Vive La France

Posted in Event Coverage on November 1, 2003

By Brian David-Marshall

Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.

Goblin Charbelcher
While much ado has been made about leaked YMG tech and CMU-TOGIT Chalice technology, three French players have been sitting at the top tables all weekend moving toward the Top 8 with Goblin Charbelcher decks. Nicholas Labarre, Yann Hamon and Gabriel Nassif all won their fifteenth rounds of play and put them in a position to draw into the Top 8-possibly even make it in with losses.

Nicholas Labarre and Yann Hamon were playing card for card identical decklists-when the judges lost Yann's original list they simply photocopied Labarre's list and replaced his name with Yann's.

Nicholas built the deck very early on in play testing after hearing about Antoine Menard experimenting with a similar deck. "I put it on Apprentice and played ten goldfish games. I won six out of those games by turn three and the others were not much longer than that. And that was just the original version."

He says, 'just the original version' but the two decks are only five cards apart aside from the lands. The original build had eight artifact lands because Labarre thought they were fetchable and counted as basic lands.

4 Talisman of Dominance
4 Tinker
4 Vampiric Tutor
4 Intuition
4 Duress
4 Grim Monolith
4 Goblin Charbelcher
4 Mana Severance
1 Thran Dynamo
4 Chrome Mox
1 Upheaval
4 Brainstorm
18 Lands

The Upheaval was replaced almost immediately by Ensnaring Bridge that resided in the deck until the day before the tournament when Yann Hamon insisted they replace it with Mindslaver. Slowly they made the other changes over the course of play testing. The power of Chalice of the Void prompted the addition of Rushing River and one of the Chrome Moxes became a Talisman of Progress but the basic configuration of the deck remained intact.

Pro Tour New Orleans: Mana Severance/Charbelcher

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The concept of a deck that emerged so early in play testing seeing tournament play was new to both Yann and Nicholas, "Especially for a first draft I built in five minutes. I guess I found the right ratio of spells and mana."

After experiencing his gaudy Apprentice numbers, Nicholas sent the deck to Yann who quickly built a copy with real cards. "It was killing on the third turn 45% of the time-at that point I knew it was the deck I was going to be playing."

They threw together a gauntlet of decks that they expected from the field and everything they threw at it was demolished. "We kept adding cards to beat it to our test decks and it didn't matter. We got to the point where we had a Goblin Recruiter deck with three Cabal Therapy and four Burning Wish to get things like Pulverize and we were still winning two-thirds of the games."

Although they knew their deck very early on in play testing it was not until the flight to New Orleans that they turned their focus to the sideboard. "We had a ten hour flight with Pierre Malherbaud (the third player to play the list) to work on the sideboard," explained Hamon who is given the bulk of the credit for the sideboard by Labarre.

Platinum Angel
The three were working on two different sideboard plans. The first was for the mirror and included cards like Steal Artifact and Platinum Angel. The second was a transformational plan with Damping Matrix and Phyrexian Negators. They decided that if the deck was putting up such good numbers for their small group then most of the bigger teams would have similar decks. "We went with our plan for the mirror because the deck seemed so good-and so obvious-we expected at least 25% of the field to have this deck and Negator is not such a good plan against Charbelcher."

In addition to Hamon and Labarre, Gabriel Nassif was also playing a Charbelcher deck and looked likely to be playing tomorrow. One would assume that they were working together but while they worked from a similar point of inspiration they developed their deck independently with little to no communication.

When asked about the differences in their approaches-the Nassif deck is mono-blue with Force Spike-Labarre explained, "We thought having Duress and Vampiric Tutor was important and he thought good mana was more important."

Nassif was inspired to build the deck from a blue-red version of Tinker deck with Sapphire Medallion. He became aware of Labarre's version at some point and made the decision to cut the black for Force Spike over Duress. He was not as sure whether or not his version had the more consistent mana that Nicholas advertised. We have four Rishadan Port in our deck. Their deck is probably better than ours-but not as solid. I say their deck is better because they have three players with the deck and two are going to make Top 8-so maybe their deck is better."

In addition to Nassif Franck Canu, Florent Jeudon, Jose Barbero, Huey and PTR played the deck. PTR is the next highest finisher after Nassif holding at 9-6 going into the last round. "Don't forget to tell them who the secret to you success is Gabriel," shouted Szegeti.

Nassif would not make any changes to his main deck. "Maybe I would change my sideboard. I have very good match-ups in game one. After the sideboard things get tricky. I got very lucky all day today. The last time I made the Top 8 I felt like I was getting lucky but this time I have been stealing wins every round."

Lucky or not, Nassif was going to joining his two countrymen in his second Pro Tour top 8 in the last calendar year. Nicholas Labarre is no stranger to Top 8 play although he has not seen such action since Pro Tour New York (Secaucus) in 1999 and Worlds 2000. Yann Hamon is fresh off a victory at the 1000 person GP Lyons. Both he and Labarre are regular columnists for the French magazine Lotus Noir-their sponsor for this event.

Pro Tour New Orleans: Mana Severance/Charbelcher

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