had a Shrine on turn two. Summersberger again had Copper Carapace on his first and a Myr on his second turn. Only this time Juza's Shrine was Shrine of Burning Rage and Summersberger's Myr was Leaden Myr.

Helmut Summersberger

On turn three Summersberger followed things up with his other rare 4/4 flyer: Moltensteel Dragon! Juza had Arrest for the Dragon, but Summersberger had Apostle's Blessing to undo the Arrest. The beatdown began ... and continued with Pierce Strider. Next turn, Summersberger attacked with all three of his creatures, and that was already enough. Juza died with just four lands and Shrine of Burning Rage on the battlefield—a perfect turn five kill.

"That was an amazing draw," Juza conceded, then conceded the game.

Helmut Summersberger 2 – 0 Martin Juza

Saturday, 4:19 p.m. – Choose Your Own Adventure

by David Sutcliffe

"Pop quiz, hotshot. There's a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do? What do you do?"
- Speed (1994)

Pop quiz. There's a Grand Prix and it's Sealed Deck. You've got four decks to choose from, all built by the best players in the world. You can only play one of them. What do you do? What do you do?


The first deck to look at is a Blue-Red deck with some real end-game hitting power, with a pair of Dragons and Urabrask the Hidden at the top end of a deck that doesn't really start to motor until turn 4. If the deck can avoid being too far behind when the fourth land hits play, and in cards like Embersmith, Vapor Snag and Halt Order there's a chance of making sure that doesn't happen, then victory is going to be a good deal closer. With the slower tempo through the early turns it would be interesting to see how often the deck could afford to pay life for it's Phyrexian mana costs, though.


Urabrask the Hidden
1 Porcelain Legionnaire

1 Corrupted Conscience
1 Halt Order
1 Serum Raker
2 Spire Monitor
1 Vapor Snag

1 Blisterstick Shaman
1 Embersmith
1 Hoard-Smelter Dragon
1 Into the Core
1 Moltensteel Dragon
1 Slash Panther
1 Turn to Slag
1 Urabrask the Hidden

1 Binding Souleater
1 Clone Shell
1 Gold Myr
1 Gust-Skimmer
1 Lumengrid Gargoyle
1 Myr Sire
1 Shimmer Myr
1 Trigon of Rage

8 Island
9 Mountain


The rares in Deck B weren't so obviously showy as the big angry red men in Deck A, but with Chancellor of the Spires and Blue Sun's Zenith there was some potentially powerful card advantage generation in the late game. It wasn't likely, but the combination of a Chancellor of the Spires in your opening hand and Blue Sun's Zenith late in the game could even lead to winning a game through decking the opponent out! The rest of the deck is a combination of solid green creatures, and some blue flyers, with possibly enough Proliferate to poison an opponent to death.


Chancellor of the Spires
1 Blue Sun's Zenith
1 Chancellor of the Spires
1 Deceiver Exarch
2 Fuel for the Cause
1 Sky-Eel School
1 Viral Drake

1 Bellowing Tanglewurm
2 Glissa's Scorn
1 Leeching Bite
1 Melira's Keepers
1 Rot Wolf
1 Tangle Mantis
1 Viridian Corrupter
1 Viridian Emissary

2 Gremlin Mine
1 Hexplate Golem
1 Palladium Myr
1 Shrine of Loyal Legions
1 Strandwalker
1 Wall of Tanglecord

8 Forest
9 Island


It's hard to argue with the red splash in our third deck, which picks up three powerful removal spells and adds it to a Blue-Green deck that features some very aggressive creatures. The plan for this deck is clearly to go onto the offensive, and use the mix of flyers and removal to get across the finishing line, or in a longer game the Vedalkan Anatomist can dissect the opponent's creatures. Ezuri's Brigade is unlikely to ever have Metalcraft, but the other Green rare, Phyrexian Swarmlord, could potentially win the game all on it's own.


Phyrexian Swarmlord
1 Impaler Shrike
1 Quicksilver Geyser
1 Sky-Eel School
1 Trinket Mage
1 Vedalken Anatomist
1 Volition Reins
1 Wing Splicer

1 Burn the Impure
1 Oxidda Scrapmelter
1 Red Sun's Zenith

1 Blightwidow
1 Death-Hood Cobra
1 Ezuri's Brigade
1 Leeching Bite
1 Phyrexian Swarmlord
1 Tangle Angler
1 Thundering Tanadon
1 Viridian Emissary

1 Alloy Myr
1 Flayer Husk
1 Gremlin Mine
1 Heavy Arbalest
1 Wall of Tanglecord

7 Forest
7 Island
3 Mountains


It took a long time to get to some White cards, but they're finally here, and Kemba, Kha Regent and Puresteel Paladin head up a quick Blue-White deck that features no less than 13 artifacts. With a mix of flyers and unblockable creatures like the Neurok Invisimancer and Trespassing Souleater, the deck will have to stay on the front foot and put it's opponent under a clock that bigger creatures can't respond to in time. The deck has a theme, and a plan, but unlike the other decks here it doesn't really feature any blow-out rares other than the Wrath-in-a-box Contagion Engine. Would it have your pick?


Puresteel Paladin
1 Divine Offering
1 Leonin Skyhunter
1 Kemba, Kha Regent
1 Puresteel Paladin
1 Suture Priest

1 Neurok Invisimancer
2 Sky-Eel School
1 Spire Monitor

1 Vault Skirge

1 Alloy Myr
1 Bladed Pinions
1 Contagion Engine
1 Flayer Husk
1 Golem Artisan
1 Gust-Skimmer
1 Hovermyr
1 Lumengrid Gargoyle
1 Mortarpod
1 Myr Galvanizer
1 Rusted Slasher
1 Sylvok Lifestaff
1 Trespassing Souleater

So there you have it – four sealed decks that have been built by four of the best players in the world. But if only one of those decks was yours for the day, which would you back?

We'll come back at the end of the day to reveal whose deck was whose, and see if you backed a winner or not. Would you have made Day Two?

Saturday, 4:40 p.m. – Trading New Phyrexia

by Tobi Henke

So what are the hot new cards from New Phyrexia? Leading the bestseller's list this weekend was Mental Misstep and by a large margin. "Every Legacy player wants four," one of the card dealers said. Dismember was another uncommon that was in high demand.

Among the rares, Spellskite led the field. Sword of Feast and Famine, Batterskull, and Surgical Extraction were next on the list.

Oh, and we moved quite a number of copies of Karn Liberated.

The dealers noted that, with Grand Prix Prague being a Limited tournament, attention has mostly circled on non-Standard cards though. Along with Mental Misstep for the Legacy crowd, especially foil versions of New Phyrexia's Praetors sold in record time. "People over here really like the Commander format!"

Oo, shiny!

Podcast – Austria Takes Center Stage

by Rich Hagon

There's a distinctively Austrian tinge to the Feature Match area in round six, with Helmut Summersberger, Oliver Polak-Rottmann, and Thomas Holzinger all attempting to fly the flag, and advance from 5-0 to 6-0. Plus, we catch a glimpse of American Alex West, as he faces Team World Champion Robert Jurkovic. New Phyrexia in full Sealed swing, here at Grand Prix Prague.

Download this podcast in MP3 format (13.0 MB)

Feature Match: Round 5 – Robert Jurkovic vs. Alexander West

by David Sutcliffe

"I asked him what happened last time we played, in London", Alex told me, as the two players got settled into the feature match area, "I lost".

Alex West is not a name that you might be too familiar with at the moment, but the American has become a regular on the Grand Prix and Pro Tour circuit, which is a change in lifestyle that has come about by design rather than accident. His opponent in the feature match was the Slovakian Pro Robert Jurkovic, who has himself become an integral part of pretty much any European Grand Prix.

Game 1

The first game began with the two players sizing each other up, and a Golem Mine that destroyed Jurokovic's Rust Tick was the closest thing to actual action to be seen. Jurkovic took to the offensive with a Strandwalker, then used a Divine Offering and Blisterstick Shaman to secure that lead, removing West's Pestilent Souleater and a Tel-Jilad Fallen. Finding himself down to 8 life and unable to get anything to stick in play, West had no option but to activate his get-out switch ad played his shiny foil copy of Karn, the Liberator. The Planeswalker exiled Jurkovic's Strandwalker, but couldn't survive the attentions of the rest of Jurkovic's forces and was quickly sent to the graveyard.

In truth, all Karn had really managed to do was stall Jurkovic slightly and the result of the game was never in any doubt. West played a further two lands, but had nothing else available to stem the flow of damage and conceded the first game.

Jurkovic 1 – 0 West

Game 2

"All the right answers, every turn" was West's summary of the game, and the Slovakian agreed with a knowing smile. The Strandwalker hadn;t seemed like a lethal threat, but when it was followed by the right removal Jurkovic had been able to accumulate a lot of momentum very quickly. Even Karn had been a chump block, in the end!

That was game one, and game two was, if anything, even more of a blowout. Curving through from Divine Offering into Blisterstick Shaman and the Hero of Bladehold meant that Robert Jurkovic simply rolled all over Alexander West's defenses in just six turns.

Jurkovic 2 – 0 West

Alexander West

That emphatic victory for Robert Jurkovic meant that I had plenty of time left to chat with Alex about his switch to take up the globetrotting Magic lifestyle.

"I was working in software and, basically, I was bored with it. In the past I hadn't really taken Magic so seriously, but whenever I played in a Grand Prix I did quite well, like finished in the Top 16 or so, so I knew that I could do ok at the Grand Prix level. The real change came at the start of last year – I made a really good start to the year, finishing just outside the Top 8 at a couple of Grand Prix and picking up Pro Points and an invite to the Pro Tour. That was when I sat down and really made the decision to have a proper try at Magic. I worked out that if I went to pretty much every Grand Prix I could then there was a good chance that I would make it to Level 4 or 5, and if I managed that then the next year I could have a crack at making it to a higher level. I know that everyone sets their sights on Level 8 but I don't think you can get there in one year, you need to get to Level 4 and then use that, and the byes that you get at Grand Prix, to really compete with the best players and push on towards Level 8. So I looked at the money I had, figured I could afford to spend two years playing Magic, and so I did".

And Alex was pretty certain about the advantages that came with making the effort to travel to Grand Prix.

"I think if you're serious about Magic - iIf you think you have what it takes - you should definitely be travelling to Grand Prix, not just playing in PTQs. I think Grand Prix have maybe the best EV of any level of Magic. Firstly your chances of qualifying for the Pro Tour are that much higher because so many people qualify, but the networking opportunities are so much better as well. It's natural that when you travel out to these places, and there's only like 6 or 7 Americans, they all congregate together so you suddenly find yourself in the company of the best players in the world just because you turned up".

"Here's a great example: in London I shared a hotel room with Shuuhei Nakamura, but that happened because when I was in Kobe for the Grand Prix I mentioned to Shuuhei that I was going to London. Because the other Japanese players were staying home he needed a roommate for London and we paired up, and then paired up again for Prague. So from playing against Shuuhei, now I'm rooming with him, and then before this Grand Prix I got to Prague early to beat the jetlag and spent the whole week playing with Shuuhei and Martin Juza! That makes a real difference, instead of having three friends giving me feedback on my sealed deck I have the best players in the world."

Robert Jurkovic

And Alex has already had his first brush with fame, when he travelled to Grand Prix Singapore in 2009 it set up his trip to the Philippines a year later.

The night before the Grand Prix IN singapore, 2009, I'd spent a while playing against a player from the Philippines, Konrad Tayao, and then it just happened that we got paired against each other in the Grand Prix. When he sat down to play he saw my name and was like "You didn't tell me you were Alex West!" and Alex grins at the memory, "it turned out that like three of the four players in the Philippines National Championship Top 4 had picked up a Merfolk deck that I'd designed, and it had qualified them for the World Championships. It blew me away that they knew who I was. Back home my friends made fun of me for it, and they had these little pin badges made that said 'I'm big in the Philippines'. That was my first taste of being, you know, famous I guess. So now because of that deck I have a permanent invite to the Philippines and when we travelled out there for the Grand Prix in Manila we stayed at his place, and ate all the time at his families restaurant. The food was great and we ate a ton of mangoes – they were amazing, then his mom saw how much we liked them and just kept giving us more mangoes!"

But Alex remembered where his globetrotting journey started, and why...

"I set out to play cards, I mean I love games. In the end I left my job in software because I was bored, so the opportunity to challenge myself against all these great players really appeals to me. I've met some of the most talented players and great people – it's a really satisfying experience".

And despite his rapid defeat against Robert Jurkovic, Alex remained upbeat about his deck and his chances of making it into Sunday.

"My deck is very good", he said, "this morning my girlfriend wished me the best possible luck. I think it paid off!"

Podcast – New Phyrexia In-Depth: White and Blue

by Rich Hagon

We take time to explore the cards of New Phyrexia in the company of Jan Ruess of Germany looking at the White cards, while Alex West - here on a grand tour of Europe that has already included Grand Prix London - shares his thoughts on the blue cards. What Commons should you be looking for in your New Phyrexia packs? What are the unmissable Rares? Listen to find out.

Download this podcast in MP3 format (12.2 MB)

Feature Match: Round 7 – Jan Rueß vs. Jan De Coster

by Tobi Henke

Game 1

Jan Rueß, a former Pro Tour finalist, who had taken some time off from Magic recently, came back into the ring of the Feature Match area with a red and white deck. Jan De Coster, didn't only share his opponent's first name as well as his perfect 6-0 record, but also two of his colors, with black for additional removal.

The similarities ended here though. While De Coster had to mulligan and then kept a one-land hand, Rueß started with Perilous Myr and Mycosynth Wellspring followed by Moltensteel Dragon on turn four.

De Coster never saw a second land. He discarded twice, a Slash Panther and a Rusted Slasher, then died to the big firebreathing monster.

Jan Rueß 1 – 0 Jan De Coster

Jan De Coster

Game 2

This time around, De Coster had mana, three Plains and one Leaden Myr, which enabled a Pierce Strider on turn three. Meanwhile, Rueß drew a card, went to cast it, then stopped and took it back. He stared at it in disbelief, laughed, and shook his head.

On his fourth turn he cast Moltensteel Dragon, but when De Coster had Trigon of Rage the Dragon decided to jump in front of Pierce Strider, trading. Then Rueß revealed what card had been so funny: Shriekhorn.

"I thought it was another card," he complained. "I boarded this in accidentally."

After both players had had a good laugh at Rueß's expense, he imprinted the Shriekhorn in his Prototype Portal, which really didn't look that bad at all. But Rueß had just spent two cards without influencing the board in the least, and that proved fatal soon enough. He ran out of answers long before De Coster was out of threats (Rusted Slasher, Enslave, Glint Hawk) or out of library.

Jan Rueß 1 – 1 Jan De Coster

Jan Rueß

Game 3

Both players had an extremely slow draw for the final game. De Coster started with Trigon of Rage, but had no creature and missed his fourth land drop, while Rueß only had Mycosynth Wellspring and thus lands, but no other plays.

The action started on turn five. De Coster had drawn a land and summoned Peace Strider. Rueß killed the Strider at end of turn via Burn the Impure, then imprinted Origin Spellbomb on his Prototype Portal, with one land still untapped.

De Coster had Crush, but Rueß saved his Portal with a timely Apostle's Blessing. Over the next couple of turns the Prototype Portal created an insane amount of card advantage for Rueß. De Coster's only flyer met Arrest, his Enslave (on Rueß's Leonin Skyhunter) met Revoke Existence, and soon De Coster was out of gas, while the Prototype Portal kept churning out Origin Spellbomb after Origin Spellbomb, Myr token after Myr token, extra card after extra card. Finally, Rueß's Rusted Slasher backed by the army of willing sacrifices proved too much and carried Rueß to victory.

Jan Rueß 2 – 1 Jan De Coster

Saturday, 7:30 p.m – Coverage from Every Angle

by Tobi Henke

Let's take a quick tour around the venue, shall we? Phyrexia might be known for its steel structures, but none of theirs are as beautiful as the one that houses this weekend's Grand Prix.

Best. Venue. Ever.Jonas Köstler is trying to decide what colors to play ...... stained glass window has them all.New Phyrexia is a dark place. But there's light at the end of the tunnel.Jan Rueß talks about the mana curve of his Sealed Deck. The architecture speaks for itself—apparently likes a good curve as well.

Feature Match: Round 8 – Shuuhei Nakamura vs. Joel Larsson

by David Sutcliffe

Joel Larsson tends not to have easy feature matches – in Grand Prix Paris he despatched Gabriel Nassif before being finally knocked out of the Top 8 by Kai Budde. Here in Prague he faces Shuuhei Nakamura, who has been cutting a swathe through the blue half of Grand Prix Prague, to take a 7-0 record.

Game 1

Shuuhei Nakamura and the match in a similar style, cutting a swathe through Joel Larsson. The Japanese Pro began the assault with a Death-Head Cobra, using a Vedalken Anatomist to ensure that the Cobra was untroubled by either the Phyrexian Rager or Moriok Reaver that Larsson put in front of it. A Blightwidow joined Nakamura's offense before Larsson found a Trigon of Corruption and could begin to stabilise the board.

With the help of the Trigon, Larsson played a Grim Affliction that accounted for Nakamura's Anatomist and Cobra, but the Japanese player's forces were expanding regardless and he played a Wing Splicer to retain the offensive, following with a Viridian Emissary. Despite all of Nakamura's efforts, the damage he had actually done to Larsson was quite limited – the Swede still had 11 life 0 and as Larsson added a second band of blockers to his forces, the board position seemed to have stabilised.

Shuuhei Nakamura

Shuuhei now had a Wing Splicer and Blightwidow, then added a Trinket Made and Flayer Husk. Across the table, Larsson had a Pierce Strider and Brass Squire on the ground, and a Skinwing ready in the air, all supported by his Trigon of Corruption, then joined by a Necropouncer. With Shuuhei's momentum stalled, the weight of forces were with Larsson.

Nakamura played a Sky-Eel School, but that was immediately trumped by Joel Larsson's Thundering Tanadon. Handed the Necropouncer, the Tanadon gained +3/+1 and Haste, and stomped angrily into the red zone. Nakamura's Blightwidow bravely took one for the team, but the Tanadon trampled through, putting Shuuhei down to 8. The Japanse pro attempted to hit back with his Sky-Eel School, but Larsson's Brass Squire equipped the Pierce Strider with a Skinwing, and the two collided in mid-air.

It was Nakamura's last attack, Larsson untapped and powered a Red Sun's Zenith through his lands to win the first game.

Shuuhei Nakamura 0 – 1 Joel Larsson

Joel Larsson

Game 2

The second game began with a flurry of cards from both players, as Shuuhei attempted to recover his loss. Nakamura ran out a second aggressive start, while Larsson struggled to fend them off, with an Oxidda Scrapmelter that destroyed his Moriok Replica and handed the momentum to the Japanese player. Larsson replied with an Entomber Exarch - the Exarch didn't immediately counter the Scrapmelter, but it would give Larsson the chance to look at Nakamura's hand and remove a non-creature card. As it turned out it also gave Larsson a tough choice because Shuuhei was holding both Volitions' Reins and a Red Sun's Zenith of his own!

After a brief pause for thought, Larsson took away the Volition's Reins. He no longer needed to worry about his own creatures turning traitor, but would have to stay out of range of Shuuhei's X-spell.

Although the Volition Reins had gone past, Larsson was still in a tough spot – he was facing down a Death-Head Cobra, Oxidda Scrapmelter and Tangle Angler with only his Exarch and a Pierce Strider. In return, Larsson had Nakamura down to 7 life. But did he dare attack? Larsson did his best to switch the board position to his favor and played a Snapsail Glider and Revoke Existence, before killing Tangle Angler with Sunblast Angel on the next turn, but his desperate race to kill Shuuhei before the Japanese pro could draw land failed, and a Red Sun's Zenith levelled the match.

Shuuhei Nakamura 1 – 1 Joel Larsson

Game 3

Red Sun's Zenith

One Red Sun's Zenith apiece, and one game apiece, it was the deciding game.

Shuuhei began with characteristic aggression, curving his Death-Head Cobra into a Trinket Mage, searching for his Flayer Husk, while Larsson again set about protecting his lifetotal behind a wall of meat, throwing down a Phyrexian Rager and Brass Squire. The Rager accounted for Nakamura's Death-Head Cobra, but the Brass Squire was toasted by Burn the Impure before it could block. This left the way open for Shuuhei to attack again, putting Larsson down to 10 life, then the Japanese pro followed up with a Vedalken Anatomist.

It looked like it would be hard for Larsson to profitably defend himself from Shuuhei's creatures once the Anatomist got to work, and so it proved. Nakamura followed up with an Ezuri's Brigade and Shuuhei attacked again, dropping Larsson to just 3 life before playing a Wing Splicer.

Larsson needed something big. Something game-changinging.

Sunblast Angel

Sunblast Angel – the Angel destroyed the Ezuri's Brigade and could block the Wing Splicer! but after one attack Larsson's Sunblast Angel arrived to destroy the Brigade. Larsson then played a Remember the Fallen, recovering his forces. It was a turn, and a pair of plays, that wrenched the momentum back to Joel Larsson. He was down to 3 life, but back in the game.

Apostle's Blessing. It's the tiniest of combat tricks, but it was enough for Shuuhei Nakamura. Handing his 3/3 Wind Splicer Golem Protection from White meant that it flew right past Larsson's Sunblast Angel to deal lethal damage and seal the win.

Shuuhei Nakamura 2 – 1 Joel Larsson

When you don't have a Red Sun's Zenith, it turns out that Apostle's Blessing is the next best thing!

Podcast – Sealing the Deal

by Rich Hagon

At 7-0, your place in day two is already assured, but two end-of-day defeats can leave you deep in the pack. Two wins, and you're at the top of the leaderboard overnight. Former Rookie of the Year Lino Burgold, Worlds Top 8 competitor Love Janse, and Japan's 2008 Player of the Year Shuuhei Nakamura are three who are looking to move to 8-0. And, as an added bonus, two of the finest Czech players - Martin Juza and Petr Brozek - go head to head as they battle to secure a day two slot.

Download this podcast in MP3 format (19.6 MB)

Saturday, 9:35 p.m. – Quick Question

by Tobi Henke

So what were the three strongest cards from New Phyrexia you played in your Sealed deck today?

Andre Müller

1. Brutalizer Exarch
2. Phyrexian Metamorph
3. Parasitic Implant (Had to cast that on Rusted Slasher today, because I had already seen Spine of Ish Sah. Still fair ... kind of.)

Martin Juza

1. Shrine of Loyal Legions
2. Shrine of Burning Rage (The Shrines are so insane. If you play one turn two, you don't even need to have any spells of the appropriate color ...)
3. Um, Flameborn Viron? Ah no, actually I got Artillerize.

Jan Rueß

1. Moltensteel Dragon (Definitely.)
2. Artillerize
3. Blinding Souleater (I don't know about Necropouncer, I never drew it.)

Raphael Levy

1. Vault Skirge
2. Suture Priest
3. Hovermyr (That's probably why I didn't make day two [sad face], number four by the way is Puresteel Paladin [smiley face].)

Lino Burgold

1. Necropouncer (Number one by far!)
2. Shrine of Burning Rage
3. Entomber Exarch

Podcast – Scores on the Doors

by Rich Hagon

The scores are in, and 144 players will be back for day two. In this short but sweet finale to day one, we look at who gets to come back and do it all again.

Download this podcast in MP3 format (1.6 MB)

Saturday, 9:36 p.m. – Five of the Best

by David Sutcliffe

At the end of the first day of the Grand Prix I was poised over the top tables, waiting to grab a few quick words with the players who emerged victorious. These are the names that we would see in the top draft pods tomorrow, and who had the best chance of making the long run across six rounds of Swiss into the Top 8, so it made sense to get to know them.

Just as importantly, I wanted to know what New Phyrexia cards had really made a difference for them!

Name: Yves Sele

From: Zurich, Switzerland

"I went 8-1 with my deck. I start Game 1 as Red-Green with a black splash, but then in Game 2 I switch into Red-White, keeping the good red cards. It was a tough build!"

New Phyrexia MVPs: "Shrine of Burning Rage, and Volt Charge obviously – that's a good combo. And after I sideboarded into the white my Trespassing Souleaters were really good, because I had plenty of equipment that I could put on them to make them a big threat".

Name: Andre Mueller

From: Bochum, Germany

"I was Green-Red, splashing black and white for the best removal cards. I had Arrest and Divine Offering in White, then Go For The Throat and Parasitic Implant in Black. It was really strong, and I've not lost a match – 9-0!"

New Phyrexia MVPs: "Artillerise, and Brutaliser Exarch. Do you have room for a third? I just remembered one – the Phyrexian Metamorph, the Clone that you can play with Phyrexian mana? That guy was really good".

Name: (A very tired) Shuuhei Nakamura

From: Tokyo, Japan

Going: To bed

"I finished X-0, with Blue-White with a bit of Red," *turning to Marin Juza, who Shuuhei is staying with "I'm soooo tired, can we go now?"

New Phyrexia MVPs: "Apostle's Blessing. MVP. And maybe Phyrexian Swarmlord, he was ok".

Name: Jakub Hrbacek

From: Vsetin, Czech Republic

"I went X-0, and that was from no byes! It was incredible, my deck was really good. I built Red-Blue at first, but after sideboarding I turn into Red-Black. The Black cards are just more aggressive and support the red cards better. And I have Phyrexian Crusader, who is a win against some decks".

New Phyrexia MVPs: "Apostle's Blessing was really good. And yeah, the Moltensteel Dragon of course. But Apostle's Blessing won a lot of games for me".

Name: Thomas Holzinger

From: Salzburg, Austria

"I was Green-White mostly, with a little red splash for Burn the Impure – it was good enough for 8-1"

New Phyrexia MVPs: "Glissa's Scorn, and Moltensteel Dragon obviously. Oh, the Pestilent Souleater was good, and so was Remember the Fallen – that card's really strong".

Decklists – Day 1 Undefeated

by Tobi Henke

Andre Müller, Day 1 Undefeated

Sebastian Kuchenbecker, Day 1 Undefeated

Shuhei Nakamura, Day 1 Undefeated

Josef Sappl, Day 1 Undefeated

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