Grand Prix Vienna 2014 Day 1 Coverage

Posted in Event Coverage on March 22, 2014

By Wizards of the Coast

Day 1 of Grand Prix Vienna is in the books. It was an amazing day full of exciting matches, crazy blowouts, surprising turnarounds, and, not least of all, a number of interesting deck-building decision. In other words it was a great day full of Magic. 1,208 players entered the tournament this morning, only 149 of them escaped the carnage of today's nine rounds of Sealed Deck play with seven or more wins.

Those 149 will return tomorrow for the Booster Draft portion of the tournament. Overnight, (1) Jérémy Dezani, (22) Raphaël Lévy, Christian Seibold, and Johan Verhulst lead the standings with perfect records of 9-0, but not far behind are famous players like Denniz Rachid, Patrick Dickmann, Lukas Jaklovsky, and Lukas Blohon who all went 8-1, while David Reitbauer, Arjan van Leeuwen, Samuele Estratti, Florian Koch, Thomas Holzinger, (13) Stanislav Cifka and a host of others all went 7-2.

Which of these players will make it through to the Top 8? Who can master the Born of the Gods/Theros draft format? And who will be crowned champion at the very end? Check back tomorrow when we answer all of these questions and more. Until then, from Vienna, good night!

Saturday, 9:44 a.m. – Grand Prix Trial Winning Decklists

by Tobi Henke

While the actual Grand Prix doesn't start until Saturday, as usual the magical weekend began a day early with Friday's last-chance Grand Prix Trials. Those were the last chance for players to earn two byes for the main event, and the first chance for us to glean an idea of what it takes to win in the Born of the Gods/Theros Sealed format. All of the following decks were piloted to impressive 5-0 results.

Martti Leppänen Grand Prix Trial Winner

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Ben Frenchman Grand Prix Trial Winner

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Charlie Karlsson Grand Prix Trial Winner

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Gerald Leitzinger Grand Prix Trial Winner

Download Arena Decklist

Meanwhile, many players decided to try their luck in Standard rather than Sealed. While it doesn't offer any more insight into the further proceedings of the weekend, the winning decklists from the Standard Trials may also be of interest, especially the more unusual builds, for example Manuel Faber's mono-red weenie rush strategy.

Manuel Faber Grand Prix Trial Winner

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Henrik McQuoid Jenspersen Grand Prix Trial Winner

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Christian Ivanov Grand Prix Trial Winner

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Saturday, 9:50 a.m. - Sealed Deck Construction with Daniel Gräfensteiner

by Oliver Gehrmann

Brothers Daniel and Tobias Gräfensteiner, who you should remember from their impressive victory at GP Barcelona (together with Christian Seibold), sat across each other during the Sealed Pool registration. When it was announced that they would have to swap their respective card pools with each other and they were done checking the contents of the pools, Daniel was quick to point out that he is looking forward to the following swap.

Unfortunately for him, it never happened, so he was left with what his brother Tobias had handed to him.

After little time, Gräfensteiner seemed confident that red should be his color of choice; with Fall of the Hammer, Bolt of Keranos, 2 copies of Ill-Tempered Cyclops and Nyxborn Rollicker, he had plenty of reasons to try and put something together that involved the aggressive color.

Gräfensteiner was quick to decide on red as the color of choice!

The big question on his mind from then on was what would work well together with this core. Both the blue and green cards had been discarded after just a brief glance, which left him with white and black.

Both colors seemed deep enough to allow for a powerful deck, with 14 and 15 playables, respectively. White however seemed to feature more aggressive creatures that would work well together with the red cards.

Black certainly seemed deep enough to consider going red / black!

Gräfensteiner went back and forth, weighing the pros and cons of each color. At one point, he tried to go for something radical, putting all the red cards away and trying to combine black and white. It didn't feel right, with Gräfensteiner not finding enough reasons to try and combine the two opposite colors, so he eventually settled on a red and white deck.

The reasoning he gave me went as follows: "Red seemed like the strongest color to me. It was rather hard to decide between black and white, with black having a few more removal spells and white at least allowing for some early pressure with flying creatures. Since I will most likely not win the game in the late game stage, this way, I will at least have a good chance of rushing an unprepared opponent which should help me accumulate some wins."

In the end, Gräfensteiner went with the most aggressive combination!

"When in doubt, always try and go for the more aggressive approach" is something I have heard plenty of times from some of the most experienced Magic veterans when it came to Sealed Deck construction. What do you think, would you have chosen the same color combination or would you have tried to instead make something else work?

Saturday, 11:30 am - Battle Preparations

by Oliver Gehrmann

Plenty of players showed up bright and early this morning to build their respective Sealed Decks for the day, only to then leave the venue right away again to either take advantage of the beautiful weather and enjoy the sun or have some sort of belated breakfast. Thanks to one, two or even three byes, they will only have to show their skills a little later today.

Some of them didn't feel like going out again, instead opting to prepare a little more for the challenges they'd have to face later today. They spent their break showing their decks to friends and discussing what went through their minds while deck construction was underway.

The Dickmann twins exchanged during round 1 of the event.

My little round started with the famous twins Fabian and Patrick Dickmann. Asked about how happy he was with his Sealed Deck, Fabian quickly replied that he made a big mistake during the deck construction. Now, after he talked to his brother, he is aware that he accidentally put one of his strongest cards in his sideboard, which means his opponents will only get to see it during games two and three.

Patrick on the other hand was happy that his pool allowed him to build not one but two powerful decks. He is going for a pretty wild approach today: "I will most likely swap decks completely in between games if I'm on the play.

While pointing at the deck that will come out of his sideboard, he commented: "Both decks are strong, but this is not as good when you're on the draw. I want to maximize my chances, so I'll start with my other deck and then side into the more aggressive deck when I'm on the play."

His brother Fabian pointed out that it will still be hard for him to catch an opponent off-guard. After all, both decks sported a pretty solid curve with plenty of powerful two drops, so it's not like the strategy is totally different.

Thoralf Severin and Robin Steinborn were playing a few games to get more familiar with their decks.

Berlin residents Thoralf Severin and Robin Steinborn are drafting regularly in their local store in the German capital. Severin won a Grand Prix Trial so he has quite some time to go through all of the available options his deck is providing him with. Steinborn on the other hand will already have to sleeve up during round two, but he's feeling well-prepared.

I asked them about the importance of the byes in their opinion and Steinborn seemed not too impressed, telling me that they didn't matter to him in the grand scheme of things: "Having to win one more round or not doesn't make much of a difference; either your deck is good enough and it can carry you there or it isn't. At the end of the day, you'll know it well enough to be able to claim another victory if you have to."

Severin's reply was certainly in line with that: "I think that the biggest difference the byes are making is not so much the number of wins, but rather your opponent's score at the end of the day."

Jasper Grimmer (right) felt that the byes did make a difference, just in a less obvious way.

Jasper Grimmer, who was sitting next to the two, added: "I think they do make a difference since your constitution can be much different at the end of the day. Playing nine rounds of Swiss can really take its toll, so you might not be at the top of your game at the start of day two. That's why I think the byes do matter; you need to be able to bring your a-game on day two."

Soon, these players will also have to show their skills and then the time for rest and relaxation will be over. I'm curious to find out whether the insights they have gained over the course of the first round will help them do well today and whether we will see them again tomorrow.

Saturday, 11:55 a.m. – Sealed Deck Construction with Tobias Gräfensteiner

by Tobi Henke

We decided to watch two players during deck construction who had both not only won the last Grand Prix they played in but actually won the very same Grand Prix, namely the team event in Barcelona three weeks ago together with teammate Christian Seibold. This time however, brothers Tobias and Daniel Gräfensteiner were on their own and had to navigate the vicissitudes of single-player Sealed, which, unfortunately, included rather bad pools for both.

Green was the first color that caught Tobias's attention, mostly for its creatures and tricks but also for Bow of Nylea. Green was basically the only color with a solid serving of creatures and as such almost a given from the get-go. With a curve starting on Swordwise Centaur and ending on Fated Intervention, the deck would surely be heavy in green but was still looking for a second color.

White was the first candidate. Offering a number of further bestow aura/creatures, white would add more punch to the deck yet couldn't deliver anything else. No new angle, basically just more of the same. Blue, on the other hand, had Wavecrash Triton, Retraction Helix, and Sea God's Revenge, but in the end, it simply didn't have enough cards.

Red offered Lightning Strike, Bolt of Keranos, and two copies of Rage of Purphoros, but likewise was lacking in overall quality. Among the black cards, there were particularly few playables, and it didn't exactly help that the best of them, Hero's Downfall and two Pharika's Cures, all cots double black.

So it all began with green-white, and it also ended with green-white. The pool just didn't leave much room to build anything else, and even this deck didn't really convince Tobias. "Generally, green-white is fine but this deck has absolutely nothing special about it. Neither is it very aggressive nor does it have many bombs," he complained. "For instance, my only standout card in white is Ornitharch. The rest are all average. At best. Maybe with one or two more rares ..."

If anything, a Temple of Plenty was a born-of-the-godsend blessing for his mana base, maybe an omen that things wouldn't go quite as bad after all.

When the brothers were done building and had shown each other their decks, I asked for a final verdict. "So, now, whose deck is worse?"


"Well, I would have liked to ask for better, but ..." There wasn't much debate. Daniel was unhappy with his deck too, but agreed that Tobias's was worse still. So at least he had the dubious honor of winning that contest. For the actual tournament, with just one bye, he would need quite a few things to go his way ... Good luck!

Saturday, 1:45 p.m. - Talking art with Mathias Kollros

by Oliver Gehrmann

One of the featured artists on site today is Austrian illustrator Mathias Kollros. He has been involved with Magic for a little more than two years now so I decided to put the spotlight on him ask him a few questions.

Mathias, can you give us a brief introduction?

"I'm a fantasy illustrator working for Magic: The Gathering as well as Warhammer 40k and Legend of the Cryptids (an iOS game by Applibot Inc.). I've been doing this for around 10 years now and I'm enjoying it a lot. This is only my second time at a Grand Prix, but it's always an amazing expeirence to listen to the players that are telling me which cards they like the most."

Mathias Kollros was hard at work signing cards for Magic players!

Can you tell us a little about your professional journey?

"I have always been a big fan of fantasy, but it took me a very long time to realize that there's an actual industry behind it which means that you can also make a living with it. I was around 21 when that realization set in and that's when I started to work towards achieving that goal and turn this into my occupation."

How did you proceed from there?

"I was studying art at the time (which is not quite the same as working as an illustrator) and I then tried to find work as a freelancer doing fantasy illustrations. Eventually, it started to come in with various companies asking for smaller comissions.

"When I got approached by the Magic art director, it was like a dream come true since I then knew that I could make it work."

What is the worst part about your job?

"Once you've reached the point where you're actually able to make a living working as an illustrator, which has been your lifelong dream, you're now exposed to the fear of losing that dream. Granted, it's still much better than working for a boss that's dealing with anger issues, but sometimes I'm wondering what would happen if I end up losing one or two of my big clients. So it's mostly the lack of security when compared to a traditional job."

Do you have any advice for artists that are about to start their careers?

"I think the most important thing is to try to gain a lot of exposure for your work. This is easier than ever thanks to the internet, so you can try to publish your portfolio on plenty of pages, however, you should be selective when it comes to picking the pieces you're presenting. Otherwise, you might end up harming yourself."

Some selected pieces of Mathias Kollros

How many illustrations do you typically finish in a month?

"That's really hard to say. I need between four days and a week per artwork. It's hard to say how many I'm churning out per month (on average) since sometimes you're being asked to do like seven cards all in one go and then you will have to wait for a couple of months before you're receiving the next request."

How many illustrations did you do for Magic so far?

"I have already done around 40 pieces and 20 of those have been released already."

Cards illustrated by Mathias Kollros

What's your favorite card?

"Eater of Hope - not so much because of the name, but I think that I hit the nail on the head with the artwork. That might have something to do with the fact that I'm appearing on the artwork not once, not twice, but a whopping three times, however, I guess that's not too obvious for someone who's not in the know."

Thank you for the quick interview!

Be sure to also check out Mathias portfolio.

Saturday, 2:30 p.m. - Shop Talk

by Oliver Gehrmann

While today's main event is of course a Sealed Grand Prix, I still decided to quickly talk to the vendors and ask them what was selling well so we might be able to get a glimpse of tomorrow's Constructed events.

Mick and Mike from Magic Madhouse

"People buy nice shiny cards and some stuff where I really wonder why they are buying it. It's somewhat typical for Limited events; they buy a few Commander cards, they buy a few foils and that's mostly it."

This customer seemed to prove what Mick was saying.

"The only cards that also tend to show up in Constructed events that are selling well are the new red cards (the new Boros deck). It's a budget deck and that's why it's very popular for a lot of players that haven't been involved with the game for that long."

"We are able to buy a lot of cards, which also makes this worthwhile. Especially after the first few rounds when people start dropping and they then want to get rid of the rares from their Sealed Decks."

Olli from JK Entertainment filled us in.

"Business is not going as strong as it used to in Barcelona. Then again, it seems to be picking up just now, with more people dropping from the main event. We sell a lot of Fetch Lands and Temples, but other than that, it's very hard to come up with a clear direction and say 'this and that' is a trend.

"Fortunately for us, we also have a couple of Legacy cards and those tend to sell well."

Tinus from MTG Madness was busy buying cards.

"Mostly, we're selling alterations and foil cards this weekend. And we do a lot of buying cards as well, which is all very typical for a Limited event. So nothing out of the ordinary here.

Nicolas and Sami from Cartapapa were having a good time.

I asked Nicolas whether business at Cartapapa was going a little slower than usual as well and this is what he told me:

"I think we have one of the largest collections here featuring cards for all formats so it's really easy for people to find the cards they need.

"We also brought plenty of commons which is why we attract a lot of regular customers that are familiar with our great variety. So no, for us, business hasn't been going too slow, my business partner Sami and I are quite happy with our sales so far."

The staff of Game Keeper Online wouldn't mind buying a few more cards.

"We sold a lot of Shock Lands this weekend. Other than that, nothing is standing out too much. We haven't been offered a lot of cards unlike the other vendors (from what I heard), but we would definitely like to. Although we also don't mind selling, of course."

So there you have it! Even when it's a Sealed event, it pays out to visit the booths of the various vendors since you're bound to find something you can use to make your collection even more stunning. And if that doesn't sound too appealing, you can still get rid of some of the cards you will not be using in the upcoming events and sell them there.

Round 4 Feature Match - (13) Stanislav Cifka vs. Poya Nobari

by Tobi Henke

Round four of the tournament was when the giants entered the fray. One of them was No. 13-ranked Stanislav Cifka, who already had three Grand Prix Top 8s to his name before this weekend as well as a Pro Tour title. His opponent for this round was Sweden's Poya Nobari who was still looking to make a name for himself, the first step being to take down the mighty Cifka.

To do so his aggressive white-red deck would need to overcome Cifka's blue-green build geared toward the mid- to late game. Often in such match-ups, the slower deck will almost certainly win if only it manages to survive the early onslaught. However, in this format heroic, bestow, and a number of tricks give the aggro decks a lot of reach.

Game One

Cifka's Deepwater Hypnotist and Nobari's Traveling Philosopher traded and were replaced by Voyaging Satyr and Akroan Skyguard, respectively. The latter acquired a Nyxborn Rollicker and started to get in for some serious damage, while Cifka and his Guardians of Meletis were hard-pressed to find an answer to Satyr Nyx-Smith. He did with Nessian Skybreaker, but only after Nobari got a token out of it.

Poya Nobari

Meanwhile, Nobari had to wait a turn for his fourth land, whereas Cifka went straight to five and, with the help of Voyaging Satyr, cast Arbiter of the Ideal. Hopelessly behind in the damage race and facing a 3/3 flier, Cifka held back with his 4/5 but also didn't block for fear of combat tricks—a wise choice considering the Battlewise Valor in Nobari's hand. Instead, Cifka bought some time with Sudden Storm and made a little headway with Ordeal of Nylea on his Voyaging Satyr. Unfortunately, Ordeal and Satyr were met with Divine Verdict and, from this point on, the game was all downhill for Cifka.

With the help of Battlewise Valor and Nyxborn Shieldmate, Nobari's Akroan Skyguard flew to victory.

Game Two

Nobari led with Arena Athlete and Impetuous Sunchaser. Cifka, who had opened on Voyaging Satyr, tried to ambush the latter with Horizon Chimera but lost it to Rise to the Challenge. Stuck on three lands, Cifka couldn't afford to lose his Voyaging Satyr and, as a consequence, took a lot of damage from the Athlete. He tried to stop the bleeding with Thassa's Emissary, drew an extra card from it next turn, and then cast Staunch-Hearted Warrior.

No. 13 Ranked Player Stanislav Cifka

Nyxborn Rollicker on Arena Athlete, however, left Cifka with just Voyaging Satyr as a possible blocker for the incoming 3/2 Arena Athlete, Two-Headed Cerberus, and Impetuous Sunchaser. No blocks brought Cifka to 8. Finally, though, Nobari's lack of Plains took a toll on the development of his board. After further trades he was reduced to Impetuous Sunchaser and Stoneshock Giant, whereas Cifka was now drawing three cards each turn thanks to the team-up of Thassa's Emissary plus Nylea's Emissary and the team-up of Deepwater Hypnotist plus Oracle's Insight.

Nobari never drew any Plains or even enough lands to be able to hope to activate Stoneshock Giant.

Game Three

Another game and another aggressive start for Nobari. This time, he opened on Deathbellow Raider and Satyr Nyx-Smith and immediately started producing tokens. Cifka's Guardians of Meletis was not a good answer.

Thassa's Emissary tried to put a stop to Satyr Nyx-Smith's shenanigans but only drew out Divine Verdict. Another token and another drop for Nobari followed, as did another draw for Cifka which didn't provide an answer to the accumulating mass of tokens. Nobari took the game and match in short order.

(13) Stanislav Cifka 1-2 Poya Nobari

Round 5 Feature Match - Patrick Dickmann vs. Lukas Blohon

by Oliver Gehrmann

Facing each other in round 5 are Lukas Blohon and Patrick Dickmann. Both have advanced to the Top 8 of a Pro Tour before, with Dickmann's success being slightly more recent at Pro Tour Born of Gods just a few weeks ago.

Dickmann won the die roll and opted to go first. Both players kept their respective opening hands and play was on.

Dickmann seemingly had the better start with a Traveler's Amulet and a Deepwater Hypnotist, however, Blohon found Oreskos Sun Guide to put up some opposition.

After the Amulet improved Dickmann's mana base, he opted to trade creatures, blocking Oreskos Sun Guide with Deepwater Hypnotist. Blohon then took the initiative with Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass who seemed more than capable of dominating this game.

Lukas Blohon had the right tools to clear the path for his Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass!

A Snake of the Golden Grove and a Satyr Hedonist were supposed to buy Dickmann more time, but both were taken out by Blohon's removal: Fall of the Hammer and a Bolt of Keranos.

Artisan's Sorrow bought Dickmann another turn, but he still didn't find a way to deal with the Cyclops despite more than seven lands in front of him, causing him to shuffle up in frustration.

Lukas Blohon 1 - 0 Patrick Dickmann

Dickmann held his breath when his Satyr Wayfinder failed to find a land in the second game.

Blohon on the other hand found a Ghostblade Eidolon, but it was no match for the Polis Crusher that Dickmann cast on his following turn - despite his Wayfinder fizzling, Dickmann hadn't skipped a land drop up to that point.

Spirit of the Labyrinth came down, but it wouldn't dare going up against the Polis Crusher who now started to put in some work for Dickmann. A Snake of the Golden Grove made matters worse for Blohon who was now busy looking for answers.

Blohon tried to gain the other hand with an enchanted Spirit of the Labyrinth.

An Everflame Eidolon on Spirit of the Labyrinth combined with Fall of the Hammer allowed him to deal with the Snake, but he was still staring down Polis Crusher.

It made it 11 life for Blohon the following turn and when Dickmann used Magma Jet to get rid of Ghostblade Eidolon, things were starting to look grim for Blohon.

He fought back with Bolt of Keranos, taking out Satyr Wayfinder and allowing him to get more damage in with his enchanted Spirit of the Labyrinth. Or so he thought, however, since an Unravel the Æther returned the Spirit to Blohon's library. He rebuilt with Everflame Eidolon, but when Polis Crusher became Monstrous the following turn, Blohon knew this game was over.

Patrick Dickmann ties the score!

Blohon was on the play for the first time in the third game and he got the first damage in with a Spirit of the Labyrinth after Fall of the Hammer once again cleared the path, getting rid of Satyr Hedonist.

Dickmann started to take control of the game.

Dickmann started to take control with the game, getting rid of Ghostblade Eidolon with Artisan's Sorrow and adding a blocker with Deepwater Hypnotist. That put Blohon's offensive efforts to a complete halt, with Dickmann sending both cards to the bottom of this deck.

Blohon did find Oreskos Sun Guide after, but he failed to drop another land. That's when Dickmann started to turn things around completely, casting Satyr Wayfinder and adding a Temple to his hand. An Agent of Horizons made matters worse for Blohon.

Dickmann used his Satyr Wayfinder to deal with Spirit of the Labyrinth.

After Blohon's Oreskos Sun Guide connected and Spirit of the Labyrinth dealt with Satyr Wayfinder, Hopeful Eidolon enchanted Oreskos Sun Guide.

Bident of Thassa allowed Dickmann to draw cards!

Dickmann then had a huge turn with Bident of Thassa and a Sedge Scorpion. Blohon tried to fight back with Oracle of Bones, but Sedge Scorpion blocked it. Gods Willing gave it protection from green, however, which resulted in a much more evenly matched field.

The following turns, Dickmann drew more cards thank to his Bident of Thassa and he added Coastline Chimera while using Fall of the Hammer to get rid of Oracle of Bones!

Blohon was now staring down a huge field of four creatures. He attacked with Oreskos Sun Guide and Coastline Chimera blocked. Ill-Tempered Cyclops came down, but Blohon looked like he thought this was over already.

Dickmann was so far ahead, it didn't seem like Blohon could ever turn this around.

Coastline Chimera and Agent of Horizons connected and Dickmann drew two more cards. A Vulpine Goliath provided him with yet another huge threat, making this game even more one-sided than it already was.

Blohon simply passed on his following turn; Dickmann attacked with Coastline Chimera and Agent of Horizons after using the latter's effect, once again drawing two cards and he then cast Polis Crusher. Ill-Tempered Cyclops became Monstrous at the end of this turn.

Blohon put his hands over his head, thinking hard about his possible options. He wasn't completely out of the game already. He then declared attacks, tapping both of his creatures. Dickmann decided to play it safe, triple blocking the Ill-Tempered Cyclops, but Blohon had Rage of Purphoros; this allowed him to trade his creature for all 3 blockers! Could he turn this around despite all the advantage that Dickmann had generated with the help of the Bident?

Dickmann found Nyxborn Wolf, a new Deepwater Hypnotist and Traveler's Amulet on his following turn. His hand was still loaded with cards.

Oreskos Sun Guide attacked, Coastline Chimera blocked it, Dauntless Onslaught got cast by Blohon, but a Lightning Strike from Dickmann made sure that his creature would come out of the battle victorious. That meant that Blohon's last chance to win this game evaporated; he was forced into a block with Hopeful Eidolon the following turn and immediately after drawing his card for the turn, he extended the hand.

Patrick Dickmann overcomes Lukas Blohon 2 - 1!

Patrick Dickmann was able to turn this match around after taking an early loss in the first game. The third game went back and forth for quite a while, but once Dickmann got his engine going with Bident of Thassa, there was little Blohon could do to win the game.

Saturday, 1:30 pm - Home Advantage

by Oliver Gehrmann

When I first saw Thomas Holzinger this morning and asked him about how he's been doing lately, he told me that he's trailing a little behind Valentin Mackl, who is boasting a comfortable 16 point lead in terms of Pro Points. This translates to Mackl most likely leading the Austrian team into the World Magic Cup.

"Valentin is having quite the roll", Holzinger admitted. "He's been playing Magic 24/7 lately.

"He's also the only one who has an invite for the upcoming Pro Tour, so it seems like this race seems has already been decided."

I asked Mackl what he's changed about his game to step out of the shadow of the other Austrian players and rather than himself, Holzinger once again explained: "He's playing more Magic than any other Austrian at the moment. I'm pretty sure there are few Europeans that play more than him."

Mackl disagreed with his friend: "I don't like testing too much. When there's a Pro Tour coming around, I'm putting in a lot of work, but other than that, I'm not even feeling inclined to go to the store to test. I don't play a lot of Magic Online either; I got like one Draft per season and that's it."

Obviously, your standards of what is "a lot" seem to change a bit when you're playing Magic competitively...

That's when Oliver Polak-Rottmann chimed in, who is currently tied in Pro Points with Holzinger. I asked him whether he has a rivalry going on with his friend.

Polak-Rottmann: "Honestly, we don't have a strong rivalry going on, but we would really like to attend the World Magic Cup together. David Reitbauer is currently on 9 points and he'll fly to Atlanta, so we can expect him to also end up on at least 12 points after the Pro Tour. So yeah, the race for the second and third place really is on this season."

Will Thomas Holzinger, Valentin Mackl and Oliver Polak-Rottmann represent Austria at the World Magic Cup?

Mackl tried to motivate his friends: "I wouldn't mind playing with you guys."

Polak-Rottmann then added: "We've been testing together for the last few larger events together with a German group that features Wenzel Krautmann. We get along really well and know each other for quite a while already. It would be great to represent Austria together."

Since Mackl had been playing Magic for a little longer, but he only started to come out successfully more often over the course of the last year, I asked him what had changed.

Mackl: "I've been playing for quite a while already, but I've never been too serious about Magic. That changed roughly 3 years ago when I started to enjoy the game a lot more.

"I still don't tend to think of myself as one of the best players, but I'm having a great time going up against some of the greats. For some reason, I seem to do rather well against them."

I then asked both Polak-Rottmann and Holzinger about their current goals.

Polak-Rottmann: "Currently, my goal is to collect seven more Pro Points for the Silver level so I can then attend Pro Tour Honolulu. I don't need to be on the Pro Tour train and play Magic all the time; I've tried it for a while and it was fun while it lasted, but I don't feel like I need it anymore."

Thomas Holzinger: "I missed Gold by one point last season and I'm currently a few points short of Silver. So basically, I'm no longer qualified for most of the events I would have otherwise liked to attend.

"I wanted to qualify for the upcoming Pro Tour, but I'm currently going through some changes in my life; I want to start studying very soon and I will focus a little more on that rather than staying up to date with the latest developments regarding the popular decks and so on. So in a way, I also consider taking a break from Magic for like two years."

Sometimes, a break is what's in order for you to appreciate the things you're having at the moment. Mackl also admitted that he doesn't like it when Magic feels like a job since it's supposed to be his hobby. "It's still great fun, but in a different way when compared to the years before."

Polak-Rottmann added: "I haven't been playing in the Pro Tour for three years and it was great fun to get back to it. I don't want to miss this experience, it's just the Grand Prix can't always get me out of the house."

Well, fortunately, Magic is offering plenty of opportunities to get your game on and enjoy playing the game at various levels of competition, whether you're going up against your friends in a local store or you're duking it out with some of the most renowned players from the other side of the globe.

I expect these 3 Austrian powerhouses to show up close to the top of the standings at the end of this weekend and who knows, maybe we'll see all three of them again at some of the upcoming Pro Tours?

Quick Question #1: Your Favorite Color Combination in This Sealed Format? by Tobi Henke

by Tobi Henke
Olle Råde: Black-white. I think it's a real sleeper combination. It can even go in two very distinct directions, very defensive with Scholar of Athreos, but also aggressive with lots of bestow guys. The only problem is the mana with lots of double colored casting costs. The old White Knight/Black Knight dilemma.
Martin Jůza: If I could just make my own deck, it would likely be blue-black. The combination usually has no mana problems, solid creatures, tricks, removal, and bounce. Probably the only deck in the format where you can choose to draw first.
Raphaël Lévy: White-blue is probably the best. Every time I was blue-white I won.
Thomas Holzinger: Blue-green.

Quick Question #2: Which Born of the Gods Common Would You Most Like to Have Multiples of in Sealed?

by Tobi Henke
Olle Råde: Fall of the Hammer.
Martin Jůza: Usually, I'd go with Akroan Skyguard. Maybe Fall of the Hammer.
Raphaël Lévy: Bolt of Keranos.
Thomas Holzinger: Swordwise Centaur, though I may be somewhat of an extreme green aficionado.

Round 7 Feature Match- Raphaël Lévy vs. Tomas Kuchta

by Oliver Gehrmann

We invited two powerhouses to our Feature Match table and both of them are sporting an impressive 6 - 0 record: Raphaël Lévy who is ranked 22nd in the Top 25 and Tomas Kuchta. If Lévy keeps this up, he might even move up the rankings a little more.

Lévy won the die roll and he opted to go first. His early offense with an Oreskos Sun Guide was temporarily stopped by a Deepwater Hypnotist. Both players went on and added more creatures, with Lévy finding Borderland Minotaur and Kuchta adding Thassa's Emissary.

Lévy found some heavy hitters with his red creatures!

A Chained to the Rocks took out Kuchta's Thassa's Emissary, basically forcing Kuchta to block the Oreskos Sun Guide with his Deepwater Hypnotist to not take too much damage. Lévy then added Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass to pull even further ahead.

The red army was about to wrap things up in lightning fashion!

Setessan Griffin was supposed to turn things around, but Lévy found yet another removal with Lightning Strike. A Spearpoint Oread then spelled doom on Kuchta's hopes of Lévy ever skipping a beat in this first and furious game.

He shook his head in disbelief and when he started shuffling up, Lévy commented: "That's what I thought!"

Raphaël Lévy claims the lead!

Both players took their time accessing their respective sideboards. Kuchta appeared like he was slightly in shock after the desaster that was the first game, but he found his concentration again just when he needed it the most. Both players kept their opening 7.

Kuchta had a slow start in the second game with Nylea's Presence marking his only play in the first three rounds. Lévy on the other hand found a Ghostblade Eidolon. Kuchta wanted to read the card, fearing yet another heavy hitter, but Lévy explained: "1 / 1 double strike. No big deal!"

Ghostline Chimera was Kuchta's preferred way of defending himself, Lévy then had no land drop and no play on his fourth turn and that allowed Kuchta to try and pull ahead. He cast Raised by Wolves and the French had no response. An attack with the flyer caused a Lightning Strike to be cast on one of the Wolves, but Levy still took two damage.

The game got turned upside down when Lévy found a fourth land, allowing him to cast a Borderland Minotaur. Now Lévy was once again sitting in the driver's seat and Kuchta was busy looking for answers.

He tried it with Floodtide Serpent, but a Chained to the Rocks dealt with it. Siren of the Fanged Coast was next and Lévy didn't pay tribute, using Gods Willing instead to prevent his Minotaur from switching sides. So the Minotaur kept doing its dirty work and Lévy also added Wingsteed Rider.

Kuchta had a Coastline Chimera and Hunter's Prowess to fight back and that cost Lévy his Wingsteed Rider; Kuchta drew two cards regardless. but he was already down to 12.

Lévy found his Planeswalker when he needed it the most!

While Kuchta now held on to many more cards than Lévy, he still seemed to be behind on the field. And just like before, Lévy failed to disappoint his opponent by inviting Elspeth, Sun's Champion to his party and activating her effect!

Kuchta was eventually able to deal with her thanks to a Feral Invocation and another attack the turn after. Since his Pillar of War traded with Borderland Minotaur, Kuchta thought, for a brief moment, that he could turn this game around after all.

That changed again when Lévy added yet another big attacker...

Yet another threat from Raphael Lévy: Forgestoker Dragon.

A Voyage's End dealt with the dragon temporarily and a Siren of the Fanged Coast and Deepwater Hypnotist provided him with some sort of defense. He was forced to trade them for tokens, however, and when Forgestoker Dragon came down for the second time, Kuchta was left with only 5 life.

Sudden Storm bought Kuchta more time, but Lévy kept inviting more threats, this time a Pharagax Giant, announcing: "Five you!"

Pharagax Giant applied even more pressure to Kuchta.

Kuchta opted to pay tribute, however, so he would get to see another card. It was a Horizon Scholar, but it could also not stop the onslaught from Lévy's army in the following turns that decided this rather one-sided game.

Quick Question #3: Which Theros Common Would You Most Like to Have Multiples of in Sealed?

by Tobi Henke
Olle Råde: Scholar of Athreos. Black-white simply is the best.
Martin Jůza: Lightning Strike or Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Merchant is probably better.
Raphaël Lévy: In Sealed, I think, I'd be happy with Lightning Strike. I mean, you can have three Wingsteed Riders and still not have a good deck.
Thomas Holzinger: Wingsteed Rider or maybe Lightning Strike. Nah, I'll have Wingsteed Riders please.

Saturday, 7:00 pm - Player Feature Dominic Aspernig

by Oliver Gehrmann

I was walking rather close to the top tables when I was able to take this quick photo.

A Hero of Iroas was putting in a lot of work for Dominik Aspernig!

This was taken at table 6 where Dominik Aspernig was just about to wrap things up against his opponent Alexis Martinez. There were still 30 minutes remaining on the clock, so I rewarded Aspernig for his convincing victory with a quick player feature.

There are 30 minutes remaining on the clock. You must be running quite the aggressive deck. Tell us a little more about it!

"Aspernig: Yes, it's super aggressive, but it also boasts a lot of powerful removal. From my experience, Sealed tends to be a lot slower than Draft, so I thought that I couldn't go wrong with a fast deck that can take an opponent apart before they are even able to cast their most powerful creatures."

Which are the best cards in your deck?

"The most important cards are Gild, Hero's Downfall, Agent of the Fates and Hero of Iroas. I have a couple more removal spells and plenty of ways to trigger Heroic."

Wow, and that despite you playing so many black cards - a color that usually isn't really known for their enchantments. How did you decide on this color combination?

"During the construction, I thought about going green and black, but I preferred white since it allowed for a much more aggressive approach. Otherwise, the deck would have been a lot slower and I don't think I would still be undefeated if I would have chosen the other combination."

Dominik Aspernig is on a roll this weekend thanks to his powerful deck and a little bit of luck!

You mentioned that you just got back into the game recently?

"Yes, I only started playing again in November. Last time I played Magic before that was when I was like 13 years old.

"I was surprised to find out that it didn't take me that long to get into it again. I always liked the Sealed formats and my local community is also very much in love with them, so we are running at least a Draft a week, which proved to be great preparatoin for today's event."

At that time, his friends joined him on the table and they all announced that they were either sitting on a 7 - 1 or a 6 - 2 record. Maybe we'll see a player from Klagenfurt taking the Grand Prix down this weekend?!

What do you think about the current Sealed format?

"I think that Heroic is a cool mechanic and to me, the format seems rather balanced. With the right synergies, you can beat almost any deck, so I don't agree with the people that say that you tend to see the exact same decks over and over again. I don't want to say it's wide open, but it's certainly open enough."

Will we also get to see you more often at the Constructed Events in the future from now on?

"I reached day 2 at the last GP Vienna despite only starting to get back into the game just a few days earlier. I'll definitely attend a few more events this year and try to learn from my mistakes so I can improve as a player overall.

"I'm not saying I have to win a Grand Prix at some point; for me, it's more about the community and having fun together with my friends."

Do you have any shout-outs?

"Yeah, I would like to thank Pius, Michi, Müllmann, Max, Tizian, Tommy, Dominic, Gerrit, Hansi and all the others I might have forgotten for helping me prepare for the event. You guys rock!"

Round 8 Feature Match - (1) Jérémy Dezani vs. Simon Ritzka

by Tobi Henke

Going into this match, Jéremy Dezani was clearly the favorite to win. Then again, being the first-ranked player in the world meant he was basically the favorite everywhere. And so far into the tournament he didn't disappoint, going 7-0. But so did his opponent, Simon Ritzka, a veteran of the Grand Prix circuit with a couple of money finishes to his name but no breakout performance as of yet.

Early on in his career, Dezani had been famous as a pilot of Jund in Modern and even though the format du jour was Sealed his deck again sported the familiar colors of green, black, and red. Meanwhile, Ritzka had built an aggressive blue-white.

Game One

After a mulligan, Ritzka kept three Plains, Oreskos Sun Guide, Mortal's Ardor, and Ghostblade Eidolon. He wasn't happy about it but another mulligan was hardly going to increase his chances either. Neither did Dezani's Thoughtseize taking Ghostblade Eidolon.

Simon Ritzka

After Oreskos Sun Guide, Ritzka never summoned another creature, whereas Dezani cast Fanatic of Xenagos, Servant of Tymaret plus Springleaf Drum, Nylea's Disciple, and Nessian Wilds Ravager. The resulting game was no game at all.

Despite his win, Dezani wasn't happy with his performance during the game. "I missed a point with Servant of Tymaret and Springleaf Drum there," he chided himself. Ritzka pointed out that, "It didn't really matter." But Dezani was committed to higher level of perfection. "Still bad ..."

Game Two

This time, Ritzka led the way with Flitterstep Eidolon but had no follow-up for a long, long time. Dezani again cast Servant of Tymaret and Fanatic of Xenagos. "My deck is mocking me," Ritzka complained as he played land after land after land. Next, Dezani had a 7/7 Snake of the Golden Grove, then had all of his creatures returned to his hand via Sea God's Revenge.

Fanatic and Servant returned to the battlefield and Ritzka cast his third spell of the game in Phalanx Leader. Nessian Wilds Ravager tried to kill Flitterstep Eidolon but Ritzka did Hold at Bay such a murderous attempt. Next turn, Ritzka double-blocked the 6/6, cast Mortal's Ardor and Retraction Helix on his Phalanx Leader, only lost his Flitterstep Eidolon and returned Snake of the Golden Grove to Dezani's hand yet again.

Jérémy Dezani

But all was for naught. Ritzka's hand was empty at this point and Dezani's wasn't. More creatures followed and took Dezani to victory.

(1) Jérémy Dezani 2-0 Simon Ritzka

After the match Ritzka admitted to "something of a loose keep in the second game." He had kept a hand of four lands, Flitterstep Eidolon, Hold at Bay, and Mortal's Ardor. "I didn't see a lot of tricks on his side in the first game, which makes my own tricks more powerful, and I do have 15 or 16 creatures in my deck, including some bestow cards which can profit from a lot of lands," he explained. "Still, as I said, a loose keep." Dezani agreed but wished Ritzka more luck for the round to come.

Quick Question #4: What's the Best Card in Your Deck Today?

by Tobi Henke
Olle Råde: Stormbreath Dragon.
Martin Jůza: Keepsake Gorgon or Forgestoker Dragon. Gorgon's probably just better.
Raphaël Lévy: Elspeth, Sun's Champion.
Thomas Holzinger: Nessian Asp!

Saturday, 8:45 pm - Undefeated Sealed Pools

by Oliver Gehrmann

Jeremy Dezani, 9-0

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Christian Seibold, 9-0

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