Grand Prix Prague - Complete Day 2 Coverage

Posted in Event Coverage on May 21, 2011

By Wizards of the Coast

Sunday, 10:25 a.m. – Phyrexian Mana: Paying The Price

by David Sutcliffe

Mana costs. They're such a simple little thing that many players take them for granted, perhaps never realising how vital they are in every part of Magic strategy – cards have a cost, you pay that cost, and you get the card. Aside from a few cards that allow you to skip paying that cost (say 'hello', Force of Will) mana costs, the mana cost is an integral part of card design – a more powerful card is often a more expensive card, and because you can only play one land per turn a more expensive cards will arrive in play later in the game.

It's been that way since the game's inception, eternal and unchanging.

Until New Phyrexia. After defeating the Mirrans, the corruption of the Phyrexian plague has spread so far that the mana symbols themselves have been changed. It the time of Phyrexian mana...


"Is the Dark Side stronger?"
"No, no, no. Faster, easier, more seductive."
- The Empire Strikes Back (1983)

Yoda may have been nearly 30 years early, but he described Phyrexian mana to a tee. Phyrexian mana finally puts a price on mana, and that price is 2 life. It changes how players have to view cards, how the evaluate them, but it does that in a few subtle different ways.

You may heave heard Magic described as a resource management game – players have various resources at their disposal and must find the correct balance between those resources. So what resources are we talking about? Well, lands and mana is the obvious one – mana is the currency of Magic, and without that key resource a player can't do anything. Another key resource is spells, because if all you have is lands and mana, but nothing to buy, then you're equally helpless. Those are perhaps the two most fundamental resources in Magic, but it only scratches the surface of the depth of different resources to think about; how many cards do you have left to draw before you lose by decking? How many copies of each individual card do you have? If you only have two copies of Naturalise in your deck can you afford to use half of that resource now, or do you need to save it for later? How much time do you have to think – in Magic Online in particular, the clock is always there and that makes Time another key resource for players.

And then there's Life.

You might not think of your Life points as a resource, after all they're more like the way of keeping score in a game rather than a resource. And it's not like you can 'spend' Life points to do something, unless a specific card allows you to. But in fact Life is a key resource in every game of Magic, even if you haven't realised you're spending it. For example: if your opponent has a 3/3 and you have a 2/2, but you don't want to block and have your creature die, then you can 'spend' three Life by choosing not to block and take the damage instead – you effectively bought a card (your 2/2) by paying three life. You may not have thought of it in those terms, but any time you've ever said "It's ok, I think I can afford to take the damage" you've been choosing to spend your Life points as a resource. If you want a different way to think of it - you only need one Life point to stay alive and win a game, the other nineteen Life points are spare for you to spend!

So players have been using Life points as a resource since the game began but Phyrexian mana puts that to the forefront and gives players a new way to spend their Life. So what does your two Life points buy you?

1 - In Case of Emergency: Break Glass
First of all, Phyrexian mana can help you play your way out of a draw that is missing a land or two. If you've just missed your third land drop, then suddenly the option pay 2 life in order to summon your Spined Thopter and block your opponent's Darksteel Axe-equipped Plague Spitter will begin to look like the deal of the century. Pay 2 life to avoid 3 Infect damage? That's a great deal – and a deal that's only possible with Phyrexian mana.

Mutagenic Growth

2 – Surprise!
Your opponent is playing White-Blue aggro. All he has in play are a couple of Flying creatures, Plains and Islands. What's more, his lands are all tapped! This seems like the perfect time to cast Arc Trail and kill two of his creatures. You tap your lands, announce your targets, and wait expectantly for your opponent's sad face. Only it never comes, instead he lose 2 life, plays Mutagenic Growth to give one of his flyers +2/+2 for the turn and keep it alive, and your Arc Trail was mostly wasted.

How did that happen? Phyrexian mana. There's no rule saying that you have to be able to pay the cost of your Phyrexian cards with anything other than life, meaning that cards like Mutagenic Growth, Pith Driller and Porcelain Legionnaire can crop up in any deck, of any color, at any time. Being prepared to pay 2 life for a card gives players access to deckbuilding options they wouldn't otherwise have had. Yesterday we saw decks that featured only two types of basic land, but spells from three or four colors,

3 – More Power. More Power!!!
How much difference does 1 mana make to a card's casting cost? How many cards down the years would have been transformed from poor to great, simply by reducing their cost by 1? Take the humble Hurloon Minotaur for example.

As a 2/3 creature for 1RR the Hurloon Minotaur never threatened to set the world alight-

but as a 2/3 creature for 1R he would be one of the best red 2-drops ever printed!

Let's look at some of the cards that Phyrexian mana can buy you in New Phyrexia...

Porcelain Legionnaire

Porcelain Legionnaire
As a 3/1 First Strike creature for 2W, the Porcelain Legionnaire would actually be a pretty good creature even if you don't pay the Phyrexian mana cost in life. Three First Strike damage is enough to put down most of the Infect creatures that might come your way, even the much-feared Cystbearer or a Molder Beast would fall under the Legionnaire's blades. Being able to play the Legionnaire a turn earlier will almost always be welcome, but it's not as though Legionnaire can't cut it when it arrives for the full 2W. When you pay with Phyrexian mana the Legionnaire's strength remains the same, and so does it's weakness – in a format with so many things that can do 1 damage, or deal out a -1/-1 counter, the Legionnaire is very vulnerable.

We've already seen that many players are happy to add the Legionnaire even if they aren't playing Plains, and that's possibly what the Phyrexian mana adds to this card – the versatility and flexibility to turn up in any deck – and you can probably add the Spined Thopter to that list as well, for similar reasons.

Pith Driller

Pith Driller
If the Porcelain Legionnaire has a natural enemy in New Phyrexia, then it must be the Pith Driller. As a 2/4, the Pith Driller is big enough to survive the Legionnaire's First Strike damage, but more importantly the Pith Driller would kill the Legionnaire as soon as it arrived in play, but giving it a -1/-1 counter. With a solid body, versatile removal ability, and the capacity to be played by any deck, Pith Driller is a card we saw a lot of yesterday. Interestingly, it's also a card where the 2 life paid for the Phyrexian mana is often going to help to keep you alive rather than kill you faster. By playing the Pith Driller a turn earlier you might be able to kill an opponent's Spined Thopter and block their Porcelain Legionnaire – what looks like 2 life lost could in fact be 5 damage prevented!

Moltensteel Dragon

Moltensteel Dragon
Terrifying. Game ending. Swift death on molten black wings. The Moltensteel Dragon is the poster child for Phyrexian mana, at least in Limited. As a 4/4 Flyer for 4RR, the arrival of this beast on turn 4 is often going to be 4 life well-spent, particularly if you're on the offensive. But the Phyrexian mana in the Moltensteel Dragon's casting cost is only half of the story, because this dragon also has Phyrexian firebreathing! By spending a combination of mountains and life points, the Moltensteel Dragon can pump up it's power to deal a lethal strike from nowhere, in an effect a lot like the much-feared Hatred from Exodus. The question for Moltensteel Dragon players is therefore a choice – do you spend 4 life to bring the Dragon into play quickly and risk having that investment killed or sent back to hand, or do you guard your-Dragon and life points carefully, looking to deal a massive game-ending blow later on?

There are five Souleater cards in New Phyrexia – all artifact creatures that any deck can play, but with Phyrexian mana activation costs to give them an ability. As such, they respresent the versatility of Phyrexian mana perfectly – any deck can play them, and you only have to decide about paying life if you want to give them Infect, or Trample, or make them unblockable for the turn. The Pestilent Souleater and Trespassing Souleater have been particularly popular with players - one of the themes of this block has been having to choose between dealing 20 damage or 10 poison counters, and the Pestilent Souleater can fit either strategy, while the Trespassing Souleater benefits from all the equipment that increases it's power, making the unblockable artifact a real threat.

That's hardly a thorough rundown of what Phyrexian mana can do, and I think we're going to be seeing the impact of Phyrexian mana for many years – but hopefully it's given you a better understanding of why it's arrival is important. I'm going to leave the final thought to the Finnish pro Anssi Alkio, who had this to say...

"It's going to be interesting to see how important it is to be on the play, with Phyrexian mana. If you're a quick deck then you can get ahead, start attacking, and then you can pay the life for Phyrexian mana because you're the beatdown. If you go second and you're having to defend then maybe you can't afford to pay life. But then your card happens a turn later, and can't help you defend. Going first could be very important".

After we've spent so long discussing the benefits of Phyrexian mana it seems fitting to end on a note of caution about it's use – after all this is Phyrexian mana we're talking about, and it's not intended to be wholesome and good for you. Phyrexian mana is the credit card of the Magic world; it's a resource you can spend, but you have to be careful with how often you dip into that pot of free money or you could very quickly find yourself in the red!

Feature Match: Round 10 – Sebastian Kuchenbecker vs. Shuhei Nakamura

by Tobi Henke

At the beginning of this round, there were four undefeated players in the tournament. Soon that number would be down to two. Japan's Shuhei Nakamura and Sebastian Kuchenbecker from Germany made up one half of the 9-0 bracket. Kuchenbecker had struggled a little during the draft and finally settled on a blue-green deck with splashes in white and red, while Nakamura brought a straight white and blue deck to the table.

Game 1

Nakamura won the die-roll and chose to draw first. Kuchenbecker had to take a mulligan, then had his first play on turn three, a Blinding Souleater ... without white mana. Meanwhile, Nakamura had cast Leonin Skyhunter and Accorder Paladin, and was already busy attacking. His 3/1 and Kuchenbecker's 1/3 traded, and Nakamura had a replacement one size larger in Loxodon Convert

Sebastian Kuchenbecker

Kuchenbecker cast Viridian Emissary and Viridian Claw. Nakamura summoned Suture Priest, attacked with his Skyhunter, and passed the turn. Kuchenbecker had Corrosive Gale to kill the flyer. Nakamura cast Chrome Shell, Kuchenbecker equipped his Viridian Emissary with Viridian Claw and attacked. Chrome Shell blocked and revealed ... Consecrated Sphinx. Kuchenbecker had no answer and quickly succumbed to the massive card advantage and flying beats.

Shuhei Nakamura 1 – 0 Sebastian Kuchenbecker

Game 2

Nakamura apparently was just as happy playing the defensive role in this matchup, starting with Darksteel Myr and Ghalma's Warden for a change. Kuchenbecker had Viridian Emissary and only on turn six made his next play, Phyrexian Hulk. The six-mana creature died to Divine Offering, but was soon replaced by Quilled Slagwurm, a considerable threat if it weren't for Nakamura's Darksteel Myr.

Nakamura took to the air, this time with Victory's Herald. Kuchenbecker took control of the Herald with Corrupted Conscience, Nakamura returned the 4/4 to the top of his library with Banishment Decree. Nakamura recast his Herald, and Kuchenbecker killed it, finally, with Corrosive Gale. He also cast a Sylvok Replica.

Shuhei Nakamura

Nakamura had yet another rare though: Elspeth Tirel, which he used to gain 2 life. Just in time, Kuchenbecker drew an answer to Darksteel Myr: His Leeching Bite forced Nakamura to chump-block Quilled Slagwurm with Ghalma's Warden and left the Japanese with nothing but a lonely Elspeth Tirel on the battlefield, which had just two points of loyalty left.

On his turn, Nakamura cast Loxodon Convert, and on Kuchenbecker's next attack added Deceiver Exarch to his team, tapping his opponent's Quilled Slagwurm and preventing any attacks. One turn later, he had another Deceiver Exarch, again keeping Kuchenbecker from attacking. All the while, Elspeth regained more and more of its former loyalty ...

For the rest of the game, Kuchenbecker could never mount a reasonable offense. Elspeth Tirel blew up the world whenever Kuchenbecker was in danger of getting ahead (twice, involving Alpha Tyrranax and Fangren Marauder), got Nakamura a lot of life (about 15) and created, well, three tokens. When Nakamura's Consecrated Sphinx made an appearance as well, Kuchenbecker conceded as soon as his next draw step didn't provide an answer.

Shuhei Nakamura 2 – 0 Sebastian Kuchenbecker

Podcast – New Phyrexia In-Depth: Black and Red

by Rich Hagon

From Belgium, Mark Dictus gives us his view of the Black cards in New Phyrexia. There are some great removal cards available, but in draft you're going to have to fight pretty hard to see some of them. Dismember? Don't count on it. There's Enslave at Uncommon, and Phyrexian Obliterator at Rare among the cards Mark takes a good hard look at. Then we join Sweden's Kenny Oberg as he runs the rule over the Red cards. Red got some new Infect toys to play with, including Ogre Menial and Razor Swine at Common. How much impact will they have on the Limited environment? Get inside the minds of the Pros, coming to you from Grand Prix Prague.

Download this podcast in MP3 format (8.7 MB)

Feature Match: Round 11 - Shuuhei Nakamura vs.Andre Mueller

by David Sutcliffe

We try to avoid featuring the same player too often, and never in two consecutive matches. We're breaking that rule for Shuuhi Nakamura, though – the Japanese pro entered the feature match area once again, now on 10-0, to meet German Andre Mueller, also on 10-0. The winner of this match would become the only player left undefeated in the Grand Prix.

Game 1

Mueller's White-Black deck came roaring out of the gates in the first game. Loxodon Wayfarer, Tine Shrike, Origin Spellbomb, Lost Leonin, Piston Sledge. It was a start that should have buried any opponent, but Nakamura met every one of Mueller's cards with an answer – Necropede, Divine Offering, Dispense Justice, a second Divine Offering. Scraping through the early game with 8 poison counters, Shuuhei Nakamura emerged into the midgame looking to exert himself.

It wasn't to be. Although Mueller's poison offensive had ended, the German began an attack on Shuuhei's lifetotal with Golem Artisan. Taking to the air Mueller began attacking with his Artisan for 4... for 5... then for 6. Nakamura attempted to stabilise with a Victory's Herald, but Arrest prevented the Herald from attacking or blocking. At least the Lifelink could still proof vital as he had a Spire Monitor to attack with – Shuuhei's lifetotal briefly resembled a roller-coaster, as the combination of Mueller's attacks and his Monitor's Lifelink did it's work

Down to 6... up to 9... down to 4... up to 7.

Finally, Mueller played a second artifact threat – a Porcelain Legionnaire that the Golem Artisan could give flying to. It was an aerial threat too far for Shuuhei to cope with, and he lost the race.

Shuuhei Nakamura 0 – 1 Andre Mueller

Game 2

Mueller began the second game with a Porcelain Legionnaire, while Nakamura played a Phyrexian Revoker (naming Golem Artisan). Mueller's Legionnaire was joined by a Sylvok Replica and Tine Shrike, and the German even managed to attack twice before Nakamura deployed a Ghalma's Warden and finally persuaded the Legionnaire to stay home.

Shuuhei Nakamura

Undaunted, Andre Mueller cast his Golem Artisan, then despatched the Phyrexian Revoker with his Sylvok Replica to ensure the Artisan to wreak mischief. The German renewed his offensive as the Artisan and Legionnaire took to the skies, beating Nakamura down to 8 life. The Japanese pro had plenty of creatures – a pair of Ghalma's Wardens, a Mirran Spy and a Leonin Skyhunter – but these were little defense against Mueller's flying, pumpable army. He blocked again, his Mirran Spy accounting for Tine Shrike, and a Ghalma's Warden staving off immediate defeat, but it still left Shuuhei on only 3 life.

A Forced Worship subdued Mueller's Porcelain Legionnaire on the next turn, and then a Dispense Justice finally accounted for the Ghalma's Warden. It had been an expensive fight for survival, with Nakamura feeding a supply of creatures to the Golem Artisan, and it left Shuuhei with nothing but a 0/1 Mirran Spy.

Golem Artisan

It was enough. With the Artisan despatched, Nakamura deployed a pair of Loxodon Partisans and began hitting hard on the ground, while Mueller pulled a pair of Infect creatures that could not help deal the final few points of damage to his opponent. With a final Deciever Exarch to tap one of Mueller's defenders, Shuuhei Nakamura fought back from the brink and levelled the match!

Shuuhei Nakamura 1 – 1 Andre Mueller

Game 3

For the first time, Andre Mueller's draw did not hand the German a strong aggressive start, and while Nakamura played an Accorder Paladin and Origin Spellbomb, Mueller could only manage a Phyrexian Digester, then a Porcelain Legionnaire on his fifth turn. This seemed to be Mueller's deck malfunctioning somewhat, and the German shifted his body posture unhappily after his Mirrorworks were killed by a Divine Offering, and his Porcelain Legionnaire subjected to a Forced Worship. With the German's rare in the graveyard, Nakamura played his own, much to Mueller's disdain,

"Consecrated Sphinx?!? Pfffft!" the German responded. Fortunately for the German his next card helped a lot...

"Ah, now I draw it!" Mueller exclaimed, and aimed a Pistus Strike at the Sphinx. While the Sphinx was dead, Shuuhei Nakamura had already drawn two additional cards, and the Japanese player had plenty of gas, dropping a couple of threats. Mueller played his inevitable Golem Artisan, but it was immediately shut off by a Phyrexian Revoker. Meanwhile, Mueller's Legionnaire couldn't attack thanks for Forced Worship, but it could block and it took a flying Spire Monitor for Nakamura to finally get onto the offensive, beating Mueller down to 13.

Andre Mueller

Golem Mine killed the Phyrexian Revoker, and that meant the Artisan was free to hand out it's bonuses. The Phyrexian Digester gained flying and +1/+1, while Nakamura hit back in the air. The Japanese pro then added Victory's Herald, but it was predictably handed an Arrest warrant as soon as it arrived in play. Mueller attacked again with his Digester, but Nakamura had seen enough, and a Dispense Justice put paid the annoying Phyrexian.


Without his Digester offensive, Mueller stabilised behind his Golem Artisan. So long as he had mana he could prevent Shuuhei's Spire Monitor from attacking... but keeping that mana open for defense meant he couldn't play any more cards! It was a tough spot, and the German knew it. Switching modes, he sent the Golem Artisan onto the attack, dealing 5 damage, although that only put Nakamura back down to his starting 20.

Deceiver Exarch

Fearing Dispense Justice, and still having to play around Mueller's Porcelain Legionnaire, Nakamura chose not to retaliate. That meant Mueller got a second strike in, dropping Nakamura to 15 life.

The two players paused for a couple of turns, Shuuhei playing a Loxodon Partisan, and Mueller removing it with Spine of Ish Sah, before the German dared to attack again – his Artisan now capable of pumping up large enough to punch through all of Shuuhei's defenders while leave enough mana to threaten Dispense Justice, or give his Legionnaire flying. Nakamura took another 6 damage, dropping to 9.

For all his creatures, Nakamura couldn't quite get the momentum to attack, but finally he found the card he needed to shift the balance. A Deciever Exarch was perfect – it tapped Mueller's Porcelain Legionnaire, and Nakamura sent everything he had across the board, that dropped the German to 3 life, the Exarch hurled itself under the Golem Artisan on the German's next turn, and Nakamura wrapped up the win in his next attack.

Shuuhei Nakamura 2 – 1 Andre Mueller

After a tough match, Shuuhei Nakamura advanced to 11-0!

Sunday, 11:20 a.m. – Where's the Infect?

by Tobi Henke

The following players made it to draft pod number one this morning (in seat order):

Igor Paslavskyy
Andre Müller
Sebastian Kuchenbecker
Josef Sappl
Shuhei Nakamura
Louis Deltour
Kenny Öberg
Benjamin Lamprecht

I was watching their draft to find out: a) How would the infect cards be divided among the players? b) What kind of new infect decks would emerge?

In seat number one, Igor Paslavskyy opened Phyrexian Swarmlord and quickly swept up the rare. On his left, Andre Müller had a pack with blue and white infect, none of it worthy of a first pick though. He took Act of Aggression. Meanwhile, Josef Sappl had an interesting choice for his first pick: he constantly flicked back and forth between Porcelain Legionnaire and Triumph of the Hordes. When the time was up he went with the Legionnaire.

Phyrexian Swarmlord

As the packs went by, it became clear that everyone at this table was somewhat reluctant to fully commit to infect. Even Igor Paslavskyy only took his second infect creature in pick five: Spinebiter didn't give him much of a choice. Also, Triumph of the Hordes, the one Josef Sappl had considered as his first pick, made it all the way to Paslavskyy.

But interestingly enough, his neighbor to the right, Benjamin Lamprecht, had already taken another Spinebiter earlier and then returned to infect with three Razor Swines and two Ogre Menials.

Razor Swine
Ogre Menial

At the end of pack one, three players had settled for at least an infect component: Benjamin Lamprecht with a lot of red and a few green cards; directly on his left Igor Paslavskyy in green and black, but with just a hint of infect so far; and directly on his left Andre Müller who had picked up a couple of late Lost Leonins and a Shriek Raptor. Three players seated next to each other? Now, that was going to be interesting ...

Lost Leonin
Shriek Raptor

With Mirrodin Besieged, Paslavskyy ended up firmly in black and green. He got Flesh-Eater Imp, Blightwidow, and Fangren Marauder, although playables dried up rather quickly after that. Lamprecht, meanwhile, began to branch out into a third color with Go for the Throat. Müller's deck took form in black and white, but a rather sad form at that: one each of Tine Shrike, Flensermite, and Phyrexian Digester were all the infect creatures he got.

In Scars of Mirrodin, Lamprecht abandoned green in favor of black, when he opened Carnifex Demon. Paslavskyy got no more infect and had to make do with creatures like Necrogen Scudder, Ezuri's Brigade, and Wall of Tanglecord. His deck ended up a mix of infect and non-infect, grudgingly held together by Triumph of the Hordes. Third person in line, Andre Müller didn't get any infect either, of course, but he did get Arrest and two copies of Revoke Existence, along with a Golem Artisan and a Myrsmith. Afterwards, he called his deck, "no deck at all."

Where was the infect? There simply was not enough in the boosters, especially in Scars of Mirrodin. Meanwhile Glint Hawks, for example, were going as late as pick ten. On the opposite side of the table, Shuhei Nakamura happily drafted blue-white, and reaped some of the rewards, getting passed, among other stuff, Victory's Herald fifth.

Here are the deck lists of the three infect drafters. Note the number of Scars of Mirrodin infecters:

Benjamin Lamprecht

Igor Paslavskyy

Andre Müller

Sideboard (2)
2 Pistus Strike

Podcast – Undefeated

by Rich Hagon

Only one player out of the 1237 who began the Grand Prix managed to get as far as round twelve with a perfect record. Surprise surprise, it was Shuhei Nakamura, clearly one of the favorites for any Grand Prix he plays in. Now he tries to sweep his first draft pod by taking on the red-hot Louis Deltour of France, who arrives here after a fantastic second place at Grand Prix London a couple of weeks ago. Joining them in Feature Match action are Joel Larsson of Sweden taking on fellow Scandinavian Markku Rikola of Finland, an all-German clash of Andre Mueller versus Sebastian Kuchenbecker, and a fabulous match between Petr Brozek and Robert Jurkovic. Seriously, that last one was epic.

Download this podcast in MP3 format (14 MB)

Sunday, 12:12 p.m. – The One With The Game Show

by David Sutcliffe

We're well into Day Two of Grand Prix Prague, but for many people the Magic fun and excitement began on Day, err... well, Day Zero, I guess. Or Friday, as you might have more-commonly heard it called.

It's become a regular feature of the European Grand Prix circuit to have the tournament venue open on the Friday so that players can get together and play in events like non-stop Grand Prix Trials, Super Friday Night Magic, and the Magic Game Show.

Wait, the what now?

The Magic Game Show, brought to you be the curly-haired ginger wonder, Rich Hagon, has fast become an institution. Players form up into teams of 1-4 people to tackle an array of cruel and challenging conundra, such as working out which Planeswalkers spend more Loyalty points when they activate their "ultimate" ability, which Magic expansion all the "Construct" cards came from, and the legendary "art" round.

You'll notice that I put the word "art" in quotes like that. Here's why, a sample from Grand Prix Bochum:

Bleak Coven Vampires
Oxidda Scrapmelter
You (of course) recognized Bleak Coven Vampires and Oxidda Scrapmelter, right?

How about this round from Friday's quiz, for your quizzing pleasure?

Planeswalker Ultimates

Which Planeswalker uses the most Loyalty to activate their ultimate?

Ajani Goldmane - or - Ajani Vengeant
Chandra Ablaze - or - Chandra Nalaar
Elspeth Tirel - or - Elspeth, Knight-Errant
Garruk Wildspeaker - or - Gideon Jura
Jace Beleren - or - Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Karn Liberated - or - Koth of the Hammer
Liliana Vess - or - Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
Sarkhan the Mad - or - Sarkhan Vol
Tezzeret the Seeker - or - Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
Venser, the Sojourner - or - Sorin Markov

Bonus Point – There are 21 Planeswalkers in Magic. I just listed 20 of them - who didn't get to play?

Nissa Revane


In Prague we had over 20 teams battling it out for prizes, with the winners getting only slightly more than the losers. Among the prizes were Magic mousepads, Archenemy sets, and an entire display box of the sought-after Worldwake expansion for the winners!

The game show brings you laughs, head-scratches, prizes, and (because Rich is in charge) terrible puns.

The Magic Game Show can best be summed up by Grand Prix London winner Daniel Royde, who described it in his tournament report as "Basically, Rich entertains you for an hour and a half while giving out free stuff."

That says it all really, and if you're ever in the room when Magic Game Show is happening, you'd clearly be mad to miss it.

Sunday, 1:23 p.m. – Drafting with Shuuhei Nakamura

by David Sutcliffe

On 12-0, Shuuhei Nakamura was already virtually guaranteed a spot in the Top 8 of Grand Prix – drafting a deck that was able to muster a single win would seal his place. With the order of draft packs reversed, he would begin by drafting the New Phyrexia cards before travelling 'back in time' to Mirrodin Besieged and Scars of Mirrodin. Raul Porojan fell one round short of a perfect 15-0 Swiss record in London, earlier this month... could Shuuhei go one further and make it into the Top 8 unbeaten?

Pack One

Shuuhei made an immediate move towards the white cards that had given him a 3-0 finish in the first draft pod of the day, and his choice was between Forced Worship, Master Splicer and a Sickleslicer. After careful thought, he picked up the Master Splicer.

Spire Monitor

As it turned out, that Master Splicer was his last daliance with White cards. His next card was a Glissa's Scorn, then he turned his attention to blue, taking a pair of Spire Monitors, a Deceiver Exarch, and a Trespassing Souleater. With six picks gone, Shuuhei was firmly in blue, and spent the next few picks cementing his green cards with a Leeching Bite, Vital Splicer, and a Mutagenic Growth, which was a tough choice ahead of the tempo of Vapor Snag. As packs tend to do, his final picks were unexciting, but he managed to pick up some Viridian Betrayers that could, in a pinch, make the cut.

Pack Two

Corrupted Conscience

The second booster, Mirrodin Besieged, kicked off with a tough choice: Corrupted Conscience or Thopter Assembly? Deciding between these two cards took Shuuhei all the way to the last second, before he finally settled on Corrupted Conscience. A Vedalken Anatomist was a strong second pick, and added more valuable blue control to his cards, but from then on the choices were solid green, and Shuuhei picked up a pair of Viridian Emissary, a Fangren Marauder, Glissa's Courier, Blightwidow, Rot Wolf, and two Mirran Mettle. The only gesture towards the blue flyers he had from his first booster was in a Gust Skimmer and Copper Carapace.

Pack Three

Back to where we started last year, and Scars of Mirrodin. The first booster offered Shuuhei a choice between Sylvok Replica, Tumble Magnet, Heavy Arbalest and Putrefax. After some thought he took the Sylvok Replica, but then immediately regretted the decision as the next pack included a Soliton that could be paired up with the Arbalest! Still, Shuuhei at least took a Slice in Twain from the second pack, and then an Oxidda Scrapmelter from the third booster – with two Viridian Emissary already drafted, Shuuhei had little to fear from adding a splash color.

Viridian Emissary
Oxidda Scrapmelter

How deep he wanted to splash was immediately tested, and Shuuhei spent a long time deciding over the choice between a Turn to Slag and an Ichorclaw Myr. Clearly, Shuuhei didn't particularly want the Myr, but could he splash two red – or did he just want to take Turn to Slag out of the pool? Eventually he settled on the Ichorclaw Myr. The Ichorclaw signalled a late shift towards Infect, and Shuuhei picked up a Tangle Angler, Grafted Exoskeleton and Tel-Jilad Fallen before picked up a late Molder Beast.

After the build, Shuuhei confessed to being happy with his cards, although he was only playing the bare minimum of Infect, leaving most of the Infect cards in his sideboard. The focus of Shuuhei's deck was in the flyers he had drafted through New Phyrexia, and it was those – with a solid supporting cast of green groundpounders – that the Japanese pro was hoping would lead him into yet another Grand Prix Top 8.

Podcast – New Phyrexia In-Depth: Green and Artifacts

by Rich Hagon

Two more outstanding players share their thoughts with us. Martin Juza is on a rare visit to his home country, as he's become the number one traveller in world Magic, with the prospect of even more trips to come in 2012 with the expansion of the Grand Prix programme. Martin talks about the most interesting Green cards in the set, while the French Hall of Famer Raphael Levy brings us some fascinating insights into some of the more unusual artifacts. Two of the best in the business, rounding out our in-depth look at New Phyrexia.

Download this podcast in MP3 format (8.2 MB)

Sunday, 1:20 p.m. – Drafting Infect

by Tobi Henke

Draft pod number one showed some of the pitfalls of drafting infect decks. Now let's take a look at what does actually work.

Andre Müller, who had drafted quite a horrible white-black infect deck in the first draft and managed to go 2-1 with it somehow, had the following to say: "The trick is ...," he paused and started again, "well, the main trick is to get enough infect creatures! Mixing infect with non-infect is not a good idea, I can tell you that much."

"Usually, white is a good choice for a straight two-color infect deck, and best when paired with black. White-green with a splash of black works well too," he said. "White doesn't have any infecters in Scars of Mirrodin, but it does have a couple of interesting cards for an infect deck. Abuna Acolyte, for example, turns Phyrexian Digester into a veritable Cystbearer and Seize the Initiative might just be the best combat trick infect can get. Also, Accorder's Shield is much better when it boosts Lost Leonin or Tine Shrike."

Walking around during deck construction of draft number two, one could see a couple of red infect decks so far, sometimes paired with black, sometimes with green, seldomly with both, because of Ogre Menial's greedy color requirements.

Blue mainly shows up as a splash or, more often actually, not at all. And of course the traditional infect colors black and green still work as well, although typically, those decks are not nearly as fast as they used to be. "With two boosters Scars of Mirrodin, green-black could still get enough two-drops," one infect player said. "It's much harder to apply pressure, now that one Scars pack has been replaced with New Phyrexia where there are no green or black early drops."

Feature Match: Round 13 - Tomaz Grabnar vs. Shuuhei Nakamura

by David Sutcliffe

Game 1

Tomaz Grabnar won the dice roll, and after the two players mulliganed away their opening seven cards, the Slovenian became the latest player to attempt to derail the high-speed Japanese bullet train on it's way towards the Top 8. However even with the first turn, it was Nakamura who made the more aggressive opening, with a Viridian Emissary and Vital Splicer. Grabnar defended himself with a Skinwing and Arc Trail, but lost his Skinwing to the Flash arrival of a Spire Monitor. Deciding that he had seen enough, Grabnar summoned forth a Kuldotha Flamefiend, sacrificing his Heavy Arbalest before a shot had been fired, sweeping away Nakamura's Spire Monitor.

Nakamura was rocked, and Grabnar wasted no time in attempoting to take advantage. He equipped the Kuldotha Flamefiend with the Skinwing and attacked, then played an Invader Parasite to keep the 12-0 man on the back foot. For his own part, Shuuhei summoned down a second Spire Monitor and a Trespassing Souleater, then a Deceiver Exarch bought him more time and allowed the Japanese pro the chance to strike back.

Tomaz Grabnar

The game was now carefully poised as it headed to a conclusion – Grabnar had 6 life left, while Shuuhei had only 3, but a missplay by either play could leave themselves open to a lethal strike from the other's creatures.

Throwing down the best of what he had, Grabnar added a Spin Engine and a Shrine of Burning Rage, but it wasn't enough. Shuuhei attacked with his three flyers, and the Skinwing only allowed Grabnar to block one of them. Shuuhei Nakamura followed up with a Leeching Bite to give his Trespassing Souleater +1/+1 and deal lethal damage!

Tomaz Grabnar 0 – 1 Shuuhei Nakamura

Game 2

Tomaz Grabnar made a quick start in the second game, with a Glint Hawk Idol and two Shrine of Burning Rage! Across the table, Shuuhei Nakamura played a Viridian Emissary and Deceiver Exarch, then a Blightwidow that seemed to stabilise against the immediate threat from the Glint Hawk Idol.

Shuuhei Nakamura

The two Shrine of Burning Rage slowly ticked up on counters, and they clearly represened a direct threat that Shuuhei Nakamura didn't want to have to deal with – a Slice in Twain dealt with one, Glissa's Scorn another – and this pushed Grabnar back to needing more creatures. He found them in the form of a Razor Swine and Invader Parasite, but found the way through blocked by larger Green creatures – a Vital Splicer and the hefty Fangren Marauder!

The Marauder survived the attentions of Grabnar's creatures thanks to Shuuhei's trademark Withstand Death, and that left Grabnar with just a Glint Hawk Idol and Spin Engine. The Idol couldn't find a way past Nakamura's Deciever Exarch, and his only possible plan was to spin up the Spin Engine until it couldn't be blocked and attack, putting Shuuhei down to 6.

Hitting back with his Fangren Marauder and Vital Splicer Golem, Shuuhei hammered Grabnar down to 1 life, and added a Molder Beast. Drawing his last card, Grabnar needed something special but didn't find it, and succumbed on the next turn. The vital card had been Shuuhei's Withstand Death – keeping the Fangren Marauder in play while despatching two of the Slovenian's creatures had sealed a pretty formulaic win.

Tomaz Grabnar 0 – 2 Shuuhei Nakamura

Sunday, 2:39 p.m. – Loose Ends

by David Sutcliffe

Did You Make Day Two?

Yesterday we posed you a question, a question in the form of four Sealed decks that had been built by some of the best players in the world. Only one of them could be yours to play in Day One, which would it be? I found it a tough call, and I know that I wouldn't have picked the winner.

Here with the results...

Did you make Day Two? Well all three decks came with 3 Byes, so unless you picked Deck D your deck choice at least made it as far as Sunday. Deck D, the White-Blue deck that lacked any big game-changers, was piloted to a 6-3 record by French Hall of Famer, Raphael Levy.

If you picked either decks A or B, then you scraped into Day Two with a 7-2 record. Those decks were built and played by Belgian pro Marijn Lybaert, and the Grand Prix London juggernaur Raul Porojan, respectively.

But if you picked Deck C. Well. Well, well, well. If you picked C then you may have noticed that all the cards seemed very familiar when we wrote about Shuuhei Nakamura's Round 8 feature match against Joel Larsson, because it was Shuuhei's world-crushing 9-0 deck! Go you!

So if you picked Deck C then slap yourselves on the back for a job well done. If you picked A or B you'd best get practising your draft skills for Day Two, and if you picked Deck D then, well... I guess you're going to spending your Sunday gunslinging, much like Raphael Levy is right now!

Feature Match: Round 14 – Ondrej Baudys vs. Thomas Driessen

by Tobi Henke

Both players entered the Feature Match area with scores of 11-2 and in contention for Top 8. After this round, only one of them would still be. Thomas Driessen from the Netherlands brought a removal-heavy black and red deck, Czech Ondrej Baudys's weapon of choice was white-green.

Game 1

Driessen won the die-roll, but Baudys had the first two drops, a pair of Sunspear Shikaris. On turn four, Driessen paid 2 life to cast Pith Driller, turning one of the Shikaris into a 1/1. That stopped further attacks for now, but Baudys continued to develop his team, with Spellskite and Kemba's Skyguard. Driessen killed Spellskite with Gremlin Mine, then passed his next turn without play. Baudys cast Copper Carapace and attacked with a 4/4 Sunspear Shikari as well as his Skyguard, while the 1/1 Sunspear Shikari stayed at home. Driessen cast Instill Infection on the 2/2 flyer, took 5 damage, then untapped and smoothly played Spread the Sickness, targeting the equipped Sunspear Shikari and, via proliferate, killing Baudys's two other creatures as well.

Ondrej Baudys

"Nice," Baudys commented the blow-out of all of his creatures. But the Czech player wasn't done by far. He summoned Mirran Crusader. Driessen destroyed Copper Carapace with Victorious Destruction, then took 4 from the pro-black creature.

He found Burn the Impure to take care of that problem, but Baudys had two new problems ready to replace it. First, Fangren Marauder and then, on his next turn, Porcelain Legionnaire and Snapsail Glider.

"Um, Wrath of God?" Driessen asked, knocking on the top of his library. Unsursprisingly, no Wrath of God, or more appropriately Life's Finale, materialized and Driessen picked up his cards.

Ondrej Baudys 1 – 0 Thomas Driessen

Thomas Driessen

Game 2

Game two went off to a similarly fast start, with Leonin Skyhunter followed by Mirran Crusader for Baudys. Also, Driessen again had no plays on his first three turns, and his Fallen Ferromancer met Beast Within. The Beast token didn't help him at all, as Leonin Skyhunter and Mirran Crusader continued to take large chunks out of his lifetotal. Especially Mirran Crusader proved to be quite an obstacle for his deck. Driessen cast Instill Infection, looking for answers, didn't get any, and died in short order.

Driessen admitted: "I only have two cards that can deal with Mirran Crusader. This one,"—indicating the fallen Fallen Ferromancer in his graveyard—"and Burn the Impure. Oh yeah, that one ..." He had picked up his library and Burn the Impure, naturally, was the very last card in his deck.

Ondrej Baudys 2 – 0 Thomas Driessen

Sunday, 3:22 p.m. – "Tap: Max's Game"

by David Sutcliffe

During the weekend we've shared the fantastic Grand Prix Prague tournament venue with the cast and crew of a local independent movie that is being filmed that has Magic at it's core. It's not often that this happens (pretty much never, in fact) and I managed to steal five minutes with the film's Director, Kamil Beer, who explained a little about his film.

"The movie is called 'Tap: Max's Game' and it's about a group of friends who used to play Magic, many years ago, but they kind of separated and went their own ways – their friendship just kind of drifted apart. The main character is Carl, and he is given the chance get back into Magic and start playing again when he meets up with two of the other members of the old Fireball club. One of them, Thomas, challenges Carl to try and play again, and to prove they can still be good".

"The story is about Magic, but the themes in the film are about rebuilding old friendships, getting the team back together, sharing things with your friends, and going up against the odds. I think of it as a sports movie, really, like a Rocky or a Karate Kid – it just happens that the fights are with cards. The inspiration came a few years ago, and I used to travel to college with the Rocky theme music going through my head, and I kept thinking about what would happen if you put that music to a film about Magic".

It's a theme that many Magic players will recognise, so what brings them to the Grand Prix?

"What we're filming at the Grand Prix is going to be our National Championships, where Carl and Tomas come back to play. They make it to the Semi-Finals, but standing in their way is Max. Max had been in the original Fireball club with Carl and Thomas, but when the others stopped playing he carried on and he's become one of the best players in the world. I don't want to say how it ends, obviously, but I think people who see the film will be surprised – it's not an ending we've seen before".

It's clear that Kamil knows a thing or two about Magic:

"I played for about 8 years – from Invasion block through to Worldwake. I was never a great player but I judged as well, and I loved the game. When I stopped playing I knew I wanted to do something that would let me stay around the game, and making this film was a great way to do that. Most of the cast play Magic as well, and we've managed to get some of the best Czech players to have a cameo in it as well. In the Semi Final, while Max is playing against Carl, Thomas is playing against Lucas Blohon, for instance. I'm hoping that we get to film some piece with Martin Juza this weekend, but he's obviously really busy so it might not happen".

There's an obvious question: where did the money come from to make a Magic movie?

"It's a self-financed film. We aren't amateurs, but we don't have the money and resources of a Hollywood studio, we're somewhere in the middle – Independent film makers. We've been working on the movie for two years now, getting the script and cast together then starting filming. We've got maybe 30% of the film left to finish, and then we have to go into the editting suite and cut it all together. There's a chance that it will be finished by August, but I think probably by the end of the year is a better estimate for when it will be ready".

And where can we see "Tap: Max's Game?"

"It's being shot in the Czech language, so we're going to release it first to some local alternative cinemas. Then we're going to get it subtitled and dubbed and hopefully we'll be able to take it to some film festivals, and then eventually we hope to release it onto the internet for free."

The movie's fake coverage team preps for their scene. Your real coverage team don't use makeup due to our outstanding natural beauty.

And Kamil wanted to finish by thanking the Magic community for helping make 'Tap: Max's Game' possible.

"I'm really grateful that we got the chance to film at the Grand Prix – the Head Judge and the Tournament Organiser, Nick and Dieter, have been really great in letting us film while the tournament is going on around us. We've also had some players and judges come into the film as extras, and that's been great – everyone has really helped us out. I want to say a big thankyou to everyone who has helped us make this film, I'm very grateful. And to anyone who is interested in watching our film, I say that we'll do our best to finish it soon and we really hope that you'll like it!"

If you want to follow Kamil's progress with Tap: Max's Game then you can follow on Facebook.

Sunday, 3:25 p.m. – Tales from the Battlefield

by Tobi Henke

One of the recurring coverage topics ever since the release of Scars of Mirrodin has been Precursor Golem. And the "Precursor Watch" brought up some new stories this weekend thanks to New Phyrexia.

Precursor Golem

Player A had been under pressure for a couple of turns now, and had just summoned Precursor Golem. "Do you have the removal?" he asked his opponent, player B.

"No." A sagged with relief, before B smiled and added, "I have better." He then cast Act of Aggression took all three of his opponent's 3/3 creatures and attacked for the win. "Much better."

Act of Aggression

Another New Phyrexia card that's been turning some heads, as well as some games, is Gremlin Mine. On its own, the card may be a less flexible version of Shatter, but offers endless possibilities for some neat combos. How about Gremlin Mine plus Mirrorworks?

Gremlin Mine

Well, that's "only" two-for-one, you might say, but even you will have to admit, it is spectacularly cheap at that. For a more large-scale combo, look no further than Prototype Portal. I have seen this specific combo at work twice this weekend, and let me tell you: You better not depend on artifact creatures if that's going on on the opponent's side. In any case, Gremlin Mine helps tremendously to make either one of these cards playable, which always is the main question when drafting / building one's deck.

The interaction between New Phyrexia and the old cards provided a lot of fun stories. An excited Lino Burgold, for example, related the following: His opponent had won the second game with the help of Life's Finale, but Burgold still had an ace up his sleeve: a very special card in his sideboard, quite a bit on the expensive side, though certainly no problem in this match-up. Once again his opponent cast Life's Finale, destroyed a few of Burgold's creatures, and moved the three best Burgold had left from his deck to his graveyard. Burgold untapped, and cast Praetor's Counsel ...

Life's Finale
Praetor's Counsel

Sunday, 5:45 p.m. – Phyrexia is dead, long live New Phyrexia!

by David Sutcliffe

An ongoing theme over the weekend has been for us to try and find the New Phyrexia version of the Infect deck, and... well... it's been pretty tough. I don't think I've seen a single game won by poison counters, and even Andre Mueller's 'White-Black Infect deck' from the first draft seemed to be winning with Golem Artisan more often than with Tine Shrike or Lost Leonin. Now that one anecdote hardly counts as conclusive evidence that Infect is dead, but it did get me started thinking about why the poison had seemingly vanished.

The solution I came up with, in the form of a question: is Phyrexian Mana an anti-Infect mechanic?

Firstly, if your opponent is playing Infect then you know that he's not going to be giving your life total such a hard time. Safe in that knowledge, you can probably spend your life quite recklessly to play cards with Phyrexian mana, instead of waiting to cast them the old fashioned way.

Secondly, being able to play your cards earlier with Phyrexian mana closes the traditional early game window where Infect was able to get it's poison counters in. With cards like Thundering Tanadon arriving on turn 4, where's the window for a Cystbearer to get it's damage in? And how is Plage Spitter supposed to cope when Spined Thopter costs the same amount?

Thundering Tanadon
What chance does Cystbearer have now?

Thirdly, there are no Infect cards that benefit from Phyrexian mana. Let me just confirm that. There are zero (not counting the Pestilent Souleater, which can gain Infect for Phyrexian mana). Pretty much the only Phyrexian mana card that an Infect deck can get excited about is Mutagenic Growth!

And finally, some of the specific cards with Phyrexian mana costs hurt Infect creatures really badly. Porcelain Legionnaire is a perfect example of this, because pretty much no Infect creature is getting past it's 3/1 First Strike damage, and as for Pith Driller... so many Infect creatures die to it's -1/-1 counter, and then the 2/4 body is probably happy to trade and kill a Rot Wolf, or Contagious Nim.

All in all, it seems ironic that the victory of Phyrexia in the war may have seen the end of Infect as a strategy. Has it? We'll learn more in the Top 8 draft...

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